‘Time Stood Still in a Muddy Hole’
New title OUT NOW, written by Pat Strickson
Pat Strickson didn’t expect to write a book but when she found the watercolour of the De La Warr Pavilion in a charity shop and began to find out about retired architect and artist, Captain John Hannaford, I knew I had to find out more. Pat contacted his family through a local estate agents. They agreed that Pat could write his story and provided her with his notes, interviews and family photos.
Young John Hannaford signed up for the Royal Engineers thinking it would be ‘a nice safe job.’ One fellow Officer went to the West Indies to start a water plant and another lucky colleague was sent to South Africa to put in a road system. When John’s name came up it said, Bomb Disposal, report to Company 16, Cardiff, South Wales.
At his first training session someone called out that it was 10 weeks life expectancy in that job. John was upset by this and later asked the officer in charge if there was any good news? The officer said actually there was. The scientists had discovered that a bomb explodes faster than your nervous system and you wont feel a thing.
Despite this Captain Hannaford was proud to do such a worthwhile job and survived the war but many of his men didn’t. In total 350 were killed. John never forgot them. He said they were all heroes. However, he also said he feared they’d been forgotten in history! They hadn’t received recognition for their courageous work and many for giving the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
He and his men were pioneers, putting their lives at risk every day as bombs rained down on us, 50,000 were dropped. Many failed to go off, the dangerous UXBs, a significant number were boobytrapped and still had to be disposed of as quickly as possible. Many homes, factories and families were saved.
They were told it was top secret and not to talk about their work. John didn’t, not until his retirement when he met up with other officers at the end of their lives, then he spoke of nothing else.
He was passionate about getting them remembered and recognised.
Captain John Hannaford died aged 98, on Armistice Day 2015, a few days after his dear wife Joyce. In his last interview a month before he died he said, “I’m just a lucky man”.
Written by Pat Strickson.
Author of ‘Time Stood Still in a Muddy Hole’.
10% From each book will go to support present day Bomb Disposal experts and their families through The Felix Fund.