Leonie’s school project comes to life by discovery of memoirs

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A school project has helped to unveil a hidden historical treasure.

When Janet Shipperbottom’s granddaughter came to her for help with a school history project, she never expected to find her father-in-law’s memoirs hidden away.

School project: Percy Shipperbottom. Below: Leonie Todd and Janet Shipperbottom

School project: Percy Shipperbottom. Below: Leonie Todd and Janet Shipperbottom

Granddaughter Leonie - who attends Whittle-le-Woods Church of England Primary School - was told to bring in historical articles from the Second World War as part of a Year 5 project, and asked her grandmother for help.

Janet, who lives at Delf Farm, Wheelton, dug out some newspapers that her late husband Colin Peter used to collect from the period.

Among the newspapers, she found the immaculately typed-out memoirs of Colin’s father Percy Shipperbottom, who had served in the RAF Air Sea Rescue during World War II, picking up pilots who had been forced to eject out of their aircraft.

Later on he was posted to the Far East, and was awarded the Burma Star for his service fighting against the Japanese along with five other medals.

Originally from Bolton, Percy wrote about the most memorable pick-ups that he and the squad conducted - with a healthy dash of wry Lancashire humour thrown in.

Talking about the amazing discovery, Janet said: “I had no idea it was there at all!

“Before Percy died a few years ago, I would lend him my typewriter and occasionally I found him tapping away on it, but I never knew he was writing his story.

“It’s fascinating to read because much of what is written about the Second World War surrounds the dramatic campaigns and the various POW and concentration camps, but not about the other hardships and horrors that many of the soldiers faced.

“Even basic things we take for granted were much harder, like not being able to contact your loved ones - when Percy returned home after the war, he had been away for four years and his mother had moved house, without contacting him to tell him where she’d gone.”

Janet decided to get the book published, and her daughter Kirsten Todd - a graphic designer based in Chorley - designed the front cover and did the illustrations throughout.

“It was a real family affair,” Janet said.

“Leonie was thrilled to bits as well, and it’s really brought the history of the war to life for her.”

The book is available to buy from Sweetens of Bolton, on Deansgate, Bolton, and also online from Woodfield Publishing and WHSmith, and Janet plans to make a donation to her granddaughter’s school’s roof fund from all of the book sales.