About Anthony Holt
Read about Anthony’s career history and his life as a writer.
When I left school at the age of 16, I was accepted for a Student Apprenticeship in Marine Engineering. I spent just over two years learning all about boilers, feed regulators, patternmaking, casting, fitting and turning, welding, coppersmithing and so on. The regime was demanding – three days a week working from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. with two full days and three evenings of night school as well as Saturday morning studying for GCE ‘A’ Levels.
A very good friend was killed in a fight with a gang of ‘yard boys’ and not long after this I decided to change careers. I sat an open exam for commissioned officers and passed for both the Army and the Navy. I joined the Navy as a General List officer and served in a variety of ships including the fast torpedo/gunboat HMS Brave Borderer, which, with her sister-ship Brave Swordsman, was then the fastest warship in the world (She could achieve and sustain 56 knots!).
After four years of training and qualification as a seaman officer I was awarded my Bridge Watchkeeping Certificate and Ocean Navigation Certificate. Shortly after that I was selected for training as a pilot, starting with the difficult task of flying a Tiger Moth trainer with no radio from Roborough near Plymouth.
I travelled extensively all over the world, carried out a dramatic rescue of 100 people in the Fijian Islands of the South Pacific, visited exotic places, lived in Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore, flew a variety of aircraft including fixed wing and helicopters, and commanded my own squadron. I regularly flew Harold Wilson back and forth to the Scilly Isles, gave Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands an introduction to flying a Wessex helicopter, spent half an hour on a one to one basis with King Frederick of Denmark, showing him round a Battle Class destroyer and carried out a number of search and rescue tasks.
The Tui Lau rescue
HMS Victorious flight deck
820 Sea King decorated for Cambodia
Later I was given two very unusual jobs – Flag Lieutenant to the Admiralty Board and then Royal Naval Liaison Officer to the RAF Central Tactics and Trials Organization. The former introduced me to some very unusual duties such as going to Spain and organizing the promotion to Honorary Admiral in the Royal Navy of the King’s father, and running a private dinner party for The Queen and Prince Philip, as well as dealing directly with government ministers, senior admirals, ambassadors and other high profile people, as well as allocating hundreds of invitations to Royal Garden Parties, arranging funerals and memorial services, and advising the Board on honours and awards, ceremonial arrangements and protocal.
I flew a variety of aircraft over 4,000 hours, served in almost every type of ship, at sea – at least 15 in all! Following the usual career patter for a General List officer, I qualified for command of ships and aircraft squadrons, and I graduated from the Royal Naval Staff College at Greenwich. I then served my time on the staff of the Ministry of Defence and in other staff roles. The RAF Central Tactics and Trials appointment enabled me to fly many different aircraft and visit places such as Cyprus, Berlin and Washington, where I was given a private tour of the White House.
The historic Admiralty Badge
Taking the last Wessex Mk1 in to retirement escorted by my squadron
After more than thirty years I left the Navy and became Secretary and Chief Executive at the Naval and Military Club, then in Piccadilly, London. I had much to do at first to improve the finances of this prestigious Club and then to deal with a variety of drama’s and surprising behaviour. I brought a series of big events into the Club including film preview parties, TV location filming. I appeared briefly on TV in the Christmas Special edition of ‘Jobs for the Girls’ and met a great many people from show business and others who were well known in different fields.
After six years with the In and Out, as the Club was nicknamed, I decided to move on and I was appointed Chief Executive and Secretary at the Army and Navy Club in St James’s Square, London. Here, there was at first not so much day to day excitement but it was not long before a lot of things were happening which might come under the heading of “You Couldn’t Make it Up!” I had routine dealings with the great and good, the Royal Family, and with a sort of “United Nations” of staff recruited from over forty countries. It was incredibly difficult to find British people who would work in the long and frequently ‘unsocial’ hours of the catering and hospitality industry. However, I believe we benefited from this and we built a skilled and dedicated team. They supported me and I looked after them. Together, we got the job done. Inevitably there were a few problems and I appeared in a few Employment Tribunals – but I never lost a case.
After eleven happy (or mostly happy) years I took my second retirement and then started on my third career – writing and doing a bit of voluntary watchkeeping for the National Coastwatch Institute, which enables me to look out over nearly 600 square miles of the English Channel each week.
As well as writing seven books with an eighth on the way, I spent six years as an independent member of the local Harbour Board, became a busy Governor of a local school, and managed to do a bit of sailing in my yacht ‘Umlani-K’.
My first book came about because of the memories of my time on loan to the Australian Navy. I called it ‘Spoofy’ after the big black Labrador who adopted my family a few days after we arrived in the country. The book also describes the unique experience of working as a Squadron Senior Pilot and rehabilitating young pilots on their return from the Vietnam War.
After “Spoofy” my second book “At Least We Didn’t Sink” is a sequel but it is set around life in an Australian aircraft carrier. Spoofy makes a small appearance but most of the book shows just how funny and strange life at sea can be. Accidents were almost unavoidable in the highly stressed and exacting life onboard an aircraft carrier and there is inevitably some tragedy described, however there is even more humour.
My other books are ‘Privateer’ a fast moving novel centred on the war against Somali pirates. It has been variously described as a ‘page turner’ and ‘a cracking yarn!’ I also wrote ‘Four of Clubs’ a compendium of eight remarkable stories from the world of ‘Gentlemen’s Clubs’ in London. I followed that with ‘Nine Stories of the Sea’ again all drawn from real events, then, completing a trilogy of short story volumes, I wrote ‘Twelve of a Kind.’
My latest book, is ‘Harry’s Revenge’. It is sub-titled ‘Evil Came to Portland in a fast car’ and it is a gripping story of violence and dark intrigue. The action is set locally in South Dorset.
Now I am working on a third novel set at sea in the British American war of 1812, which will be published later this year (2018) Mean while I continue with my charity work, entertain my four grandchildren and sail my boat when I can.
I have been happily married to Irene for over 56 years and we are blessed with two children and four delightful grandchildren, from whom I continue to learn.
When I have the time, the weather is friendly and I am not writing or working as a volunteer watchkeeper for the National Coastwatch Institute at Portland Bill, I sail my boat, crewed skillfully by my wife, around the local waters. I also play the acoustic and classical guitar for my own and family’s entertainment.
Our 50th wedding anniversary at Warmwell House