Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


HE Bates forgotten propaganda report unearthed

Researchers at The National Archives in Kew putting together a special display of WWII documents for their open day, Operation Archives, have unearthed long forgotten “morale boosting” reports written by Darling Buds of May author, HE Bates.

During the war Bates, who was recruited by the Public Relations branch of the Air Ministry, wrote under the name ‘Flying Officer X’ and filed stirring reports of heroism and action, particularly of front line aircrews. The writing was notably non-military in tone; one extract on display at The National Archives describes the first encounters with the V2 rocket: “the Wellsian dream of robot flying power come true…In appearance it had, from below, the deathly crudity of a black cross: angular, simple, narrow, entirely without aerial beauty…”

The ‘Flying Officer X’ documents on show in Operation Archives on Saturday 18 September are extremely rare in having HE Bates’s name on the title page, accompanied by the words ‘Top secret’ written in pencil across the top.

His wartime reports were subsequently released as a book, How Sleep the Brave, which sold 2 million copies in 1942. Although still in print, there are no sales figures available and it seems that memories of the wartime bestseller have been eclipsed by the success of the Darling Buds of May books.

The original Flying Officer X report will be on display in The National Archives reading room this Saturday. Access is free to the public but tickets are required which can be obtained on the day.

Source-National Archives

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