Everybody has a book in them, or so it's said. But it's something else again getting it onto the page and to a place where it might be shared.

I have been writing since I was a young child. Always, my dream was to see my name on the spine of a book. Books gave me life, a dream to live by. Through their portals I could escape so easily into other worlds. Books also saved my life ... yes, really!

This is the story of my books and my journey as an author, including a very personal view of my journey through Life. I hope it will inspire and give hope to writers and readers young and old.

Getting published can be a waiting game. It's hard .. and getting harder. But then sometimes it can happen in an unexpected way and suddenly, we truly are living our dream. And we realise that it isn't after all the winning that is important, but the journey that is ours along the way.

I would love to hear from anyone who connects with what is written here. A signed copy of any of my books is available. You have only to write and ask:

Saturday 21 May 2016


Foulsham Church, courtesy Stuart Borlase, May 2016
The air was still, settled, calm ... and yet held a ripple of discontent. Who were these strangers entering its hallowed hall? Why had they come? What did they want?

The building was old, heavy with memories. It also held a sadness. Tears streaked its walls, imprinting the stone, leaving droplets of shadows marking the passage of Time.

Gently, reverently, we entered, stopping at the glass case where beneath its cover, a register of names caught my eye on the page of an open book. My hands reached to turn the pages back ... back ... back to a name which caught in my throat. 

Flt/Lt Henry Victor Vinnell.  


Stationed on the airfield just down the road at RAF Foulsham he probably wandered in through these same doors, walked the same way we had come. His eyes would have been drawn to the same stained glass window up ahead, and he might well have sat on one of the wooden pews to pause and reflect on what he hoped would be. Deep in the pocket of his heart where fear lurked, was a name that had become his world. With no family to call his own, already she was so much more than the young WAAF he had fallen in love with and was soon to marry ... please God! Silly really, that this WAAF could be jealous of the aircraft in which he flew and all because he spent so many more nights with it than she. 'N for Nina', a Mosquito IV, numbered DK292. It would be waiting for him now, being prepped for an op.  He knew where he would preferred to be right now, and yet serving in the lead 192 Squadron under RAF 100 Group, Bomber Command, he was under orders. Until the war was over he was not a free man. But then they were already planning the wedding. He had the ring. Nina was his fiancee. Already his home was hers where they spent every Leave with her widowed mother. Soon, they would become Family, and they would look after and take good care of one another. Her mother, bless her, need never live in fear again. Their life would be almost complete ... almost ... because in time there would come children. And one day, he would return to this place and talk about his time here with them, teaching a new generation about the dangers of conflict and war. There must never be another. It had killed too many friends, colleagues, strangers, aircrew unable to save themselves when the enemy struck their aircraft high in the sky. This world needed to find its peace.

A shiver rippled the air.

Sitting in the front pew of the little village church I sensed suddenly I was not alone. A family entered through the door behind me. The lady wore a soft smile on her face, and she was looking at me with the eyes of someone who already knew my thoughts. As she approached, I stood up, and she introduced herself and I to her. Names. What were they but vessels filled with life, experience, knowledge, truths as yet unspoken. Somewhere in the far corner, children were playing. Her grandchildren. Her daughter stood off to one side. An onlooker. While her husband talked quietly to my companion Stuart. A stone mason, the man had run his hands gently over the ancient stones of the building, feeling its sadness, the pain of neglect, wishing he could heal its emotions. It was in a bad state of disrepair. The village, made up of few people, did their best. But this icon of history needed so much more to restore and give it back life.

Time stilled. It was as if everything around me was happening in slow motion. I felt caught in a place between past and present. The lady sat beside me, and suddenly I was enveloped with a huge wave of love, drowning me in tears. It reached deep into my soul while she stroked my neck, my back, holding me to her, reassuring me, telling me that those of the past were gathering round me, telling me it wasn't yet time for me to cross over, I still had so much more work to do. Knowing nothing about me, the words made little sense to her. She was simply the portal through which this message came. But it was nonetheless real ... heart-stoppingly real as I realised what her words meant. She said they were thanking me for keeping their memory alive, ensuring they never be forgotten, and yet still, my work was not yet done. This then was the message of the moment, the one, in truth, she had come so many miles to deliver from some other place ... beyond where we were right now.

