31 December 2015

One Man's War: An Actor's Life at Sea 1940-45

Actor Richard Beale was a young officer in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. In the summer of 2014, he sat down to write a memoir of that time, now more than 70 years ago. The result is an engaging and often humorous account of his wartime service in the Royal Navy, from just prior to joining up until his demobilisation and subsequent return to civilian life. During his naval career, Richard rose from a humble rating to become commander of a series of coastal patrol craft, the last of which was HMS ML 135, sailing one from the UK to Malta and latterly covering the Royal Navy s campaign in Greek and Croatian waters, including minesweeping duties.

His story includes accounts of a number of key engagements, including one in which he was badly wounded, and encounters with Greek bandits and British spies. But it is not simply a naval memoir, as he also recalls memories of love affairs, special friendships and the enduring companionship of his beloved spaniel, Simon, who accompanied him in the initial stages of his career.

Available from:
Conway (part of the Bloomsbury Group)

30 December 2015

I Just Wanted to Fly - The Story of WWII Glider Pilot Bernard Osborn

Growing up in the 1930’s, Bernard Osborn developed a fascination with flying. He would visitnearby airfields and peer through the boundary fences just to catch a glimpse of aircraft. It was on a visit to an Empire Air Day display and seeing a Hawker Hurricane for the first time that spurred his dream to become a fighter pilot.

When Bernard turned 18 he went to volunteer with the RAF to become a fighter pilot, only to realise that almost every other young man in the country shared his ambition to fly. Instead, Bernard was called up and eventually ended up training as a member of a tank crew. It was while serving with an armoured unit that he spotted a notice calling for volunteers for the Glider Pilot Regiment. Determined to become a pilot, he volunteered and began a journey that would see him take part in D-Day and Operation Market Garden, and serve in post-war Palestine.

I Just Wanted to Fly combines Bernard’s own words with a narrative of wider events of the time, to tell a humble yet charming story of one man achieving his dream to become a pilot. 

Watch extracts from interviews where Bernard Osborn tells some of the earlier parts of his story:

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29 December 2015

The War in Plymouth: Destruction and a New Beginning - An Oral History of the Plymouth Blitz and the Reconstruction of the City

Plymouth suffered the most devastating aerial bombing onslaught during World War Two, matched only by the impacts on London and Coventry. Civilian fatalities reached 1,172, casualties 4,448, while over the course of the war 3,754 houses were destroyed and a further 18,398 seriously damaged. The city survived, as did the spirit of its residents, signified by the famous Resurgam sign nailed above the door of the ruined church of St Andrew's. From 1945 to 1955, one of the most remarkable civic planning and building exercises ever seen in Europe was undertaken, resulting in the building of 17,000 new homes. The city of Plymouth as it is known today owes its shape and structure to the war and the succeeding years of rebuilding.

Over a period of two years from 2013 to 2015, researchers working with The Word Machine Community Interest Company conducted oral history interviews with Plymouth residents who could remember both the war years and the subsequent civic renaissance. This volume contains a summary of some of those interviews, together with photographs of the interviewees taken by Fotonow CIC. The War in Plymouth: Destruction and a New Beginning has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. 376 pages with over 50 colour photographs and historic images.

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