8 December 2016

Returning WW2 photos to families - can you help?

This is a slightly different post than normal, as it isn't about a book. But I do need some help!

Last year I purchased a group of photos from an auction site. They were all photos of men who served in the Second World War, labelled with their names. This is very unusual, as most photos I've purchased from flea markets and auctions don't have a name, so I was pleased to obtain these as I thought I'd be able to do some research on them.

Once I received them, I started examining them. It became clear to me that they had been labelled together, presumably for an exhibition. It also became clear that these photos should have been returned to their owners once the exhibition was completed, and that didn't happen.

So, I thought that I'd try and return them.

I deduced that the photos all seemed to be from the same area - Fleetwood in Lancashire, England. I did some searches of the names and did find a couple of leads, including a dramatic story relating to one of them men. I sent a few emails to contacts I found. I didn't get any replies.

So I tried another approach, and posted to a couple of Forums - WW2 Talk and Rootschat. From these posts, things started to progress. I was contacted by Diane Everett, an ex-resident of Fleetwood who now lives in Cape Town, South Africa. Diane is a member of the Fleetwoods Past Facebook group, and she posted a request to that group. This elicited a number of responses, and three photos were returned to family members.

At the same time I contacted Fleetwood Weekly News. They kindly put out two stories, which resulted in a number of responses and four more photographs were claimed by families.

An exciting response was received from David Swarbrick. One of the photos was of his father, Fred, and he was still alive. Living in Fleetwood, Mr Swarbrick served with the Army in India during the war. The Fleetwood paper later did a feature which included a photo of Mr Swarbrick with the returned photograph, which was fantastic.

Fred Swarbrick with the returned photo of himself taken during the Second World War, Fleetwood 2015
(photo courtesy of David Swarbrick)

Thanks to a recent post by Diane to Fleetwoods Past, I've recently been able to return another photo to the son of Stephen Ligo. His father served in the Army during the war, and was posted to Egypt at the end of the conflict.

In total, 8 photos have been returned to the families of the men. I would like to particularly thank Diane who has been instrumental in returning many of the photos so far.

So why am I posting this now? 

Because I still have 15 photos which are waiting for family members to claim them, and I am running out of leads. If anyone recognises any of the following men, please do get in contact. I would be very happy to reunite these with the families of the men - and perhaps even return them to the men in the photo themselves.

*** Update 12th January 2017 ***

The photo of Alan Hardern has now been returned to his family!

*** Update 16th February 2017 ***

The photo of Frank Fielding has now now been returned to his family!

*** Update 15th November 2017 ***

The photo of Cedric Spivey has now now been returned to his family! Many thanks to Catherine Mills for her help in contacting the family.

Here are the photos. If any additional information is known about the men I have include it below. 

Bill Parkinson - RAF Dental Corps

Gordon Ward - Army

Charles Thompson - Army
1925 - 2013

Ralph Leadbetter - Army

Alan Hardern - Parachute Regiment

January 2017

Bill Hudson - Duke of Lancaster's Regiment

Cedric Spivey - Royal Engineers

November 2017

Cyril Paley - RAF
Shot down and escaped from Switzerland

Frank Fielding - Royal Artillery


January 2017

Harold Colley - RAF

John Dickinson,
C Troop - 350/137th Field Regiment,

Royal Artillery

Leonard Moon - Merchant Navy

Richard Snape - RAF

Teddy Dickson - Royal Artillery

Ronald Stansfield - Army

If anyone recognises these men as family members, or can provide any information, please either contact me or leave a comment below - thank you!

Thanks to:
Diane Everett
Peter Moran
Fleetwood Weekly News / Blackpool Gazette
David Swarbrick and all the Families who have been in contact
Fleetwoods Past

6 December 2016

Sketches of a Black Cat

Howard Miner never expected to contract the first documented case of the mumps in Guadalcanal history.

As a Navy Black Cat, he took his share of chances during the ten-hour, night long flights in darkened PBYs painted entirely black, searching the seas for enemy ships and downed fliers ~ the original stealth aircrafts. But wartime was unpredictable, and whether landing on an exotic tropical isle where the women he saw from the air turned out to be topless, or dropping wing tanks containing a strange new substance called “Napalm,” this was clearly a very different world than he had known as a college student in Indiana.