Jacqui lives in Australia, not far from where my companion lives. Strange ... yet true. She and her family had travelled to Essex because her brother was dying. They needed to be there for him at the end. Assured he had time, their plan was to spend their days with him over the next few weeks, until finally, after he was gone, they would return home. But then, he passed sooner rather than later. They were caught off guard. Death isn't an exact science. It can creep up on us unawares. Suddenly, he was gone.

But then Jacqui suddenly knew she needed to be, not in Essex, but in Norfolk. She couldn't explain why. They had never been here before, yet somehow, that morning, they had been drawn to the church in Foulsham. More than Happenstance, it was a Meant-to-Be. We met. Our paths crossed and intertwined. And together we sat on the pew, talking and sharing as if we had known one another all our lives. Soulmates. In the time we shared, she felt so close, so vibrant, so filled with secrets and messages of hope, and the un-explainable fact was that she had come to pass on messages meant for me.

Vic and Jack his Canadian friend and pilot were close. I could feel them even as we sat together on the pew. A shaft of sunlight fell across the floor, for moments blocking sight of the door. I knew we weren't alone. Not just because there were other people ... her family, my companion ... waiting beyond. But again came this tsunami of emotion, great waves of love cradled me, urging me to speak their names aloud, to tell their stories, to write as I never had before.

The veil lifted. We had shared all there was to say. Our meeting was not about words, but something more ... something beyond words which even now I struggle to explain. But I know the way it was, and it reassured me.

I gave her a copy of the book Nina, my mother, and I had written together: 'Nina & Vic - A World War II Love Story' ... the book Vic had promised he would write once war was done. It was his passion to become an author. To tell the stories as I am doing now, of people he had known and who also had been a part of RAF 100 Group so that they be remembered in the wider world. I also gave her a copy of the weighty tome: 'RAF 100 Group - Kindred Spirits' which brings voices of different Squadrons under the Group together under the one cover, just as they had served under the umbrella of RAF 100 Group, Bomber Command, during the war. Then, walking away, down the path between grave stones, each a marker in Time of a life that had been lived with a story all its own; I became aware I was shaking, crying inside and out, filled with emotions beyond words, knowing my own journey was not yet done.

As we sat quiet in a corner of the local Inn, sharing experiences of what had happened, again I wondered whether Vic and Jack had sat here during precious moments away from duty. Did he come here, to this local haunt, perhaps with paper and pen in hand to write to his precious Nina, my mother? Or did he save moments he shared with her for times when he was alone? And on 26 November 1944, did he enter the church to say a prayer for God to keep him safe on that night's special operation, not knowing then it would be his last ... and that over seventy years on, the secret of where they went, what they were doing, why they were killed would remain unknown?

I can think now only of a young man, old before his time, just twenty-one years; wanting to reserve that most precious of days when ultimately he and his sweetheart would say their wedding vows, united before God, to spend the rest of their days together.

The future was theirs.

War snatched it away in a heartbeat.

One thing I do know for certain. That final word on his lips had to be: 'Nina ...' He loved her so much!

Foulsham Church gravestones, courtesy: Stuart Borlase, May 2016,

Graves, like markers,
map lives snuffed out before their time.

Set out in random Regiments
Standing on parade,
A permanent reminder
Of a country saved.

Next to each a stranger
With a story all his own
Buried deep within a field
A long long way from Home.

In the air around them
I feel their Spirit near
Remember how and where we died
and why we’re lying here.

Please do not forget us,
We didn’t die in vain.
Let our Life and Death have meaning;
One day we’ll meet again.’

Men who died in battle,
Brave boys who went to war,
Each and every one a Hero
Left … on a foreign shore.

Copyright: Janine Harrington

Tuesday 17 May 2016


Copyright: Janine Harrington

I am on a journey, taking the road less travelled.

