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With the growth of the website, both in terms of use and quantity of information available, my computer was struggling to cope. I have, therefore, invested £1,000 in a new computer, printer, back-up, screen and associated software to facilitate the continued development of the website. It will take me a couple of weeks to transfer over what I need (this is a good opportunity to weed out redundant ‘stuff’) and get back up and running properly. Please bear with me.
Thank you, Rob

Slightly off subject, but.....

I appreciate that this is slightly off subject, but I came across it and thought I should share it. It is well made and informative, but most of all I like the general context of military research. I hope you agree.

Time Stood Still in a Muddy Hole – Captain John HANNAFORD – One of the Last Bomb Disposal Officers of WWII

Bath, Self-Publishing Partnership, 2018
196 pp  ISBN 978-1-78545-286-4 (pbk)

Every so often in life, surprises arrive from ‘out of the blue’.  This book was one of those surprises, and a very pleasant one it was too.  I was asked to review this book, and I have enjoyed doing so.  As its title so aptly suggests, it is the story of John HANNAFORD, who originated from Shaldon in Devon, and during the Second World War, became by a dint of fate, a Bomb Disposal officer in the Royal Engineers.  As I lived in Teignmouth for a time, it added a local connection to the story.

The book is the story about how a painting led the author to research and meet John HANNAFORD, who sadly died on 1 November 2015, who served as a Bomb Disposal Officer in South Wales.  The book is a delightful, and incisive, view of the life of John HANNAFORD, and the realities of serving in a Bomb Disposal unit during the war.  The deaths of several colleagues clearly affected John and his team, many of whom were to lose their lives later in the war.  Soldiers being heroes is a much used, and in my view much abused, saying.  Reading this book makes you understand the cold blooded heroism of men who went out to diffuse German and British bombs and mines, knowing that each time could be their last.  It is poignant to read that how when two men died in such circumstances, there was nothing left of them, so soil from the site was used to fill the coffin which was buried with full military honours.  They were told that if the bomb exploded, it would all happen so quickly they would not know anything about it.

The book is interspersed with interesting and relevant photographs.  I found it easy and pleasant to read, the author’s writing style being flowing and non-technical.  This book is not a history of the Royal Engineer’s Bomb Disposal teams during the war, but it does add to the knowledge of this subject.  For £9.99, it is excellent value for money.  For readers who wish to learn more about the technical side of Bomb Disposal during the Second World War, I recommend a pdf document available on-line called ‘Bomb Disposal in WWII’.  It is excellent, and complements the book well.

Remembrance - Not Everyone Died in Action

To consider a different aspect of wartime Britain, and serving in the Royal Air Force, let us remember 967947 Aircraftman 1st Class Arthur GREEN of No. 172 Squadron, based at R.A.F. Chivenor. On 8 January 1943, while cycling back to R.A.F. Chivenor from a dance at Ilfracombe with four friends, he was thrown from his cycle and received injuries.  He did not report sick until the following morning, and stated that he had mistaken his front brake for his back, and had suddenly applied the front brake and gone over the handlebars.  He had had nothing to drink and was not unconcious, and slept in his hut overnight. He was admitted to the Station Sick Quarters at R.A.F. Chivenor on 9 January with a fractured nasal bone and fractured skull.

His condition worsened, and he was transferred to the North Devon Infirmary (N.D.I.) at Barnstaple at 08.00 hours on 10 January. The next day, the N.D.I. requested he be transferred to the Royal Naval Hospital, Sherborne, Dorset, where he died at 18.00 hours, a few hours after admission. His next of kin were with him when he died. The C.W.G.C. show him as a Leading Aircraftman, the son of James and Ella GREEN of Birkdale, Southport. He was 26 years’ of age, and married to Eva Ruth GREEN of Haskayne. He is buried in Sec. C., Grave 2 of the Birkdale Cemetery, Lancashire.

Video Rededication of War Memorial

The ceremony on Saturday 13 April 2013 to rededicate the war memorial at Torrington following the addition of the M.C. awarded to Major David WALKER. His surviving brother, Ken, attended with his family and it was a privilege to see them all. For more information and a biography of the brothers, contact the webmaster.

Released April 17, 2013

The Burma Boy

Here is a fascinating story told in video. I hope, like me, you find it moving.

In December 1941, the Japanese invasion of Burma (now Myanmar) opened what would be the longest land campaign fought by the British in the Second World War. It began with defeat and retreat for Britain, as Rangoon fell to the Japanese in March 1942. But the fighting went on, over a varied terrain of jungles, mountains, plains and wide rivers, until the Japanese forces surrendered in August 1945.

Some 100,000 African soldiers were taken from British colonies to fight in the jungles of Burma against the Japanese. They performed heroically in one of the most brutal theatres of war, yet their contribution has been largely ignored, both in Britain and their now independent home countries.

In the villages of Nigeria and Ghana, these veterans are known as ‘the Burma Boys’. They brought back terrifying tales from faraway lands. Few survived, even fewer are alive today.

Al Jazeera’s Barnaby Phillips travels to Nigeria, Burma and Japan to find a Nigerian veteran of the war and to talk to those who fought alongside him as well as against him. He even finds the family that saved the life of the wounded veteran in the jungles of Myanmar.

Source: content and video courtesy of Barnaby Phillips and Al Jazeera English.

Book Reviews

Churchill & Tito
Christopher CATHERWOOD
» Read review

One of Churchill s most controversial decisions during the Second World War was to switch SOE support in Yugoslavia in 1943 from the Cetniks loyal to the exiled Royal Government to backing Tito and his Communist Partisan guerrillas. It led to a Communist regime in Yugoslavia which lasted until Tito s death in 1980, and the nationalistic sentiments he had suppressed exploding into ethnic violence in the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Until now the story has been that SOE was infiltrated by Communists in Cairo and that Fitzroy Maclean, Churchill s personal delegate to Tito, was hoodwinked by the Communist leader, and that Churchill was duped into abandoning the royalists. However, the recently deposited papers of Sir Bill Deakin, Churchill’s former assistant and an SOE operative in Yugoslavia, reveal that the decision was based upon absolutely solid evidence and in Britain’s best military interests.

The official history of SOE in Yugoslavia was never written, but Deakin was the main adviser to the person deputed to write it and Christopher Catherwood was the first person to examine the papers deposited in Washington. These papers reveal that Churchill made his decision based on evidence not just from SOE, but also from MI3, SIS and SIGINT at Bletchley Park. Christopher Catherwood can now demonstrate that one of Churchill s most significant and consequential decisions of the Second World War was not the terrible mistake that historians have portrayed it.

The History of the Port of London
» Read review

The River Thames has been integral to the prosperity of London since Roman times. Explorers sailed away on voyages of discovery to distant lands. Colonies were established and a great empire grew. Funding their ships and cargoes helped make the City of London into the world’s leading financial centre.

In the 19th century a vast network of docks was created for ever-larger ships, behind high, prison-like walls that kept them secret from all those who did not toil within. Sail made way for steam as goods were dispatched to every corner of the world. In the 19th century London was the world’s greatest port city. In the Second World War the Port of London became Hitler’s prime target. It paid a heavy price but soon recovered. Yet by the end of the 20th century the docks had been transformed into Docklands, a new financial centre.

The History of the Port of London: A Vast Emporium of Nations is the fascinating story of the rise and fall and revival of the commercial river. The only book to tell the whole story and bring it right up to date, it charts the foundation, growth and evolution of the port and explains why for centuries it has been so important to Britain’s prosperity. This book will appeal to those interested in London’s history, maritime and industrial heritage, the Docklands and East End of London, and the River Thames.


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