The Jim Ditchfield Story
Jim Ditchfield — Writer
Jim was born in Lancashire in 1938. He was two years old when his father was killed at Dunkerque. A few months later his mother was killed in the Blitz of Liverpool. He was brought up by his surviving grandparents on a small farm at Skelmersdale, in southwest Lancashire. After primary schooling at Skelmersdale County School he went on to Ormskirk Grammar School, which was established in 1612, but no longer exists. Circumstances forced him leave home when he was sixteen, but unable to live on an apprentice's wage, he joined the Royal Marine Commandos. Since then Jim has ricocheted through life gaining a comprehensive education and a wealth of experiences that are reflected in his writings.
During his time in the commandos he served in the UK and Malta, and saw active service in North Africa, the Middle East, in Malaya and Borneo. He was eighteen years old when he had his first experience of war, an opposed beach landing. During this action he was shot with two rounds from an AK47, but luckily was not seriously wounded. Although this gave him a first hand experience of being hit by rifle fire, he does not recommend taking research to this level as a normal routine. After this incident he reviewed his situation and retrained as an electrician, one of eight in the Royal Marine Commandos. While not totally enthusiastic about this new status it gave him a degree of independence not normally associated with service life, but it was better than being at the pointed end and he was less liable to be shot again. It also set him up for his return to civilian life.
After leaving the Royal Marines he qualified as an electronic engineer and worked as an instrument engineer in the electrical generating industry and the oil and gas industry. He spent several years in the Sahara Desert in both Libya and Algeria. The start of his time in Libya coincided with Gadaffi's revolution. Many years later this experience became the background for his novel, Not Your Revolution, which is based very loosely on the events leading up to that revolution. Algeria provided quite different experiences.
The reason for working in the Sahara was to build up capital so that he could study naval architecture. Soon after qualifying as a naval architect he established his own yacht design office. In 1975 he won the Yachting World International Yacht Design Competition. As a yacht designer he wrote occasional articles for the yachting press. He also built his own boats.
In 1979 Jim and his wife emigrated to Australia and in 1980 he returned to the petro-chemical industry as a senior instrument engineer. These days he no longer has to go to the office each morning, so travels extensively throughout the Australian Outback researching the lives of the early pioneers, using their graves as a focus. Finding the graves is relatively easy. Finding the story behind them is much more difficult. Often the only source is an elderly lady and in many cases these ladies are now dead, leaving Jim's research as the only record of the pioneers.
During these research trips Jim travels and lives in a campervan fitted to the back of a six tonne, 4WD truck. All the professionally produced campervans and motorhomes were unsuitable for his needs, so he built the camper himself. He jokes that he must have got the design right as when he's on Outback tracks he wishes it was smaller, but when set up in camp he wishes it was larger. Everything's a compromise.
Jim says that writing is much more fun that engineering and a huge improvement on being shot.