War veteran's book signing in Peebles

A Second World War veteran from Peebles is celebrating the launch of his memoirs at a book signing this Saturday.

Putting memories of the war on paper.
Putting memories of the war on paper.

John McOwan, who is 101, began to write down his memories of the war during the Covid-19 lockdown.

In 2019, John joined a group of veterans on an organised trip to Normandy to mark 75 years since the D-Day landings.

At the moving ceremony honouring the veterans and the fallen, memories of the war came flooding back.

He said: “This is when the seed was planted for the book.

" I needed something to do to occupy my time during the lockdown, and so I started penning my memories of the conflict.”

John lost his eyesight due to macular degeneration and he has a pseudophakia (false lens) in both eyes.

He has no vision in his left eye and only some vision in his right eye.

Blind Veterans UK, a charity for vision-impaired ex-service men and women, was instrumental in helping John with the book.

Frances Nixon, a volunteer with the charity, spent over 120 hours typing up John’s handwritten notes.

When the Second World War started in 1939, John was 18 years old and he was immediately called up for service.

He first served on the artillery batteries defending the Forth Rail Bridge, before being transferred to Egypt in the spring of 1940 to use his repair skills working on the tanks, trucks and other equipment belonging to the 7th Armoured Division, a part of the 8th Army.

He served with this division all through the war, being part of events such as El Alamein and the Western Desert Campaign before being part of the Allied landings in Sicily then at Anzio in Italy.

His division was transferred back to Britain, and took part in the D-Day landings, and all the major conflicts until the end of the war.

John says he hopes his story will make others appreciate the horrors and grief war leaves behind.

"I’m delighted it’s now published,” he said. “There has been a lot of interest in the book, especially from ex-servicemen.”

He will be signing copies of the book in Whitie’s, High Street, Peebles on Saturday, July 30 from 3pm – 5pm.