Isle Of Man / Ellan Vannin

WWII veteran's 'forgotten army' memoirs published

James Fenton
Image caption Mr Fenton sent home paintings, letters and photographs from his time in Burma

They were the memories of war he had long tried to forget.

But they came flooding back when World War II veteran James Fenton discovered a stash of letters in his parents' house.

Now the 90-year-old from the Isle of Man has pulled them together in a book.

It contains extracts of hundreds of letters he sent home to his parents in Lancashire, while serving with the 178 Field Regiment Royal Artillery in India, Burma and Malaysia.

The book has taken 30 years to complete and charts his journey from England on board a troop ship to India and details his division's involvement in several large campaigns.

'Diving for cover'

"I had to write these things down or paint them," he explained.

During his service he wrote regularly to his parents in Oswaldtwistle, his wife Lillian and his brother Harry, who served with the Royal Corps of Signals.

When his parents died in 1980 he began sorting through the family documents and found the letters.

"I hadn't thought about them in all those years," he said. "When I found them my father had methodically put them on one long string - all 440 of them!"

"They had even kept the envelopes and I thought I must do something with these.

"Obviously they are a souvenir and there would be many tales that would interest other people, so I decided to bind them together into a volume which would be of value to people."

Once they were bound Mr Fenton read through and selected extracts to make the unique account of his time in the army.

'Opportunity to remember'

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Media captionMr Fenton's book has taken more than 20 years to pull together

"Some were interesting to read but others were frightening because it brought back some strange memories and some sad ones."

Along with the letters were documents including call up papers and photographs. In fact Mr Fenton was so well thought of as an artist and photographer that local people would ask him to do portraits.

Before he was called up he had just graduated from Accrington School of Art and planned to continue his training in London. After he was discharged from the army he took up a career as a graphic artist and photographer.

"I am very glad that all the letters were kept. Making the book has given me an opportunity to remember how my life was.

"Some memories you never forget. There are particular incidents that are impressed on your mind but you can't remember others. I hope other people will find it interesting."

All the proceeds from the book 'The Forgotten Army' will be donated towards the Cystic Fibrosis Trust in memory of Mr Fenton's son who died from the disease.

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