The purpose of this blog site is to provide updates on the publication of the book that I have been involved in writing since January 2014. The book now entitled 'A Pithead Polar Bear From Brighton to Belsen 1940 to 1946' is an attempt to understand what my late Grandfather, L/Cpl James Kitchener Heath did during the Second World War.

'A Pithead Polar Bear' is the culmination of another internet blog project that I started, entitled 'A Fragmented Military History', the name being an acknowledgement of the limited information that I had to go on and just how much there was to learn. The original site can be accessed from this site and in many ways can be thought of as being complementary to the published book.

James, or Jim, Heath was an ordinary citizen soldier signed up for the duration of the war. His experiences over the six years of the conflict are similar to those of many thousands of infantry men whilst at the same time unique to him.

My sincere hope for this book is that it may in some part inspire like minded people to take up the challenge to explore a similar history for one of their own relatives. My message is that it can be done even seventy plus years after the events described. It is also hugely rewarding.

Somewhere down the line I wrote words to the following effect, 'in my dealings with our veterans it has become clear that it is not our thanks they seek for what they did but our understanding'. That for me is justification enough for such an undertaking as this.

Monday, January 30, 2017

A Pithead Polar Bear - Contact Email Address

In order to address any enquiries about the book I have set up a dedicated email address. Please feel free to direct any questions  that you have to:

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Book Foreword by Kenneth J. West

I am honoured, not to say more than a little chuffed that when I asked Ken West if he would be so kind as to write a few words to serve as a foreword to the book, he agreed without hesitation.

Ken's book 'An' It's Called A Tam O'Shanter' was one of the first relevant books I read about the everyday existence of infantry soldiers in North West Europe in 1944-1945, soldiers just like my Grandfather. Far from being a typical stuffy book full of strategic discussion and dry talk of Army and Corps campaign plans, Ken tells how it was from the perspective of a slit trench! There are tales of Regimental Sergeant Majors head down in latrines and novel uses for a British Army issue Bayonet! At the same time, the evident humour is tempered with moments of reflection and remembrance that were all a part and parcel of the unpredictable life of an infantryman in the field.

Some weeks after reading 'Tan O'Shanter' I joined the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division Association (also known as The Polar Bear Association). My joining closely coincided with the publication of the June 2014 issue of their periodical, 'The Polar Bear News' from which I learned that not only was Ken still with us but he was still gallivanting across Holland with the Association.

To cut a long story short I wrote to Ken, we met and have maintained quite regular contact since. It is Ken, through his willingness to discuss his time with the 11th R.S.F. in Europe in writing and conversation, not to mention his encouraging words concerning the preparation of this book, that has meant that this book will finally make it to publication.

For these reasons having Ken, a veteran of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, who fought in the same towns and villages as my Grandfather, endorse my efforts is really very special for me.

Thanks Ken, you are a nonagenarian mine of information and inspiration!

Adrian and Ken
Leicester October 2014

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Artwork for the book

Well here's my first attempt at putting a cover together for 'A Pithead Polar Bear'. I opted for a collage of original documentation. The following items are featured.

  • Early photograph as a new recruit taken some time in the first half of 1940 when he was with the North Staffordshire Regiment
  • The 'pithead' insignia of the 59th (Staffordshire) Division
  • The 'polar bear' insignia of the 49th (West Riding) Division
  • Jim Heath's sign up papers from January 1940
  • His entry pass into Bergen-Belsen camp from July 1945
  • His certificate of release to the Army Reserve dated 24th December 1945
  • 'The Kings Badge', a silver lapel badge awarded to soldiers disabled during service
  • Medal ribbons (clockwise from top right):
The War Medal
1939-1945 Star
The Defence Medal
The France And Germany Star