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Britain's War Secret
More than four years ago I was watching TV when the presenter started interviewing an elderly gentleman. After just thirty seconds of this interview I realised I had to write a book about what had happened to him. This was when the adventure of writing Jacob's War started for me.

Being new to writing the prospect of writing a novel around real life events was extremely daunting. After taking some invaluable advice early on it became apparent that if I was going to do the subject justice I would need to get off my backside, visit archives, speak to experts and seek out people who had lived through what I was researching. So with the support of the Arts Council, I started a six month long research project that became a three and a half year long writing one!

My parents were not even born in 1940 so to me, the events of the spring of that year seemed like ancient history. But to the people I spoke with they were still real and memories vivid. Britain in 1940 was a nervous nation, fear filled the thoughts of most people's minds. Hitler's Nazi menace had swept across Europe, brushing aside all in its way, and in 1940 the Fuhrer had set his sights on an invasion of Britain.

In the wake of this tide of fear, Britain enacted a law known as Regulation 18B to help protect itself against the enemy within. And there were many enemies within, organisations and individuals who would have been happy if the Germans had invaded.

Regulation 18B was a wide reaching law which enabled any person with any possible links with the enemy to be detained. Aimed primarily at Nazi sympathisers, in May 1940 thousands and thousands of people, men, women and children were arrested and interned in camps in the North of England and the Isle of Man. Anyone with any connection with Germany and Italy was interned. Many of these people were innocent. Many were foreign refugees and many Jewish people who had fled Nazi Germany. Such was the overcrowding on the Isle of Man some internees were even deported to Canada and Australia, with disastrous results.

My story is set on the Isle of Man at the women and children's camp named The Rushen Camp. Whilst in many internment camps conditions were bad, at the Rushen Camp there was more of a holiday feel, people were billeted in local hotels and B&B's, shops were still open and during the hot summer the beach became the focal point of daily activities, with sunbathing and long swims the order of the day!

In Jacob's War I have tried to address the fear that nation had in its swift enactment of Regulation 18B but have tried to contrast this with the adventure that internment was to some youngsters. The family in my book, the Beckers, are Americans with a German background, and my main character, Jacob, is a young lad who looks much older than his years and thus gets separated from his family and placed in a men's camp with its harsh conditions. On his journey to the camp Jacob meets Terry Lowe from Skipton and together they witness brutality, are deported on the Arandora Star, are torpedoed, shipwrecked and eventually rescued by the American Navy! Jacob Becker's war is certainly an eventful one.

To help mark the publishing of Jacob's War, I would like to hear from any Yorkshire Times readers who experienced, either directly, or indirectly through other family members, internment in Spring 1940. I will try and publish as many of your stories as possible on my writer's blog.

Already feedback about the book has been excellent with many people telling me that they didn't even know that people were interned in WW2. I have to admit that before I listened to the elderly gentleman on that television programme I didn't know either!

Jacob's War by Robert John Bullock was published on May 24th and is available from internet book stores and all good bookshops. For further information please visit Robert's website blog http://robbullockchildrenswriter.blogspot.co.uk/

If anyone is interested in this subject or creative writing in general Robert will be hosting a weekend at Malham Tarn Field Centre from August 16th - 18th entitled 'Creative Writing in the Yorkshire Dales'. Enquiries call 01729 830331 or email enquiries.mt@field-studies-council.org


Britain's War Secret, 18th June 2013, 15:42 PM