He faced a number of near death experiences in the war but lived to tell the tale. And now Second World War veteran Alex Franks’ gripping tales of wartime horror have been immortalised in print after his memoirs were published in a book.
Now aged 93, he signed copies of his self-penned novel Noncombatant, at Cannock Library.
Mr Franks was an ambulance driver with the legendary 7th Armoured Division, The Desert Rats.
Despite never firing a gun during his time in North Africa, he was captured by enemy forces and thrown into a concentration camp.
Great-grandfather- of six Mr Franks, of Wheaton Aston, lived to tell the tale and arrived back home in May 1945. He said: “When I got back from the war people told me just to forget about it but I couldn’t. I used to have nightmares about the horrors.”
It wasn’t until the late 1980s that he finally put pen to paper and started writing his memoirs.
It features the story of his capture by the Italians at El Agheila in Libya and being aboard the Italian ship Ariosto SS which was bombed by the British and sank in February 1942.
He said: “Around 300 of us were kept below deck without food or water.
“The ship was torpedoed by the British. I went looking for some food in the crews’ quarters. I found a life jacket and some Scotch whiskey, which I drank with some other men. When the ship was going down I knew I had to jump in the water. The water was freezing. I managed to swim to a nearby Italian ship and was pulled aboard.”
Mr Franks had to wait two decades until his book was published after Midland advertising guru Trevor Beattie decided to fund its release.
Widower Mr Franks, whose wife Irene died in 2009, was at Cannock Library to sign his book, which is selling for £20. All proceeds from sales of the book will go to The Red Cross.
He added: “I managed to sell six copies at the weekend. I printed 300 and I’m down to my last 20 or so now.”