Stability of the Western Balkans. The mission in Afghanistan 2 and 3 April. Moldova 's future in NATO. Host[ edit ] Romania competed for the organization of this summit with Portugalwhich initially was scheduled to host the summit inbut eventually conceded in favor of Latviawhich held the Riga Summit.
In my case, this was something of a huge revelation and it happened a few months after publishing my recent novel, A Saint For The Summer.
A cove in north Mani with Kalamata city to the left The new novel follows the story of Scottish journalist Bronte McKnight, who goes to Greece to help her expat father Angus solve a mystery from the war, when his father Kieran, serving in Greece with the Royal Army Service Corps, went missing in the Battle of Kalamata.
The novel follows the exciting but difficult path Angus and Bronte must take, with few leads, to find out what became of Kieran during the battle, and if he died in Greece, where he was buried. Readers have asked me what provided the inspiration for the war strand of Bronte, Angus and Kieran.
I became curious about the Battle of Kalamata while living in this southern region, partly because it had a huge impact there, and yet beyond Greece it was almost unknown. I began researching the topic while living there.
The plot idea with Bronte and her missing grandfather pretty much dropped into my head unbidden during my stay in Greece. I did think though of my own father, John McGinn.
He served in WW2 in the RAF Regiment, which was a specialist airfield defence corps and fighting force, formed in He was a handsome young man, full of high spirits, Scottish born, but also with Irish heritage. Family photo John McGinn in north Africa. Family photo Writing Saint had been a fairly intense period in my life, with quite a bit of research to undertake, so after it came out, I took a summer break from writing.
I knew so little. As he died a long while ago, sadly, and was estranged from much of his family when we moved from Scotland to Australia in the s, I had no way of finding out any more. Or so I thought.
I promised myself I would sift through it properly once I took a break from travelling and writing books. It was now time to get started. It also contained his squadron number. I was thrilled with this. With this information, I went online to see if I could find out anything about the exploits of this squadron.
Fortunately, there is now a lot more war information online than in previous years and the amount of material uploaded eyewitness accounts, journals from the two world wars grows all the time.
It was online that I had a breakthrough. The reason for this inclusion in the plot was because in Greece I had come across several expats researching the Battle of Kalamata and lost relatives, who had done something similar, and it had impressed me.
So, in effect, I was, without really meaning to, following my own fictional plot. I recognised my father straight away in one of the pictures of the squadron in a ravine near Cassino, bombarding enemy positions above. He was manning a mortar gun, looking impossibly young. Firm proof of where he had been during the Italian campaign.
More of that later. The squadron had initially been deployed to north Africa and after the surrender there of the Axis powers inthe squadron were sent into the Italian Campaign against the occupying German forces. They went first to Naples and Rimini, and in the spring of to the front line, not far from Monte Cassino.
Indians, New Zealanders, Poles. The battles here were comparable to some of the worst scenes of WW1, with 55, allied casualties. One of the other aircraftmen in the squadron, who would have fought alongside my father, Corporal Alf Blackett, later wrote of his wartime experiences in Cassino and the relentless fighting.
Near to the front, the officer told them to smoke their last cigarette. Although the allied forces were finally victorious in driving the Germans away from the Gustav Line in this decisive battle for Italy, I did begin to understand at least why my father had never had the stomach to talk about Monte Cassino.
The squadron defended the Hassani airfield, south-east Athens, and were also tasked with supporting British ground forces in central Athens against communist attacks. By the spring of the following year he had been redeployed to Yugoslavia. The fact my father had been to Greece at all was a huge revelation to me.Photo by John Karakatsanis.
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