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Bruce Barrymore Halpenny (born 1937 in Caistor, Lincolnshire) is an English military historian and author, specialising in airfields and aircraft, as well as ghost stories and mysteries. He is also a broadcaster and games inventor.
Halpenny served in the Royal Air Force Police (RAFP) in specialist units, often overseas, but after being wounded, and instead of coming out of the RAF, he moved across to the RAF Police on Special Security Duties (Atomic & Chemical Weapons), and was part of a special RAF military police unit on Special Duties and in the Nuclear Division, that was responsible for the protection of the nuclear weapons that the V bombers were to use in time of war.
In the 1950s whilst in the Royal Air Force, he was wounded and had to undergo several operations, in which his life was in the balance as dedicated surgeons fought to not only save his hand and arm, but also his life. In rehabilitation, he started writing and research as a hobby, and though he stayed in the RAF and was to serve on Special Duties and in the Nuclear Division, his hobby turned into a profession in later years after leaving the forces.
In the early period of his writing career, he started out by writing love stories and cowboy stories for the American market under pen names. Then, because of his specialist knowledge of the Royal Air Force, he focused on military history, especially RAF history of World War Two, often with deep insights, facts and personal human interest stories. At one time, he was writing articles for up to 14 military journals around the world, when he was approached by the publishers Patrick Stephens to do the Airfield books due to his vast knowledge and authority.
When he researched the British RAF airfield histories, particularly those of London, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, Halpenny found that public records held very little, if any, information at all, so he had to do all the research himself going back to the very beginning. This helped to unearth a rich source of information, which others have since used, but set Bruce Halpenny as an undisputed RAF expert. For his research on the airfields, Halpenny interviewed 1,400 people, researched records and letters, and travelled thousands of miles. Such was Halpenny's dedication to the history of the airfields that he visited each and every airfield, (some of which he had prior knowledge of from his military days), to ensure accuracy.
His books quickly became essential reference books for all aviation historians. Virtually all of the information was new, in the sense that it hadn't appeared in the dozens of books which had been written about the RAF, new too were the many photographs that were just a selection of the thousands he collected and commissioned. Such were his photographs and uniqueness, and the way that he used them, that in the opening chapters of his book Action Stations 2 Wartime Military Airfields of Lincolnshire and the East Midlands, were a selection of control tower photos – this was the first time this had been done in any book.
He has also written various military themed books from such as English Electrical/BAC Lightning to Wartime Poems. The aircraft he has specialised in are the British jets, English Electric Lightning, English Electric Canberra and Avro Vulcan.
Ghosts and mysteries
Halpenny had been writing ghost stories in the 1960s, and encountering ghost stories in his exhaustive research into airfield histories, when in 1984 he decided they should form the subject of a special book, and so started to add to, and research his 'ghost-mystery' files about abandoned airfields that murmur and whisper with ghosts. Bruce Halpenny had by 1984 become acknowledged as not only a respected British military historian, expert in airfield histories, but also the expert in RAF Ghosts, especially surrounding airfields. Ghost Stations was born, and in 1986 the first book was published, and proved a best seller as it recounts how "headless airmen and other spectres have appeared in control towers and other Service buildings throughout the country". Such was demand that a second book entitled, Aaargh! was published with over 30 stories, one of which was The eerie mystery of Lightning 894. Aaargh!, was later to become Ghost Stations 2, as more books later followed over the years, and became the cult series of Ghost Stations books.
Halpenny's unique knowledge and position means he is also known for accessing and finding information generally closed to the general public and media, especially Ministry of Defence (MoD) material concerning UFOs.
Halpenny has always maintained that all airfields are haunted. Over the years, he had uncovered a wealth of material about ghostly experiences on wartime airfields. "The evidence of ghosts keeps popping up and is so rich that it cannot be ignored," he said and he has little doubt why airfields are such a magnet for ghosts, "You have to remember that 55,000 men of Bomber Command died while operating from Britain in World War Two, and almost all of them met a violent end, so it isn't surprising that dozens of earthbound spirits have been left behind."
