Tributes paid to Normandy hero Frank

By Gareth Dennison | 09/06/2017

Tributes paid to Normandy hero Frank
Frank Thorpe

A D-DAY hero nicknamed Thumper for his knack of getting things working by hitting them with a hammer has died at the age of 92.

Frank Thorpe, a former chairman of Rotherham Normandy Veterans’ Association, remained independent throughout his life - and was still driving until January.

His death came a day after that of fellow Normandy veteran and friend Cliff Mitchell, who was also 92.

Frank, of Bramley, last appeared in the Advertiser in spring 2016 when - after a lengthy wait - he received France’s top military medal, the Legion d’Honneur.

Daughter Janet Marcroft (68) said: “Dad wouldn’t be told he couldn’t do anything. He was totally independent, to a fault sometimes. 

“He loved being a good neighbour and he would clear all the snow from the street until these last couple of years. 

“I think the neighbours sometimes watched in dismay at some of the tasks he took on. He just liked to be useful.”

She added: “The Legion d’Honneur arrived on his 91st birthday and he was thrilled to bits. Dad always wanted things done right away, but with this he’d had to wait.

“He actually wrote to the French ambassador about it and he was determined he was going to write to the Queen, too!

“Once it was here, it went round to the neighbours, to Morrison’s, the bowling club. It’s a wonder he didn’t lose it.”

Frank was born in Rawmarsh and worked at Parkgate Iron and Steel from 14, later becoming an apprentice electrician before joining the Royal Navy as a wireman in August 1943.

He met wife Esme while attending naval college in Eastbourne. 

After D-Day - and having only met her once - he travelled back to find her. 

They tied the knot in 1947 and were married almost 60 years before Esme died in 2006. The couple have two children, Janet and Martin (66), plus three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

He went back to the steelworks after the war, becoming electrical section engineer - and earning the Thumper Thorpe moniker.

Janet’s husband Stephen (69) worked with her father - but was unaware they were related to begin with. 

He said: “When I took her home for the first time, I didn’t realise I was going to his house. It was quite a shock!”

Janet, of Church Street in Rawmarsh, said her dad opened up more about his war experiences after joining the veterans’ group.

“He enjoyed the social side of it,” she added. “He used to enjoy going places, to parades and D-Day anniversaries. He would travel all the way in his blazer and beret. 

“People would go up to him and shake his hand. He revelled in it and enjoyed telling his stories.”

Frank travelled back to Normandy for the 70th anniversary of D-Day in 2014. He described to the Advertiser at the time how the cheering crowds made him feel like Errol Flynn.

Frank died on May 7 and his funeral was held at Rotherham Crematorium last Tuesday with a guard of honour with standards and his medals on display.

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