I have always been interested in Military History, but I’ve a particular interest in the Second World War as my Grandfather served in 6th Airborne Division as an artilleryman. I was only young when he told me his stories – of taking part in D-Day and making drops throughout North West Europe – but they stayed with me and have inspired me ever since.
Did it have an impact on my own decision to join the army?
Perhaps, but what is certain is that when I left the army in 2013 and decided I wanted to pen a novel, I knew I wanted to write about the airborne missions of the Second World War. And frankly, once you’ve made that decision, the stories write themselves because the missions offer a backdrop of peerless drama
Deep Troubleconcerns the infamous Operation Overlord (D-Day) – the most audacious airborne mission to date – and the glider attack on a key road bridge that spanned the Caen canal a few kilometres east of what would be ‘SWORD’ beach. It’s an Operation that was immortalized (accurately, in my opinion) in the 1962 film, The Longest Day, but some people mistakenly assume that the Parachute Regiment were responsible for the assault, when in fact it was D Company, from the 2nd Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. This Battalion has since been renamed The Royal Green Jackets, and are now known as The Rifles.
My central character is Robbie Stokes has been created from an amalgamation of stories from Grandfather’s youth. He too grew up in Mortlake, West London, worked at Watneys Brewery and felt the sting of the Luftwaffe raids on his neighbourhood. My Grandfather joined the Army in 1943, and went on to Airborne training thereafter, similar to Robbie Stokes. I felt that to write through the eyes of an infantryman during the Normandy battles and beyond would give the reader a taste of life at the sharp end, where information regarding the enemy could be vague, but the action plentiful. The infantry lived in austere conditions and were at the mercy of not only the Germans, but also the weather as they sat at the end of a long, problematic logistics chain.
What stuck me as I researched this book, was just how much many of these troops were moved around. It was considered a perks of the Airborne Troops that, besides extra hazard pay, they were not in the battle zone any longer than they were required. They were high-impact troops, training to survive and hold an objective (often behind enemy lines) for short periods before being relieved by regular reinforcements. It meant of course that my Grandfather, and my fictional Robbie Stokes, had downtime back at home – something they often found quite difficult as it meant constantly reacclimatising to domestic and war condition.
In Robbie’s world, he never has long to catch his breath before being seconded off to a new operation – my second novel in the series, Double Trouble takes him to Holland and the equally famous Operation Market Garden – and if his existence seems a little more breathless than is realistic, I can only say from my own experience in Iraq, it’s a soldier’s life!
My Grandfather sadly passed away whilst I was serving as an instructor at The Armour Centre, but I’d like to think he recognise Robbie Stokes experiences and be right behind him.
Robert Lofthouse was born in Twickenham and joined his local county infantry regiment (1 PWRR) straight from school at the age of sixteen. After serving 20 years, having served in Poland, Germany, Kenya, Canada, Falkland Islands, Iraq, Northern Ireland, and Kosovo, he retired in the rank of Sergeant.
He now works as a defence consultant and lives in Portsmouth with his wife and three children.
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