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National service inspires ex-reporter's novel

A retired local press journalist has written a true-to-life novel based on military conscription in the period following World War II.

Peter Saunders, who worked for the Liverpool Daily Post and lives in the Wirral, penned ‘The Unknown Conscript’ about National Service recruits in Cyprus during the unrest of the 1950s.

Although fiction, it aims to be a realistic depiction of the conditions faced by British troops during the period.

The book highlights the sacrifices of a forgotten generation of young British men who were called up to serve in the armed forces during the only period in British history when there was universal conscription in peacetime.

While many of conscripts endured an uneventful two years in the services, some, such as the book’s characters, found themselves involved in ugly conflicts in faraway trouble-spots in the fringes of the British Empire.

Peter, aged 76, was inspired to start writing the book after realising it was 50 years since he had been demobbed from the RAF after completing National Service.

He told the Wirral Globe: “I felt the time was ripe for a re-assessment of the impact of National Service on that generation.

“More than 100,000 National Servicemen did their basic training at RAF West Kirby, which closed in 1959. But until veterans placed a memorial outside the former entrance to the camp, I doubt whether many West Wirral people under the age of 50 would have been able to tell you exactly where it was located.

“The majority of National Servicemen served in the army, and that is why I have set my novel in an infantry battalion which is eventually sent out to face bombs, bullets and street riots in the Mediterranean.”

  • The Unknown Conscript is published by Woodfield Publishing and is available at