BORN IN THE same year as HM Queen Elizabeth II, Bob Simmons’ adventures began in Belgium as a schoolboy, where he attended the British Memorial School in Ypres, founded by Old Etonians as a memorial to comrades killed in the Ypres Salient in World War 1.
When Hitler’s troops invaded, Bob’s family escaped to England and settled at Selsey Bill in Sussex, where as a schoolboy he watched the Battle of Britain take place in the skies overhead.
As a teenager he was employed by the BBC in London as an ‘unestablished youth in training’ (thanks to his ability with Morse Code, taught to him by his radio-enthusiast father, who now worked at Tatsfield Receiving Station).
When he was seventeen Bob joined the RAF and after training as a radar mechanic was sent to Burma. He took part in Operation Zipper (the liberation of Malaya), installed a radar beacon at Bayan Lepas airfield to help guide Allied planes into Penang, and ended the war in Borneo, talking via ham radio to his father back in England, playing football and being entertained by local head-hunters!
The story then follows Bob’s postwar career as a lighting director with the BBC and subsequently ITV, winning a BAFTA award with Thames Television for his work on Rock Follies in 1977.
The book ends with his return to Penang at the invitation of the Penang Veterans Association to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph in Georgetown on behalf of all WW2 veterans and to meet some of the airmen currently stationed at his old base in Butterworth.
Told with quiet modesty and humour, with the assistance of his wife Sheryl, it is the story of a remarkable life.