It began as I left to attend the RAF 100 Group Association Reunion. It is the one weekend in the year when veterans of this secret wartime Group gather with family and friends in Norfolk, surrounded by airfields on which they served now achingly abandoned, empty, as if still holding their breath seventy years on for those who did not return.

We remember them. We speak their names aloud. Veterans become nineteen and twenty years old again as they recall some happening of which only they are aware. They laugh among themselves, following an operation through, their arms going through the motions, their bodies moving and swaying in time to the beat of a Merlin engine, taking their positions as they once did, back in the aircraft, soaring like birds through the skies. Then misty-eyed, they stop to stare off into a bygone age, recalling faces which remain forever young. It is an absolute joy and privilege to be among these people, to be accepted by them as one of their own, joining in the chatter, learning from them, catching glimpses of the young boys they were who grew up before their time to become men, experienced beyond their years.

This year, I stayed on to give a talk in Norwich at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library. Stuart Borlase travelled all the way from Western Australia to share the Reunion weekend and accompanied me to film the event. He is working on a Documentary Film which complements my book: RAF 100 Group - Kindred Spirits, published by Austin Macauley, December 2015; using a different medium to portray veterans sharing wartime experiences, interspersed with past and present photographs of Norfolk and its airfields now turned back into fields of rape seed and corn, stretching like a patchwork quilt across the county, hiding forever the secrets of a war they brought to an early conclusion, and yet today remain 'forgotten heroes' with no recognition, no reward in the form of a medal to call their own, despite the dangerous work they undertook ... identifying and jamming enemy Radar deep in the heart of Germany, working alongside the Resistance, SOE, SOD, and Bletchley Park and so much more. Many of their secrets remain under a 100 Year Rule and will not be known in their lifetime.

Stan Forsyth, 192 Sqdn who received the DFC for identifying The Tirpitz
with fellow veteran John 'Paddy' Gilpin, 214 Squadron
Courtesy: Stuart Borlase

It was an honour to talk and share their stories and those of Americans who served with them on operations, enlightening people who knew nothing about them. Familiar images of my mother Nina as a WAAF, her wartime fiance Navigator/Special Operator Flt/Lt Vic Vinnell and Canadian Pilot Flt/Lt Jack Fisher who flew Mosquito DK292 ... believed to have landed on a mined beach on the coast of France ... flashed up on a large screen as if sharing these moments with me. I steered the Talk around the pictures, living Vic and Jack's last fateful journey, answering questions, plugging the emotion as best I could. And yet, those times when it leaked out it added something poignant and passionate which otherwise would have been missing. I felt the empathy, compassion and support of the audience as I drew them into past times.

Vic Vinnell (Mum's fiance), behind me, remains forever young,
Courtesy: Stuart Borlase

It was during the week that followed as Stuart and I stayed on in Norfolk to explore the various pathways leading back into the past that I became more and more aware that something was shifting ... altering ... changing within me. It is only now, back home, that I can begin to put feelings into words enough to make some kind of sense of what was happening to me and the unexpected journey on which I find myself.

There is an old Zen Parable about a boy sitting on the hillside, watching over his father's cattle. One strays from the rest, and the boy goes on foot in search of the one which is lost. He sees the surrounding countryside suddenly from a new perspective. His footsteps take him into new horizons shifting and shaping before him. When he finds the cow, he rides home on its back, and again, it is different, another view of his world he hasn't seen before. I feel like that boy today. For a year and more now my life has been on hold. I have plummeted the depths within, gone to places I thought I had left far behind in my abusive past. Memories have been stark. Nightmares real. Tablets nor Counsellor nor Mental Health Nurse can compensate or eliminate the pain, abandonment, betrayal I have been experiencing. It would be so easy to curl up like a baby in the womb, remain at home, never go out again, become a hermit, safe in the confines, and yet at the same time imprisoned. The boundaries of my world shrunk when Tony left me, not to mention being without transport after he wrote off my car.

