Victoria shares story of grandfather’s war
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
The garage is often a place where forgotten items are left to gather dust before eventually being thrown away.
But when Victoria Panton Bacon was clearing out her father's garage after his death in August 2012, she discovered a treasured story about her grandfather's heroic past.
She was so struck with the wartime tales that she felt she just had to share them with the rest of the world.
Mrs Panton Bacon, wife of South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, stumbled across a series of transcripts in a brown envelope among a load of model aeroplanes.
On closer inspection, she discovered her grandad, Alastair Panton, had written a moving memoir of his time as a Second World War prisoner and how the aircraft he captained – a Bristol Blenheim Mark IV – was shot at.
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Mrs Panton Bacon has now decided to publish the account in Six Weeks of Blenheim Summer –An RAF Officer's Memoirs of the Battle of France 1940.
She said: 'Because it was such a painful past, I think he needed to get it out of his system and write it down.'
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'I decided that I was going to read it properly and I thought it was brilliant. I showed it to a publisher and he encouraged me to take it forward.'
Mr Panton's incredible bravery after surviving as a prisoner of war had been marked with an OBE in 1950 and a CBE in 1969.
But few people knew he had written what he described as a 'story of failure', about how the Allied Forces were falling to the enemy and that – despite his best efforts – he could not do anything more to stem the defeat.
Mr Panton, who died in December 2002, went on to serve in senior military positions after 1945, most notably as Provost Marshal and head of RAF security before his retirement in 1971.
However Mrs Panton Bacon, who lives near Harleston, said that, although he survived, the grief felt at the loss of friends and comrades who did not never left him.
'He wrote it for his family,' said Mrs Panton Bacon.
'However now is a really important time to remember our veterans. He would've wanted it published – that's my feeling.'
The book, published by Biteback Publishing, is being launched at Jarrolds in Norwich on Tuesday.
It has won praise from the likes of author Louis de Bernieres and former Army chief General The Lord Richard Dannatt – both Norfolk residents – as well as Army veteran Sgt Duncan Slater, from Scole, who lost both his legs serving on tour in Afghanistan in 2009.
'As a former member of the RAF, I read this book with immense anticipation,' said Sgt Slater.
'Alastair Panton's courage, determination and professionalism in terrible circumstances is astounding. It is because of men like Alastair that I'm so proud to have been part of the RAF.'
For more on how Air Commodore Alastair Panton flew into history through six perilous weeks in 1940, see the July issue of EDP Norfolk magazine – on sale now.