Black Country D-Day veteran dies one month before 99th birthday

A Second World War veteran of D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge and Operation Varsity has died one month before his 99th birthday.

Second World War paratrooper Frank Swann has died aged 99
Second World War paratrooper Frank Swann has died aged 99

Frank Swann, who was born in Coseley, spent the final three years of his life at Hunters Lodge Nursing Home in Codsall after a series of strokes.

The eldest of five children, Frank left school when he was 13 years old to work in a local butcher's shop in Tipton where he trained as an apprentice and eventually went to Marsh & Baxter.

In 1942 he was called up for military service and initially served with the South Staffordshire Regiment and when the 6th Airborne Division was being formed, he volunteered and was accepted for parachute training.

He ended up taking part in three key Allied operations in the final year of the European war: the D-Day landings in Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes and Operation Varsity in Germany.

Frank Swann fought in key battles across Europe

On D-Day he was part of the initial parachute drop in Ranville and landed several hours before troops invaded the beaches.

His job was to secure the river bridges and guard the eastern flank to prevent any German counter-attack.

His son, Trevor, aged 72, from Moseley Green, Wolverhampton, said: "On landing the first person he encountered was Brigadier Nigel Poet who had lost his escort, and my father was ordered to accompany him along with another paratrooper for the following few hours of the operation.

"He remained in Normandy, initially with headquarters company and then transferred to 12 Para who had sustained heavy casualties and remained there until August 1944.

"He took part in the Battle of the Bulge, Operation Varsity and the subsequent drive across Germany to the Baltic.

Frank was awarded the Légion d'honneur

"Following VE Day the division was sent out to India for training prior to the invasion of Malaya, which never happened due to the Japanese surrender.

"My father was the platoon sergeant and remained in south East Asia for 18 months before being demobbed.

"To me he was a true hero and I am very proud of his wartime achievements."

Returning to the UK, Frank returned to working as a butcher, initially for Marsh & Baxter in West Bromwich and Bilston before going to work for the Dudley Co-op and in his own shop at Lower Gornal for many years until his retirement in the late 70s.

Frank Swann

His affection for the Parachute Regiment remained strong and he was a founder member of the Parachute Regimental Association and served in a variety of rolls with the local branch in Wolverhampton for many years, looking after the welfare of former members.

He was awarded the Légion d'honneur, the highest order of merit the French government can provide.

A funeral service has been delayed because of the Covid pandemic and will take place at Bushbury Crematorium at 10.30am on May 18 and his family have requested donations be made to the Midlands Air Ambulance Charity.

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