The intentions to document this information are long standing in that they go back some two decades to the early/mid 1990’s, just a few years before the subject of this site, James Kitchener Heath passed away.
As is the case in so many families in which a generation experienced war and all its traumas, certain aspects of service are known, but all too often the details are sketchy and disjointed. Add into this mix the passage of time and the result is invariably a collection of stories and fragments of memories accompanied by a handful of fragile and faded documents (if you are lucky) that represent the sum of information relating to the most extraordinary period in a soldier’s life. This was certainly the case in our family..... and it’s not much to go on.
In February 1995, my Father and I struggled to put together a potted service history to be read by the cleric presiding over my Grandfather’s funeral. At this point I decided to take steps to fill in some of the gaps as best I could.... sadly now without the benefit of first hand testimony.
Sunday, 3 December 2017
Sunday, 16 July 2017
Now presentations to royalty are all well and good and some achievement, even if I say so myself, but last week I received some feedback that was much more important for me.
When I re-started this project in early 2014, in researching the activities of the 11th Royal Scots Fusiliers in North West Europe, I stumbled upon an Imperial War Museum audio interview with one of their officers. This detailed two hour interview served as a first hand road map of the progress and achievements of the Battalion. The interviewee was William Dewhurst Douglas.
The interview can be found here:
Lieutenant Douglas, as he was at the time, was at some stage in Holland my Grandfathers Commanding Officer. He was on the highly audacious, not to mention highly decorated, raid over the River Waal that took 'D' Company of the 11th RSF behind enemy lines in order to 'create mayhem and bring back prisoners'. Indeed William Douglas was awarded the Military Cross for this action.
Later and quite by chance, an enquiry relating to the 11th RSF brought a response from an ex-pupil of William Douglas, with whom I enjoyed a very fruitful email exchange which included clarifications on my then understanding from said officer.
Upon publication of the book I sent copies to both men, with letters of thanks. Needless to say, I was thrilled for receive a very complementary, hand written letter from Lieutenant Colonel Douglas himself.
To get this close to my Grandfather's personal military history, 22 years after he died and 72 years after the events in Holland is for me amazing and completely unexpected.
Saturday, 15 July 2017
As with many significant sites across Battlefield Normandy, Hill 112 hosts many memorials, notably one to the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division.
Two weeks ago I met up with Dennis Dimond, Secretary of the 49th (West Riding) Division Association to pass over a number of copies of the book. He informed me that for one copy he had some very specific plans. He intended to travel to the location of Hill 112 to participate in the anniversary commemoration and to take the opportunity to make a donation from the Polar Bear Association funds to his counterpart in the Hill 112 Association for the maintenance of the Churchill tank pictured above.
It so happened that Prince Edward (the Queen's youngest son) would also be in attendance. Edward has close associations through his position as the Earl of Wessex. Dennis's plan was to make a presentation of 'A Pithead Polar Bear' to Prince Edward or at the very least pass a copy on to one of his aides.
In the event he did a very good job and further more was able document the presentation on camera. Many thanks to Dennis and the other Polar Bear representatives who were in attendance last weekend.
Friday, 30 June 2017
It is now my intention to pick up the site again with a continuation of the story, plus anything that comes up post publication.
I'm a bit late with this blog site, but the culmination of the work put in on here has finally been realised in print and I am very happy with the results. I am really pleased with the way that the sales are going. So far, 111 books of the 150 print run are accounted for. It is quite something for me to think that this humble family history is to be found on the bookshelves of friends and colleagues in the UK, France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, America, Canada and Australia. Thank you one and all!
More details can be found at:
Monday, 8 May 2017
The waiting is nearly over. I have taken the plunge and sent ‘A Pithead Polar Bear’ off to the publishers so I can say with certainty that it will be available this month.
Details of how and where to get the book will follow in the next few days.
Tuesday, 24 January 2017
The culmination of three years research (not full time I may add) will be the publication of a physical book to be entitled 'A Pithead Polar Bear From Brighton to Belsen 1940 - 1946'.
I have set up a separate website in order to provide further information on the book, where and how to get it and any feedback I get on it as and when I get it out there (weeks rather than months now for certain).
I recently received an email from someone with more than a passing interest in the 53rd (Welsh) Division. He was looking for some assistance regarding some Normandy photographs. Unfortunately in this I was unable to help him, but I did promise to give him a plug on this humble site.
Since the 53rd fought side by side with the 49th and 59th Divisions in the Battle of Caen, there is a good chance that some of the visitors to this site will also have an interest in what he is up to with respect to the 53rd (Welsh) Division.
Jonathan is currently working on a book, 'Jocks, Dragons and Sospans', a history of the Division.