On the 27th September, The County Club is hosting a talk by our member John Gilbert. Whilst we do not consider it on a day-to-day basis, most of us are living in the shadow of WWII: a war that traumatised entire societies and triggered seismic political, technological and ethical upheavals. As a result, WWII has almost endless potential for storytelling: there are many unknown military exploits to recount, reassessments to be made, newly significant relationships to be detailed.
What inspired you to write historical books?
My father was French-Canadian, serving with the Sherbrooke Fusiliers, itself a Canadian armoured unit. He worked in a Sherman tank of five soldiers. My interest in D-Day and in particular, my father’s part in it has been life-long. I began writing whilst working as a Surrey Police Inspector.
Why do you feel driven to talk about your father’s exploits?
He was an inspiration; a real character as my talk will explain.
In 1940, he defied his family and religion to volunteer in the war effort as a Canadian. Throughout his life my father did not speak much about the war as my mother made sure that he didn’t relive any distressing experiences. This was especially so after he had a nervous breakdown - we define this nowadays as PTSD.
My dad sadly passed away from cancer in 1993. When I was sorting through his personal effects, I found a very old photograph that had been neatly folded. I opened the photograph and there was my dad, standing next to another man. This man was Tommy Reed, my father’s sergeant, and although I didn’t realise it at the time, this photograph signalled the start of my research and writing.
In the talk, I explain much more about Tommy Reed, who was a completely loose cannon and undoubtedly a character that my Dad had a great amount of respect for. His exploits and untimely end colour the edges of the talk with an undeniably human hand.
Could you tell me a little more about the books you have written?
The first book I wrote was called Bloody Buron! Canada’s D-Day + 1 . It is designed to be an exposé of one of the most brutal battles during the Normandy Landings in which my father was involved. The book was a result of many, many hours of research and sorting through memories of my dad.
My books are currently sold at a variety of places, but I am most proud that they are sold at Juno Beach Centre.
To hear more of John Gilbert’s father’s gripping war exploits, alongside a three-course dinner, contact The Club to book on 01483 575 370.
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