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Camden New Journal - OBITUARY
Published: 9 July 2009

Frank Hallett
Frank played down his wartime horrors

A VILLAGER sneaked past the guards and looked into the pit. Below sat Frank Hallett, an RAF officer who had been captured by North Korea troops when his helicopter had been shot down.
He had been kept naked in a muddy hole for three months and regularly abused by his guards who would urinate and defecate on him, and his health was rapidly failing.
The villager threw a food package in and with it a spoon.
This simple piece of cutlery would save his life.
Frank, who has died aged 83, will be remembered for his tireless work as an administrator for the charity Visually Impaired in Camden. This year alone he raised £20,000 for them.
But no one he worked with knew of the terrible ordeal he had had to endure as he served his country.
Frank was born in 1926 in the East End. He earned a place at a grammar school and then as a 17-year-old joined the war effort with the RAF.
As a teenager he flew in Lancaster bombers, but his flying career was cut short when he managed to drag a severely damaged bomber back from a raid in Germany.
His entire crew had been killed by anti-aircraft fire and the plane was billowing smoke. Frank himself had been severely wounded.
He crash landed at an airfield – his hair was on fire as he guided the plane down.
The RAF put him on to administrative duties and it was this work that took him to Korea.
It was during a routine helicopter flight that North Korean troops shot his craft down with rifles and took him prisoner.
But then his saviour arrived: Frank began carefully crafting the spoon he had been tossed into a knife.
After particularly heavy rainfall – when the mud of his pit was soft enough – Frank scrambled out. Walking naked across the countryside, he managed to cut sacking into a smock, and he eventually reached the border with the South. He crawled through a minefield to be greeted by American troops.
They refused to believe he was British: they quizzed him on football and Frank was a rugby fan, but eventually he was taken in.
Frank returned to Britain and worked for Customs and Excise.
His job took him to Switzerland, and he also worked for the United Nations in Belgium.
He married his wife Colleen in the late 1950s and had a daughter, Melanie, in the early 1960s.
They were to later separate and Frank moved to a flat off Albany Street.
He held degrees in geology and economics, and spent the last 25 years of his life as a crossword compiler for the Daily Telegraph, while also working for the Crown Estate.
A modest man, his daughter only discovered his war record four months before his death – which included uncovering a mass grave of political prisoners just outside Hamburg – and the fact he had been awarded an OBE.
It was when she had gone to collect a prescription for him that his honour came to light.

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