Sketches of a Black Cat follows Ron Milner's father’s journey through Corpus Christie and San Diego training facilities to the Solomon Islands for two tours of duty as a seaplane pilot in the South Pacific. Through his eyes, artwork, and first hand accounts, we are treated to a behind the scenes look at the idiosyncrasies of the military ~ the humor, the friendships made, the cultures discovered, and the very real dangers that characterized life during our struggle in the war with Japan.

The Black Cat Squadrons flew at night without lights in lumbering PBY Catalinas. The Cats operated out of the limelight as well, lacking the notoriety and glamour of the Navy’s fighters and bombers. These amphibious planes were used for most anything the Navy could dream up for them, from patrol and torpedo bombing to rescue and attack plane escort. PBYs played crucial roles in many pivotal moments during the war including the Battle of Midway and the search for the Bismark. They could also be found packed stem to stern with cases of beer, sometimes with a piano under one wing and a refrigerator under the other. Their missions were long, frequently 10-12 hours, and time between missions provided an opportunity for rest, Navy mischief, and in Howard Milner’s case, sketching.

Ron first saw his father's artwork as a young boy. One day his father casually slipped open a file cabinet, withdrew an old tattered folder, and pulled from it wonderful sketches and watercolors of planes, soldiers, and jungles ~ exciting images for a kid. After Howard Milners death a few years ago, his family were going through his things and discovered not only his artwork, but many boxes of writing, photographs, first hand accounts, and memorabilia, much of it almost seventy years old and virtually unknown to the family.

Sketches of a Black Cat is a unique portrayal of the War, using the collection of artwork, photos, and other materials to handsomely complement the storyline. It is at heart, a memoir ~ casual, first person, and more like a novel than historical text. Ron Milner's father’s story digs into the details and the life and times of the Cats.

Hear Ron Miner discuss the life and experiences of his father Howard Miner, a Black Cat during WWII:

Available from:

25 November 2016

The Night Hunter’s Prey - The Lives and Deaths of a RAF Gunner and a Luftwaffe Pilot

This is the story of two airmen - an RAF Rear Gunner and a Luftwaffe Pilot. Alexander Ollar was raised in the Highlands of Scotland. He became an exceptional sporting shot and volunteered as an RAF Air Gunner in 1939. Helmut Lent enrolled for pilot training in the Luftwaffe as soon as he was old enough. Both were men of integrity and honour.

Alec completed his first tour of 34 operations with 115 Squadron and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal by the King. After a year as an instructor, Alec was commissioned and returned to 115 Squadron as Gunnery Leader. He took part in the first 1,000 bomber raid and was described by his Squadron Commander as the best rear gunner he had ever flown with.

At the same time Helmut was building up an impressive score of victories as a night fighter pilot and a national hero who was decorated by the Fuhrer. In July 1942, just as both men reach the apex of their careers, they meet for the first time in the night skies over Hamburg. As this fascinating book reveals, only one will survive.

Table of Contents
1. 'One of the Boys'
2. Early Days
3. First Blood
4. 'The Boys who bombed Berlin'
5. 'Two Birds dead in the Air'
6. Instructor
7. Rise of the Nachtjagd
8. Area Bombing
9. The First 1,000 Bomber Raid
10. Showdown
11. High Noon of the Nachtjagd
12. Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds
13. Aftermath

Available from:
Pen and Sword

23 November 2016

6th Airborne Normandy 1944 - Past & Present

Operation Tonga began at 22:56 on the night of 5 June, when six Halifax heavy bombers took off from Tarrant Rushton towing six Horsas carrying a coup-de-main force consisting of D Coy, Ox and Bucks LI reinforced with two extra platoons from B Coy and a party of sappers, who were tasked with capturing the bridges over the Caen Canal and the River Orne.

6th Airborne Division—which included 1st Canadian Para Bn-had been allotted three specific tasks to achieve, apart from protecting the eastern flank of the Allied seaborne landings. First, it was to capture intact the two bridges over the Caen Canal and the Orne River at Benouville and Ranville. Second, the division was to destroy the heavily fortified Merville coastal artillery battery located at Franceville Plage, to ensure that it could not shell the British forces landing on Sword Beach.

A third task was to destroy several bridges spanning the River Dives-at Varaville, Robehomme, Bures, and Troarn. The division would then hold the territory that it had seized until it could be relieved by advancing Allied ground forces.

