A soldier’s tale told in real time
THE wartime heroism of a future Wootton Bassett doctor is documented in real time on a Facebook page.
As we revealed in our recent supplement marking the anniversary of D-Day, Dr Peter Mitchell was a 20-year-old lieutenant with the Essex Yeomanry when he took part in the assault on Gold Beach.
Alongside his troop, he was in the thick of fierce fighting until he suffered a severe ankle wound during an attempt to reach stricken colleagues.
His memoir of those gruelling days, as well as his earlier and later experiences, has been put online by one of his three children, David, at davidmitchell.co.uk Now Mr Mitchell, 49, who lives in Minety, is posting his father’s account of the invasion day by day at www.facebook.com/LietenentPetermitchellsDDay He said: “Before he died, I talked with my father about possibly publishing his memoirs one day.
“The 70th anniversary of D-Day seems an appropriate occasion to do this and I’m able to do it in ‘real time’ on Facebook, following his experiences to the date 70 years later.”
Among the papers left by Dr Mitchell, who died aged 73 at Prospect Hospice in 1997, was a vivid account of the true cost of war: “Meanwhile the tide came in and we were axle deep in water with all manner of debris and bodies floating in.
“As the tide went out again it left behind a mess that was indescribable – such a waste of human life, effort and equipment. It is the sheer wastefulness of war that strikes one at such a time – one dead man represents each a terrible waste of twenty-odd years of nurturing, love, education and experience, all poured into him by a loving family; to say nothing of his military training, brought to a sudden and useless end.”
The future doctor’s duty included helping to protect a strategic objective called Hill 103 from German tanks, and David plans to visit the location. He said: “I’m going to visit Normandy at the end of the month, going to Gold Beach, Hill 103, and plan to stand in the field where he was wounded on June 29.”
After the war, Peter Mitchell studied medicine at Oxford, and in 1957 began working as a GP at the Tinkers Lane surgery in what is now Royal Wootton Bassett. He also campaigned over the years to protect the local countryside.
A popular and respected figure, he retired in 1990. Mitchell Close, opposite to the surgery, is named after him.