Express & Star

British Legion and Armed Forces members turn out for funeral of 'charming' Wolverhampton war veteran

Members of the Armed Forces joined the family and friends of a "lovely, charming chap" and war veteran as he was laid to rest.


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The life and work of Fred Bunce was celebrated at St John's Church in Wolverhampton. The 94-year-old, who saw service in the Korean War, died on January 29 aged 94, leaving behind his wife of 68 years, Brenda, daughters Vivienne and Diana, and son-in-law Mark.

Representatives of the Royal British Legion and civic figures also attended his funeral on Friday.

Mr Bunce had been president of the Wolverhampton Central Royal British Legion since October 2022, having represented the legion as chairman for many years beforehand. Current chairman Derek Woodmass spoke fondly of a man he described as lovely, charming and who had time for everyone.

Fred Bunce received this letter from the President of South Korea in recognition of his service in the 1953 war

He said: "He would talk to anyone and he could put anyone at ease as he was a natural raconteur and the thing about him was that the navy stories were just a small part of who he was.

"I know that in my time in the Royal British Legion, we would go to these remembrance ceremonies and he would remember individual people and, for them, that was a special point of connection.

"He was a very thoughtful man, very caring and made every effort at all our events to connect with all the local people, all the officials and right down to the local schoolchildren, so he just had this natural flair for communicating with people."

Mr Bunce joined the Navy in 1947, and left as a chief petty officer in 1959 after 12 years service.

Fred in his youth
Fred Bunce joined the navy in 1947, spending 12 years as an able seaman

He joined locally on HMS Excaliber near Stoke on Trent for basic training, then for his specialist training at HMS Defiance, which was three ships tied together; Andromeda, Inconstant and the Vulcan.

Mr Bunce served on a series of ships starting with HMS Cockade, and included being in the Korean War on an aircraft carrier the St Bride’s Bay, a war in which nearly 4000 British and Commonwealth forces died, and many more were wounded.

He ended his Naval career in 1959, going into the defence industry

He was acting chair of the local Korean War Veterans Assosciation and was awarded the Korean War medal for his service, then received a letter from the president of South Korea years later with a special commemorative medal.

Mr Woodmass said Mr Bunce entered the world of defence industries after leaving the Navy and spoke about what he did with companies such as Collins Aerospace.

Fred Bunce was among a group who received Korean war commemorative medals in 2022
A guard of honour greeted the hearse

He said: "He worked for multiple organisations around the Midlands over the years, but all had MoD contracts for military equipment.

"Fred was involved in aspects of the Tornado and other multi-role aircraft, and although fuel pumps and safety switch gizmos might seem mundane to you and me, they are essential parts of these multi-million pound pieces of equipment.

"Fred had moved into the drawing/technical side of this industry, another skill he mastered and excelled at."

Members of the Armed Forces also turned out
Members of the Royal British Legion attended Fred Bunce's funeral

Mr Woodmass said Mr Bunce had been a thoughtful and wonderful leader of the Royal British Legion in Wolverhampton and always remembered the message of remembrance.

He said: "He would not let an event go by without knowing all the people who were involved and making special mention of it.

Fred's beret lay on top of the coffin
Wolverhampton Mayor Dr Mike Hardacre chats to one of the standard bearers

"From a British Royal Legion point of view, he was always getting our message over about remembrance and one of his mantras was that we are not here for us, we are here for those who aren't and who didn't come back.

"I am grateful for his support of me as the Chair at subsequent Remembrance events - always encouraging, being there and guided and, of course, all his offers to speak."

Royal British Legion's Wolverhampton Central chairman Derek Woodmass