13 years ago I answered a call to lay wreaths on a small group of wartime graves at one of the more inaccessible locations covered by this Roll of Honour. The headstones of the casualties concerned revealed that they had lost their lives after the fighting had moved on, although it was soon apparent that no one seemed to know why – their stories had simply been lost over the intervening years, initial research revealing that this was true of the majority of Second World War SAS casualties.
Although no historian, my interest had been piqued and I set about verifying or establishing facts by interviewing as many veterans as I could, every subsequent leave being spent recording material at various archives. Back abroad I sifted hundreds of thousands of photographs that I had taken of official reports. In spite of the scale of the task, conflicting accounts, inaccuracies and the minutiae of war crimes investigations were all meticulously cross-referenced late into the night, early in the mornings, or whenever my off-duty hours allowed.
One lead followed another, the flow of unique material from diaries, photos and letters increasing after tracking down relatives: for every casualty there had been a next of kin and for every next of kin the devastation of an unwanted telegram. The pain was still evident as was the fact that sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, grandchildren, nieces and nephews were also passionate that the story of each casualty, regardless of rank or class, be told as factually and respectfully as possible, not as yet another Boy's Own myth that morphs into history.
The project led me to visit every grave bar two where current instability prevents travel. Such visits also meant I had the honour of meeting next of kin of all backgrounds in locations worldwide, the farthest being in New Zealand. Many years of continuous effort, full of unexpected ups and downs, reversals and leaps forward, have now resulted in this private publication. It is with pride in the subjects of it that I thank you for supporting what I can only hope is a fitting and everlasting tribute to them.
Ex-Lance-corporal X, QGM