Paul Interviewed by Wales Online

Date posted: October 17, 2011

By Robin Turner

THERE is a touch of James Bond about Welsh thriller writer Paul Henke’s military background.

He became a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy, had adventures around the world as an underwater explosives expert and survived a machine gun attack by the IRA.

But unlike 007, Paul prefers a drop of whiskey to a vodka martini and he is happily married with two children.

And he is not averse to playing practical jokes on the Royal Family, once tricking Prince Charles into taking a mouthful of cold tea on a sea voyage.

He has been a thriller writer for the past eight years, with his latest book, Turmoil, the fifth instalment of his Nick Hunter series of anti-terrorism fiction novels.

It tells the story of a plot to bring a plutonium “dirty bomb” to London and efforts by Hunter’s International Force Against Terrorism to stop it.

And the author says the fictional plot is something real-life police and anti-terrorism squads are constantly thinking about.

He said: “We have the Olympic Games in London next year and one of the greatest fears is the detonation of a dirty bomb.

“Such a weapon might not have the immediate killing power of a conventional nuclear bomb which terrorists do not have the ability to produce.

“But it could still claim many lives, make whole cities no-go areas for years and cause massive disruption.”

Paul was born and raised in Church Village in Rhondda Cynon Taf, the son of a Polish immigrant father who came to the UK during World War II.

He was educated at Pontypridd Boys’ Grammar and from an early age had a burning desire to be a Royal Naval officer.

He said: “With my surname and Welsh accent, I did not think I would get a chance but I was taken on at Dartmouth Royal Naval College.

“When I got there, I was the only one without a plummy accent but I served 23 enjoyable years in the Royal Navy.”

After graduating from the college, he signed up for an underwater mine disposal course.

He said: “The £1-a-day danger money had nothing to do with it, of course.”

He later captained minesweepers, used plastic explosives to blow up live World War II mines floating around the British coast and travelled abroad helping other nations to dispose of deadly undersea booby traps.

On a Royal Navy boat at Carlingford Lough in 1976 on the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, he and his crew mates were sprayed with machine gun fire by IRA men, thought to be involved in gun running.

He said: “We chased them for a while but they disappeared. It was a close run thing.”

Paul said he passionately believed that today’s war fighting soldiers were not getting the support they deserved from the UK Government.

He said: “I was in America once and met a couple who were over there to spend $1,000 on a kevlar vest for their daughter who was in the services.

“They had been there a year before to buy one for their son.

“I think it’s disgusting kit like that is not automatically given to the boys and girls fighting for us abroad.”

The writer spent a year working on ships with Prince Charles, who he became friendly with.

He said he once sent a bottle of cold tea in an empty bottle of Famous Grouse whiskey to the royal by rope.

He said: “I replaced the seal when I took out the whiskey and put in the cold tea. That was wise because another crew mate told thePprince ‘Don’t trust Henke, he’s probably p****d in it’.”

“When he saw the seal still on, he opened it and took a swig then spat it all out.

“We became friends. He’s a nice bloke and was very popular in the Navy. He sent me a letter just last year.”

Paul began his writing career in Nigeria when he was involved in a diving project as a private contractor after leaving the navy.

He said: “You can get bored at sea and people deal with it in different ways. I started to write.”

Paul has also produced a series of historical books known collectively as the Tears Saga about generations of the fictional Griffiths family who left Wales in the 1800s for life in the New World.

The writer now lives near Loch Lomond, Scotland, with his wife and two teenage children.

He said: “I fell in love with Scotland while at the Rosyth Naval base but I still go back to Wales a lot and still have family there.”

Read More @ Wales Online

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