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From the Battlefield to the Big Screen (Hardback)

Famous Actors in the Second World War

WWII Frontline Books Frontline: WWII

By Melody Foreman
Frontline Books
Pages: 256
Illustrations: 16 black and white
ISBN: 9781526737717
Published: 31st October 2022

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When Richard Todd played the part of Major John Howard in the 1962 epic The Longest Day, he was reliving his own wartime experiences as one of the first British officers to be parachuted into Normandy on D-Day to capture Pegasus Bridge. Todd was a member of the British 6th Airborne Division, serving with the Parachute Regiment until 1946. Todd was not the only well-known British actor to have fought in the war and whose wartime experiences are detailed in the highly entertaining From the Battlefield to the Big Screen, Famous British Actors in the Second World War.

Amongst the many familiar figures of TV and cinema who fought for their country are Sir Dirk Bogarde, who arrived at a secret location in Normandy just after D-Day to carry out vital aerial photographic interpretation exercises with the Canadian Air Force, while Audie Murphy, who lied about his age to enlist after the attack on Pearl Harbor, went on to be award-ed every single U.S. military valour award. Talfryn Thomas, who played Private Cheeseman in Dads’ Army, was a rear gunner in Lancasters and took part in many bombing raids over Germany, being the sole survivor when his aircraft crashed. Other members of the Dads' Army cast were also genuine Army veterans. Arthur Lowe was a sergeant major in the Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry and served in the Middle East; John Le Mesurier served in India as a captain in the Royal Tank Regiment, and Major Arnold Ridley, already a hero of the First World War, was part of the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk in 1940, to name but a few. Even the creators of the hit BBC show, Jimmy Perry and David Croft, were former soldiers.

Sir Alec Guinness was in the Royal Navy, Tommy Cooper served with the Desert Rats in North Africa, whilst Richard Attenborough and Cy Grant were both in the RAF. Ernest Borgnine served a total of almost ten years in the US Navy. And Clark Gable who served with distinction in the US Air Force was targeted by Hitler in a kidnap plot to aid Nazi propaganda. The list goes on.

We have all admired the stars for the pleasure they have brought to our lives, but the true stories of these people we know so well are far more evocative than any part they played on the silver screen. Be prepared to be amazed.

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 Melody Foreman

About Melody Foreman

MELODY FOREMAN is a qualified journalist and graduate with experience in newspapers and television documentaries. She is the author of the best-selling Bomber Girls, A Spitfire Girl, the biography of ATA pilot Mary Ellis, and has also written two books about the history of Kent.  Melody is a regular correspondent for Britain at War magazine and has edited and produced museum publications. She is also a bookseller and a regular speaker to history and community organisations.. She maintains an avid interest in the Air Transport Auxiliary, the social history and reportage of both world wars, vintage aviation, film and theatre studies, literature and Dutch art. 

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