Ken Revis was training to be a structural engineer, and had almost qualified, when war broke out in September 1939. He promptly enlisted and, at the age of 23, was commissioned in the Royal Engineers. Training complete, it was during the Christmas festivities of 1940, such as they were in the Army in wartime Britain, that Ken glanced at a typewritten sheet pinned to a noticeboard to discover that he had been posted to a Bomb Disposal unit.
His first device, aside from those he had seen under the watchful gaze of his instructors, came early in 1941 in the form of an unexploded 500kg German bomb. Having failed to detonate, it had buried itself in a garden only a yard or so from a footpath leading off a pleasant avenue in the East Sussex town of Hastings. ‘This is it,’ Ken remembered thinking. ‘This is the real thing.’
Despite his nerves, Ken successfully dealt with this bomb, the first of many that he faced over the coming weeks and months. While most soldiers in the United Kingdom were busy training and preparing for the coming invasion of Europe, Bomb Disposal units were engaged with their dangerous craft in which almost daily they matched their skill and nerve against the inventive genius of the German scientists.
It was at 10.00 hours on 10 September 1943, however, that, in an instant, Ken’s life irrevocably changed. While he was removing anti-invasion booby-traps from the West Pier in Brighton, something went terribly wrong. In a blinding flash, thirteen mines blew up in his face.
After immediate first aid, the mangled body of Ken Revis was rushed to East Grinstead Hospital, home of the renowned plastic surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe. It was the start of the long, hard trail that lay in front of him, for it required no less than twenty skilled reconstructive operations to rebuild Ken’s shattered face and body. But despite all the surgeons' best efforts, Ken’s sight could not be saved. Aside from the traumatic injuries he had suffered, he now had to deal with complete blindness.
In this moving biography, John Frayn Turner reveals the remarkable individual who was Ken Revis, exploring the many, and very different, challenges that he faced before and after the disaster on 10 September 1943. As Lieutenant-General Sir Brian Horrocks once remarked, ‘Courage and determination are the two outstanding qualities that emerge from this remarkable story’.