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Wells’ war hero plays central role in local author’s debut novel

PUBLISHED: 18:00 18 July 2017 | UPDATED: 10:14 19 July 2017

The character Andrew Francis is based on Adrian Laws. Picture: Melvyn Fickling

The character Andrew Francis is based on Adrian Laws. Picture: Melvyn Fickling

Melvyn Fickling

The RAF victory in The Battle for Britain is a tale well known across every generation.

Melvyn Fickling, of Wells, has just released his debut novel, Bluebirds. Picture: Janice Alamanou Melvyn Fickling, of Wells, has just released his debut novel, Bluebirds. Picture: Janice Alamanou

However, in his debut novel, entitled Bluebirds, Wells-next-the-Sea author Melvyn Fickling brought the story home to North Norfolk, as he sought inspiration from a hero buried in the town’s graveyard.

Mr Fickling, 55, said: “My main character is called Andrew Francis and he is based on Pilot Officer Adrian Francis Laws, born in Dereham and brought up in Wells-next-the-Sea where his parents ran a shop on Staithe Street. Laws joined the RAF in 1931.”

The fictional Bluebird Squadron in the novel is also based on a Norfolk group.

Mr Fickling added: “Bluebird Squadron is based on 64 Squadron, who were formed in Norfolk in 1916, were stationed in Egypt during the Abyssinian Crisis in 1935 and flew Spitfires from Kenley during The Battle of Britain through the summer of 1940.”

The cover of Mr Fickling's book. Picture: Melvyn Fickling The cover of Mr Fickling's book. Picture: Melvyn Fickling

Mr Fickling said: “I wanted to chip away the sugar-coating that is so often applied to historical fiction of this period. Their reality was coloured by the expectation of defeat and death as much as it was by the will to fight and survive. I think Bluebirds strikes a new balance.”

Inspiration for characters also came from further afield, Mr Fickling continued: “Another pivotal character is called Gerry Donaldson who is based on Arthur Gerald Donahue, born in Minnesota, USA. He illegally volunteered for service after travelling to Canada at the outbreak of the Second World War. 
“As he was already a qualified flying instructor, he found himself in the front-line with 64 Squadron within a matter of weeks.”

Mr Fickling was born in Wells and lived there until the age of 26.

Having been educated at Wells Primary and Fakenham Grammar School he worked on a shrimp-trawler which ended in a rescue by the Wells offshore lifeboat.

After 18 years in London, Mr Fickling is now back in his home town and has spent the last few years working on his World War Two novel.

The author will be running a book signing event at the Lifeboat Inn in Wells on August 4 and 5 from 2pm to 7pm.

Mr Fickling’s website can be found at www.melvynfickling.com

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