Book gives insight into wartime battles

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The vivid memories of a Scarborough war hero have been compiled in a book he penned recalling his gruelling experiences in the Second World War.

Alfred Percy Scarth, known as Percy, lived in Hirstead Road, Newby until his death in February 2013 at the age of 96.

He chronicled in great detail his ordeals, which many years later his son Dr Edward Scarth and friends persuaded him to put in writing.

The result is a book, “From Pontefract to Palestine” which has just been published in his memory.

Percy, who became well-known in Scarborough as a lecturer at the former Scarborough Technical College and as a stalwart of the Scarborough Operatic Society’s legendry musical productions at the Open Air Theatre for many summer seasons, was born in Pontefract and worked at the local Co-operative branch before joining the Army in 1939 at the outbreak of war.

Said Dr Scarth: “At his funeral I noticed that everyone was younger than my father, who at 96, was one of the last of his generation. I felt there was a danger that some of his experiences, especially those during the Second World War, would be lost. It was at that moment I decided to publish his memoirs.”

He added: “For many years my father had told stories of his time serving in the Army. However it was during an evening out at a family friends’ home that he was encouraged to write about his experiences.

“From then he would write a few pages each day. Over a few years, more pages accumulated and eventually his memoirs, were completed.”

Mr Scarth dedicated his book to Edward. “I thank him for writing his memoirs for me. It was, and remains, a beautiful gift,” he said.

It is the story of a young man whose poignant experience of war took him on a journey from his native Yorkshire to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force, evacuation from Dunkirk, then to North Africa, the Battle of El Alamein and finally to Palestine.

In his book, Mr Scarth, who served in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, describes how, serving under Field Marshall Mongomery (Monty) one of his tasks was to make land mine destroying equipment, consisting of a 50 gallon oil drum having heavy chains attached. “The idea was that as the drum rotated, driven by a small engine, the chains would last the ground and destroy the mines.”

At Alamein, he recalls how his Brigade suffered heavy losses. “We were lucky to survive” added Mr Scarth.

“Deception was a useful weapon - three ton trucks were equipped with covers made of plaited hessian to resemble tanks. They roamed about in the desert as a tank formation and to enhance the reality one of them housed powerful amplifying equipment, reproducing the loud noise made by tanks when on the move.”

His book “From Pontefact to Palestine” is available from