About the author

Outside the U-Boat pens: Saint-Nazaire, March 2008

Why Saint-Nazaire?


Although we live in a world where advances in military technology seem ever more to encroach upon the realm of pure science fiction, my personal interests remain firmly directed towards the human dimension of conflict. Having been born into the bleakness and hardship of an immediate post-war United Kingdom missing so many thousands of husbands, brothers, uncles and sons, I cannot fail to be curious about the social and intellectual consequences of the involuntary transformation, in times of war, of a family-oriented, civilian population, into combatants whose lives become the property of the state and of whom actions are demanded which go against every natural instinct.

With regard to Operation CHARIOT, I have sought, by delving deep within the structure of this one, particular, military event, to illustrate the awful dichotomy that lies at the heart of war, which is that while conflict can on the one hand rob society of her best and brightest young men and women, it can also, on the other, give birth to qualities of personal courage, patriotism, comradeship and empathy so extreme and so deeply felt as to remain undiluted by the passage of time. 

On a more personal note, I am Irish-Canadian, though currently resident in England. Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1946, I graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, before marrying Sandie and moving to the London area, in 1968. Having always been interested in aircraft, I worked  for several years on the civilian side of the industry - initially at the old Vickers works, built within the confines of the Brooklands racing oval, and ultimately on the Concorde project at the one-time US air base, RAF Fairford. In 1974 we moved to Canada - to Alberta initially, and then to Victoria, British Columbia where, while working as an illustrator/graphic designer, I began the research that would eventually lead me to CHARIOT and to more than a decade of personal involvement with some of the most outstanding human beings I shall ever be privileged to meet.

When I first met the 'Charioteers' - during an interview (it felt more like an interrogation!) to assess my suitability, in the basement of the Special Forces Club - they numbered well over one hundred. That was back in 1990. Now their numbers barely reach a score, the intervening years having robbed the world of all too many good men.

Within those intervening years I have written two books on the subject, provided most of the information for the Jeremy Clarkson documentary 'The Greatest Raid of All Time', assisted a number of other authors writing in a similar vein, produced a biographical documentary on the life of Captain Michael Burn, and assisted with the DeCantillon films production 'The Only One Who Knows You're Afraid' (based on the evasions from capture of Corporal George Wheeler and Lance-Corporal Robert Sims) - and yet 'the system' sill refuses stubbornly to give the raid the attention it so richly deserves, instead preferring to visit the Dambusters raid - again - and to invent a version of the Colditz Story in which the escapers were - you guessed it - American! In a recent book even the noted historian Sir Max Hastings, in referring very briefly to the raid, managed to get his basic facts wrong.

And yet, if you look at the page dealing with the wonderful 70th anniversary commemorations in Saint-Nazaire, March of 2012, and, recalling the host of lauditory comments made to the BBC following the broadcast of Jeremy's programme (most of which ran along the lines of ' how come we never heard of this amazing event before....' - it's clear that I am only one amongst a growing army of  men and women who feel strongly that recognition of the raid is long past due, and who are determined to elevate it to its rightful place in the history of World War 11.

If your sentiments run along the same lines, visit, and contribute to, our facebook page, at www.facebook.com/thegreatestraid