Yet here I was, suddenly on a road less travelled.

Robert Frost (1874-1963) in 1920 put into words more eloquently than I ever could:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Perhaps he had a similar experience, who knows. Yet it wasn't I who deliberately chose to divert away from the path I was already on. Somehow, something happened within me, rather than without. And I feel it shifted and changed a part of me deep down inside. It's difficult to explain, but I feel I need to share this moment which stretches into days, a week, and more. It's so much more than just a feeling because it goes deeper to the extent that other people are recognising that something extraordinary has happened and are openly asking and commenting on it to me.

On Mondays I attend a Lunch Club, the only 'home-cooked' hot meal of my week. It is an absolute pleasure to be among people on a table, and while we eat, we talk about everyday things. But this week, they suggested there was a glow around me as I entered. It was as if I had had the same experience as Paul on the road to Emaus ... some kind of life-changing event. But there was nothing to hang this on.  Neighbours have said the same. I guess I've looked ill and grey for so long, and yet they say they've never seen me looking so radiant and well! Even the Counsellor couldn't believe it was the same person she'd seen the week before. I was different 'inside out'. After the session, I actually went to a cafe overlooking the sea halfway down the cliff, sat in the sunshine soaking up its rays, musing on this strange phenomenon.

And I never go for coffee on my own ... never mind actually settle for lunch!!!!!

It is as if I have an 'altered state'. I believe it is about having had the opportunity to see beyond the hill which has for so long been blocking my horizons, giving me in turn the ability to create new dreams, to see the world through new and clearer eyes ... eyes wide open ... with the freedom to know somehow I am accepted just the way I am. I don't have to try to fit into anyone else's mould and become their jelly!! I'm good enough 'just the way I am'

It's a major leap forward for Womankind!

There was the Reunion, and yes, the Talk which followed which brought unexpected positive feedback. They wished there had been time to talk for longer, to understand RAF 100 Group's activities, to hear more stories. But then, I've written a definitive book which contains so many voices of veterans, like echoes from past times, sharing often for the first and only time. Then again, maybe it was the company, driving down an open road, the colour of the fields, the birdsong, just being away from what had become a 'step-by-step existence' as I enjoyed the views, the countryside, a different way of life, eating out, the wide open spaces ... and simply TO BE!

No one thing happened to bring about this very positive change. It came more from within. As if something shifted deep within me, altering my perception, my view of the world and the life I have lived. Like the boy returning to the hillside with his father's lost cow, I return home, yet I'm no longer in the same place at all. I feel so different, so filled with life ... so much so that I have to say all things are possible. Any experience on offer, including a ride in a small aircraft which may be feasible, will be welcomed with open arms. Nothing is out of reach. Yet previously I would have been the tortoise withdrawing rapidly back inside his shell. I used to read Jonathan Livingstone Seagull and other books written by Richard Bach ... now I feel like that seagull in the making, reaching for far horizons which before I didn't even realise were there.

Using a different analogy, it feels like a flower lying dormant beneath the ground in eternal hibernation, accustomed to that way, when suddenly, the rays of the sun reach in through the shadows, awakening something vital and extraordinary. The plant is now finding new life, new ways of growing, of living ... budding, blooming, beginning to blossom in a way like never before in a variety of colours so rich and fragranced it defies belief.

Yes, as a Wordsmith I could go on and on. The world is filled with a plethora of analogies which fit this scenario. Perhaps someone out there knows the experience. Perhaps they can explain it in other ways. But right now, I'm just enjoying the ride, wondering where it might take me, willing to follow the road less travelled, opening my mind to possibilities yet to be discovered. Already it is proving to be a most remarkable journey.

It truly is as if I am on a different path, a road leading me I know not where. I am different in myself in ways I can't even begin to describe. All I know is that it is a very positive place to be right now and I'm loathe for it to end any time soon. I don't know quite where this journey is taking me, but wherever it is, it is a journey meant to be ... and at this particular time.

Bring it on ...

Copyright: Janine Harrington