AMATEUR war historian Andrew Harrison has just had his first book published – two decades after completing the initial manuscript.
The New Mill man found a new lease of life to carry on with the project after he was made redundant and discovered why publishers had initially turned him down.
Now it’s ended with publication success – and a book signing.
For this Sunday he will be at Borders, Junction 27 retail park, Birstall (from 1pm to 3pm), near Leeds signing copies of Not A Military War, a niche publication recounting the French involvement in Vietnam and the First Indochina War.
Andrew, 42, chose his unusual subject matter when he was barely into his 20s and says it has fascinated him ever since.
"I’ve always been interested in history and military history," he said.
"When I was about 20 or 21 I went to France to see the First World War battlefields and met a chap there who said he had been in Vietnam," said Andrew.
"I had thought that Vietnam was usually associated with the Americans, not the French and I became very involved from that point."
Andrew discovered that the French had fought long and hard in Indochina to defend their colonial interests, a conflict that cost 100,000 French lives and untold numbers of Vietnamese.
An entirely self-taught historian, Andrew set about writing a book and sent it off to a number of publishers before consigning it to his desk drawer after many rejections.
And there it remained until 2006 when he was made redundant and found himself with time on his hands.
"I started working on it again and realised why it had been rejected," he said.
"I first wrote it before the internet was in wide usage and spent a lot of time going round libraries and national archives in France as well as here."
Andrew – a former deep sea diver who now works as a call advisor – added: "It was much easier researching the second time around although you’ve got to be careful what you trust from the internet. And, it’s also important not to just take on board things that have been written in the past and never questioned."
Although he left school at 16, Andrew says he was always fascinated by history and has made the subject a lifelong hobby.
As well as writing his book, he has also produced articles for military magazines and has his own website, www.french- indochina.weebly.com, which was created by his 14-year-old son Jonathan.
However, it is an interest he has failed to transmit to other members of the family. "My son isn’t particularly interested in history and I think my wife is a bit bemused by it all," said Andrew. "But she is coming to the book signing. My book is not everybody’s cup of tea but I’m really pleased that it found a publisher.
I didn’t have to publish it myself to see it in print," he added.
French Indochina was formed in 1887 as a federation of three Vietnamese regions as well as Cambodia. Laos was added in 1893.
The First Indochina War was fought in French Indochina from December 1946 until August 1954 between the French Far East Expeditionary Corps supported by the Vietnamese National Army against communist rebels led by Ho Chi Minh.
America began sending aid to the French in the late 1940s.
It wasn’t until Ho Chi Minh defeated the French in 1954 that America became officially involved in trying to defeat the communists in Vietnam. This began with financial aid and military advisors sent to help the south Vietnamese as they fought northern communists. fighting in the south
The United States worked to set up a separate government in the south. The fear was that if Vietnam fell completely to communism, this would spread.
This ‘Domino Theory’ was the central reason for America’s continued involvement in Vietnam over the years leading toled to the ill-fated Vietnam War which North Vietnam finally won in 1975. The war had led to more than 58,000 American deaths with over 150,000 wounded.
Not a Military War is published by Galago and costs £16.95.