In the week when the country has commemorated Remembrance Day and Armistice Day, a biographer is today coming to town to speak of an Aylesbury man whose life was irrevocably changed by his war experiences and his life here.
Vernon Scannell, who grew up in Aylesbury, was a complex man of many moods and not particularly likeable.
But poetry became his passion and his works – many recalling the horrors of war – have stood the test of time, still being studied by today’s schoolchildren.
James Andrew Taylor , author of Walking Wounded: The Life and Poetry of Vernon Scannell, is speaking at Queens Park Centre (where Scannell went to school) this Friday evening.
And he believes that many of the complexities of Scannell’s nature were formed while he lived here.
Mr Parker said: “Scannell was never diagnosed with post traumatic stress syndrome, but I have spoken to a psychiatrist about his life and she said he was a classic case.
“Classic conditions for PTS are a violent childhood with a father beating you and a mother doing nothing to help, followed by moving into a combative situation in war.
“Aylesbury played a formative part in his life primarily because of how he was treated at home by his father. Vernon didn’t have a very happy experience in Aylesbury but it is part of his history.”
Scannell’s family lived in several areas of the town, where his father worked as a professional photographer.
Vernon was very close to his older brother Kenneth.
They shared a bedroom, attended Queen’s Park Boys’ Council School, shared a passionate love of reading and joined the Aylesbury and District Boxing Club.
They were also both involved in an escapade which saw them end up in court and on the front pages of the Bucks Herald in the spring of 1940.
While drunk one night they climbed onto the top of the Bull’s Head Hotel, where Vernon started reciting poetry.
A pane of glass was broken, and the brothers arrested.
Vernon was then hauled before one of the partners at the life assurance office where he worked as a clerk.
Expecting to be sacked he declared he was planning to leave and join the RAF.
Several months later he stole money from his father and, leaving his new (pregnant) wife behind, he joined the army, declaring himself a single man with no dependants.
He endured many traumas during the Second World war, deserting several times.
He subsequently married again, albeit bigamously, and then for a third time to an artist called Jo, with whom he had six children.
Two of the children died, one soon after birth and the other in a motorcycle accident. Scannell never had a proper relationship with his son from his first marriage.
In addition to his marriages he had lengthy relationships with two more women, and throughout his life he had many affairs.
Scannell was prone to violent outbursts and beat the women in his life.
During his research for the book Mr Taylor, who never met Scannell, who died in 2007 aged 85, spoke to many members of his family.
He said: “I didn’t know, when I started, what the story would turn into.
“Initially I was interested in him because I had always liked his poetry, even as a child. And as I grew up I liked it more and more.
“As I looked into his life story I discovered there were a lot of issues which interested me.
“His family, his children, people who loved him, gave me an immense amount of trust. They didn’t withhold anything from me. I promised to write an honest biography, and tell the truth. I hope it comes across.
“He was a man who was hard to like, but he was a troubled man who earns respect.”