Local war pilot subject of new book

Andrew
Andrew Wagstaff
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Smith tells the story of Diligent River's Clayton Graham

Clayton Graham, shown here with No. 250 Sudan Squadron, is the subject of Ruth Smith's new book, Somewhere In North Africa, detailing his experiences as a pilot in the Second World War. Smith will take part in a book signing at the Arlene Collins Art Gallery in Diligent River on July 21, from 1-3 p.m.

PARRSBORO - When Ruth Smith began listening to Clayton Graham's stories of his days as a wartime pilot, she had no idea she was about to embark on her own journey.

The Parrsboro woman had long been interested in local history, particularly in preserving it for future generations, and in Graham's case she saw an immediate need.

"Over the past two-and-a-half years as a caregiver to Clayton, I realized the things he experienced, mostly of World War II, needed to be preserved," said Smith. "I compared these stories to a string of pearls, something of priceless value."

As Graham, 93, recalled his memories, Smith took notes. Those notes turned into her first book, Somewhere In North Africa, which chronicles Graham's wartime service, including his survival after being shot down by enemy fire near Churgia, in Libya.

His stories - of a young man from rural Nova Scotia fighting the enemy in a foreign land while missing his home and his loved ones - touched Smith's heart.

"Sometimes we would laugh and, once in awhile, tears appeared as painful memories surfaced," she said, "like the loss of buddies - guys he would have breakfast with who never returned - fellow comrades who left log book pages empty forever more. He describes war now as a ‘terrible thing'."

Smith said she does not consider herself a writer, and has no interest in writing fiction, although she has had fun doing it with her writing group, Assembly of Text.

Somewhere in North Africa is told mainly in Graham's words, according to Smith, who said she was grateful that he put his trust in her to record his story.

He only asked one thing of her.

"He once said that, ‘Many fellows came back from the war telling stories that were not true. Everything I tell you is the truth.' He only asked that I do the same in the re-telling," said Smith.

The 184-page book, which includes many photos from Graham's time overseas, is now available by contacting Smith at 254-2583. The author will also take part in a book signing at the Arlene Collins art gallery in Diligent River on July 21, from 1-3 p.m.

With the huge project now behind her, Smith is now working on her next book, a collection of short stories that will include two of Graham's stories; one of the life of war bride; a story about Smith's grandfather, who was a sea captain; and several intriguing tales of relatives now buried in a Five Islands country churchyard.

Organizations: Assembly of Text

Geographic location: Diligent River, PARRSBORO, North Africa Churgia Libya Nova Scotia

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  • amherstonianforlife
    July 13, 2012 - 06:53

    I think its great that Mr Graham's stories are preserved in print. Many small town residents of our area have amazing wartime stories. So often I think wartime stories are so painful for our veterans that they spend years trying to forget them. Our veterans are the true definition of HERO's and that makes me proud to be Canadian !