‘Brutal, frightening and horrible’ – hostage Terry Waite praises Suffolk writer for laying bare horrors of war
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Actress Joanna Lumley and Lebanon hostage Terry Waite have paid tribute to a Suffolk writer for laying bare the horrors of the Second World War with powerful, untold testimonies from soldiers who served in it.
Author Victoria Panton Bacon was motivated to tell servicemen's personal accounts of the devastating conflict after stumbling across her grandfather's handwritten memoirs of his time as prisoner of war in a family garage.
So she has painstakingly tracked down and interviewed 11 surviving British fighters who survived trauma, torture, pain and loss - including a 102-year-old Merchant Navy servant from Suffolk who witnessed the terrible destruction of German attacks.
Yet for all the pain and suffering laid bare in her new book, Remarkable Journeys, she also says the stories reveal surprises - including one man's tale of how music helped him through the toughest of times serving in north Africa.
"For a human being to empathise with the pain of another without having experienced that pain is challenging; some would argue, impossible," she has written in the forward to her new book.
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"But, if we take the trouble to listen to, or read of, the experience we want to comprehend, our understanding of that situation can be deepened."
Moved by the heartbreaking stories in the book, some of country's biggest celebrities and veterans' campaigners have endorsed the book - with actress Joanna Lumley saying: "In this fascinating and touching book we hear from survivors of the Second World War in their own words, and their very personal accounts of that huge and terrible period of history show courage, humour, pity and horror, splinters of memory, glittering and vital to our understanding of war, and its effects on those who lived through it."
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And Terry Waite CBE, who was held hostage in Lebanon for nearly five years and now lives near Bury St Edmunds, said: "Those men and women who actually took an active part in combat are increasingly few in number and they too have even vivid memories.
"Victoria has performed a valuable service in recording their experiences in this book. Not only has she provided the reader with a fascinating account of those years but she has given us a unique insight into the lives of some of those who left their homes and occupations and entered a strange new world.
"She covers a wide territory from the Home Guard to Burma to Bomber Command and Auschwitz.
"There is little glamour in warfare. It is brutal, frightening and horrible. It is important that we remember those years not only to pay tribute to those who gave their lives but also to remind ourselves that we owe it to future generations to do all in our power to promote peace and harmony in this world."
Ms Panton Bacon added in the foreword to the book, which she is hoping to publish in the near future: "Each chapter is a previously untold memory of World War Two which shines a bright light on these six, dark years; illuminating the courage, actions and sentiments of thousands - millions - whose war-time experience changed the course of history.
"The veterans who have recalled their memories for 'Remarkable Journeys' have had to be brave, yet again, to cast their minds back, over seventy years; but they have done so because they want to. Not only for themselves; but far more so, I am sure, for their friends and comrades who have not - or simply could not - do what they have done."