Alfie Fripp

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
Alfred George Fripp
Nickname(s) Alfie, or Bill
Born (1914-06-13)13 June 1914
Died 3 January 2013(2013-01-03) (aged 98)
Bournemouth, Dorset, England
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Air Force
Years of service 1930–1969
Rank Squadron leader
Service number 565033
Unit No. 57 Squadron RAF
Battles/wars Second World War
Spouse(s) Vera Violet Allen (married 1939)
Relations Robert Fripp (nephew)
Other work Laboratory at Brockenhurst College

Alfred George Fripp (13 June 1914 –3 January 2013), known as "Alfie" or "Bill",[1][2] was a British Royal Air Force squadron leader who was a flight sergeant during the Second World War.[3] He was shot down by the Luftwaffe in 1939 and held in twelve different prisoner of war camps, including Stalag Luft III, later the site of the "The Great Escape". As the last of the "39ers" (those taken prisoner in the first year of the war), he was the oldest surviving and longest serving British POW.[1][4]

Early life

File:Baby Alfie Fripp.jpg
Baby Alfie Fripp

Fripp was born in Alverstoke (Hampshire, England)[citation needed] on 13 June 1914.[5] He was raised in Wimborne (Dorset England).[6]

File:Alfie Fripp and parents.jpg
Alfie Fripp and parents

Royal Air Force career

As a POW, Fripp provided maps and tools for tunnelling the great escape from Stalag Luft III.

Fripp's father was a regular in the Royal Marines and, from the age of twelve, Fripp had planned to become an artificer apprentice in the Royal Navy. He failed the medical exam, however, as he was almost four inches shorter than the requirement. When he learned the Royal Air Force was recruiting apprentices of all heights, he took the RAF entrance exam to become an electrical apprentice.[7] Fripp enlisted in the RAF on 30 September 1930 at RAF Halton, and in 1932 transferred to training for wireless operators. He joined No. 57 Squadron RAF in 1939.[7] Three days after the declaration of war on 3 September 1939, just before 57 Squadron was called to duty, Fripp married Vera Violet Allen.[7]

Prisoner of war

On 13 October 1939, while on a reconnaissance mission as an observer, the Bristol Blenheim aircraft he was in was shot at, pursued, and forced into an emergency landing in Germany. Fripp and the pilot, Flight Lieutenant Mike Casey,[1] were captured, along with Aircraftsman 1st class J Nelson, all of whom emerged with bruises and scrapes.[8] From 1939 until 1945, Fripp was a prisoner of war.[1] On 25 October Fripp wrote a letter to his wife from Kriegsgefangenen-Mannschafts-Stammlager VII-A in Moosburg, Germany; Fripp assured his wife of his well-being and suggested that Germany might be a nice place to visit for their honeymoon.[8] He and six other airmen were allowed to record thirty-second Christmas messages to their families, which were broadcast on shortwave radio from Berlin; Fripp sent greetings to his mother and told his wife, "Although I shall not be at home with you in person, I shall be with you in spirit." His wife was staying at his mother's home in Wimborne.[9]

Fripp was imprisoned at Stalag Luft III, the site of an escape attempt by an international group of prisoners of war in March 1944. A fictionalised version of the escape was depicted in the 1963 film, The Great Escape.[1] Before the escape, Fripp collected parcels from the Red Cross, some of which contained maps and equipment such as radio parts. While Fripp was collecting the parcels, he occasionally "liberated" tools, such as steel files and wire cutters, which were used to dig the tunnel.[2] Fripp was moved to another stalag two months before the escape. His pilot, Casey, escaped from Stalag Luft III, but he was recaptured and murdered (along with forty-nine other escaped prisoners) on the orders of Adolf Hitler.[7]

Fripp was held in eleven other prison camps, in which he often served as a representative of the Red Cross. At the end of the war, he and other POWs were forced into "The Long March" from Poland to Germany, as German forces retreated before the Army of the Soviet Union.[1]

It is little short of a miracle that I have survived for so long, through a forced landing in the Bay of Biscay in a Scapa flying boat in 1936 whilst ferrying it to Alexandria, to a pre-war crash in a Blenheim Mk I in 1938, through my World War II experiences to the present day.

