Holloway social worker uncovers amazing Falklands War story

Warren FitzGerald, author of All in the Same Boat

Warren FitzGerald, author of All in the Same Boat - Credit: Archant

A Lough Road social worker gave up his career to become an author – and tells James Morris how he uncovered an amazing Falklands War story.

Warren FitzGerald spent 20 years of his life as a social care worker in Holloway. So sitting down in Hull to interview drag queens who got caught in the middle of the Falklands War was part of a surreal career change.

In Islington Green’s Waterstones branch tomorrow, Warren, 43, releases new book All in the Same Boat. It tells the story of Wendy, Frankie, Mimi, Candy and co: kitchen staff on the Norland ferry in 1982.

The Norland was requisitioned by the government to transfer 900 paratroopers to the Falklands. The “girls” jumped at the chance to be part of the voyage – not realising they would also be required to carry on into the islands.

In 2014, Warren gave up social work with the Lough Road Centre for young people with learning disabilities to become a full-time author. His debut novel, The Go-Away Bird in 2010, won an Amazon award.

And he found the untold Falklands story – from drag nights with soldiers to tending to Argentinian prisoners of war – was too good an opportunity to miss.

He said: “I had no idea about this story until I watched the BBC’s One Show while eating dinner a year ago. I was only half concentrating on it, as you do, but then it featured the story of the crew and drag queen Roy ‘Wendy’ Gibson, who played piano on the show.

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“I thought, wow: that’s an amazing premise for a novel. These cultures, of the soldiers and ferry crew, clashing in the middle of a war.

“I got in touch with Keith Thompson, the assistant purser on the Norland, and we arranged to meet with nine or 10 of the crew members in Hull. Their story was so fascinating that it didn’t need to be a novel. The story tells itself.”

Warren lives in Barnet, but there was only one place he ever wanted to launch the book.

“I have so many links to Islington: families I know, people who work here, ex-clients from my social care work. I still mentor young people here.

“I live in Barnet but I feel more a part of the community here than I do there.”

Tomorrow’s launch, with free entry, starts at 7pm. To reserve a place, email islington@waterstones.com

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