By writer Steve Darlow
Often, at book signings, I meet descendants of those who served during the Second World War. The vast majority will say that their dad or mum, grandad, nan, aunt, or uncle, never spoke about their wartime days. ‘And’, they will say, ‘I wished I had sat down and asked them.’ I have questioned veterans as to why they rarely spoke about what they did when the free world was in peril. ‘We were just doing our job. After the war we moved on, got a job, started a family.’
Every one of that generation does, however, have a story to tell. Their Finest Hour is based upon the wealth of first hand accounts I have read, heard, recorded and discovered, in my capacity as an author and publisher focusing on Second World War aviation. I have sat with some incredible, but humble, veterans listening to their stories of the dark days in which they fought Nazism. Yet they still held on to the prospect of brighter days and hope, through love and solidarity. Many were in their late teens or early twenties. Indeed many of our actors for the South Hill Park production are of a similar age, and this is where I extend my thanks to them, and the remarkable creative team, for lifting the wartime generation’s words off the page, bringing their stories back to life.
Their Finest Hour is a human story of courage, bravery, ambition, romance, and friendship, but contrasted with terrible loss and grief. Anyone watching a performance should be prepared for a rollercoaster of emotions. I was regularly laughing and crying in rehearsals for the South Hill Park production and I knew what was coming.