Mr Dilly was joined by the author Tom Palmer who wrote the book Arctic Star in 2021. The book is all about the Arctic Convoys from the Second World War, particularly the Battle of North Cape in December 1943. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the battle, which began on Christmas Day interrupting the sailors’ Christmas Dinner!
Tom explained the history of the convoys, that the Allies were using Naval ships to transport supplies to and from Russia, who were leading the fighting on the Eastern front. He explained that this area of history is not as well known as perhaps the stories of the army or air force, which made him want to write about it.
He spent the whole of the first lockdown in 2020 researching and writing the book, listening to over 100 hours of audio footage from veterans and reading other books written on the topic. Interestingly, some of these books were written by authors from different countries, including Germany. Tom explained that even though they were written by people from ‘opposing sides’, the accounts were consistent showing a great respect for the sailors of the time.
Tom spoke about his writing process and the development of his characters, who are all fictional but based on accounts of real people. He called them ‘composite characters’ as they are made up from different factual accounts. He uses photographs to visualise his characters when he is writing which helps him to develop the characters fully. He explained that, with all fictionalised accounts changes are made by authors or film directors to make the story more dramatic or emotive. Inevitably this corrupts the evidence slightly, so he tries to use primary sources for his own research – in the case of Arctic Star, this was through the testimonies of the veteran sailors. He described meeting the veterans as ‘an honour’ and he felt privileged to be telling their stories.