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'Frank's bench': celebrating the life of a Mariners' Park veteran

23 May 2023

A book dedicated to the memory of a Merchant Navy prisoner of war and former Nautilus Mariners' Park Estate resident Frank Walker has been published by another current Park resident Captain Peter Thomson.

Capt Thomson's curiosity was piqued during a stroll on the Estate investigating some of the Park benches dedicated to former residents. He found himself wondering about one in particular: 'Frank's bench'.

His investigations revealed a veteran of global conflict and much more. On Armistice Day, 11 November 1940, Frank Walker was a 16-year-old deckhand on the Blue Funnel liner Automedon when it was torpedoed by German raider Atlantis, and he was captured. Five years later on 28 April 1945 he was liberated from a German prisoner of war camp, 'Milag', the only one specifically built for Merchant Navy seafarer prisoners. When Frank retired, he and his wife Vera came to live at Mariners' Park. In 2005, the Union's predecessor Union NUMAST helped the couple attend a 60th anniversary in Germany for prisoners from the camp. When he died his wife, who still lives at the Park, dedicated a bench in his memory.

Frank's bench: a grave mistake or a Churchill conspiracy? by Captain Peter Thomson was launched in May at an event celebrating Frank Walker's life at Mariners' Park and is now available in eBook and paperback on Amazon. It will be reviewed later in the year by Nautilus on our book review pages.

The book evolved out of Capt Thomson's meticulous research into all 27 memorial benches at the Park: 'To think all this came about because of a bench that has only a one inch by two inch brass plaque that reads: "Franks Bench. 1924-2008",' he said.

The book launch at the Park was sponsored by the Wirral branch of the Merchant Navy Association. The social fun of the launch occasion, with its Merchant Navy eulogy, entertainers and readings, was appreciated by so many residents that Captain Thomson was at one point was urged by one resident to 'go upstairs and write another book.'

He now intends to use any profits, after outlays, from the book's income to 'berth such funds in an entertainment account for the Mariners' Park residents and staff social events – for more of the same.'


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