Weʼve raised £23,994 to Help RAF hero rear gunner Bob Frost, 95, who was shot down in 1942, fund his care!
- Funded on Friday, 14th December 2018
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A hero RAF rear gunner who evaded capture by the Nazis in 1942 after being shot down over Belgium has been told to sell his house to pay medical bills as he has ‘survived too long’.
Bob Frost, 95, who is bedbound, and his partner Mildred Schutz, 94, a former SOE spy who operated behind enemy lines in 1944, told MailOnline they were in despair.
‘The NHS said I’d survived too long and they were stopping my funding,’ the war hero said. ‘That came as a mortal blow, it really did.
‘I don’t have a massive retirement plan. My pension wasn’t adjusted for the cost of living, so I came off very thinly.
‘All my life I tried to buy a house so I’d have something to pass on to my children. But now they’re taking it away.’
Mildred, who laid a wreath for the Special Forces club at Westminster Abbey for Remembrance Sunday, added:
‘Bob’s house is worth £300,000 and it’s all he has in the world to pass on. It is a very cruel blow, when he should be treated with dignity.’
Coming on the centenary of the 1918 Armistice, the case raises concerns about the treatment of veterans who fought bravely for Britain in their youth.
Mr Frost, a patient at Ami Court nursing home in Walmer, Kent, was put on an ‘end of life care’ programme after being hospitalised following a fall in March.
He amazed doctors by surviving two bouts of pneumonia and a kidney infection. He remains bedbound, however, and requires a winch to get up.
Given his improved health, the NHS decided to withdraw funding for his care, passing the case onto social services. That was when he was told he must stump up the cash.
Care at his nursing home costs up to £5,000 a month.
‘My father was a brewery labourer, and fought for the Royal Flying Corps in World War One,’ he said. ‘We never had very much money.
‘I’ve never been one to be greedy, but I worked hard for my house and I had hoped to be able to pass it on.’
Mr Frost, originally from Camden Town, was the rear gunner in a Wellington bomber that was shot down in September 1942, as it flew to raid the German town of Essen.
The war was at its height, and Bomber Command had lost 36 aircraft from a single squadron in four months.
Aged just 19, Mr Frost had flown 22 raids at a time when just one in six airmen lived to complete 30 flights.
‘It wasn’t a matter of if you’d get shot down. It was a matter of when,’ Mr Frost recalled.
He bailed out and parachuted to safety, then made his way to a nearby village. Seeing red ‘V for victory’ graffiti on a wall, he knocked on a door and was taken in by the local mayor.
'The Germans were after me, and the resistance were trying to help me,' he said.
'I was hidden in an attic, and I remember looking out the window at the street below where a festival was going on.
'After that, I would walk the streets in civilian clothing, trying to seem as normal as possible.'
He went to ground, buying false identity papers under the name Robert Simoness, and posed as a Belgian seaman visiting his elderly mother.
With the help of the Belgian and French resistance, he was eventually smuggled out of Europe via the ‘Comet Line’, a 1,200 mile escape route organised by British undercover agents together with the French underground.
On one occasion, he was targeted by a German soldier on a train, and only managed to escape by pretending to be insane.
He was smuggled across the Pyrenees in October 1942, arrived in Spain and made his way to the British embassy in Madrid. From there, he posted a pair of shoes he had borrowed from a supporter back to Belgium.
‘It was a sign to tell him I’d made it,’ he recalled. 'My squadron wanted to court martial me for coming back so late, and I had words with them in very plain English.'
After the war he married, became a headmaster in Kent and adopted two children. But his wife, Daphne, died of motor neurone disease in 1995.
He met his partner, former spy Mrs Schutz, 20 years ago through Special Forces circles. Widowed in 1983, the mother-of-five was active in various clubs and societies in the espionage community.
Mrs Schutz, who grew up on a farm in Walton-on-Thames, was recruited for the Inter-Services Research Bureau, which made weapons and equipment for spies, at the age of 17.
‘I was very surprised when I found out that I’d joined SOE, the forerunner of MI6,’ she said.
‘They offered me training and I accepted. It was mainly memory training. They would give me a brief set of instructions once and I’d have to obey them perfectly the next day.
‘Finally, they asked me if I’d be willing to go overseas in the field. They said I’d need to have parachute training. I thought it was terribly exciting, so I said yes immediately.’
Despite having her cover blown by German agents before she left Britain, Mrs Schulz was despatched to Italy in 1944.
There she was ordered to work behind enemy lines, making contact with friendly Italian resistance groups and organising them into effective fighting operations.
She was also told to spy on enemy landing strips.
‘It could get pretty hectic,’ she recalled. ‘Once I was in a jeep and some Fascist fighters triggered a landslide on us.
‘I only just escaped with my life. I then secured the documents we needed, and was driving back through a vineyard.
‘A group of Italians came running out, shouting that the place was full of Germans. We sped round a corner, straight into a machine-gun nest which opened fire.
‘Luckily, it’s quite tricky to hit a speeding jeep.’
After the war she worked for a shipping company and married Reginald, an accountant at the same firm. They had five children, but he died of a brain tumour in 1983.
‘I wasn’t in a great rush to get married. I didn’t think it a good idea,’ she said. ‘Once one has been abroad in the forces, being a housewife seems all a bit mundane.’
She became active in ‘interesting things’, however, including supporting the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY), the Princess Royal’s volunteer corps, an all-female organisation that provides assistance to the civil and military authorities in times of emergency.
It was through these circles that she met Mr Frost, who belongs to the Escape Lines Memorial Society (ELMS).
‘I suppose you could say that we have become inseparable,’ she said.
Mr Frost had managed to save up £25,000, she said, but it was stolen by a family member with access to his bank account, who also left him with a £15,000 overdraft.
He declined to press charges, however, and had just finished paying the overdraft off using his pension when he was told that his NHS funding would stop.
Mrs Schutz travels from her home in London to visit Mr Frost in Kent several times a month, spending more than £50 on travel each time.
‘It all does add up, especially as I have to get a taxi to the station and back these days,’ she said.
‘But we are both very lucky to be alive.’
Updates appear here
Jacob Simons started crowdfunding
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Dec 13, 2018
Thank you for your service to our country x
Dec 12, 2018
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Nov 26, 2018
Very best of luck and respect to Bob .
Nov 25, 2018
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