HENRY BUCKTON

Henry Buckton is a best-selling social historian, although he has also written documentary films, children’s stories, songs and compiled charity fund-raising books. Henry studied at the Somerset College of Arts and trained as a graphic designer.

 

His literary career really began in 1985 when his first story The Chilton Bell was broadcast on BBC Radio Bristol, following an interview with him about a Royal Garden Party in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen, marking the Diamond Jubilee of the Royal Observer Corps to which he had been invited, having served in the Corps through much of the 1980s. Since then, he has written many childrens’ stories for broadcast on BBC Radio Bristol, including titles like The Magic Milk Bottle, and The Egg Man. He also published a book of childrens’ stories in 1987, called Somerset Sam, featuring stories which had been specially written for Radio Bristol’s Kid’s Corner.

His first hardback history book Forewarned is Forearmed - an official history of the Royal Observer Corps was published by Ashford Buchan and Enright in 1993, when the Corps was Stood Down after 66 years of continuous service.

His next book, The Golden Book of Remembrance, was published in 1995, in association with the Royal British Legion, to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. In this book he asked well-known public figures to recall their memories from the time, or, if like himself they were born after the war, to give their thoughts on the future of the way we remember our war dead. With a foreword by Hammond Innes, The Golden Book of Remembrance also included entries from people like HRH The Duke of Kent; Barbara Cartland; Yehudi Menuhin; John Gielgud; Catherine Cookson; Vera Lynn; Harry Secombe; Alec Guinness; David Dimbleby; Tom Stoppard; and HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands.

By Royal Command, published by Peter Owen Ltd in 1997, is a series of accounts written by, or interviews with people who have worked closely with Her Majesty The Queen, such as Sir Hardy Amies (dressmaker), Andrew Grima (jeweller), and Royal Photographer, Patrick (the Earl of) Lichfield. With a foreword by Dame Barbara Cartland, it also examined some of the unusual jobs surrounding the Royal Household. An innocent comment made in the book by Patrick Lichfield concerning Diana, the Princess of Wales, led to a front-page headline in The Daily Telegraph on May 29th 1997, which read “She’s no portrait, she’s a snap, says Patrick Lichfield.”

Two more history books followed, Birth of The Few, in 1998, published by Airlife; and Artists and Authors at War, in 1999 published by Leo Cooper/Pen & Sword Books. The first of these tells the in-depth story of the first German air-raid on mainland Britain during the Second World War. In the second, he reveals the wartime experiences of many post-war artistic figures, such as Eric Taylor, who was among the first Allied troops to enter Belsen Concentration Camp. Eric Taylor’s paintings from Belsen, now in the Imperial War Museum, are one of the saddest records of human suffering ever made. Another artist studied in the book is Robert Strand, who was posted to the notorious Changi Prison in Singapore, where he made unique studies of the Japanese war criminals waiting trial or punishment.

Between 2000 and 2003, Henry published a series of books under contract to the BBC Children In Need Appeal: Celebrity Snapshots 2000, Celebrity Childhood Memories 2001, Celebrity Child’s Play 2002, and Celebrity School Days 2003. In these books well-known people recalled their childhood memories in aid of disadvantaged children. They included Jeremy Irons, Judi Dench, Nigel Havers, Cliff Richard, Michael Parkinson, Jilly Cooper, Emma Bunton, Alex Ferguson, Julian Lloyd Webber, Annie Lennox, Bruce Forsyth, Zoe Wanamaker, Gary Lineker, Max Bygraves, Bill Oddie, Griff Rhys Jones, Acker Bilk, and Michael Winner.

Several items connected with these books, such as original signed stories, took part in auctions for Children In Need, that were held by radio stations around the country. For instance, in 2001, two of the original signed stories were auctioned together at midnight, as the last item in the BBC Radio Guernsey Auction, and raised a staggering £1,300.00. In 2002, Henry introduced the Children In Need Appeal auctions on both BBC Radio Suffolk - with a copy of a book signed by Warren Mitchell - and BBC Oxford - with copies signed by various contributors. And highlights for 2003 included a major feature in The Sun, and a special thanks during the BBC’s annual television event in aid of Children In Need, on Friday 21st November, hosted by Terry Wogan.

2003 also saw the publication of Henry’s next hard-back history book Politicians at War, in which he studied the wartime military service of post-war Members of Parliament: a time when people, who would later represent a wide cross-section of political ideologies, all fought on the same side, and for a common cause. Those studied included former Prime Ministers James Callaghan, who served in the Royal Navy, and Edward Heath, who fought across Europe with the Royal Artillery.

