Dr Bill Frankland with Sophie Neville at Drapers Hall
Once Alexander Fleming’s clinical assistant, Dr Bill Frankland still works as an allergist at the age of 103, ‘I have my first patient at 9.00am tomorrow morning.’ His recent MBE is apparently a good sign that he has many good works still to perform. You may have seen him on television today.
Dr Frankland and I are both Liverymen of the Worshipful Company of Drapers, so find ourselves seated together in all sorts of places from St Paul’s cathedral to a bus going to Romford. Always chatty and full of enthusiasm, Bill is a source of endless interesting stories and has become the historical adviser on my next book, ‘Makorongo’s War’. He gave me detailed insights on WWII, when he served as a medical officer in the Far East, becoming a PoW to the Japanese. To my astonishment I found myself noting down the actual dialogue used in prison camps. He could remember the exact words used by the Japanese. I was not be surprised to see he’d been invited to the premiere of ‘The Railway Man’, the movie of Eric Lomax’s wartime experience starring Colin firth and Nicole Kidman. He has been attending the 70th Anniversary VJ Day memorial at Horse Guards Parade with other British and Commonwealth veterans.
Bill grew up in the Lake District. He was a good friend of Roger Altounyan and knew his sister Titty. Along with their other three siblings, they had been models for the Walker family in Arthur Ransome’s book ‘Swallows and Amazons’. He worked with Roger on the development of the Intal spin-inhaler to relieve asthmatic symptoms.
Bill is still amused by the fact that I played the part of Titty in the feature film of ‘Swallows & Amazons’ when I was twelve, delighted that I was able to introduce him to Nick Barton, the producer of the new film adaptation.
Bill lives and works central London, employing a PA to help him cope with his workload and plan his overseas travel. He lost his wife to cancer some time ago but has his family ever around him. He told me that his doctor insists that he walks a mile a day but it is quite an experience to accompany him along the crowded London streets as on turning 99 he began to use a walking stick which is twirled in all directions.
Update – I saw Dr Frankland at a dinner in the City of London on 2nd November 2016. He was looking very well and at the age of 104 is still employing a secretary to keep up to date with his paperwork.
Here is a clip of Dr Frankland appearing on ‘The One Show’ a few years ago (he’s on after Andrew Lloyd Weber):