A World War II veteran who served on a navy destroyer celebrated his 100th birthday last week.

Frank Witton, who lived in St Albans until two years ago, served on the V and W-class destroyer HMS Woolston.

Born in St Albans on December 16, 1922, Frank attended Holywell House School on Holywell Hill and after leaving joined the reserved occupation Handley Page at Radlett.

He joined the Royal Navy in 1941, and spent six weeks training as a stoker on HMS Duke, which was a shore base in Worcestershire.

Herts Advertiser: Frank Witton as a young man in the Royal NavyFrank Witton as a young man in the Royal Navy (Image: V and W Destroyer Association)

Frank was one of five stokers drafted from HMS Pembroke at Chatham to join HMS Woolston at Rosyth in February 1942.

At the time Woolston was at sea, and until it returned to port Frank and the other stokers stayed aboard its sister ship HMS Vortigern. Had he remained on Vortigern he would have most likely been killed - as the ship was sunk in March.

HMS Woolston joined the home fleet at Scapa Flow, and Frank described the terrifying weather conditions on board, saying "the ship was almost going 45 degrees".

There was no time to go ashore, as the ship was busy escorting convoys - including troop ships from Malta to Sicily.

In May 1945 HMS Woolston went to Norway to accept the surrender of U-Boats at Bergen. Frank then joined HMS Suffolk and was sent to Melbourne, Australia, but returned to Britain when Japan surrendered.

Frank met his wife Catherine, known as Cath, at a dance in Dumfermaline, near Rosyth where Frank was based.

They married on June 29, 1945, and lived in Edinburgh before returning to St Albans in 1947.

Thanks to his wartime experience as a stoker, Frank got a job as a boiler man at Rose's Lime Juice in Grosvenor Road, where he worked for 35 years.

Frank and Cath rented a house from Rose's in Sadlers Road, but later moved to New Greens Avenue.

The couple's first child, Catherine Anderson Witton - named after her mother, was born in October 1947 at Brocket Hall, which had been turned into a hospital, followed by two sons, Alan and Ian.

In March 2014 Frank was awarded the Arctic Star for escorting Arctic Convoy PQ.12 to Archangel in northern Russia, and in November 2019 he was presented with the Norwegian Medal of Honour for his part in the liberation of Norway.

Herts Advertiser: Frank Witton celebrating his 100th birthdayFrank Witton celebrating his 100th birthday (Image: Ian Witton)

In 2019, Frank was also reunited with the bell from HMS Woolston, thanks to the efforts of his son Alan, who saw the bell had been bought from an eBay auction and haggled with the new owner. 

At age 98, Frank and Cath left St Albans to be near one of their sons in Devizes, after the unexpected death of their daughter Catherine from a stroke in 2018.

Cath died on July 20, 2020, following 75 years of marriage.

To mark Frank's milestone birthday on Friday, he received a card from the King and a letter and video message from the First Sea Lord, Admiral Ben Key.