The purpose of this blog site is to provide updates on the publication of the book that I have been involved in writing since January 2014. The book now entitled 'A Pithead Polar Bear From Brighton to Belsen 1940 to 1946' is an attempt to understand what my late Grandfather, L/Cpl James Kitchener Heath did during the Second World War.

'A Pithead Polar Bear' is the culmination of another internet blog project that I started, entitled 'A Fragmented Military History', the name being an acknowledgement of the limited information that I had to go on and just how much there was to learn. The original site can be accessed from this site and in many ways can be thought of as being complementary to the published book.

James, or Jim, Heath was an ordinary citizen soldier signed up for the duration of the war. His experiences over the six years of the conflict are similar to those of many thousands of infantry men whilst at the same time unique to him.

My sincere hope for this book is that it may in some part inspire like minded people to take up the challenge to explore a similar history for one of their own relatives. My message is that it can be done even seventy plus years after the events described. It is also hugely rewarding.

Somewhere down the line I wrote words to the following effect, 'in my dealings with our veterans it has become clear that it is not our thanks they seek for what they did but our understanding'. That for me is justification enough for such an undertaking as this.



Saturday, June 17, 2017

Tribute to Corporal Peter W. Pimlott 7th South South Staffordshire Regiment


As ‘A Pithead Polar Bear’ was in its final stages of preparation, I received an email requesting some assistance in providing information about the South Staffordshire Regiments in Normandy. The email came from Paul Simpson MBE, a retired warrant officer, who is researching the service of his great uncle, Corporal Peter W. Pimlott of the 7th South Staffords. As this enquiry neatly coincided with a planned return to Normandy I said that if at all possible I would visit Corporal Pimlott’s plot in the Banneville-la-Campagne cemetery and lay a Royal British Legion cross.

Corporal Pimlott was killed in action with the 7th South Staffordshire Regiment on 7th August 1944 in the Grimbosq bridgehead established in order to allow the 59th (Staffordshire) Division to cross the River Orne. He survived just 41 days in Normandy.


Yesterday I received an email from Paul with a photograph of his great uncle’s mounted medals.

Corporal P.W. Pimlott
7th South Staffordshire Regiment
Killed in Action on 7th August 1944.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Update on Publication Date

Hi,

I decided to postpone the publication date by one week in order to be in a position to include some additional photographs and information resulting from my most recent visit to Normandy in mid-May. I think that the poignancy and relevance of this additional information justifies this additional delay many times over.

I have been informed by the publisher that the books should be with me by 9th June at which point I can start sending them out.

As I have stated on the flyer and elsewhere, the book proceeds will be split between projects relevant to both the 59th (Staffordshire) Division and the 49th (West Riding) Division. Given the fact that my Grandfather transferred to the 11th RSF after the conclusion of the Battle of Normandy, my focus in this area has always been on the 59th Division. This fact took me back to Thury Harcourt, a significant Norman town on the west bank of the Orne that was liberated by the men of the 59th Division in August 1944.

Previously I had been here oblivious that I was in extremely close proximity to a recently opened permanent exhibition to the town's liberators.

The Old Fire Station, located within 10 meters of the main 59th Division memorial now houses the start of a permanent tribute to the men who fell (and indeed those that survived) in the Division's ultimately successful efforts to liberate the town.

It was on an early Friday morning the my travelling companion, Owen, and I met up with a lovely lady by the name of Micheline Guillerm, the  'French Connection' in terms of the 59th (Staffordshire) Division, a.k.a. 'The Friends of Thury Harcourt'. Micheline was a young witness to the liberation and the recollections of the events have stayed with her in the intervening years.

We discussed the meaning of the museum and plans for possible expansion into additional rooms of the old station. I told her of my proposal to make a donation to the project and at this she welled up. I hope that Micheline is the first and last French lady I make cry!


Adrian and Micheline Guillerm
Thury Harcourt May 2017.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Publication in May


The waiting is nearly over. I have taken the plunge and sent ‘A Pithead Polar Bear’ off to the publishers so I can say with certainty that it will be available this month.

Details of how and where to get the book will follow in the next few days.

Many thanks,

Adrian.


Monday, January 30, 2017

A Pithead Polar Bear - Contact Email Address

In order to address any enquiries about the book I have set up a dedicated email address. Please feel free to direct any questions  that you have to:

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Book Foreword by Kenneth J. West


I am honoured, not to say more than a little chuffed that when I asked Ken West if he would be so kind as to write a few words to serve as a foreword to the book, he agreed without hesitation.

Ken's book 'An' It's Called A Tam O'Shanter' was one of the first relevant books I read about the everyday existence of infantry soldiers in North West Europe in 1944-1945, soldiers just like my Grandfather. Far from being a typical stuffy book full of strategic discussion and dry talk of Army and Corps campaign plans, Ken tells how it was from the perspective of a slit trench! There are tales of Regimental Sergeant Majors head down in latrines and novel uses for a British Army issue Bayonet! At the same time, the evident humour is tempered with moments of reflection and remembrance that were all a part and parcel of the unpredictable life of an infantryman in the field.

Some weeks after reading 'Tan O'Shanter' I joined the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division Association (also known as The Polar Bear Association). My joining closely coincided with the publication of the June 2014 issue of their periodical, 'The Polar Bear News' from which I learned that not only was Ken still with us but he was still gallivanting across Holland with the Association.

To cut a long story short I wrote to Ken, we met and have maintained quite regular contact since. It is Ken, through his willingness to discuss his time with the 11th R.S.F. in Europe in writing and conversation, not to mention his encouraging words concerning the preparation of this book, that has meant that this book will finally make it to publication.

For these reasons having Ken, a veteran of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, who fought in the same towns and villages as my Grandfather, endorse my efforts is really very special for me.

Thanks Ken, you are a nonagenarian mine of information and inspiration!

Adrian and Ken
Leicester October 2014

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Artwork for the book


Well here's my first attempt at putting a cover together for 'A Pithead Polar Bear'. I opted for a collage of original documentation. The following items are featured.


  • Early photograph as a new recruit taken some time in the first half of 1940 when he was with the North Staffordshire Regiment
  • The 'pithead' insignia of the 59th (Staffordshire) Division
  • The 'polar bear' insignia of the 49th (West Riding) Division
  • Jim Heath's sign up papers from January 1940
  • His entry pass into Bergen-Belsen camp from July 1945
  • His certificate of release to the Army Reserve dated 24th December 1945
  • 'The Kings Badge', a silver lapel badge awarded to soldiers disabled during service
  • Medal ribbons (clockwise from top right):
The War Medal
1939-1945 Star
The Defence Medal
The France And Germany Star