“I’m an expert on cannibalism,” declares retired naval officer and author Ernest Coleman.
Perhaps better known locally for opposing the Hemswell Cliff windfarm, the 72-year-old has written a pile of books on historical and military matters.
Lincoln-born, raised in Grantham, Ernest joined the Royal Navy at 16, retiring at 56. His career and interests took him around the world, especially the Far East, which coupled with a love of adventure, inspired his many books.
‘Fed up about the Bomber County stuff’, his first was about the Royal Navy in Lincolnshire, saying it came long before the RAF. Another major local book concerns the Holy Grail, which he says exists in Lincoln Cathedral. The idea for this book came from him seeing Helen of Acquitaine’s grave next to King Richard the Lionheart’s French tomb. Other books include ‘The Travels of Sir John Mandeville’, an English Marco Polo whose reports included fabled tales of sheep growing on trees, dragons and tombs that talk.
“The Wit of the Victorians” contains amusing newspaper snippets of the time, but his “most proud book”, nominated for the Mountbatten Prize is ‘The Pig War’ which concerns a war between Britain and the USA over a small island near Vancouver in which only a pig was killed.
Ernest has a particular fondness for Canada, which saw him write about the history of Vancouver Island (named after a guy from Kings Lynn), and his Polar expeditions to the Frozen North writing about explorer Ernest Shackleton.
Last year saw the books ‘Khaki Jack’ about sailors serving in WW1 trenches and ‘No Pyrrhic Victories’, about the 1918 raids on Zeebrugge and Ostend, the latter of which, contrary to received wisdom, Ernest says Britain actually won.
Now, the Bishop Norton resident has plans to start on books on the history of the RAF as well as an autobiography.
“I’m very lucky. I’ve had an extraordinary time,” he said.
As before, ‘non-PC’ Ernest might uncover things others prefer remains hidden. “I have never accepted ‘the staff answer,’” he said.