 6th Airborne Normandy 1944 - Past & Present examines these actions, providing a new angle on the stories with a range of period and modern photographs, detailing the locations as they now are. Similar to the excellent After the Battle titles,  6th Airborne Normandy 1944 - Past & Present is in an easier format for the battlefield visitor, as these are relatively compact paperback titles.

Available from:

10 November 2016

Names in Stone - Forgotten Warriors of Bradford-on-Avon and District 1939-45

Names in Stone: often just a surname and an initial on war memorials across Britain. Yet, behind the cold, grey inscriptions, what do we know about the lives of the men who marched to war, never to return?

The average age of Bradford and District's servicemen in the Second World War was 27. They fought and died across Europe, North Africa and the Far East, in the air and at sea. A whole community mourned their loss but with the passage of time, inevitably, people forgot.

Names in Stone aims to bring these forgotten warriors back to public consciousness - not only to their communities of Bradford and surrounding villages, but to a wider audience too.

Here are the stories of more than 70 men, and one woman, from Bradford-upon-Avon, Holt, Monkton Farleigh, South Wraxall, Westwood, Wingfield and Winsley, who gave their lives in the Second World War.

These accounts - many of them told for the first time - show the bravery and tragedy of local people caught up in extraordinary events almost a lifetime ago.

Available from:

9 November 2016

The Granite Men of Henri-Chapelle - Stories of New Hampshire's WWII Soldiers

They rest in a distant land they fought to liberate nearly 70 years ago, their lives ended by war and their stories quieted by time. For 38 New Hampshire World War Two soldiers buried in Belgium, their stories are brought to life once again in The Granite Men of Henri-Chapelle.

As WWII drew to an end in 1945, the New Hampshire state legislature adopted “Live Free or Die” as the state’s motto. At the same time, many families throughout the Granite state and the rest of the country prepared to welcome home their service members who had fought to preserve freedom around the world. Thirty-eight New Hampshire servicemen, however, would not be returning home.

Instead, they remained in Europe, resting permanently at the sprawling 57-acre American military cemetery called Henri-Chapelle in Belgium. These are not war stories. They are an attempt to illustrate each civilian life before the war as well as capture the essence of the person behind the military rank—to allow each one an opportunity to share his life once again, a life he sacrificed in the pursuit of liberty for his fellow man.

Available from:
Outskirts Press

8 November 2016

Lest We Forget - The Tavistock Fallen of the Second World War

The publication of this book completes, for Alex Mettler and Garry Woodcock, a journey of discovery that was begun six years ago. A shared interest in the history of the town of Tavistock (UK) and in memorials of all kinds led to a decision to launch a project based on the names inscribed on Tavistock's War Memorial.

The motives were not to uncover and record great acts of heroism or qualities of sainthood, although there were plenty of deeds of courage and sacrifice along the way. Rather the aim was to present the fallen of the two World Wars in their local contexts, to give them homes, families, schools and jobs, to try to say something about their war service and their deaths.

This, the second volume, deals with the Second World War. The stories of the forty who are named on the memorial as casualties of that war are arranged in the chronological order in which they died, so that the development of the war can be followed as both a theme running through the book and a context within which to place the individual stories.

The book opens with an essay about their home town, Tavistock, during the war, thus giving a record of events 'at home' to complement the record of momentous world-wide events in which local people participated.

Some people believe that the passage of the years makes it less needful for such events as these to be recorded. The authors of this book take the opposite view.

Available from:
Devon Museums

19 October 2016

Sheldrake - Memories of a WWII Gunner

Richard Hughes was an artillery officer with the British Army in World War II. He was sent to Europe twice. The first assignment in 1940 was short lived, as he joined the hopelessly ill equipped and overwhelmed Allied forces in France. The superior German army pushed them back to the English Channel at Dunkirk, and Hughes was one of some 300,000 troops miraculously rescued from the beach by a flotilla of small boats.

In 1944 he returned to France as apart of the Allied invasion, this time as a Major commanding a battery of field guns with 497 Battery, 133 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. The contrast is apparent. Now they were a well equipped, superbly trained and coldly efficient force. Supporting the Monmouthshire Regiment as they advanced across North West Europe, Hughes was involved in numerous battles right through Europe to reach Hamburg, at the final surrender of Germany in May 1945.

He received a Military Cross and was Mentioned in Despatches during his service. The title 'Sheldrake' comes from the code word used by artillery officers when communicating via wireless.

