Emsworth teenage war diary being made into film

JPNS-01-02-13 Agenda young diarist Strahan Soames rep eb pic 3''Strahan with a girlfriend Valerie Bacon
JPNS-01-02-13 Agenda young diarist Strahan Soames rep eb pic 3''Strahan with a girlfriend Valerie Bacon

THE fascinating diaries of a teenager who witnessed the second world war are being turned into a film.

Strahan Soames kept a meticulous diary, full of incredible detail about the dog fights and everyday life of families living in Emsworth in the shadow of war.

JPNS-01-02-13 Agenda young diarist Strahan Soames rep eb pic 2'**LARGE FILE**''Strahan Soames

JPNS-01-02-13 Agenda young diarist Strahan Soames rep eb pic 2'**LARGE FILE**''Strahan Soames

Extracts from the summer of 1940, written by the then 17-year-old who was awaiting call up to the army, reveal his fascination with Spitfires, Hurricanes and Junkers 88s.

The diaries are now being turned into a film by students at Havant Sixth Form College.

Born in 1922, Strahan moved to Emsworth as a baby. He was the son of local GP Dr Ralph Soames, and grew up in Trentham House, a beautiful villa in Tower Street, Emsworth, which is still there.

Along with his brother and friends, Strahan (pronounced Strawn) would watch the Nazi planes flying in, using binoculars to seek out the makes and models. When they crashed, the teenager and his friends would clamour to find the debris and he would detail it in his diary.

JPNS-01-02-13 Agenda young diarist Strahan Soames rep eb pic 1''A Christmas card featuring Dr Ralph Soames, aunt Millicent Mary Soames, Strahan Soames and brother Don.

JPNS-01-02-13 Agenda young diarist Strahan Soames rep eb pic 1''A Christmas card featuring Dr Ralph Soames, aunt Millicent Mary Soames, Strahan Soames and brother Don.

In the autumn of 1940 he left Emsworth when he was called up to joined the army as an anti-aircraft gunner. Having survived the war, he went up to Oxford to read English.

His passion for writing stayed with him. After retiring from his job at Trinity House, which looks after the UK’s shipping safety, he moved back to Emsworth in 1979 in a house he built close to Trentham House, overlooking the sea, with his wife Ann.

They loved to sail around the harbour and in the 1980s he joined the Emsworth Maritime and Historical Trust which he went on to become chairman, then vice president of, such was his passion for his hometown.

All the while he wrote for Yachts and Yachting magazine, was chief editor of the worldwide magazine of the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities and also wrote for Hampshire Magazine.

JPNS-01-02-13 Agenda young diarist Strahan Soames rep eb PIX FROM PREPRINTED pic 3''Soames with some of his flags

JPNS-01-02-13 Agenda young diarist Strahan Soames rep eb PIX FROM PREPRINTED pic 3''Soames with some of his flags

But his love of language was crafted in the diaries, which evoke powerful images of the world through the eyes of a wide-eyed teenager.

Media students from Havant College have now been given permission by his family to use the extracts to create a film, thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s All Our Stories project.

Under the guidance of Chichester Harbour Conservancy, the students are drawing on the diaries, with the help of Millstream Productions, a film company based in Emsworth, and the knowledge of experts from Emsworth Museum.

Alison Beckett, from Chichester Harbour Conservancy, said: “There is a huge amount of detail in the diaries -the number of planes and the strikes. It’s an epic account. What’s so interesting is the fact he was a teenager in our local community and he quite articulately put down in his feelings, his excitement of the planes overhead. It really hits home the impact it was having on his family and friends.”

Strahan died in 2001 and his wife passed away in 2010. His daughter Sue Soames still lives in Emsworth.

The premier of the as-yet-untitled film will be held on May 28 at The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre, in East Street, Havant.