Colchester author noticed by Hollywood releases new book

Writer and historian Dr Mark Felton

Writer and historian Dr Mark Felton - Credit: Archant

A historian and author from Colchester whose book has been picked up by Hollywood has released a new thriller based on another daring Second World War mission.

Dr Mark Felton has already enjoyed writing success with a number of tales from the conflict dug out of the archives, and says there has been increased interest with the wealth of major anniversaries of battles and landmark moments over the past few years.

His newest tale, The Sea Devils: Operation Struggle and the Last Great Raid of World War Two, is based on a little-known mission carried out in the Far East on July 30 1945 which led to the last Victoria Cross of the conflict being awarded.

Dr Felton said: “The mission was so close to the end of the war it got lost in the celebrations, and this story had been hardly told at all.

“There was one survivor from the operation and I was able to talk to him about what happened.”


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The mission was set-up to help British forces retake Malaysia and Singapore, who were blocked by Japanese ships controlling a strategically important strait with guns which would decimate any landing party.

Based on the mission – largely unsuccessful – earlier in the war to destroy the German battleship Tirpitz using midget submarines, the operation saw two more-advanced craft taken 40 miles to plant mines on the underside of the Japanese ships.

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Following a spate of reports of prisoner executions it was one of the few missions in the war where the British, Australian and New Zealander troops were given a suicide pill for use in the event of capture.

At the same time two other midget submarines were sent to cut telephone cables on the seabed to force the enemy forces to use radio messages, for which the Allied forces had cracked the code, to help gain vital intelligence.

“The operation was incredibly successful, everyone came home alive and was decorated,” explained Dr Felton.

“But then the war ends and they all returned to civilian life.”

Among those taking part were Leading Seaman James Magennis and Lieutenant Ian Fraser who were both awarded the Victoria Cross for their role in the mission.

Dr Felton said his latest work was also being read in Hollywood but he did not yet know if there was any interest – and shooting a submarine movie requires a lot of film technology.

He added: “Military history remains the most popular form, and there has been a resurgence of interest lately. For me, there are still so many stories to be told.”

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