War pilot's 71st anniversary is making headlines in Denmark

After being shot down by the Germans in the Second World War and surviving his plane’s emergency crash landing – Frank Fuller has learned not to take anything for granted.

And love certainly falls into that category, as today (Thursday) he celebrates a staggering 71st wedding anniversary with his wife Frances.

Frances and Frank Fuller celebrate 71 years of marriage today. Their big day is also news out in Denmark, where Frank remains a well known name for his exploits in the war

Frances and Frank Fuller celebrate 71 years of marriage today. Their big day is also news out in Denmark, where Frank remains a well known name for his exploits in the war

The memorable event for Frank and Frances, both aged 94, won’t just be celebrated in England, but also in Denmark, in the small villages where Frank’s plane was shot down in April 1945.

Frank and Frances both regularly stay in touch with the families of the Danish farmers who helped look after Frank after the crash, and spared him the possible torment of capture by the German forces.

Frank, then aged 23, was one of six crew on a Stirling bomber that was shot down by the Germans on April 27, 1945. The plane came down near the town of Billund after one of the engines caught fire after being hit.

The plane had been set to deliver weapons and assistance to a resistance movement. Five of the crew, including Frank, managed to survive the crash landing. Sadly one member of the crew, John Ayres, died a few days later from his injuries.

A memorial service is held each year at the location of the crash.

Like most men who risked everything for their country back in those days, Frank is incredibly modest.

“It was near the end of the war, so we were actually very lucky,” he says.

“I keep being told that I risked my life, but for me, it was the families in Denmark who risked their lives for us.

“We got away from it successfully. We used to go walking at night and sleep in their hay lofts. We did get discovered by the eldest kid one night, but it all worked out.

“We would tap on the door or window when we were hungry or thirsty. The farmer, an elderly man, would come and tell us where the Germans were, and in some instances help us to avoid them.

“If we had been found we would have been taken prisoner. I dread to think what would have happened to them for helping to shelter us from the enemy.”

Frank, who was a warrant officer in the RAF, has kept in touch with the families of the brave Danes who helped protect him.

Lars Peter Larsen, Hans P Hansen and Olga Hansen were among the many who helped Frank over in Scandanavia, and they now keep in touch with their grandchildren.

“Last year nine of them came over to us from Denmark for our 70th anniversary,” says Frances.

“We’ve been in touch with them for so long, and they have been very good friends ever since. We’ve been out to see them several times, but that’s becoming more difficult now because of our age.”

Frank adds: "I can never forget what they did for me, and I won’t forget."

Frank’s tale is widely known in the Billund area - and the couple even met Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark, as well as their anniversary celebrations last year making the Danish newspapers.

The pair married in Huntingdon after having first laid eyes on each other on the London Underground, before sharing a train from Paddington in April 1944.

Since then the couple have moved from Royston to Berkhamsted in 1950, and they have been in Dacorum ever since. The couple now live together at the supported housing for elderly people at Two Beeches in Avon Square, Grovehill.

Their walls are adorned with pictures of memories that have been gathered over the last seven decades, as well as newspaper clippings and military aircraft models.

So what’s the secret to their long marriage?

“It’s all about sharing with each other, and being honest with each other,” says Frances.

“All couples have arguments, but we’ve never had to lie to one another.”

After moving to Berkhamsted, Frank was a member of the police for 25 years – including doing the night shift on the very first evening that the M1 motorway was open.

Remembering his first meeting with Frances, he said: “Back then everybody used to talk to each other. She looked a little bit troubled, and I used it as an excuse to go over and talk to her!

“It turned out we were getting the same train from Paddington. I took her name and address and that was it! We haven’t ever had a real argument. I’m very proud of how it’s all turned out.”

And so the couple will spend Thursday as they have most of their lives, by each other’s sides.