FACT OR FICTION?
Although Press On Regardless and Every Man For Himself are works of fiction, they are based on real events and real people. If you’ve read either of my books you may be interested to know the following aspects are true:
Press On Regardless
- The major war events are all true. Germany invaded Belgium, Holland and France in May 1940. Part of the invasion force came through Luxembourg and a major battle was fought at Sedan.
- The British Expeditionary Force, the BEF Air Component and the Advanced Air Striking Force were all real British forces sent to France when Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939. By May 1940, there were more than 300,000 British troops and 500 RAF aircraft in France.
- Special Survey Flight was a real detachment of a new, experimental reconnaissance unit, which utilised modified Spitfires to take high altitude reconnaissance photos.
- All of the aircraft in the story are real aircraft. Special Survey Flight did not have access to a Westland Whirlwind, but it was a real aircraft being trialed by the RAF at the time of the story.
- The Fairey Battle (and also the Bristol Blenheim) squadrons really were decimated in France. The Battle in particular was completely outclassed and RAF losses were tragically high.
- Sidney Cotton was the Australian responsible for the formation of the new reconnaissance unit. He was a civilian when it began and was later commissioned as a Wing Commander. The dislike for him amongst parts of the RAF senior command was also real.
- Air Vice Marshall Arthur Barratt was the RAF officer responsible for the British Air Forces in France. He is rumoured to have cried when he heard about the decimation of the bomber squadrons attacking Sedan.
- The remarkable bravery of the RAF pilots and crews was very real. There actually was a deadly mission for which Fairey Battle crews volunteered. Five Battles were sent on the operation to attack a bridge over the Albert Canal in Belgium. Four were destroyed and the last crashed on return to its airfield.
Every Man For Himself
- The evacuation of hundreds of thousands of British and French soldiers and air force personnel through Dunkirk really happened. The Luftwaffe bombed Dunkirk and its harbour constantly during the 8 days of the operation, sinking many ships and killing many men. Known as Operation Dynamo, it was an incredible achievement that Churchill aptly called a ‘miracle of deliverance’.
- Some French people did come to despise the British when they started evacuating, although it varied greatly from place to place and person to person. Just as many French were still very appreciative of the British efforts to try to save France and actively helped British servicemen escape the country.
- There were at least two horrendous massacres of unarmed allied troops by German SS units during the evacuation. At Wormhoudt, SS troops killed 80 British and French prisoners of war with grenades and rifles. At Le Paradis, another SS unit lined 99 British prisoners up against a wall and machine-gunned them, killing 97. There was also at least one occasion reported where a German regular army officer saw what was about to happen and stopped the massacre from happening.
- The rescue of British soldiers from Calais late at night is based on real events. A Royal Navy yacht cruised into Calais harbour late at night not realising the town had fallen to the Germans. She was attacked from the shore and as she retreated her crew spotted a group of British soldiers hiding under a pier at the end of the breakwater. Still under fire, the yacht picked up the forty-seven men and left the harbour.