D-Day veteran becomes published author at 99
A local veteran of the Normandy landings has become a published author at the age of 99.
Dennis Lanham recently held a book signing for the launch of From 9 to 99 at the St Monica Trust retirement village where he lives.
The signing was attended by members of Dennis’s family, friends, staff and fellow residents at Monica Wills House.
Dennis is one of only two surviving D-Day veterans in Bristol and served with the 79th Armoured Division as a Senior Mechanic during World War II.
As part of the preparation for the allied invasion of occupied Europe, Dennis was responsible for maintaining a squadron of Churchill Tanks fitted with flame throwers.
Known as “Crocodiles” the flame thrower tanks played a vital role in the success of the Battle of Normandy and the subsequent liberation of France.
The Crocodiles were so feared by enemy soldiers that, according to Dennis, a decree was issued that men captured from his division were to be shot on sight.
From Normandy, Dennis’s division fought their way north into Belgium and through Holland, before crossing the Rhine into Germany.
At the end of the war, Dennis was stationed in the divided city of Berlin and became an Instructor at the Rhine Army Training College.
He was demobbed in May 1947 and returned to Bath to marry Peggie, his wife for the next 57 years, until her sad passing in 2004.
A natural story teller
Dennis, who was awarded France’s National Order of the Legion of Honour in 2016, said: “I’ve always enjoyed telling stories and over the years, my friends and family were always encouraging me to write them down.
"My niece helped me produce the manuscript and the book was then published by Project 71, which is a support group that helps World War II veterans on the south coast.”
As well as his war experiences, Dennis also writes about the extreme poverty he experienced during his childhood in Bath and the life-saving treatment he received from the NHS for a heart condition between 2015 and 2020.
Dennis said: “I wrote the book from memory as things came into my head, with no researching. The book isn’t meant to portray my life history, it’s just a series of “happenings” that went on day after day.
“The ending was written to say ‘thanks’ to the NHS and all the doctors and staff of the cardiology units at Bath RUH and the Bristol Royal Infirmary, but the real ending, as they say, is in the lap of the gods.”
And having survived D-Day, World War II, a heart condition and approaching his hundredth year, is Dennis willing to share the secret of his long life?
He laughs: “You’ll have to read the book – it’s all in there.”
Never be forgotten
Dennis moved into St Monica Trust’s Monica Wills House Retirement Village in January 2023.
Retirement Village Manager, Claire Chambers, said: “Everyone’s very excited to have a famous author living here at Monica Wills House and everywhere I go there seems to be someone with their nose in a copy of Dennis’s book.
“It was very moving to read about his experiences during the war and in writing the book, Dennis and organisations like Project 71 are helping ensure that the sacrifices made by his generation will never be forgotten.”
All the proceeds from ‘From 9 to 99’ are donated to the RUHX charity, the Bristol and Western’s Hospital Charity and the Children’s Hospice South West. For details on how to order a copy of Dennis’s book, please email email@example.com.