Maj. Frank Philp was fortunate enough to have spent two tours in 19 Signal regiment. On his first tour from 1953 to 1956 he commanded Changi Troop and then from 1967 to 1969 he commanded 2 Sqn 19 Signal Regt. He was therefore the Squadron commander of both Operations Troop and Malaysia Troop based at RAF Seletar. Both these troops were at the forfront of maintaining communications throughout Malaysia and Borneo during the Borneo campaign.
Both Frank and his wife were excellent choristers and sang in the chior at Lincoln Cathedral. Frank regularly attended the reunions until his death on 8 July 2012.
From Frank’s obituary at his funeral it was said:
A funeral is by its very nature a time for reflection and consideration. We come together this morning and give thanks for the life of Frank Philp, and how his life has affected ours and from that how our own lives have affected him and each other. We come with memories of times spent together, of the love given and the love received and of the kind of person that Frank was.
For all of us important memories that will enable him to live on in our lives.
Frank’s Early years.
Frank was born and brought up in Harrow and spent his early life in before at the age of 8 moving to Tilbury Dock where Frank’s father had become Dock Master. Showing an early interest in music and considerable independence of mind Frank volunteered himself as a member of the church choir of St John the Baptist Tilbury – his parents only finding out when he had passed the audition.
Growing up he was a committed scout showing an early interest in signalling by learning Morse and signalling with flags. By his own admission Frank did not excel at school – preferring to put his efforts in cross country running which he not only enjoyed but did very well at.
During the war
Leaving school Frank started work as a clerk in the Clan Line shipping company in London from where he witnessed at close quarters the results of the Blitz. He spent many a night on fire-fighting duty, remembering with clarity the night that burning buildings surrounded St Paul’s – many of us can visualise that iconic picture of the event with St Paul’s in some way standing that night for the country’s resistance against Nazi Tyranny.
Less memorably – and now serving in the Home Guard – he did weekend duty guarding the sewage works at Tilbury Fort!
He also found the time to be a founder member of Thurrock Arts Society, meeting weekly, listening to records, arranging recitals and play-readings. I addition to this he formed the Thurrock YHA group and organised walks, cycling weekends and expeditions to Youth Hostels mainly in Kent, the North Downs.
In May 1942, Frank volunteered for service in the Royal Signals and after six months training as a wireless operator, he was posted to an operational unit. During the war Frank was to see active duty in Sicily being part of the invasion, landing in July 1943 when we joined the famous Eighth Army under General Montgomery. During this time, their only cook was killed and Frank volunteered to stand in until a replacement arrived based on his being awarded his Boy Scout cookery badge!
In November 1943, Frank passed the commission Board and returned to the UK for training. The training was tough – being 9 months long – and at that point the longest officers’ course in the British Army at that time at 9 months.
He was then posted to India – where his education continued. On arriving to his new section – which was a mounted section – he was asked by his ‘Now then young Philp can you ride a horse?’ ‘Err no sir’ came back Frank’s reply “Then you better learn darn quickly!’ came back the reply! Frank did just that and he was the last mounted officer in the Corps at the end of this particular posting. On the same tour, Frank learned to speak Urdu and was responsible for all Regimental Communication.
On being promoted to Captain, Frank was in 1946 posted to Kahat on the NW Frontier to take command of the Frontier Brigade Signal Section. The War was over, as the bomb had been dropped so there was much hunting and polo playing.
Returning to London later that year and returning to the Clan Line Shipping Office in London Frank did not enjoy the work, so he was doing decided to rejoin the Signals on a short Service Commission that turned out to be a long service commission.
It was a busy year as he also married Pat and was posted to the Gold Coast, later Nigeria and thus began a 32-year career in the army, travelling and serving across the world – including Gan, Borneo, Malaysia, Thailand, the British Army on the Rhine as well as UK postings. Whilst his core work was in signals and communications, he was also involved in a wide variety of activities including in 1961 Royal visit and then the independence celebrations in Sierra Leone.
Frank also served as a Captain in Changi Troop in the fifties and was OC 2 Sqn. 19 Signal regiment in the late sixties. Retiring from Signals in 1974 with the rank of major, Frank remained committed to the army being the Lincoln army Careers Officer staying in post for a further 10 years. During which time he founded the Lincoln Branch of the Royal Signals Association – being made Life President in 2009; Frank joined the Army Benevolent Fund Lincolnshire committee and was very active for over 30 years most particularly in fund raising, which memorably included Band Concerts here in the Cathedral.
Alongside this, he was also Regional Secretary for the British Field Sports for a number of years and was in charge of its stand when the Game Fair was at Chatsworth.
Frank’s love of music
Frank had few regrets but one was never having been a chorister – he would have dearly loved to have had that experience. He loved music with a passion and so it was to his great joy that Frank joined The Lincoln Singers – often assisting here in the Cathedral when the choir was not available.
Musically Frank was also deeply involved with the Lincoln Choral Society: joining in 1980 he sang in every concert until 1911 and served on the LCS Committee for many years setting up the first patronage scheme and was Chairman for many years. As those who sat next to him will recall he had a beautiful bass. Among the many notable concerts given during his term of office was Dream of Gerontius with Robert Tear, a super Verdi Requiem with Jane Eaglen and her team from Covent Garden – the cathedral was packed. For the Society’s centenary a work was commissioned from Dr Philip Marshall; the same work later to be performed by the Eton and Windsor Choral Society under Ralph Allwood.
Frank. The man
It is all too clear as we hear of his life that Frank was a man of considerable energy and vitality, a man of passion and sheer joie de vivre. He was a man marked by generosity, integrity, kindness and dignity. He was honourable, upright and true. Frank was all this but without any stuffiness or false airs – he was a warm and humorous and wonderful human being.
This is very much the person whom we all knew and loved and most particularly his family: he was a loving and proud father to David, Jane, Claire & Nicholas and very proud of them all. And later on, he was to become a deeply loved and admired friend to Micky’s family.
In recent years Micky has been a wonderful support to Frank acting as his mentor, PA, travel organiser, co-driver and both of them enjoying each others love and company – making the most of life demonstrated most eloquently in their love of travelling to France.
He was also a man of considerable faith known and loved for many years to many of the Cathedral Community. Those words of the Paul’s letter to the Ephesians ring true as we remember a man who was ‘strong in the Lord’. And when putting on the armour of God did stand firm. Standing firm for what was good and proper and true.
Let us follow his example and affirm the faith that Frank held close all the days of his life. The teachings of Jesus Christ about a God of love, who loves us for what we are, and whose kingdom spans life here and life hereafter. A kingdom where the language is love, the time is measured in joyful moments and the currency is peace.
Then, when we think of Frank, we can be thankful for all that he meant to us – we can feel a fitting sense of the finale about today, and, I pray, can go home with the peace of God in our hearts as we remember and give
thanks for a gentleman who was honourable and loyal and above all things put service before self.
May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
Frank We will remember you !