Richard Bath & Tommy Macpherson: A True Hero Tells his Tale (EIBF Review)

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Edinburgh International Book Festival
Richard Bath and Tommy Macpherson, Al Senter (chair)
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With Al Senter as chair, Bath described the astonishing story of Tommy Macpherson's very full life. Billed as the most decorated living soldier of the British Army with three Military Crosses, three Croix de Guerre, a Légion d'Honneur and a papal knighthood for his heroics in the Second World War he is a truly incredible man. Macpherson's life is so packed with incident that it is is amazing for so much to have been achieved by one individual.

He grew up in Edinburgh, but spent some of his early years in India and his memories of his early life plot much of the social history of that time.   He went straight from school at Fettes College into the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, but then became a commando where his fitness and all the walking he did in the Highlands paid off. This was particularly important when he was captured twice, but escaped both times, marching through hundreds of miles of German-held territory to get home.

His other exploits were as a member of the tiny 'Jedburgh' commando team supporting the French resistance in France. The story of how he persuaded 23,000 SS soldiers of the crack Das Reich German tank division to surrender must be read to understand the courage and personality of an extraordinary man.

Later he almost single-handedly managed to stop Tito from annexing the whole of north-east Italy.

After the war, Macpherson went to Oxford to read PPE and naturally got a first class degree; he ran against Roger Bannister - and beat him. He was also in the company of other sporting legends such as Wooderson and Emile Zatopeck.

He even recalls sitting on the knee of Eric Liddell, the great Scottish rugby star and Olympic gold medallist. The book goes on to describe how Macpherson coped with civilian life and - of course - he made a success of that too.

It was a privilege to be in the presence of someone who has led a most extraordinarily wide ranging and varied life.

Event: 17 August, 10:30