The fight is on to protect a local listed
building, Dingle Farm, Sandbach, from being trashed by the unwanted development of the attached land into a luxury faux-Merrie
England plot for large houses. See the page!
January I have been researching into the life of a German POW who died in England. When I
started, I had only a name and initials, and he could have been from any of the German armed services. But, incredibly, he
has turned out to be a merchant seaman, and while his may not be a sensational story, it is an interesting and rather well
documented one. So watch this space in a few months time.
12th September 2015. I have added a
fourth Ortelli barometer to my collection. That's two this year. Neither will win any prizes but it is good to have the
set: Sheraton, four-glass round-top, stick, and...yes...an onion top. My research is stalling a bit: I need a trip to Italy.
9th May 2015: I have just heard that Cdte Mario Rossetto, commander of the
Italian submarine Finzi during the Second World War, died today. He was a great help to me when i was writing 'Submarine',
and I had the pleasure of meeting him in Milan and of corresponding with him. He celebrated his one hundredth birthday in
A little bit about me....
I'm primarily a maritime and naval author, though
my books have included an illustrated history of Trafalgar Square, a companion to the Imperial War Museum's War Correspondent
exhibition, and the TV-tie in for Dan Snow's three-part Dig WW2, which took me into land conflict and air
warfare (though I had covered a century of naval aviation while writing Carrier) as well as naval aspects.
Occasionally people ask for advice on writing a history book, and I am sure there are many people better qualified
than me to provide it. But two things I would say from experience. Firstly, there is a great deal of goodwill out there,
certainly in the fields in which I have researched, and people will help. When I started writing Marked for
Misfortune I was terrified of letting anyone know what I was doing, afraid that someone would steal the idea and beat
me to completion of the research. Eventually it became essential.. Not only did nobody steal the idea, I also received a lot
of guidance. In writing subsequent books I never hesitated to share problems with amateur and professional
experts - and did not forget to give them an acknowledgement in the book for their kindness.Secondly, if you are touching
on historical subjects with a foreign dimension, it is essential to have some level of competence in the appropriate
foreign language(s), or a friend who can support you in that area. Many books and most papers are written in English
these days, and some will contain translations of key quotations from foreign documents, but a reliance on English
cuts you off from those earlier primary resources. Furthermore, if can actually approach foreign experts
in their own language, it can help to establish fruitful contact. Internet translators have their uses but
you need to be able to read the language reasonably well in order to check whether they have translated your meaning
You may be surprised to find a big article about antique mercury barometers and the Ortelli
family who made them, in Britain. This is my guilty pleasure. There is something very special about these
beautiful, unique and useful creations that were handcrafted and signed by Italians who, more than two centuries ago, began
crossing the Alps and travelling some 750 miles across Europe to bring their skills to Britain. It's
work in constant progress. It is also a chance to write in a friendly style, with little digressions here and there, speculation,
admissions of ignorance, not to mention well-intentioned promises to find out missing information at some unspecified time
in the vague future. Freed from all the commercial considerations and pressures, I can indulge myself and, I hope, revive
interest in, and acquisition of, mercury barometers. I have also tried to show more than the fruits of research in their
final form: I wanted to explain something of the process of research, the false starts, the blanks, the way connections were
made, the sources used and the thought processes involved, because the research is, for me at least, the best part of it,
the part that leaves a writer alternately frustrated or euphoric.