About the Friends of Popski's Private Army

Friends of Popski’s Private Army (foPPA) is a very small non-profit non-charitable donation-funded volunteer organization, founded in 2003 under the chairmanship of PPA’s last remaining officer, Major John Campbell CVO CBE MC*, and run by Suzi Paterson, Guy Harris and Anne French. The purpose of foPPA is to establish lasting memorials to the unit, organize PPA Remembrance Events and act as a reliable clearing house for veterans, relatives, historians, the general public and the press.

Every May, on or near the anniversary of Popski's death in 1951, foPPA holds the PPA Wixoe Remembrance Event at the church in Suffolk where Popski is buried with his second wife Pamela. Every November at Westminster Abbey, foPPA attends the opening of the Royal British Legion’s Field of Remembrance, with a PPA family member representing the unit to a member of the Royal Family at the PPA plot in the Special Forces section, and this is called the PPA Westminster Remembrance Event. On Remembrance Sunday foPPA holds its main annual PPA Memorial Remembrance Event at the PPA Memorial in the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Contact us...

Friends of PPA
3b Glendower Place
South Kensington
London SW7 3DU
United Kingdom

Telephone: +44(0)20-7584 7891
Email: foppa@popski.org

Executive Committee and Patrons

FoPPA does not currently have a chairman or chairwoman since the death of Major Campbell in 2015. The Executive Committee comprises: Suzi (previously Roy) Paterson, Honorary Secretary; Guy Harris, Honorary Treasurer; and Anne French, Honorary Head of Memorials. Current Patrons are: both of Popski's daughters, Olga and Anne, and Sir Robert Crawford CBE, ex-Director-General of the Imperial War Museum. Sir Christopher Lee CBE was a schoolfriend of Major Campbell and a foPPA Patron until his own death in 2015.

Anne French joined the foPPA Executive Committee as Head of Memorials on 1 January 2014. This honorary position reflects the dedication and commitment that Anne has shown in maintaining the PPA Memorial, in all weathers, in recent years. Anne, a qualified pilot, is the daughter of Captain "Ricky" Rickwood, Skipper of 'R' Patrol, and brings a load of practical, straight-talking experience to ExComm.

In September 2005, with over £16,000 of financial assistance from the “Heroes Return Fund” of the National Lottery, foPPA organized a PPA remembrance trip to Ravenna and Venice in Italy. Ceremonies of remembrance were conducted for the PPA Roll of Honour at the Argenta Gap and Ravenna War Cemeteries, various PPA battle sites around Ravenna were visited, and the Mayors of Ravenna and Venice generously laid on civic receptions. Billed as “Operation Diamond - The Last Operation of Popski’s Private Army”, the event was attended by PPA veterans, Italian partisans, Popski’s two daughters and many PPA relatives and friends.

On Sunday 30 March 2008, Popski’s birthday, foPPA held a special service of remembrance and dedication at the unveiling of the PPA Memorial in the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. The memorial was unveiled by PPA Patron Sir Robert Crawford CBE, Director General of the Imperial War Museum, in the presence of nearly 150 PPA veterans, relatives and friends, an Italian Partisan veteran and the Italian Defence Attaché, as well as two completely authentic reproduction PPA patrol jeeps, brought by their owners, the PPA Preservation Society (PPA-PS), from Belgium. The Long Range Desert Group, the Special Air Service Regiment, Italian Partisans, and the 27th Lancers, who fought alongside PPA and some of whose members transferred to the unit, were also represented.

From 2003 to 2008 foPPA produced an occasional newsletter, “The Astrolabe”, whenever funds made it possible, and this was distributed free of charge to PPA veterans, relatives and friends, to keep them informed on reunions, people found and research results. FoPPA is in touch with over 200 PPA relatives, and is constantly working to locate more of them, put them in touch with each other and help with their family research. We tried to ensure that PPA was represented at the veterans' funerals so that the families knew that they were not forgotten. The last two known PPA veterans died in early 2016.

In 2007 foPPA took over the publishing imprint of PPA veteran Corporal Ben Owen and republished his book “With Popski’s Private Army“ through “Astrolabe Military Paperbacks”. Sadly, Ben died just before the PPA Memorial was unveiled, but a poem that he wrote especially for the occasion was read out by Guy, and is now read out at all PPA Remembrance Events. Further books are planned, including John Campbell’s own story which was thought lost 30 years ago but recovered by foPPA research efforts.

FoPPA and PPA-PS (the PPA Preservation Society) have worked very closely together for many years, collaborating on research and remembrance events and both organisations are dedicated to researching, preserving, honouring and sharing the memory and history of PPA, and would appreciate anyone with information about PPA veterans or unit history making contact. FoPPA maintains the Official Register of PPA Personnel — the most accurate and complete known database of PPA personnel — and is continuing its research with Popski’s private papers. As relative late-comers to the PPA research party, we are not of course the only people who have hunted around for more information about PPA, and we know of some who were working thirty or forty years ago, when many more of the veterans were still alive, memories were fresher and documents not yet thrown away. We invite those who discover this website to share their material with us and make it available through the website for the benefit of all, and we are very happy to give personal credit (for example: "Source: the XXX Collection").

We monitor and correct where necessary and possible both printed and web-based references to Popski and PPA, and also challenge invalid claims to PPA membership.

PPA-PS is the world authority on the configuration of PPA Jeeps, having been advised by many PPA veterans with detailed discussions and technical drawings regarding construction, modifications, weapons and equipment.

Altogether, foPPA has so far discovered 200 men (not all named), who served in PPA, some for just one day, up to SQMS “Dave” Davies of Hull, the only person who served continuously for the whole three-year life of the unit – not even Popski himself did that. In addition, 50+ attachments include Arabs, Italians and Russians, 12 pilots from the Glider Pilot Regiment, the 7 Royal Engineers (945 Inland Water Transport Company) of “Popski’s Private Navy”, and at least 10 other Intelligence and Signals personnel at various times.

There is a small display of PPA memorabilia in the Imperial War Museum’s “Secret War” gallery in Lambeth, London, and foPPA was awarded a small grant by the Gerry Holdsworth Special Forces Charitable Trust to work with the Imperial War Museum’s Sound Archives Department and record interviews with PPA veterans for posterity.

As foPPA is not funded by subscription, donations towards the long-term maintenance of the PPA Memorial, printing, postage and research costs are always welcome. £20,000 was donated by friends of PPA to pay for the PPA Memorial and the unveiling event, and overall nearly £75,000 has been raised for the PPA Memorial Fund to date.

Copyright © 2017 foPPA
9 Sep 2017