Table of contents:

Part 1 - A Fortnight in France
Chapter 1 - The Beginning
Chapter 2 - A Fortnight in France
Chapter 3 - England - 1940-44

Part 2 - The Second Front
Chapter 4 - The Landings
Chapter 5 - Hill 112
Chapter 6 - Battle for Le Logis
Chapter 7 - The Incident on Hill 210
Chapter 8 - The Battle for Leffard
Chapter 9 - Necy - Tiger Corner
Chapter 10 - Sweep Through France
Chapter 11 - Belgium
Chapter 12 - Voorheide
Chapter 13 - The Battle for s'Hertogenbosch
Chapter 14 - Assault Crossing of the Wessem Canal
Chapter 15 - On the Maas
Chapter 16 - The Ardennes
Chapter 17 - 'Operation Vertiable' Reichswald Forest; Weeze
Chapter 18 - Crossing the Rhine
Chapter 19 - 'Operation Eclipse' Final Push Through Germany
Chapter 20 - Postscript

Appendix 1 - Military Cross and the King's Letter
Appendix 2 - Mention in Despatches
Appendix 3 -  497 Field Battery, Royal Artillery
Appendix 4 - 25 Pounder Field Gun

Available from:
Pen and Sword

Les Parisiennes - How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved, and Died Under Nazi Occupation

Paris in the 1940s was a place of fear, power, aggression, courage, deprivation, and secrets. During the occupation, the swastika flew from the Eiffel Tower and danger lurked on every corner. While Parisian men were either fighting at the front or captured and forced to work in German factories, the women of Paris were left behind where they would come face to face with the German conquerors on a daily basis, as waitresses, shop assistants, or wives and mothers, increasingly desperate to find food to feed their families as hunger became part of everyday life. 

By looking at collaborators to resisters, actresses and prostitutes, as well as teachers and writers, including American women and Nazi wives, spies, mothers, mistresses, fashion and jewellery designers – Anne Sebba shows that women made life-and-death decisions every day, and, in an atmosphere where sex became currency, often did whatever they needed to survive. She considers the experiences of both native Parisian women and those living in Paris temporarily: American women and Nazi wives, spies, mothers, mistresses, and fashion and jewellery designers. Some like the heiress Béatrice Camondo or novelist Irène Némirovsky, converted to Catholicism; others like lesbian racing driver Violette Morris embraced the Nazi philosophy; only a handful, like Coco Chanel, retreated to the Ritz with a German lover.

Sebba also explores the aftershock of the Second World War in the postwar period. How did women who survived to see the Liberation of Paris come to terms with their actions and those of others? Les Parisiennes is the first in-depth account of the everyday lives of women and young girls in Paris  during the period of enemy occupation.

Read more about Anne Sebba.

Available from:
St Martin's Press

4 October 2016

The Liberation of Europe 1944-1945 - The Photographers who Captured History from D-Day to Berlin

The Second World War presented a huge range of challenges to press photography both in terms of its execution and getting the results in print. Life on the home front was the main subject until the invasion of France changed everything in 1944.

Photographers from The Times were part of a talented group who were there to capture the momentous events taking place from the moment the troops stepped ashore, as the Allies fought their way from the D-Day beaches all the way to Berlin. They captured thousands of images of the fighting and its aftermath: bombed-out towns, tanks and the inevitable human death toll, but also troops moving through a scarred landscape, the civilian population in joy and fear, and the daily activities of the soldiers themselves. They were on hand to witness the surrender of German commanders and some of their subsequent suicides, and also when King George VI made history as the first monarch since Henry V to confer knighthoods on the battlefield.

It is an extraordinary archive, yet very few of the images were published, either at the time or since. Mark Barnes, a librarian at The Times, has painstakingly reconstructed the archive over a period of many years, piecing together the journeys these pioneering photographers, masters of their craft, made across Europe.

The Liberation of Europe is a considerable volume, containing 400 images, many of which have been rarely seen, but the key strength is the work Mark Barnes has put in to ensure the captions are intelligent, accurate, and interesting - not an easy task when often the information was scant. This is an excellent addition to the photographic history of the Second World War, and if you have an interest in the NW Europe campaign of 1944-45, I would strongly recommend it.

Available from:

29 September 2016

Canada and the Liberation of the Netherlands, May 1945

Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940 marked the beginning of five years of
terror for the Dutch people. They faced oppression and death with remarkable stoicism, but nothing could save them from the Hunger Winter of 1944-5, when more than 30,000 people died of starvation.

