Friday, 9 December 2011

One door closes …

On 17 September I submitted a 25,000 word thesis entitled "The Colonel and I: Unravelling the Wintle Legend". The first section of it was almost word-for-word the same as my blog on 27 January, "The Wintle Legend: Prologue". The thesis expanded considerably on the brief account of his career that I gave in my blog of 9 February, "A Legend in his Lifetime". This account I wrote to go on the back of the laminated paneI that I prepared for display in the Horse & Groom, the pub on Wrotham Hill in Kent where I had my memorable encounter with the Colonel in July 1956. This appeal, which I caused to be displayed at various places in the nearby West Malling – Tesco Metro, the library, the Malling Town Club, and so on – was fruitless. I had, it must be confessed, little hope that anything would come of it, but the trip to Kent was worthwhile for regaining some sense of the place where the Colonel had lived his last twenty years.

I then gave up blogging as being a waste of time while carrying out my researches. The gallant colonel turned out to have been somewhat economical with the truth in his "autobiography", The Last Englishman. I put the word in inverted commas because it was published two years after his death in 1966, assembled from his writings and edited by a journalist whose other books lack distinction. Some of the stories in it can be verified in other sources, but others are dubious, to say the least. His account of derring-do in Vichy France and his daring escape from Fort Ste. Catherine in Toulon, for example, could not be substantiated: Les Amis de Vieux Toulon et la Region Var are amongst those who know nothing about these incidents. It further appears that the Colonel throughout his life had been fond of impersonations and practical jokes. It is likely that the bullet-riddled tunic which he showed us, and the corresponding scars on his chest, were part of the props for the japes that he played.

At the very least, however, the Colonel has provided me with an intriguing subject for research and for the 25,000 word thesis about him that I handed in on 17 September. It also has provided the material for an article I have submitted to The Oldie in their "I once met …" series. The subject is not of sufficient general interest to warrant putting in a proposal to write a full-length book, but more importantly is not of interest to me.

I now await inspiration about what to do next.



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