Care home resident Humphrey Phillips becomes published author at 97
- Humphrey Phillips started writing to help get over the loss of his wife
- He finished the book from his Bupa care home, and now shares his tips for aspiring authors
- Now a published author, he didn’t go to school until aged 10
A WWII veteran has defied the odds to become a published author at 97 years old, despite missing out on formal education until the age of 10.
Humphrey Phillips, who lives at Bupa Erskine Hall care home in London, started penning his memoirs after losing his wife, Iris, in 2011. The pair were married for 62 years and Humphrey’s doctor suggested he take up a new hobby to help him manage his grief.
Entitled ‘A Thousand and One’, Humphrey’s memoirs recount his life, including the years spent as a Flight Lieutenant in the Second World War. During the war, Humphrey flew in a number of efforts, including the first of the ‘thousand bomber raids’ against the Germans in 1942, and the infamous Battle of Berlin, one of the last European battles of the war, ending in May 1945.
Humphrey Phillips, Bupa Erskine Hall resident said: “While I started writing after I lost Iris, I suppose you could say the book’s been nearly 100 years in the making, so I’m really very proud to see the final product. I’d encourage anyone to write, it’s a good pastime and a nice way of preserving your memories. The feedback I’ve received on the book has been overwhelming, and I’ve had some lovely comments – including from my doctor who originally got me writing.”
Born in London on 20th August 1920, Humphrey was sent to live in Suffolk from the age of six to benefit from the country air. Instead of being enrolled in school, he was put to work on a farm and it wasn’t until he returned home, aged 10, that he began his education.
In more recent years, Humphrey faced another setback after fellow authors discouraged him from getting the book published. Recounting the story, Humphrey said: “I’d originally been writing about pilots in the air force, based largely on my own experiences. Once I’d finished the book, I spoke to some other authors in the field to get their advice, but they were very pessimistic and told me it wouldn’t sell, so I gave up hope for a little while.”
It wasn’t until Humphrey met the acclaimed historian and author, Sean Feast, that his dream of publishing was reignited. After speaking to Humphrey about his story, Sean asked to co-author the book, putting a focus on Humphrey’s own life. The pair worked together to finish the text, which was soon snapped up by a publisher.
Megan Guest works at Bupa Erskine Hall, and organised a book signing for family and friends in celebration of Humphrey’s achievement. Speaking of his success, she said: “We’re all so proud of Humphrey, it’s been a real labour of love and it’s heart-warming that it’s been so well recognised. People often overlook the powerful stories that our older generations have to share, we’re always encouraging residents to share them – it keeps the memories alive for them and our team are fascinated in hearing these stories.”
After serving in the war, Humphrey returned to a career in engineering and eventually took on a role with the 600 Group, which specialised in producing metals and machinery. While living in north London, he met his wife to be, Iris, at a local tennis club where she was a secretary, and Humphrey was a treasurer. After 18 months together, Humphrey proposed and the couple married in 1949. They lived together in north London and raised three daughters, four grandsons and a granddaughter.
Humphrey’s book, A Thousand and One, is available now on Amazon priced £11.99.
Humphrey’s top tips for aspiring authors:
- “Believe in your ideas and see them through. There might be times when people tell you no, but take this as constructive criticism and don’t give up.”
- “Be an opportunist and be prepared to have some flexibility in your plans. Take every opportunity to speak to people in the industry, getting their advice and ideas.”
- “Make the most of your memories. I was fortunate enough to have been able to write nearly the whole book from memory, but I’d advise people to write them down as soon as possible. Even if in a rough draft, it’s a great way of helping you preserve your memories.”
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