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Burney Brothers of Hay on Wye - Forgotten Heroes of World War II Celebrated at Hay Festival

The biography of two very different brothers, Christopher and Roger Burney, whose contributions to fighting in the Second World War are of historic importance will be published this month and launch in an event at Hay Festival at the beginning of June. 

Tragic Heroes: The Burney Brothers of Hay at War by Hugh Purcell and Margaret Percy commemorates a story that hasn’t been told before and is based on new research and uses family papers.

 Co-author Hugh Purcell says:
“We’re delighted to be back at the Hay Festival and to be bringing the Burney brothers’ story to a wider audience. Roger Burney’s name is on the Hay war memorial, but the life of Christopher is largely unknown, even locally. We are biographers, and these are dramatic and important lives that should be remembered.”

Tragic Heroes will be launched at Llwyfan Cymru – Wales Stage, Hay Literary Festival on Thursday, 2nd June at 2:30pm. Coincidentally, the Festival is located just in front of the old Burney family home. Full details listed below.

Co-author Margaret Percy says:
“It’s wonderful to be able to launch the Burney brothers story at Hay. This is more than just another war book, though it doesn’t lack for the excitement and tension of all accounts of wartime spying.”

Brought up in Hay on Wye in the 1930s, the Burney bothers fought extraordinary wars against Nazism.
Christopher Burney (1917–1980) was dropped by parachute into occupied France as a secret agent in 1942, was captured and tortured by the Gestapo and spent 18 months in solitary confinement. Then he was transferred to Buchenwald Concentration Camp, where he survived for 15 months and led the resistance at the end of the war. His books on his experiences (Solitary Confinement and Dungeon Democracy) became classics of wartime writing, now forgotten. This book rediscovers them and tells the story of a heroic life blighted by post-traumatic stress disorder.
Roger Burney (1919–1942), was a scholar at Cambridge, singer, painter, and pacifist at the start of the war. Depressed by German atrocities, he joined the Royal Navy and was Liaison Officer on the Free French vessel Surcouf - the world’s biggest submarine at the time. It was the war’s worst submarine disaster, but what caused it? At last this book offers an answer. Roger’s friend, Benjamin Britten, dedicated the War Requiem to him.