Saturday, 23 June 2007

Ian Daglish, military historian

Ian Daglish writes books about the Normandy campaign of 1944, and his latest book “Operation Epsom” is due out later this summer - it was originally scheduled to be published this week, but has been delayed due to some production issues. This is a book that has been forming in Ian’s mind for more than ten years.

Ian’s interest in history in general and the Normandy campaign in particular has grown throughout his life. Ian was born in Redhill, Surrey, in 1952, and when he was 8 years old his family moved to the United States for a few years. Ian remembers:

Alabama was in the throes of celebrating the centenary of the American Civil War, and this made school history lessons more exciting than usual. I returned to England with a passion for war stories, toy soldiers and board war games.

He read History at Trinity College, Cambridge, writing a thesis on Napoleon Bonaparte and the Invasion of England.

Some fifteen years later, a chance purchase in a California supermarket of a paperback about the American paratroops of 1944 sowed the first seeds of Ian’s interest in Normandy. The book accompanied Ian on many business trips - and by the 1990s Ian had visited the airborne battlefields of the Cotentin peninsula, written numerous articles about the air campaign and designed a series of board war games on the subject for a New York publisher.

Meanwhile a deeper interest was forming. Returning from a family holiday in the Dordogne in 1994, following a midday picnic by the Orne river, Ian suggested a short cut to avoid the town of Caen. The route led over Hill 112, the site of a key battle in 1944, and on through the village of Gavrus, where Ian recalled that a Scots battalion had fought a brave battle against the Germans. On returning home Ian read everything he could find about the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders’ action there. Ian found it an inspiring story – but one which was not well documented.

The following year he was back in Gavrus to do some serious research, and in the years that followed Ian has learned more and more about the story of the Argylls at Gavrus. A highlight for Ian was a return to Gavrus in 2004, leading a party of surviving Argylls. Ian recalls:

The village turned out, the band played, the anti-tank gunners revisited their gun positions by the bridges and elderly Jocks entertained appreciative visitors with their war stories.

Eventually Ian persuaded a publisher, Pen & Sword, to let him write a book - not about Gavrus, but the later Operation Bluecoat also involving the Argylls. This was well received and the publisher asked Ian to write a second book, Operation Goodwood – both books are part of the publishers Battleground Europe series. By this time Ian was becoming accepted as a military historian – he was inducted to the British Commission for Military History, invited to lecture and to speak on the Normandy campaign and to lead serving soldiers on battlefield tours.

For his third book, Ian persuaded the publishers to let him cover a Normandy battle at greater length and greater depth – and this format provided Ian with the vehicle for a book about the Argylls at Gavrus and the broader Operation Epsom - the book he has wanted to write for so long.

Ian’s father was Anthony Fenwick (Tony) Daglish, the only son of Francis Richard (Frank) Daglish. Frank volunteered with the 10th Northumberland Fusiliers in 1914 and served as a Lewis machine gunner until severely wounded on the Somme. His two brothers also served, one was later killed in WW2 and one was gassed but never regained his health.

His father Tony attended Chester-le-Street Grammar School and won a scholarship – at his headmaster’s suggestion he went to Trinity College, Cambridge where he read Chemistry. On completion of his studies, he was sent to work in armaments production at Bishopton, near Glasgow. Whilst there he served with the Bishopton Home Guard, led by a former Argyll & Sutherland Highland Regiment officer, and wearing the Argylls’ famous cap badge.

Years later during Christmas 2004, Ian mentioned to his father his involvement with the Argylls. His father asked whether Ian knew that this was the largest cap badge in the British Army, and then casually mentioned that he had once worn the badge. Ian remembers that he nearly fell off his chair!

Ian has his own views of the source of the Daglish name. He strongly believes that it is independent of the Scots Dalglish and Douglas names – and has a hunch that it could be a corruption of Danegeld-ish, denoting Danish invaders who first accepted Danegeld as a bribe to go away, and later settled the area which took its name from the tax levied to pay the bribe. Ian heard a radio documentary in which a historian happened to describe these people who settled in the North East as the Danegeld-ish.

Ian's books are:

Battle Ground Europe series
Operation Bluecoat: The British Armoured Breakout (2003)
Operation Goodwood: The Great Tank Charge (2004)

Over the Battlefield series
Operation Goodwood (2005)
Operation Epsom (due summer 2007)

Ian's board games are in the Advanced Squad Leader series, published by Multiman Publishing.


DAGLISH said...




Anonymous said...

Thank you for your message.
I would be very interested to know more about Joslyn Frederick Daglish - please would you e-mail me at
Thank you.
Stephen Daglish

Anonymous said...

Thanks for everything Ian..

Anonymous said...

What a tragedy that Ian died this weekend in a plane crash we are so sorry to lose such a talented man.

Anonymous said...

So very sorry to hear such tragic news. Ian was a true gent, whom I met through his wargaming interests. My thoughts are with his family at this very sad time.

Anonymous said...

We met Ian in 2010 in Tilly sur seilles in France and what a charming man.He was there along with another author from Britain and were signing copies of their books.
He was a very knowledgeable man regarding the war and accordxing to my husband his books are extremely interesting especxially as we have visited the sites mentioned i n the book.

Anonymous said...

As a fellow military historian, Ian's death is a huge blow for the profession. But more than this, ian was just a really nice guy. My sincere condolences go out to his family.