This weeks blog focuses on a book by David Hemsley.
David is a member of the BNTVA and a designer of the 2020 BNTVA calendar.
It is a fictional story which is based on fact.
Written in 2014, the book is 384 pages long and is an exceptional read.
What makes this book stand out from the other stories written is that it contains cartoons drawn by David which depict time on the island.
David continues to write stories and publish cartoons and attends the BNTVA events when he can.
The book follows the lives of a group of boys who were conscripted into the Army for their obligatory two years' National Service - it would be an adventure that would change their lives forever. They had unwittingly become involved in the development of the hydrogen bomb, the most awesome weapon known to man.
This story also serves as a poignant reminder of how dangerous these weapons can be. The hydrogen bomb has so far proved to be a deterrent to any aggressor, but for how long will it last?
To quote Sir Winston Churchill, 'To jaw-jaw is better than to war-war'
The book is dedicated to his wife, Gillian.
The main characters in the book are:
Gareth (Gary) Owen - Megan (girlfriend)
Alf Reynolds - married Jennifer (air hostess)
Ted Watson - married Penny; children, James and Harry
Harry Watkins - married Helen (nurse)
Oliver (Ginger) Markham - married Caroline; children, Gareth and Megan
Brian Walker (lost contact)
Fred Jarvis (died in training)
Colonel James - married to Molly; daughter, Penny, marries Ted Watson
Christine and her daughter Sophie (Ted's sister and niece)
Mr Townsend (Ted's neighbour, a farmer and horse breeder)
Mr Williamson (a solicitor and Ted's employer)
Captain Harper (Rex)
Peter Holmes - married? (lost contact)
Our main character is Harry who receives his marching orders on 15th November 1956. As an electronic and electrical engineer he had deferred his enlistment, but with his training at an end, he cannot defer it any longer.
His girlfriend, Sophie promises to wait for him for the two years national service and to write to him. He meets Gareth who is from Wales in York. Measurements for military clothing and haircuts were first.
For many, the military life is a shock and some want to go home, but this is National Service and like it or not, you are enlisted for two years.
Assault courses, training, falling into ice cold water and Corporal dealing out punishment, how much longer was basic training going to take?
Complaints about the food to the cook, and pay parade. Twenty-nine shillings a week was paid out to each soldier. When your name is called, you shout 'Sir', march forward to the paying officer; slam your boot to the ground, salute; quote number, rank and name; collect your money; step back; salute again; about turn; and march back into line.
No number, no money!
Keeping warm in the hut, topping up the fire and working together as a unit, all strange experiences for these young men.
Ted starts to date Penny, who is the Colonels daughter. Skating on thin ice!
Once training was finished, the lads are told that they are being deployed to the South Pacific, Christmas Island. 'Cheer up lads, just think of all that sun on a tropical island'
Flying from Heathrow, via Canada, then Hawaii, before landing on Christmas Island. For many, this was their very first flight.
Welcome to Paradise gone wrong
Sunglasses are essential, because the mode of dress is shorts, boots and bush hat. Everyone is warned that a severe case of sunburn rendering one unable to work would lead to a case of self-inflicted injury being brought against you. Escape was futile, you were there, whether you liked it or not.
The was not much to get excited about, being allocated a tent with camp beds with mosquito nets was the highlight of the day. The loos left much to be desired, with little or no privacy at all. There were warnings of dysentery and looking at the loos, nobody was surprised.
The one consolation was food. Issued with a tin tray, mug and irons the men line up for what was, by anybody's standards, some really good food. Under the circumstances the chefs had done a first class job, but then if the food had not been up to standard, the men were trained not to argue!
Find out more
You can find out what happens to Harry and his pals, by purchasing the book through the BNTVA website. David has donated these books and 100% of the profits are going to the BNTVA. Priced at £12.99 including postage.
If you like David's drawings, you can purchase the 2020 BNTVA Calendar which contains a lot more from the BNTVA Website.
You can listen to David's personal story via his 60 at 60 interview on Nuclear Veterans Worldwide Facebook page.
If you are a Veteran, a family member, historian or generally interested in the Nuclear testing program, this book is a must. A great present for anyone who enjoys a great story. There is laughter, despair and great illustrations. David has provided us with an insight as to the life of a National Servicemen who has deployed to Christmas Island to participate in the Nuclear testing program, something that should never have happened. The Veterans and their families continue to suffer and by purchasing this book and calendar, you are providing much needed funds for the BNTVA and their continued fight against the injustice. Thank you David for your fantastic book and calendar.