Charities, causes and animal rights
Halpenny has always been vocal in his campaigns for numerous organisations and causes, especially concerning veterans, war widows, wounded and invalided servicemen & women. He has also helped schools and children's charities such as Mencap, in campaigning and highlighting issues, and even in one case when he donated a vintage bottle of wine to help raise funds. The bottle was unique in that it was the last bottle remaining after the Nazis had plundered the cellars of families living in an Italian Abruzzo village in World War II. The author's uncle was a Canadian tank commander whose tank was the first to liberate the village, and was also the first tank to enter Ortona in the Battle of Ortona. The bottle was given to the author, as he lived in Abruzzo and his research work had taken to that area. Halpenny said on donating the bottle:
Because the bottle is unique, it seemed a waste to just drink it without using it to gain some benefit for others.
He has also long campaigned for the Government to do their part and preserve a 1939-45 War airfield in its original condition; to let future generations see how the RAF operated during those dark days.
If something isn't done to preserve one of them soon, we'll get to the silly situation where one is built from scratch as a memorial to the RAF's effort in the last war.— Bruce Barrymore Halpenny
He has also long been a supporter for animal welfare, especially dogs and wolves, and is the president of the Wolf Preservation Foundation.
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- To Shatter the Sky: Bomber Airfield at War (Hardcover) (ISBN 978-0850596786)
- Military Airfield books The pioneering books of Airfield histories
- Fight for the Sky: Stories of Wartime Fighter Pilots (Paperback) (ISBN 978-0850597493)
- An English Town: Market Rasen (Paperback) (ISBN 978-0954777401)
- Bullets in the Morning...Bullets at Night: The Italian Campaign (Paperback) (ISBN 978-0954777418)
- Ghost Stations
- Wartime Poems (Paperback) (ISBN 978-0907595694)
- English Electric/BAC Lightning
- English Electric Canberra: The History and Development of a Classic Jet
- The Avro Vulcan Adventure (Paperback) (ISBN 978-0-9547774-3-2)
- Framlington Times - Journal of the 390th Bomb Group Memorial Air Museum – ISSUE 21, September, 1989 - page24
- Wartime airfields live again ...' - Nottingham Evening Post - 28 March 1981
- The Avro Vulcan Adventure - ANZIO - 2007 - ISBN 978-0-9547774-3-2
- Fame at last for old Myfanwy - Daily Mirror - Thursday, 12 April 1984
- Author wants to preserve airfield –Yorkshire Evening Press – Saturday, 6 March 1982
- Hamburg Raid 1943 – WAR monthly – September 1981 - pages 14–17
- Reaching for the skies – Lincolnshire Standard – Friday, 21 February 1986
- Bruce sends airfield mayday – The Northern Echo – Friday, 5 March 1982
- Where war wings come home to roost – Evening Post – Wednesday, 6 May 1991
- Recalling airfields in the bomber county – Lincolnshire Echo – Friday, 3 April 1981
- When Gable went to war – in Lincs. – Grimsby Evening Telegraph – Wednesday, 8 April 1981
- Aviation Bookshelf – Action Stations 2 Wartime Military Airfields of Lincolnshire and the East Midlands – Air Pictorial – September 1981
- The aviators' timeless anthem – Peter Tory on Friday – Daily Express – Friday, 18 January 1991
- Ghosts of the old airfields – Daily Mirror – Thursday, 16 August 1984
- Ghosts of War – by Ken Livemore - Titbits – Summer Special 1984, pages 42–43
- BOOKS – Ghostly deeds – Steve Anderson – Hull Daily Mail – Friday, 14 November 1986
- The eerie mystery of Lightning 894 – Grimsby Evening Telegraph – Friday, 9 September 1988
- Cosmic Crashes (hardcover - ISBN 978-0-684-85829-6) by Nicholas Redfern (Simon & Schuster) page 103
- Halpenny, Bruce Barrymore – Ghost Stations
- ANZIO Board Games
- School Action Stations - Lincolnshire Echo - Monday, 8 June 1981
- Regione Abruzzo. Servizio Sviluppo del Turismo - 1943/44: War in Abruzzo - Acknowledgements Archived 22 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- Come la vedo io ... e grazie – La Sveglia - Periodico Indipendente Ortonese – ANNO XI - N. VIII - 2 Ottobre 1971
- Help us to uncork the wine mystery for Mencap fund – Lincolnshire Echo – Wednesday, 19 August 1987