An Ordinary Man in Extraordinary Times

ISBN 978-1-84683-195-9
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by Percy Shipperbottom
The maritime exploits of an RAF High Speed Launch (HSL) Wireless Op/Signaller in the UK and Far East during World War II

A riveting narrative recounting the invaluable efforts of RAF High Speed Launch personnel in rescuing stranded airmen from the waters of the English Channel and the Bay of Bengal during World War II.

THIS BOOK CONTAINS the reminiscences of a Lancashire youngster who grew up in the home of his maternal grandparents in rural circumstances near Bolton in the early twentieth century. His gamekeeper grandpa taught him the ways of the countryside at a young age, and he soon became a skilled poacher.

The early chapters of this book feature a charming evocation of the author's boyhood years in rural Lancashire, with affectionate characterizations of his family members, especially his grandparents and uncles, who were all unique and quirky individuals adept in the ways of the countryside. This portion of the book will appeal to anybody from the Bolton area due to its warm portrayals of a now sadly lost way of life.

After dropping out of school at the age of 15, Percy tried his hand at a variety of jobs, including those at the local coal mine and bleach works, before enrolling in night school to earn a certificate in the new subject of radio communications.

This latter was to come in handy after he volunteered for the Royal Air Force on the eve of war in September 1939. Following a brief stint with the ill-fated British Expeditionary Force in France in 1940, he joined the RAF Marine Branch as a radio operator/signaller aboard a High Speed Launch (HSL) based in Ramsgate.

The HSLs' primary objective was to save the crews of RAF planes that had crashed into the Channel after failing to return home. Finding tiny survival rafts on the open sea in all weathers while facing enemy attack was difficult and risky task. Despite these challenges, the HSL personnel persevered, saving countless lives.

Percy was dispatched to the Far East in 1943 to join the crew of an HSL operating in the Bay of Bengal and along Burma's Arakan Coast, a place that would put his endurance and seamanship to the test.

In later life Percy wrote this memoir, containing many remarkable stories which have been edited for publication by his son David, as a tribute to his late father.

details page size 140 x 205mm | 180 pages text plus photos
genre memoir / ww2 / RAF / nautical / military
themes rural Lancashire in early 20th century / RAF HSL activities in WW2 in UK and Far East
keywords Bolton Lancashire, RAF Marine Branch in WW2, Air Sea Rescue ASR, high speed launch HSL, Ramsgate, Arakan coast, Burma WW2