Time Stood Still in a Muddy Hole - Captain John Hannaford, one of the last Bomb Disposal Officers of WWII, Pat Strickson

Time Stood Still in a Muddy Hole - Captain John Hannaford, one of the last Bomb Disposal Officers of WWII, Pat Strickson

Captain John Hannaford was a Second World War bomb disposal officer, who mainly served in South Wales, where he was responsible for defusing any dangerous ordnance (both Allied and Axis) in the Newport area. This biography focuses on his time in that role, but also covers his early life, tracing how he ended up in such a dangerous role.

One unusual feature of this book is that we learn a great deal about the author’s motivation for writing it, and their research efforts. They were inspired by the discovery of a watercolour painting of the De La Warr Pavilion in a charity shop in Bexhill, and the author’s growing interest in the artist, who she soon discovered had been a wartime bomb disposal officer who had only recently died. The author soon managed to get in touch with Hannaford’s family, and discovered that he had been interviewed on film at least twice, including for the Channel 4 programme Danger UXB (not the 1979 drama). As a result many of the stories can be told in Hannaford’s own words. There is also an unusual amount of material on the author’s research efforts, meetings with Hannaford’s family, and the story of how the book was written.

One of the most poignant aspects of the story is that many of Hannaford’s bomb disposal team were killed fairly soon after he left them, while clearing British anti-tank mines from the beaches once the threat of invasion had gone, and the beaches were needed to practise for the D-Day landings. The trauma from this incident may explain why Hannaford believed that the story of the Bomb Disposal teams wasn’t publicised enough, and clearly remained on his mind for the rest of his life.

The author has done an excellent job here – Hannaford’s story was well worth telling, and had been done justice. In addition the material on her research process and motivation for writing the book adds to the story, making it more compelling. 

Author: Pat Strickson
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 200
Publisher: Brown Dog Books
Year: 2018


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