Beyond the Call News

Fighting Bastard of the Ukraine

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One of the key pieces of evidence that helped unlock the story of Captain Robert M. Trimble’s mission was created on this day 70 years ago.

We call it the “Tillman short snorter.” There was a custom during WW2 whereby servicemen carried a dollar bill which they got their friends and acquaintances to autograph. This was known as a “short snorter.” In the late 1960s a short snorter turned up in a memorabilia store in El Paso, Texas; it lay there in obscurity for several decades before being purchased by collector Mike Allard. It carried a variety of names, including that of a Lt A. A. Tillman of the Air Corps. On the reverse it had been inscribed with the now faded signature of Capt R. M. Trimble and, in the same ink, bore the slogan, “Fighting Bastard of the Ukraine” and the date February 25, 1945.

Auschwitz: The Awakening

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Nothing in the waking world could prepare a man for the nightmare of Auschwitz. Captain Robert M. Trimble was a veteran of war who had faced death in combat on dozens of occasions and seen his friends and comrades die. But when the Russian jeep that had brought him from the airfield at Krakow drove in through the arched gatehouse of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, he was in for a shock that beat everything and would stay with him for the rest of his life.

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An icon of dread and evil: the Birkenau camp's infamous gatehouse in 1945.

On this day 70 years ago – February 16, 1945, the day Robert Trimble came to Auschwitz, three weeks had passed since its liberation by the Red Army. The world’s press and politicians had taken little notice of it. The previous summer, when the Russians discovered the Nazi death camp at Majdanek in eastern Poland, the world had been appalled. Western reporters visited it, and the New York Times called it "the most terrible place on the face of the earth”. Auschwitz was even more terrible and vastly bigger. And yet little interest was shown by the outside world; it was said to be just “another Majdanek,” and the Western press were more interested in the “Big Three” conference taking place at Yalta, where the future of the postwar world was being decided by Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill.

The Small-Town Boy and the Fairy Tale Queen

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Between the hell of the air war over Europe and the nightmare of the Eastern Front, Captain Robert Trimble, a youngster from a small town in Pennsylvania, had a brief encounter with royalty. Invited to the palace of the Shah of Iran, Robert was unwittingly the cause of an argument between him and his fairy-tale queen, the stunning Queen Fawzia…

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They called it the Persian Corridor – the narrow route through which supplies and personnel were funneled to the USSR from the Western Allies. From Cairo it stretched up through Iran, over the mountains of Armenia and into southern Russia. In early February 1945, Captain Robert Trimble found himself stranded in Tehran, en route from England to the USSR. The Soviets, who didn’t trust outsiders, were stonewalling his entry into Russia. While he waited for his papers to be approved, Robert kicked his heels in the strange, exotic city.

Beyond the Call out now in the UK


After being held over for a day, Beyond the CallBTC_UK_flagged is published today in the UK and Commonwealth.*

England – a small but special corner of the wide world – is where Captain Robert Trimble’s secret mission began. It was from here, during 1944, that he and his crew flew 35 dangerous, harrowing combat missions against Nazi Germany. And it was from here that Captain Trimble set out alone, innocent and hopeful, on the long journey to the freezing landscapes of the Eastern Front, with no idea of the nightmare that was waiting for him there.

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The remains of the main runway at Debach airfield today, formerly the base of the USAAF 493rd Bomb Group. It was from this strip of concrete that Captain Trimble’s bomber took off on 35 combat missions, and it was to this blessed surface that he and his crew returned, safe but shaken, each time. Hundreds of their comrades never saw this place again. (Photo Jeremy Dronfield)

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Lieutenant (later Captain) Robert M. Trimble (standing, second from left) and his crew with their B-24 Liberator prior to their first combat mission, Debach air base, England, July 6 1944. (The unit later converted to B-17 Flying Fortresses.)


*excluding Canada


A long and rewarding journey


After years of research and writing, discussing and agonising, editing and proofing, today is the day when Beyond the Call is finally published in the USA.

Nerve-wracking, informative, yet profoundly moving, Beyond the Call is a truly inspiring book.
Susan Ottaway, author of Sisters, Secrets and Sacrifice


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For Lee Trimble, discovering and telling his father’s story has been a long, fascinating, sometimes tough, always emotional, but ultimately life-affirming journey.

Now that the book is out there, Lee and his family hope that Captain Robert M. Trimble’s service will at last gain the recognition it deserves. Despite his extraordinary actions in the war, Robert was a humble man, and had he lived to see it, he would probably have been too embarrassed to allow his story to be put into a book. But we believe that his fellow Americans – and the people of other nations whose lost sons and daughters he helped to freedom – will appreciate and honor his service in the terrible war long ago.

Beyond the Call – on film?


With days still to go before publication, film offers are already coming in for Beyond the Call. The book has been called “snappy and cinematic” by Adam Makos (bestselling author of A Higher Call), and it seems Hollywood producers who’ve been given advance copies are starting to agree.

So it’s speculation time: who would you like to see playing the part of Captain Robert M. Trimble? Co-author Jeremy Dronfield: “My fantasy pick would be British actor Damian Lewis, who played Major Richard Winters in Band of Brothers. He has a look which is kind of reminiscent of Robert Trimble, and excels at conveying the haunted air of a troubled man.”

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Captain Robert M. Trimble, 1945.

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Damian Lewis as Major Richard Winters in Band of Brothers.

Who would you like to see play the part? Read the book and decide. Pre-order it now – out on Feb 3.

Content © Jeremy Dronfield and Lee Trimble 2015