Frank Draper, who died on 9 July, aged 77, was one of Fleet Street’s longest-serving journalists. He worked at the Evening Standard for 34 years and retired from the paper on his 65th birthday.
After leaving school before the war, Frank started his working life as a bio-chemist – a career favoured by his father. However, he moved to the Railway Gazette and then discovered there was a job going in the London office of the ChicagoTimes. But the war interrupted his career and he joined the RAF serving in Africa.
The story goes that at the tail end of the war, Frank had destroyed more British aircraft – somewhere in Central Africa – than the Germans. He was with the RAF, and while taxiing an aeroplane he ran into three others (all ours). His newsroom colleagues all enjoyed this story and he never denied it.
Frank stayed on in Africa after the war and was moved to Berlin where he became involved in intelligence work and helped track down Nazi war criminals. He taught himself Russian from BBC radio lessons.
When he left the RAF he returned to journalism, working on the Eastern Daily Press, the South Wales Argus, Extel and finally the Evening Standard, which he joined in 1953, first as a general news reporter and later the paper’s defence correspondent.
Frank’s knowledge of Russian came in handy when the news editor used his expertise to translate from photographs the details of Russian bombs which had been found somewhere in the West.
The following story has been attributed to many other reporters, but it’s thought Frank was the original source.
He was sent off, at very short notice, by news editor Ronnie Hyde to a European crisis. Sometime in the early hours of the morning, the night duty reporter, Norman Leith, received a call from Frank. "Norman, I’m in a hotel somewhere and there is a river flowing outside. Where am I?" It turned out he was in Amsterdam on a Royal Family crisis story.
Frank, a widower, leaves three grown-up sons.