Under a Wartime Sky


Bawdsey Manor with mast

Bawdsey Manor, with radar mast

My latest novel, published as Under a Wartime Sky in UK by Pan Macmillan on 20th February 2020 and as Our Last Letter in US the following day, takes me back to my Suffolk roots to tell the remarkable story of a group of men and women whose top secret work changed the course of history.

In 1936, with war looming, the country’s brightest minds were gathered at Bawdsey Manor, a gothic Victorian mansion on a remote part of the East Anglian coast, tasked by Winston Churchill to develop an invention that would prove vital in winning World War Two. As war was declared, the Manor became the first of dozens of radar stations along the south and east coasts of Britain on the front line as waves of German bombers set their sights on Britain.

I’ve been fascinated by Bawdsey Manor since my very early years. My father was a keen dinghy sailor and we spent many hours watching him from the shingle at Felixstowe Ferry. Across the river the Manor’s fairy-tale towers peeped enticingly above the pines, but it was still firmly out of bounds. Many years later a friend fell in love with the place and bought it, setting up a successful English language school there, so I was at last able to explore its wonderful buildings and gardens. The mansion is remarkable in itself, but its importance in WW2 and its extraordinary military history makes it an irresistible setting for a novel.

The invention of radar is widely credited as being a major factor in winning Second World War, particularly in the Battle of Britain – 80 years ago this coming June – during the Blitz and in subsequent phases. Sadly this work and the dedication of thousands of radar operators – mostly women – is far less widely recognised than the code-breakers of Bletchley Park. Radar later developed into microwave technology which has thousands of applications in everyday life today such as speed cameras and air traffic control, as well as in space.

Over the coming months I shall be speaking more about my research, at various venues. To find out more, visit my Events page