Today on the blog we have a guest post from author Stephen Wynn, whose new book The Lancastria Tragedy is available to preorder now.
For me one of the pleasures of writing a book about a specific event in history, is when I come across what I refer to as a “gem.” Something that when I was initially commissioned to write the book I wasn’t aware of.
In writing the book about the Lancastria I was fortunate enough to be allowed to include the stories of three men who had been on her when she was sunk. To the relatives of those three men, Jesse “Mickey” Fenton, James William Arthur Burke, John Glackin, I am eternally grateful, and hope that they are comforted by the inclusion of their loved ones stories having been included in the book.
In this case the “gem” I mentioned early came in the shape of Ernest Beesley, who was one of those who survived the sinking of the Lancastria. In November 2016, along with my younger son, who had served in the Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan, I went to a care home in Uxbridge where I met and interviewed Ernest. At the time he was 99 years of age. He walked in to the room, smartly dressed in a suit, which was in keeping for a man of his generation. A smile on his face, a glint in his eye, and more than happy to tell and relive his memories of the events which had taken place some 76 years previously. It was 2 hours of my life that simply flew by as Ernest took me back to the 17 June 1940. In Ernest, I had in front of me, a piece of living history. A man who had been there, who had experienced and witnessed the events of that day, and survived. A first hand account of an historic event, if ever there was one.
Ernest Beesley passed away on 20 November 2019, three years after I had interviewed him. He was 102 years of age.
The Lancastria Tragedy is available to preorder now.