Apprentice To Airborne

Back to Home

About Dunestone

Contact the Author


Click here to buy this book at Amazon.

Click here to buy the Kindle version


 This paperback is now available at


Beginning at Beachley Technical School near Chepstow, where the Severn River divides England from Wales, these memoirs follow the teen-aged apprentice in training to the soldier and Royal Engineer experiencing the Dunkirk evacuation, and then into action as a paratrooper on D-Day. Various records were transcribed and edited by Peter Dunstan, in particular his father's letters to home, his assorted scrapbook recollections, and a few short digital files that he left behind on a single floppy disk as he strove to master new computer technology in his final years.

Up until his death in 2004, Harry Ivor Dunstan kept his army issued silk map and four pages of hurriedly hand-written notes that he carried with him in Normandy as he detailed the events firsthand. It is from this personal and direct perspective that readers will find themselves drawn into the atmosphere and events of those critical years, when Europe descended into the turmoil of war.

Non- Fiction - History / World War Two

* * * * * * *


Harry Ivor Dunstan was born in 1920 in Camborne, Cornwall, England, which along with the twin town of Redruth was once center of a very prosperous tin-mining industry. The family farmhouse in which Harry grew up was surrounded by old mineshafts, and the farm was called ‘Tolcarne’, literally meaning ‘the hole in the hill’. Harry attended Redruth Grammar School before being sent to the army Technical School at Beachley, Chepstow, from 1935 until 1938. His WW2 service years as described in this book spanned from 1939 to mid 1945.

At the end of the War in Europe, 1st and 6th Airborne paratroops were part of Operation Doomsday, the liberation of Nazi-occupied Norway in 1945, facilitating the enemy surrender and clearing the ground of hazards such as mines. Harry was among the Royal Engineers engaged in this task. The 6th Airborne Division also became involved in tense peacekeeping duties in Israel. The British military directive (from 1945-48) was to prevent bloodshed between Arabs and zealous adherents to the newly emerging Jewish State, to police the area without becoming embroiled in counter-violence. In 1945, Harry was briefly involved in this general mandate, and even personally sent in pursuit of an escaped Arab murderer across the desert near Beersheba. Chasing the fugitive by jeep, he eventually shot the fleeing man in the leg in order to bring him back to Jerusalem, to face his tribe, his Sheik, and justice.

Upon returning to civilian life, Harry studied at the world-renowned Camborne School of Mines, from 1946-49, and qualified as a mining engineer, the only graduate to score 100% in all 12 rigorous subjects. For this he was awarded a short scholarship to study ore production in the gold mines at Timmins, Ontario, in Canada. On his return to England, he applied to the government (as was required after the war for people with skills considered to be of national value) for permission to work with the company of John Taylor & Sons in Kolar Gold Fields, a small township in southern India that was then the country’s main producer of gold. He worked there as supervisor of an underground mine (2 miles deep!) from 1949-1955.

As political change and nationalization of the mines became imminent in India, Harry returned to England. For 2 years he worked with English China Clays, in Cornwall, as an area mine manager, before he was selected in 1957 to be a mines superintendent for Alcan (Aluminum of Canada) in Jamaica. After almost 12 years in the West Indies, he again returned to Cornwall and to ECC in 1968, where he worked in the overseas department, newly created for the exploration of all forms of calcium carbonate similar to kaolin (china clay).

This took him to investigate potential ores in Australia (clay), South Africa (clay), Italy (marble), Brazil (clay), Greece (magnesite), Belgium (chalk) and once again to northern France (chalk), where he came across trenches that he had dug long ago in WW2, and met people in farmhouses that remembered him as a soldier.

He retired from ECC in 1980, in the small Cornish coastal village of Mevagissey. He had many hobbies before and after retirement, and was an accomplished artist in oils, watercolors, and pastels. A craftsman in metallurgy and woodwork, his great love was sailboats. In Jamaica he undertook the construction of two yachts, 30 and 32 feet long, and finally in Cornwall a 38-foot ketch. These he built single-handed, from keel construction to steam bending the ribs, converting bus diesel engines for seawater service, and sewing sails on a vintage foot-treadle Singer machine salvaged from a town dump in Belgium where he was looking for mine ores.

Harry passed away in 2004, after exactly 60 years of marriage to his wife Margie, whom he met and married during WW2. They now both rest in Trewinney Cemetery at the top of School Hill in Mevagissey, Cornwall.

* * * * * * *


Operation Dynamo, Operation Overlord, Operation Tonga, Operation Neptune, Operation Deadstick, RAF Blakehill Farm, Pegasus Bridge, Horsa Bridge, Varaville, Robehomme, Bures, Troarn, Bavent, Breville, Le Mesnil, Ecarde, Caen Canal, River Orne, River Dives, Ranville Cemetery, Boulogne, Calais, Corbie, Lille, Honfleur, Arromanches, Mulberry 'B', Chatham, Aldershot, Perham Down.

6th Airborne Division, 3rd Parachute Brigade, 3rd Parachute Squadron RE, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, 8th Parachute Battalion, 9th Parachute Battalion.

General Richard "Windy" Gale, Brigadier Stanley James "Speedy" Hill, Major John "Rosie" Roseveare, Captain T. R. Juckes, Lieutenant John Shave, Lieutenant Tony Wade, Lieutenant Andrew Lack, Sergeant Sidney Shrubsole, Sergeant Poole, Sergeant Docherty, Corporal H. Rowbotham.