Heroic goodbye for RAF's Stan

Thurrock Gazette: Stan in front of one of the last Lancasters at RAF Coningsby Stan in front of one of the last Lancasters at RAF Coningsby

A Second World War bomber crew member is to be given a fitting send-off – thanks to Thurrock’s Royal Air Forces Association.

Stan Franks, who completed 31 missions over Germany by the time he was 19, is to be given a hero’s funeral, complete with a flypast by a wartime Spitfire.

The RAFA launched an appeal after it learned the 88-year-old had been found dying in his home, in Vange Park Road, Fobbing.

The proud veteran has a daughter, but she is believed to live 250 miles away.

He was only discovered when his regular waitress at the Five Bells, in Fobbing, became concerned she had not seen him there and raised the alarm.

Stephanie Dwyer, 61, who has worked at the pub for 27 years, asked neighbours to check on Stan after he failed to appear for his lunchtime visit three days in a row.

When neighbours got no response, police were called and found him in poor health. An air ambulance flew Stan to hospital, but he died on October 31.

Ms Dwyer said: “He’d been coming here for years and years. He was well-loved and he liked to share his opinions.

“He was a funny man and always ready to have a friendly chat. He would chat to soldiers about his experiences in the war. He didn’t dwell on the past, but he was proud of what he had done.

In 1944 and 1945, the young sergeant flew Lancasters for 15 Squadron, based at RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk, and 55 years later, he was one of a small group of airmen who travelled to RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, to see one of the last surviving Lancasters.

Stan often took his medals to show staff at the Five Bells. Barbara Bird, who works there, said: “I asked him if he was ever frightened. He said ‘yes, of course I was, but it’s something we all had to do’.

“They didn’t have a choice. He never brought it up as a boast, but if people asked him, he would tell them.”

With no money for his funeral, the RAFA rallied round and raised £1,500 to pay for a service at Pitsea crematorium, scheduled for 2.40pm on December 13.

RAFA president Jim Gooding said: “Stan died in sad circumstances, but that sadness has been lifted by the generosity and kindness of so many people who will ensure he has the send-off he deserves.”

Thurrock Gazette: young stan franks

A younger Stan Franks

Residents are being asked to line the route to the crematorium when the cortege pulls away from the Five Bells, at 2.20pm, passing through Pitsea town centre.The funeral procession will take 20 minutes to make its way to the crematorium, in Church Road, Bowers Gifford.

A Spitfire flypast is expected to pay tribute to the flyer’s wartime role. After the service, mourners are invited back to the Five Bells for a wake and celebration of Stan’s life.

Pub staff described Stan quite simply as “family”. He had been a regular at the pub from an early age – he even had memories of being wheeled in there in his pram.

He lived around the corner from the pub and would walk in every day to sit in the same seat.Barbara Bird, who served Stan every day, said: “I can’t bear it that he was on his own.

“I was going to call social services, but if he had found out I’d done that, he would have gone mad. He was so independent.

“We have a collection box for the RAF Wings Appeal and he would always shake it to check how much there was in there. Every time someone said ‘keep the change’, he would make us put it in the box. I think a lot of people will turn out for his funeral. He deserves a good send-off. He fought for our country.”

Thurrock Gazette: stan on winger of a bomber

Stan (middle) on the wing of his wartime aircraft

The Wings Appeal supports serving and ex-RAF personnel and their families.

Waitress Jane Keys, 35, said she saw Mr Franks nearly every day of her 17 years working at the pub. She said: “He was family to me. “Since his wife passed away, he’s liked living in the house where she was and being on his own. He came here every day for some company, but he liked to be on his own at home.”

Comments (1)

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11:07am Mon 9 Dec 13

OckendonPaul says...

My dad, also called Stan, served in 15 squadron too - I wonder if they new each other? God bless old fella.
My dad, also called Stan, served in 15 squadron too - I wonder if they new each other? God bless old fella. OckendonPaul

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