Henry’s first major social history book, Yesterday’s Country Village, was published by David & Charles in October 2005. It is a nostalgic look at rural village life from 1900-1960, and examines every aspect of how life used to be: how people cooked, cleaned and fetched water; the jobs they did; the sports and clubs they took part in; their institutions; transport; customs and festivals. In February 2006, Yesterday’s Country Village hit the No 1 spot on the WH Smith British & Irish History Best Sellers list: Henry was also their featured author.

Friendly Invasion – Memories of Operation Bolero, was published in September 2006 by Phillimore. The book was an examination of the different types of relationships that were forged during World War II between American service personnel stationed in England and the local populace. These relationships ranged from people who worked for the Americans, to those who married them. It also studied the more controversial aspects of this period of social history, such as GI babies, racism, and crime and punishment. At Christmas 2006, Friendly Invasion entered the WH Smith Best Sellers list in the World History category, and remained there until June.

In 2007, Henry entered the world of film-making, when the production company 1st Take from Bristol, made a commercial DVD based on the book Friendly Invasion. Similar to the book it examined the many different relationships that were forged between GIs and the British public during World War II. The film, which Henry both wrote and presented, was directed by David Rogers, and shot in locations ranging from Cheltenham to Bournemouth, and Bury St Edmunds to Cambridge.

2008 saw the publication of both, The Lost Villages, and Salisbury Plain: Home of Britain’s Military Training. In the first of these, published by I.B. Tauris (Macmillan), Henry visits communities that for many different reasons disappeared during the twentieth century, such as Hallsands in south Devon, swept away in a violent storm, and Imber, requisitioned in 1943 to help safeguard the nation but never given back. The second book, published by Phillimore, studies the military involvement with Salisbury Plain since the land was first purchased by the War Office at the end of the nineteenth century.

In 2008 Henry also wrote and presented his second film for 1st Take. This time it was an adaptation of his book Yesterday’s Country Village, and as well as capturing the essence of the book, it benefited from wonderful location film, much of it from a trip to the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in Sussex, magnificent paintings by Somerset artist Syd Durston, and evocative music by one of Britain’s best-loved folk bands, The Yetties.

2009 was an appropriate date for Henry’s next book The Children’s Front, as it marked the 70th anniversary since the start of the Second World War. The book examined the impact of the war on British children. Once again it soon became a best seller, ranking in the charts of both WH Smith and Waterstones.

In 2009 Henry also wrote and presented a DVD for 1st Take based on his book The Lost Villages. In the film he visited most of the communities that were studied in the book but also rounded it up by visiting the village of Sipson, at that time under threat from the expansion of Heathrow airport.

In 2010, to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Henry interviewed a number of veterans about their experiences in a book entitled Voices from The Battle of Britain, published by David and Charles, which he also made into a DVD with the same title. Henry also helped to write the BBC1 programme Battle of Britain: The South Coast Trail, and the BBC Inside Out South programme The Battle of Britain uncovered.

Yesterday’s Country Customs, published by the History Press in 2012 is an examination of surviving rural traditions, such as cheese rolling, tree decorating, well dressing, rush bearing and hobby horses, to name but a few. 

Since 2012 Henry has written a series of books for the publisher Amberley which examine what happened in English counties during the Second World War. The series covers Somerset at War (2012); Devon at War (2012); Hampshire at War (2013); Wiltshire at War (2013) and Sussex at War (2014). Each of these books has also been adapted into a 1st-Take DVD.

In 2014 he was commissioned to write An Illustrated Introduction to the Second World War, one in a series of historical introductions for a new range from Amberley Publishing. His second title in the series published in 2015 was An Illustrated Introduction to the Battle of Britain.

In 2014 Henry also wrote and presented the first DVD in a trilogy on Discovering Somerset for 1st Take in which he takes a tour around the county visiting places of historical and cultural interest. In Volume One he studied North Somerset, Volume Two (2015) Central and South Somerset, and Volume Three (2016) West Somerset. Highlights across the three films included trips to the Bishop’s Palace in Wells; the East Somerset Railway; the Royal Bath and West showground; Wincanton Racecourse; Yeovil Town Football Club; Perry’s Cider Mill; the Leach Pottery at Muchelney; Butcombe Brewery; Somerset Cricket Club Museum; and the Exmoor Pony Centre.

In 2015 Henry also brought out the first of two DVDs on Discovering Wiltshire. Volume One takes a tour of South Wiltshire and Volume Two (2016) North Wiltshire. Special features included a visit to Salisbury museum where director Adrian Green showed many antiquities from the area, including the museum’s collection from Stonehenge. At Great Wishford we see how the village keeps alive the old tradition of Oak Apple Day. Other locations included the Warminster Maltings; Stonehenge Ales at Netheravon; The Boscombe Down Aviation Collection; Crofton Beam Engines; The Kennet and Avon Canal Centre in Devizes; and the Swindon and Cricklade Railway at Blunsdon. We also meet The Great Bustard Group who are trying to reintroduce this magnificent bird which became extinct here in the nineteenth century back onto Salisbury Plain.