In this time of unimaginable despair, Canada came to the rescue, playing the largest role in liberating the Netherlands and ending the Nazi reign of terror. The Canadians gave the Dutch freedom - and food - and out of such dark times an eternal friendship was forged.

Told through interviews with Dutch survivors and Canadian veterans, Canada and the Liberation of the Netherlands, May 1945 delves into this little known chapter of history.

Table of Contents:
Chapter 1 - Darkness
Chapter 2 - A Ray of Hope
Chapter 3 - Battle of the Scheldt - October 1 - November 8, 1944
Chapter 4 -  Winter on the Maas - November 9, 1944 - February 7, 1945
Chapter 5 - The Rhineland Campaign - February 8 - March 11, 1945
Chapter 6 - The Final Phase - March 12 - May 4, 1945
Chapter 7 - De Bevrijding - May 5, 1945
Chapter 8 - Between Friends

Available from:
Dundurn Books

30 August 2016

G.I. Limey - A Welsh American's Second World War

GI Limey is a rags to riches tale of triumph over adversary, a real-life Boy’s Own adventure, laced with friendships forged in the heat of battle that only a soldier can truly understand. It in no way glorifies war with its shockingly honest description of combat, at times brutal to read, you are left in no doubt how death and destruction can haunt a soldier for the rest of their life.
Born in 1923 Clifford Guard’s childhood, in the south Wales town of Swansea, was filled with struggle, hardship and heartbreak as the Great Depression began to bite. He sees death from the beginning, as his infant sister dies in the workhouse having contracted diphtheria, before his younger disabled brother is taken into care and his parents divorce. On leaving school at 14, barely able to read or write, he seeks a way out of the squalor through running away to sea.
His eyes are opened to the world as he visits far off places in Canada, Africa, South America and Australia. When war breaks out he participates in the perilous Atlantic convoys before leaving his ship in New York, on hearing of the blitzing of his home town, to take the shortest route closer to the action through joining the American Army. In basic training Limey, as Clifford becomes known to one and all, meets Henry ‘The Greek’ Kallas and Ralph ‘Trixie’ Trinkley; together they become a band of brothers watching each other’s back and sharing lighter moments through the course of the war together.
After landing on Omaha beach, following D Day, they spend the next eleven months at the forefront of some of most fearsome fighting of the war as the German Army is beaten back across northern Europe and into its Homeland. Gripping first hand accounts of disabling tanks, house to house fighting, civilian suicide, facing fire from fanatical Hitler Youths, every aspect of the death, destruction and slaughter of war is recalled, not least the shock of liberating a death camp and uncovering appalling crimes against humanity.
Following the joy of the German surrender, celebrated alongside Russian women tank drivers on the banks of the Elbe River, Limey shows his humanity by helping feed the starving villages while serving in the Army of Occupation.
Following his release he settles in the United States and chases the American Dream but is to be forever haunted by all the killing he had both witnessed and carried out. Determined to turn things around he goes back to school and becomes a psychologist in order to better understand what we now recognise as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Having raised a family and enjoyed a successful career he retires back to his Swansea home. Last summer that one-time snotty-nosed kid, with a sock hanging out a hole in his shoe, was summoned to meet the Queen in Buckingham Palace to talk about his exploits.
Despite being 90-years-old Limey, who still has nightmares about the war, has one final mission… to share his story with the world in order to help ensure today’s servicemen and women are better supported following combat.
Available from: 

14 August 2016

The Noise of Battle - The British Army and the Last Breakthrough Battle West of the Rhine, February-March 1945

Half of the book is a detailed description, mainly told in the words of participants, of three battles fought over four days in the Rhineland south of Goch between 27 February and March 2 1945. The battles were between 3rd Division supported by 6 Guards Armoured Brigade, and 8. Fallschirmjäger Division. For the first time the combined actions of over 50,000 men during 96 hours have been analysed from the ground up in an unprecedented attempt to provide understanding of a significant military event. 3 Scots Guards said of Winnekendonk, "It is suggested that this will surely rank as one of the finest small scale tank/infantry battles ever executed and well worthy of more close study." The fighting was bloody and heroic, and some controversial aspects are explained for the first time.