Alfie Fripp[1]

Fripp continued to serve in the RAF until 1969 and attained the rank of Squadron Leader.[1]

In 2009, Fripp returned to Stalag Luft III, where he and others commemorated his fallen comrades.[2] On that occasion, he said "I’m glad I came to remember Mike – you reflect back on all the memories and the people you knew. As for the Germans, I’ve forgiven them but not forgotten."[1]

Civilian career

After retiring from the RAF, Fripp moved to Bournemouth, Dorset and joined Brockenhurst's sixth form college,[7] where he supervised the scientific laboratory.[6] He worked for ten years before retiring at the age of 65.[7]

Personal life

Fripp and his wife Vera had two daughters. He became a grandfather and great-grandfather.[6]

His nephew Robert Fripp is a guitarist and founding member of King Crimson.[10]


Fripp died in hospital in Bournemouth on 3 January 2013 at the age of 98, almost six-and-a-half months short of his 99th birthday. He was the oldest surviving Second World War British prisoner of war. His wife had earlier died at the age of 84.[11] BBC Radio 2 broadcast a tribute to Fripp, which ended with David Bowie's song "Heroes", which features the guitar playing of Fripp's nephew, Robert Fripp; in this show, the guitarist shared recorded interviews with his "Uncle Bill".[12][13]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Cooper, Charlie (3 January 2013). "Alfie Fripp, oldest surviving and longest-serving British prisoner of war, dies age 98". The Independent News. Retrieved 3 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Hall, Allan (25 March 2009). "Veteran British POWs visit Stalag Luft III to mark the 65th anniversary of the REAL Great Escape". Daily Mail. Retrieved 3 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Staff (25 March 2009), "'Great Escape'", BBC News, retrieved 10 January 2013<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Alfie Fripp, prisoner of war at Stalag Luft III, dies aged 98", BBC News Dorset, 3 January 2013, retrieved 9 January 2013<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Fripp, Robert (13 June 2008). "Robert Fripp's Diary: Friday, 13th June 2008". Discipline Global Mobile. Retrieved 2013-01-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Hendy, Arron (4 January 2013). "Tributes paid to 'longest serving' British prisoner of war, Alfie Fripp". The Daily Echo. Retrieved 4 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 "Alfie Fripp: Last of the "39ers"". The Real Great Escape. Retrieved 2013-01-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Site based on interviews with, and documents provided by, Alfie Fripp.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Staff (1939). "Airman to bride: I am safe". (Newspaper clipping). Alfie George Fripp on facebook. Retrieved 13 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Staff (1939). "R.A.F. Prisoner of War: Message to So'ton (Southampton) wife on Berlin radio". Echo. Southampton, England: Southern Newspapers Limited. Alfie George Fripp on Facebook. Retrieved 13 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Harris, Paul (4 Jan 2013). "Last of the 39ers: Great Escape hero who was shot down at the start of the war dies aged 98". Mail Online. The Daily Mail. Retrieved 4 Jan 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Last of the '39ers': Hero of the REAL Great Escape who was the oldest surviving and longest-serving British POW dies aged 98". War History Online. 4 January 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Vine, Jeremy (4 January 2013). Alfie Fripp segment. BBC Radio 2 (Radio program). Reminisces by Robert Fripp who shares recordings of family interviews with his Uncle Bill. Event occurs at 1 hr 40 min. Retrieved 10 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Fripp, Robert. "Robert Fripp's Diary for Sunday, 11th November 2012". Discipline Global Mobile. Retrieved 2013-01-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

  • Fripp, Alfie; Fripp, Patricia; Fripp, Robert; [A daughter's son], Julian. "Alfie Fripp Veteran of the Great Escape 1". Interview of Alfie Fripp ("Uncle Bill") by his brother's daughter Patricia Fripp and her brother Robert Fripp and their nephew Julian. Retrieved 10 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>