In 2017 Henry’s next book was Retreat: Dunkirk and the Evacuation of Western Europe, which was commissioned by Amberley Publishing to coincide with the release of Christopher Nolan’s motion picture Dunkirk, starring Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy and Harry Styles.

Also in 2017 Henry released the first in a four part series on Discovering Devon. So far Volume One looks at East Devon; Volume Two (2018) South Devon; and Volume Three (2019) West Devon. Volume Four which will look at North Devon and was due out in 2020, has been delayed because of the Covid 19 Pandemic. Highlights so far include interviews at Bickleigh Mill; Axminster Heritage Centre to learn about carpet manufacturing; Honiton museum to hear about lace-making; Seaton Tramway; Buckfast Abbey; Sidmouth Observatory; Oddicombe Funicular Cliff Railway; Home Park, the ground of Plymouth Argyle Football Club; the Miniature Pony Centre on Dartmoor; and the beautiful fishing village of Clovelly.

Henry was Public Relations Officer for The West Country Writers’ Association from 2003–2007 and Vice Chairman from 2006-2007. During this time he personally recruited many top authors into the Association’s ranks, including Julian Fellowes, Fay Weldon, and Adam Hart Davis. He has also chaired talks by several top authors, most notably Bernard Cornwell and Richard Adams. 

Henry’s other interests include song writing and some of his music can be found on his YouTube Channel. Much of his music is inspired by his surroundings in Somerset and the west country. His songs include Somerset’s a Land of Sun which was used as the theme for his Discovering Somerset film trilogy. Henry also wrote a jingle/song for Glastonbury FM his local radio station on which he gives occasional talks about aspects of local history.

Full list of book titles:

 

Somerset Sam                                                                           

Forewarned is Forearmed                                               

The Golden Book of Remembrance                               

By Royal Command                                                         

Birth of The Few                                                               

Artists and Authors at War                                              

Celebrity Snapshots                                                             

Celebrity Childhood Memories                                     

Celebrity Child’s Play                                                       

Politicians at War                                                                

Celebrity School Days                                                         

Yesterday’s Country Village                                            

Friendly Invasion                                                                 

The Lost Villages                                                                   

Salisbury Plain                                                                      

The Children’s Front                                                          

Voices from The Battle of Britain                                  

Somerset at War Through Time                                      

Yesterday’s Country Customs                                            

Devon at War Through Time                                            

Hampshire at War Through Time                                

Wiltshire at War Through Time                                    

Sussex at War Through Time                                          

An Illustrated Introduction to the Second World War        

An Illustrated Introduction to the Battle of Britain            

Retreat: Dunkirk and the evacuation of western Europe   

 

Full list of film Scripts:

 

Friendly Invasion                              

Yesterday’s Country Village                        

Lost Villages                                      

Voices from The Battle of Britain    

Wiltshire at War                                

Somerset at War                                 

Devon at War                                                 

Hampshire at War                              

Discovering Somerset Vol I               

Discovering Somerset Vol II             

Discovering Wiltshire Vol I              

Discovering Somerset Vol III            

Discovering Wiltshire Vol II                         

Discovering Devon Vol I                   

Discovering Devon Vol II                 

Discovering Devon Vol III                

 

1986    Character Publications

1993    Ashford, Buchan & Enright

1995    Ashford, Buchan & Enright

1997    Peter Owen Publishers

1998    Airlife

1999    Pen & Sword Books/Leo Cooper

2000    Henry Buckton

2001    Henry Buckton

2002    Henry Buckton

2003    Pen & Sword Books/Leo Cooper

2003    Henry Buckton

2005    David and Charles

2006    Phillimore & Co. Ltd. (The History Press)

2008    I.B. Tauris (MacMillan)

2008    Phillimore & Co. Ltd. (The History Press)

2009    Phillimore & Co. Ltd. (The History Press)

2010    David and Charles

2012    Amberley Publishing

2012    The History Press

2012    Amberley Publishing

2013    Amberley Publishing

2013    Amberley Publishing

2014    Amberley Publishing

2014    Amberley Publishing

2015    Amberley Publishing

2017    Amberley Publishing

 

 

2007    1st Take Production

2008    1st Take Production

2009    1st Take Production

2010    1st Take production

2010    1st Take Production

2011    1st Take Production

2012    1st Take Production

2013    1st Take Production

2014    1st Take Production

2015    1st Take Production

2015    1st Take Production

2016    1st Take Production

2016    1st Take Production

2017    1st Take Production

2018    1st Take Production

2019    1st Take Production

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