Obituary

THE funeral has taken place of World War II veteran and well-known speaker Fred Shaw Maltas.

Fred, 90, was the eldest child of Percy Maltas – joiner and funeral director – and Eleanor – a head teacher.

He attended Hightown National School and Batley Technical School. He started work in the family business, and after the war worked for 24 years as an engineering inspector at David Brown Gears, Huddersfield.

Fred was a well known public speaker in West Yorkshire. He was a member of Cleckheaton Probus Club, Spen Valley Society of St George, St Andrew’s Alzheimer’s Support Group, and a founder member of Spen Valley 41 Club.

His main talks were Hark To Rover, about pub and inn signs, and The Finest Medicine. His most popular was For You The War Is Over, a title taken from a remark made by a German arresting officer when Fred was taken prisoner during World War II. This presentation of his wartime experiences has been recorded onto CD by his godson, the musician Steve Pierce.

One of Fred’s proudest achievements was to serve with RAF 35 Squadron as Flight Engineer in a Halifax Bomber with the elite Pathfinder Force. Their role was to spearhead raids to pinpoint enemy targets during RAF missions.

After several bombing raids Fred’s aircraft was shot down in June 1943, near Castenray in Holland. He parachuted to safety but after several days on the run he was captured and spent two years in prison camps where he assisted with many escape attempts.

His liberation along with other POWs in Germany became known as The Long March to Freedom. He was made a member of the Caterpillar Club and presented with a certificate and caterpillar badge by parachute makers Irving Air Chute. A number of years ago he was reunited with his New Zealander pilot who he had last seen when they bailed out from the burning Halifax. They spoke on the phone every year on the anniversary of their plane being shot down.

Fred’s wartime ordeal, which involved many near misses when flying, appalling prison camp conditions and the loss of friends and colleagues, made him the optimistic, resilient and humorous character known to many. Fred is pre-deceased by his wife Norah (née Wood), and leaves two daughters, two sons-in-law, a grandson and a brother.