The other half of the book is an analysis of the units and people involved in the two divisions and their supporting armour and aviation. An answer is provided as to why only two months before the end of hostilities, 21 Army Group could manage only quite slow and costly progress. The answer comes from the analysis, and is tested through comparison with the contemporary Canadian Operation Blockbuster, and with two battles in the Hitler Line. Evidence is provided that there is no truth to recent claims that Montgomery's generalship was efficient and saved lives. Instead, it is shown that the military hierarchy, including Churchill, ignored the all-arms operational methodology under unitary command which Sir John Monash had developed to bring victory in 1918. In the Second World War, by contrast, the Royal Armoured Corps and 2 TAF never integrated with the infantry and artillery, and were never suitably equipped, being bound to the cultic pursuit of mobility. General Elles required that the Infantry Tank be immune to all German anti-tank guns, and his Matilda II was a major reason for the deliverance from Dunkirk and for the success of Operation Compass in North Africa. Compared with the Hundred Days of 1918, the author suggests that the British Armed forces in 1945 were relatively less efficient in all respects except that of killing German civilians in area bombing. This book's fully documented and researched conclusions provide a new and controversial interpretation of 21 Army Group.

Available from:

9 August 2016

Retreat and Rearguard - Dunkirk 1940

The miraculous salvation of the vast majority of the beleaguered and out-manoeuvred British Expeditionary Force and a large number of French troops from northern France in late May and early June 1940 remains a source of fascination to laymen and military historians. An ideal subject for Jerry Murland's Retreat and Rearguard series, Dunkirk 1940 covers the dramatic actions during the desperate fighting withdrawal from the Dyle Line to the evacuation points of Dunkirk, Boulogne, Calais and Dieppe.

As well as drawing together several lesser known accounts describing the engagements at Cassel, Arras and the Bergues-Furnes Canal, the author has unearthed numerous previously unpublished sources describing the myriad of rearguard actions that the BEF undertook during their retreat to the Channel coast.

It is through these personal accounts of the fighting that the true nature of those dark days of 1940 are revealed. In relating those often heroic battles and tragedies such as the Le Paradis Massacre and the defence of St Venant, Retreat and Rearguard - Dunkirk 1940 catches the atmosphere of desperate defiance that typified this never-to-be-forgotten period.

Available from:
Pen and Sword

8 August 2016

Missing Presumed Drowned

On 10 June 1940, Italians living in Britain learnt the news they had been fearing the most. Ten months into the Second World War, Mussolini’s Italy had entered the conflict on the side of Hitler’s Germany and declared war on Britain.

Overnight, Italians resident in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland became enemy aliens. In London, Leeds, Cardiff and Glasgow, Italian shops, cafés and restaurants were smashed and looted. The British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was swift to act against the new potential threat from within and issued the order to arrest without charge and detain without trial every Italian man resident in Britain.

For thousands of first- and second-generation Italian men, this began an episode in their lives when they would languish for years in internment camps in the Isle of Man, Canada and Australia, until the end of the war. For hundreds it would be the start of a chain of events that would see them ‘missing presumed drowned’ after their transport ship, the Arandora Star, was sunk by enemy torpedo in the Atlantic Ocean while en route to internment camps in Canada. Stefano Paolini tells their story.

For more information on the Arandora Star, see the Colonsay site.

Available from:

2 August 2016

Churchill's Volunteer - A Parachute Corporals Story

Reg Curtis joined the Grenadier Guards in 1937. He had originally thought that he would spend four years with the Colours before fulfilling his ambition to serve in the City of London Police. This was not to be, and soon after the outbreak of war he found himself serving in perilous forward positions of the Maginot Line.

After a footslog across France and Belgium he came back to England via Dunkirk. It was then that he volunteered for the Para Commando, and after many experimental parachute drops and a vigorous course to toughen up the body and sharpen the thinking, he was successively dropped into North Africa, Italy, Sicily and finally Arnhem in Holland.

'Churchill's Volunteer' is an account of the author's experiences. His many valiant comrades of all ranks vividly come to life in these pages, and the book is a hearty celebration of them all, both living and dead.

