As you may know mourners have been restricted to close family at funerals so it was not possible for Fred’s friends to attend his service in person but thanks to modern day technology we were able to watch this on the internet. Below is a copy of the tribute read by Michael, one of Fred’s sons.
Dad was very clear in his wishes that this Eulogy should be a celebration of his life so today I’m going to do my best to do just that.
But firstly and sadly this celebration has had to be curtailed immensely due to the CoronaVirus pandemic but thankfully with the aid of technology Grandchildren Stephen, Nina, Claudia, our cousins in Germany plus close friends are able to join us over the internet. It’s not what Dad would have wanted but am sure he would have understood.
Today we’re here to celebrate the life of one of the kindest most caring & gentle men you could ever hope to meet who at the same time was gifted with a supreme intellect.
Dad’s intellect was such that during his entire life he was always regarded as way ahead of his time ……. and ahead of his time is a common theme I’ll refer to many times today.
In his life he’d been a farmer, Electrical Engineer, soldier, husband, father and grandfather plus expert in Electronics and lecturer at Bradford Technical College for over 40 years!
In retirement his technical interests didn’t stop either. As well as joining the Facebook generation I recall a few weeks ago him arguing with British Gas about his smart meter because it didn’t work. He knew why and told British Gas it wouldn’t work where they had put the meter and the reason why – but would they listen!!…..Would they thump (in his words)!
While sorting out the house we found around 10 Hand Cream/Soap dispensers, 6 large bags of toilet paper, Lots of Paracetamol, at least 20 Frozen meals as well as sufficient supply of biscuits to feed an army.
Again ahead of his time I wonder if Dad knew how CoronaVirus would hit us and left us plenty of provisions behind! Nostradamus eat your heart out! At Bradford Technical College Dad was one of the first in the country to teach about Colour Televisions and VHS Video recorder Technology.
Many times we would run into Dad’s ex-students, some of who became lifelong friends and would have been here today, who told us of their immense respect for Dad, his knowledge and teaching abilities and often spoke of his changing their lives.
He was indeed a pioneering expert in his area and was consulted by several large companies like Thorn EMI/Baird’s on product development – again ahead of his time.
In 1972 Dad completed his MSc research on Low noise Parametric Amplifiers. At the time we had no clue what such a thing was but if I tell you they are now known as LNB’s and are fitted to every Satellite Dish in the world that will give you an idea of the impact of his work, again ahead of his time.
This work remained typically unrecognised apart from in a few small circles. He was at the same time a very modest person. But apart from technical subjects his major love was for Sun, Sand, Sea and …………… –Sangria!
Every summer (usually the day after term finished) we all were packed in the Dormobile Camper Van and headed off for either Spain, South of France or Italy to enjoy the long hot summers by the side of lakes or coast.
At that time Suntan lotion was very expensive so I remember cooking oil was used instead …. which meant we basically all fried!! Little did we know at the time!
Of course no summer holiday would be complete without a visit to Germany to visit family. You will see some records of those visits in photos which I sent round.
Family was always very important to dad and as kids my brother Richard and I were brought up to be able to communicate with our German cousins and more importantly establish a bond over many years with family in east Germany, despite the huge difficulties in visits and communication.
Indeed I remember a visit there in 1968 nearly got us into trouble when we almost got locked behind the iron curtain! If you remember 1968 saw the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia and we all watched in silence as the Russian tanks passed in front of us. Only Dad initiating a quick exit back to Berlin prevented that lockdown from maybe becoming a reality!
Dad made sure that Richard and I got the family grounding and education we needed, giving us the skills we needed to launch us into the wide world.
Dad’s contacts were especially important in helping us to get apprenticeships, education & careers in the Electronic Sectors for both of us, to which we owe him an immense debt of gratitude.
His mottos like “Work first before play” and “Kopf hoch, auch wenn der Halz dreckig ist!” are embedded on our ethos! In English that means “chin up by the way – appropriate for today don’t you think!
As you know Dad grew up on a farm at the East side of the River Oder (which is now Slubiche in Poland) and came to Britain as a PoW in April 1945 at nearly the end of the second world war.
He was captured after the Battle of Arnhem (near Apeldoorn) by Canadian Solders, while dad was repairing radios for the LuftWaffe.
Typically Dad didn’t notice the German Troops had retreated and left him behind!
I wonder if his father was also ahead of his time because when Dad was called up in 1944 his dad predicted he would not come back to Germany after the war ended and indeed that proved correct – but not for the reasons he might have imagined.
The story is while Dad was stationed at Shelf Hall Camp in Yorkshire as a POW he was admitted to Bradford Royal Infirmary with an ear infection when he met the love of his life Annie who was a student Nurse there.
Anne & Fred soon discovered they had something in common which was losing both fathers as a result of mustard gas injuries sustained fighting in the First World War.
Scarily both fathers were in the trenches at the Battle of the Somme at the same time, ironically on opposing sides fighting each other for whatever purpose. Such is the futility of war.
Dad’s English was not too good at first but clearly communication worked as they managed to meet in Shelf Woods regularly despite a non fraternisation ban, which fortunately got lifted in 1947 allowing Dad to marry the love of his life.
Also while mum and dad were courting mum acted as guarantor, making sure he got back to camp, allowing dad to attend college and 5 learn his profession in England (having already qualified in Germany). The guarantor apparently had to be an English person which suited them of course.
A local businessman called Fred Peel realised the German POW’s were good workers and employed a lot of them in his business. He obviously took a shine to dad and put his talents for Electrics to good use. This meant dad was able to learn on the job as well as, with mum’s help, go to college to study.
Dad managed to get a short leave of absence for 24 hours which allowed mum & dad to get married on 8th May 1948 however he had to go back to camp afterwards – and was even reprimanded for being late by the camp commandant!.
After the war repatriations began and local POW camps were ordered to close by the end of 1948. Fred Peel stepped in again to help newlyweds mum & dad and offered them free accommodation in a caravan on his farm. Such was his respect, admiration & generosity towards mum & dad.
At the time mum & dad had only £5 in total to their name so you could justifiably say they started out with nothing!
As you all know the rest is history and mum & dad were together until the very end, and have celebrated over 72 years of happily Married life.
Dad you are an inspiration to us all. Your love, dedication and care for mum showed NO boundaries and we are immensely grateful for your love, support and guidance throughout our lives.
I hope you can look down on us with pride – you are a hard act to follow.
All our love, Wife Annie, Son’s Michael & Richard, Grandchildren Stephen, Christina & Claudia, and finally Great Grandchild to be, currently nicknamed Baby Bump Bennewitz!