At this year's FESTILITT literary festival in Parisot (Tarn-et-Garonne) the award-winning writer Keggie Carew was interviewed on stage about her award-winning book Dadland in which she revealed her enigmatic father’s past.
The late Lt Col Tom Carew DSO, CdeG had been parachuted into occupied France as the leader of the SOE Jedburgh team code-named 'Basil' to operate south of Besançon, near the Swiss frontier. The 'Jeds' were three-man special forces teams - usually, but not always, consisting of one British member, one French officer and one American - who arrived in uniform by parachute between June and September 1944 to help supply and train the larger French resistance groups known as the Maquis.
Once it was 'job done' in France, and having been mentioned in despatches and awarded the Croix de Guerre, Major Carew then joined SOE's Force 136 in the Far East. He was promoted, and his role there became so significant that he'd later be nicknamed "Lawrence of Burma" ... read more in this Guardian feature.
Keggie was interviewed by the literary agent Andrew Lownie - now a patron of this unique Franco-British festival - and she also read excerpts from Dadland and answered questions from the audience. Her book is certainly not just about WW2 military history, because while accessing previously classified files about her father's clandestine WW2 missions Keggie was also peeling back the sometimes disturbing layers of her family's history. She also describes having to learn 'on the hoof' about caring for the subject of her book, as her father's dementia worsened.
During this very moving session Keggie Carew shared elements of all these aspects of her highly emotional journey while researching and writing what would become such a well-deserved winner of the 2016 Costa Biography award.
The audience was then treated to a surprise bonus when Charity co-founder Martyn Cox - who just happens to live locally - showed a short film he'd made as a special 'one off' for this year's Festilitt, featuring excerpts from an interview he'd filmed with Tom Carew's wartime wireless operator Sgt John Sharp.
John had also served in occupied France but as the wireless operator for another Jedburgh special forces team which operated near Dijon. The Festilitt audience was impressed and delighted by John Sharp's robustly colourful on-screen anecdotes about his SOE recruitment and training before being parachuted into France with his somewhat eccentric senior officer, Col James Hutchison for Jedburgh team Isaac's missions.
Sgt John Sharp was mentioned in despatches before being deployed to the Far East as wireless operator for Keggie's father - the even more unconventional SOE officer, Tom Carew
By the end of WW2 John Sharp was only 22, and yet had been awarded the Military Medal. He's one of only three surviving British veterans of the approximately three hundred Jedburgh team members.