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Amazing 'lost' war memoirs found in garage set to music

Alastair Panton wrote a moving account of his service in the Second World War which was discovered by his granddaughter many years after he had died. Picture: PANTON FAMILY

Alastair Panton wrote a moving account of his service in the Second World War which was discovered by his granddaughter many years after he had died. Picture: PANTON FAMILY

The hidden memoirs of a war hero which were discovered by chance in a garage will be brought to life when they are set to music at an emotional reading.

Alastair Panton wrote a moving account of his service in the Second World War which was discovered by his granddaughter many years after he had died. Picture: PANTON FAMILYAlastair Panton wrote a moving account of his service in the Second World War which was discovered by his granddaughter many years after he had died. Picture: PANTON FAMILY

William Drew-Batty was so moved by Alastair Panton's account of his time as an aircraft captain during the Second World War that he has composed six pieces of music to go alongside readings from the memoirs by his granddaughter, Victoria Panton Bacon.

Mrs Panton Bacon, of Bungay, published the memoir five years ago to show how Mr Panton survived being a prisoner of war after the Bristol Blenheim Mark IV he was captaining was shot at.

He survived and was made an OBE and later CBE for his bravery - but few people knew he had written recollections of the pain and suffering he endured which, unbeknown to the world, were gathering dust in a family garage.

When she discovered the memoir, Mrs Panton Bacon immediately approached publishers - saying: "He would've wanted it published - that's my feeling."

Victoria Panton Bacon has published her grandfather's memoirs in Six Weeks of Blenheim Summer. Picture: SONYA DUNCANVictoria Panton Bacon has published her grandfather's memoirs in Six Weeks of Blenheim Summer. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Six Weeks of Blenheim Summer - An RAF Officer's Memoirs of the Battle of France 1940 was published in 2014.

And now Mr Drew-Batty has further commemorated Mr Panton's amazing wartime contribution with six pieces of music to be played alongside excerpts being read by Mrs Panton Bacon at an event at Diss Publishing Bookshop.

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Mr Drew-Batty said: "I read Victoria's book in 2017 and was moved by her grandfather's story.

Victoria Panton Bacon has published her grandfather's memoirs in Six Weeks of Blenheim Summer. Picture: SONYA DUNCANVictoria Panton Bacon has published her grandfather's memoirs in Six Weeks of Blenheim Summer. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

"Even more poignant to me was its provenance - really a diary, written on scraps of paper, humble yet with devastating clarity and charting the entire battle of France seen through the eyes of a young airman in the early summer of 1940.

"As I turned the pages, the contemporary account of Alastair's adventure inspired in me a need to create a series of 'musical paintings' - minimalist sketches that would hopefully complement the stories without disturbing the words that are, like the man himself, directly powerful in their simplicity and unpretentious.

"Here I found extraordinary tales, experiences beyond my understanding and without the melodrama of gung-ho daring do found in so many accounts of this period.

"That they were found in a dusty shoebox at the back of a garage somehow makes them intimate treasures.

"My music's role then is to simply be the breeze beneath the wings of Air Commodore Panton's Blenheim as he takes us across the skies of Northern France in May 1940."

The event at the bookshop in Mere Street, Diss on Friday, June 21 from 7pm to 9pm is part of a series being organised by Mrs Panton Bacon and Mr Drew-Barry to marks the 80th anniversary of the start of the Second World War later this year.

Tickets are £12 or £15 per couple. They include entry, refreshments and a copy of Six Weeks of Blenheim Summer.

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