WW2 Veteran’s story told

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A NEW book has been written about a Port Elphinstone War Veteran who survived 38 missions as a Pathfinder during World War Two.

The book is about a man who “very much kept everything to himself” said Gary Mitchell (47) from Inverurie who is an aircrewman of a different nature. Gary was also the instigator of the book. He said: Leslie had never told his story to anybody - he’s so much more interested in other people’s stories that he doesn’t tell his own.

Explaining how the book came about, Search and rescue crewman Gary explained: “Leslie and I had been just talking – I’ve known Leslie for 30 years but only in the last ten years did we start talking about his career. It all came about because he showed a keen interest in mine.

He was very interested in my work, and through his asking questions of me it became apparent that some of the things he did were worthy of a story being written.”

Gary contacted two friends, Allan Barker and Raymond Warrender, both of whom were interested in World War Two history, particularly relating to aviation,

Raymond began researching, Allan, who had written two previous books began writing as Leslie’s story began to unfold. Obviously delighted with the book, which preserves not only family history, but history of national importance, Leslie (88) said: “These guys are a good team – they’ve done all the work and it makes me really and truly humble. I’ve read it from cover to cover several times. Members of my family are absolutely thrilled – I have a son and three daughters who share my view that it is nice to have a record of my service career.”

For Allan (59), who is off to Gallipoli, history is a passion: “I was in the fleet air arm for 12 years - the flying side of the Navy - as an engineer. History is my passion, particularly World War One.”

Raymond added: “I remember when I was very young buying Purnell’s History of the Second World War – it was a magazine and you would buy the binders. My school projects used to be on World War Two.

Explaining the significance of being in the air crew, Allan explained: “As a bomber command crewman you had a one-in-four chance of completing a tour. Many were killed on their first, second or last but Leslie did 30 before transferring to a Pathfinder squadron and completing another 38.”

Co-author of the book in his role as researcher, Raymond said the research took about six month. He added: “It took a while, but when you are enjoying yourself, you don’t think about the time.”

Speaking about Raymond’s input, Allan said: “Raymond is very modest about what he’s done. He has down-played his role – he kick started the research and his contribution has been huge.”

There will be a book signing in Inverurie on Saturday (August 27) at Strachan’s Inverurie from 11am, and a further book signing at Better Books in Ellon on Saturday, September 3, (the anniversary of the outbreak of World War Two) between 1pm and 3pm

Leslie who, after the war, worked for 25 years in the brewery trade and was a local councillor will be there on both occasions. There will also be a book signing in Huntly on September 17.