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PILOT PODCAST: The hidden diary of a WWII veteran

 Published on: 24th October 2023   |   By: Panayiota Demosthenous   |   Category: Uncategorized

The diary of a young RAF pilot from St Albans, found by his family 30 years after he died, has been turned into a 12-part podcast. Blighty Thank God features intriguing stories of gold smuggling, the sudden deaths of colleagues, and secret supply missions.

Flight sergeant Ron Chapman, who attended St Albans School, joined the RAF and was posted to West Africa, the Middle East and Europe during the Second World War. He kept a diary throughout 1943, detailing his experiences as an airman.

He returned home after the war and later died of cancer in 1980 aged 60. Thirty years after Ron’s death, Neil Chapmanspent six years researching the information from his father’s diary and has now produced and hosted the podcast Blighty Thank God.

He describes the podcast as a mix of The Repair Shop meets Who Do You Think You Are?

Neil, a former journalist and student at St Albans School said: “At first read, the diary has a lot of day-to-day stuff and apparent trivia. But when I transcribed the entries I started to find clues about bigger events that my father experienced or was affected by.”

Each episode centres on diary extracts, read by Ron’s grandchildren who never knew him. They set up events that Neil’s research explains and puts into context.

Neil said: “My father was like so many young men in the RAF, reluctantly forced to be thousands of miles away from home.

“Even though he wasn’t on the fighting front line, to my surprise I discovered he was always in danger. Death – from accidents and horrible diseases – lurked like a ghost throughout the diary. Many he knew or worked alongside were killed in horrible circumstances.”

The name Blighty Thank God comes from the term ‘Blighty’, which was the name British soldiers called home, often when they were overseas.

Neil said: “My father thought he’d never survive the war, hence the podcast title – words of relief he wrote in his pilot’s logbook on making it back to the UK, having been posted overseas very early in the war.”

The website gives access to the fully transcribed diary as well as Neil’s research notes and images to provide historical background to entries. It also has additional material associated with each podcast episode including maps and photographs.

Neil said: “Blighty Thank God is a tribute to all the reluctant warriors who served during the Second World War. In my research, I came across many people looking for information about their relatives who served during the war. I was lucky to have my father’s diary and logbook.

“I hope I can inspire others to dig deeper into the experiences of their relatives using some of the available resources I discovered and to understand the tremendous courage they displayed going through the war.”

To read Ron’s diary, listen to the podcast, and see more images head to

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