WW2 veteran to unveil memoirs 70 years after first encounter

Tony Chapman in his military finery

Tony Chapman in his military finery - Credit: Archant

South Molton’s Tony Chapman to release memoirs at Appledore book festival

The front cover of Tony Chapman's upcoming memoirs

The front cover of Tony Chapman's upcoming memoirs - Credit: Archant

A WORLD War II motor gun boat telegraphist is set to unveil his fascinating memoirs on his 89th birthday.

The War of the Motor Gunboats is the culmination of more than a decade of memory-bank-mining from a man who joined the navy after seeing his hometown of Southampton burned to the ground in 1940.

Tony Chapman, who has lived in South Molton for the last 40 years with second wife Lucy, was awarded an Air Raid Precautions (ARP) commendation in 1941 at the age of 16.

He went on to have an eventful war, serving in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, where the motor gun boats played a key role in an important but often forgotten theatre of the war.


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His flotilla saw major action just hours after being posted, getting involved in an epic coastal forces engagement against thirty German E-Boats.

Although they sank three of the E-Boats, half of Mr Chapman’s shipmates were killed or injured.

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October will mark the 70th anniversary of that first encounter, one of many recalled in vivid detail in his upcoming book, as well as the everyday lifestyle.

Mr Chapman’s memoirs had been locked in a box with his other writings, for decades, but he said he decided to publish them for his niece, his only living relative.

“I felt in the context of the times, what I did was relatively insignificant,” he said.

“I didn’t think it was anything special or anything people would want to read.

“I also didn’t want people to read about me as a wild young man – you spend your time presenting yourself as a respectable, retired gentleman, but I’m assured that was relatively normal.”

The book also includes a foreword from North Devon MP Nick Harvey, who says: “I thoroughly recommend this very readable memoir of a patriot who was happy to do his bit defending this country during the war, and maintaining standards in public life afterwards.”

‘The War of the Motor Gunboats’ is set to released at Appledore book festival on Sunday.

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