Table of contents
Chapter I - Two Bob a Day Rookie
Chapter II - The Waiting Game, Then Catastrophe
Chapter III - A Volunteer for No. 2 Commando and 11th Special Air Service
Chapter IV - Unorthodox Methods of Training
Chapter V - Test of 1st Para Battalion in North Africa
Chapter VI - Slaughter of 1st Para Battalion at Djebel Mansour
Chapter VII - The End is Near in Happy Valley
Chapter VIII - Interlude Prior to 1st Para Battalion Assault in Sicily
Chapter IX - Preparation for the Last Battle
Chapter X - Action Stations and Away
Chapter XI - Six Days at the Tafelberg Hotel
Chapter XII - A German General Inspects
Chapter XIII - Destination Stalag IIB, via Apeldoorn
Chapter XIV - The Best Kept Secret of WWII

Reg died in February 2012 - Obituary

Available from:

28 July 2016

The 1st Household Cavalry 1943-44: in the Shadow of Monte Amaro

The mettle of the famous First Household Cavalry Regiment was tested to the maximum in action in the mountains of Italy in 1943–44. This book explores a largely undervalued and forgotten part of a costly and complex struggle. We directly experience what it was like to be there through the words of those who were.

In late 1943 1st HCR was sent to Syria to patrol the Turko-Syrian border, it being feared that Turkey would join the Axis powers. In April 1944, 1st HCR was shipped to Italy. The Italian campaign was at that time well underway. During the summer of 1944, 1st HCR were in action near Arezzo and in the advance to Florence in a reconnaissance role, probing enemy positions, patrolling constantly. The Regiment finally took part in dismounted actions in the Gothic Line – the German defensive system in Northern Italy.

Based upon interviews with the few survivors still with us and several unpublished diaries, there are many revelations that will entertain – and some that will shock. The 1st Household Cavalry 1943–44 is published on the 70th anniversary of the actions described, as a tribute to the fighting force made up from the two most senior regiments of the British Army and, in the words of His Grace the Duke of Wellington who has kindly provided the foreword, ‘to gain insight into why such a war should never be fought again’.

Available from:
The History Press

18 July 2016

You Never Know Your Luck - Battle of Britain to the Great Escape: The Extraordinary Life of Keith 'Skeets' Ogilvie DFC

When the Royal Canadian Air Force wouldn't accept him as a pilot in the summer of 1939, Keith ‘Skeets' Ogilvie walked across the street in Ottawa and joined the Royal Air Force. A week later he was on a boat to England and a future he could not have imagined.

Some unusual luck won him a transfer as a Spitfire pilot to No. 609 (White Rose) Squadron, just as the Battle of Britain was being joined. Over the next months he firmly established his credentials with six confirmed victories and two probables, along with several enemy aircraft damaged. Shot down over France the following July, he was fortunate to be treated for grievous injuries by top German surgeons. Skeets' home for the balance of the war was Stalag Luft III prison camp. He was the second last man out of the ‘Great Escape' tunnel but was recaptured three days later. For reasons he never understood, Skeets was one of 23 escapees who were spared from being murdered by the Gestapo. 50 of his fellows were not so lucky.

In London on a night off from flying duties, Skeets had been introduced to a fellow Canadian expatriate, Irene Lockwood. While he was testing the limits of his luck, his future wife was experiencing her own adventures in London, living through the daily stress of the Luftwaffe bombing campaign and working with MI12, and later as a wartime photographer with the RCAF.

You Never Know Your Luck is the story of two modest people who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances, and who rose to the occasion like so many of their contemporaries. Skeets' and Irene's own words and memories are the foundations on which the experience of wartime unfolds. A unique perspective from individuals who never failed to wonder at their own fortune.

Battle of Britain London Monument - further information on P/O  Keith Ogilvie 

Available from:

17 July 2016

A Spitfire Pilot's Story - Pat Hughes: Battle of Britain Top Gun

Pat Hughes is today perhaps the greatest unsung hero of the Battle of Britain. Ranked sixth in the ‘ace of aces’ of the aerial campaign of summer 1940, he shot down at least fourteen enemy aircraft, mostly the Spitfire’s closely matched rival the Messerschmitt Me 109.

As a flight commander in 234 Squadron he advocated bold, close-in tactics and during July 1940 scored the squadron’s first victories of the epic battle for air supremacy. The burden of command fell on his shoulders before the squadron transferred to the heart of the Battle in the south-east of England, where he endured the heaviest and most sustained period of fighting of the Battle of Britain.

Revered by his fellow pilots, Hughes began a shooting spree on 15 August that only ended when he was killed during the first huge daylight attack on London on 7 September. In his last three days alone he contributed at least six kills. His death in mysterious circumstances left Kathleen, his bride of just six weeks, a war widow. This volume is illustrated with over forty photographs, including many from his family that have never before been published.

Available from: