‘Everyone loved Frank’

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The widow of one of the last remaining survivors of a German prisoner of war camp who died aged 91 has paid tribute to him.

Frank Stone, of Hathersage, was taken to Stalag Luft Ill after his bomber crashed in the German city of Mannheim in 1940.

The then-18-year-old RAF gunner was imprisoned in hut 104, home to 76 airmen who tried to escape via a tunnel in 1944.

However, the alarm was raised before Mr Stone, who had helped dispose of soil from the tunnel, could join them.

Speaking in 2009, Frank said there had been an “electric” atmosphere on the night of the escape.

He said: “It was all very tense – but at five o’clock a shot rang out and we knew they had been discovered.”

Only three of the 76 men managed to escape from the tunnel and 50 were subsequently shot after being recaptured.

Mr Stone said: “It was very sad and we were advised not to make any further attempts to escape.”

Frank was finally freed towards the end of the war.

His widow, Jane, 69, said: “He gave lots of talks about the escape and always said he was doing it in memory of those 50 who died.

“Frank could never understand why people were so interested in him but they were.

“I think his time as a prisoner of war gave him the ability to cope with most things life threw at him.

“So many people loved him – he was a remarkable man.”

The story was immortalised in the 1960s’ film The Great Escape.

Jane said: “Frank always said he was grateful for that film because without it nobody would have known what happened.”

Dad-of-one Frank died last Wednesday. The funeral service will take place at St Michael and All Angels Church in Hathersage on Friday before the burial in the village cemetery.