Three hundred and fifty poppies, one for each of his counterparts who lost their lives in World War Two, graced the launch of a book dedicated to a local bomb disposal hero,
Julian Avery, a Deputy Lieutenant of the county, Bexhill Mayor Cllr Abul Azzad and Lieutenant Colonel Roderick McArthur, chairman of the Royal Engineers Regiment Bomb Disposal Officers Club, were among guests at the De La Warr Pavilion launch.
It was a painting of the pavilion found in a charity shop in 2016 which first brought Captain John Hannaford to the attention of retired local primary school head Pat Strickson.
With the support of John’s daughters, Jill Burch and Jackie Medley, Pat set about researching the life of John Hannaford, who had died only months earlier aged 98.
Displays including examples of a German type 15 bomb fuse, explained by John’s friend and WWII memorabilia collector Steve Venus, and a Royal Engineers badge done in chocolates decorated the pavilion’s second floor foyer.
Representing the regiment were Warrant Officer Barry Smith and Sergeant Thomas Sims.
Pat said she could not have written John Hannaford’s “fabulous” story without the support of his family.
In doing so she had discovered, to her surprise, that her uncle, Alex Murray, had served as a Sapper in war-time bomb disposal.
Lt Col MacArthur said that as a bomb disposal commander in the Seventies he and his men had been working on much the same bombs and mines that John Hannaford and his contemporaries had dealt with 30 years before. Dominic said he had been fascinated by the bravery of a grandfather who had led such an interesting life. It was therefore with a sense of excitement tempered with disbelief that the family learned that Pat Strickson planned to put this work on record.
“If you had asked my grandfather why he survived he would have said very modestly that he was lucky.”
He would have loved the story of how Pat Strickson found out about him for it was pure serendipity.”
The Deputy Lieutenant said the occasion was one in which to remember John Hannaford, a remarkable man, had been captured brilliantly in Pat Strickson’s book; to remember the 350 of his colleagues who gave their lives and to honour those who continued this difficult and dangerous work today.
“Time Stood Still in a Muddy Hole” is published by Brown Dogs books and is available at Waterstones’ Hastings and Eastbourne stores and Bexhill Museum, price £9.99. It is also available from Amazon and on Kindle as an e-book.