A FIRST World War historian from Chepstow is celebrating after becoming one of the world’s few self-published authors to top the Amazon bestseller charts.

Susan Burnett, was rejected by a string of mainstream publishers who believed her book, On That Day I Left My Boyhood Behind, lacked “commercial appeal”.

She based the book on the memoirs of her late grandfather, Norman Woodcock, who fought for King and country in the First World War.

It tells the true story of Norman’s bloody battles on the frontlines at Gallipoli, in the Middle East and on the Somme.

Undeterred by the feedback from mainstream publishers, Susan decided to self-publish – and has since won bestseller status and critical acclaim.

The book topped the Amazon book chart of World War One biographies both as a paperback and on Kindle.

It has also been serialised in a national newspaper to mark the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Landings.

Susan said: “I’m absolutely delighted with the success I’ve had and with all the positive feedback people have given.

“When I began pulling together my grandfather’s memoirs and researching the history, I found it fascinating and was thoroughly absorbed.

“I’m delighted so many other people have been able to enjoy and learn from my grandfather’s personal story and to be able to share his lasting legacy.”

Norman was forced to leave the family bakery in Leeds to fight for his country in 1914 at the age of 17. Earlier that year he had joined the Territorial Army as a Royal Engineer Signaller and was mobilised on the outbreak of war.

When he died in 1987, at the age of 90, he left three files to Susan which contained the moving story of what happened to him and his comrades and to his beloved horse, Timbuc.

Ms Burnett, a researcher and consultant in patient safety for Imperial College, London, pulled together her grandfather’s memoirs and her own historical findings to complete the book.

It includes never-before-revealed insights into the 1915 Gallipoli Landings, a “bloodthirsty” campaign that resulted in the loss of 56,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers.

Norman was in charge of communication wires during the doomed campaign, and described the eight months spent fighting well trained Turkish troops in Gallipoli as a ‘living hell’.

On That Day I Left My Boyhood Behind also includes his memories of serving Lawrence of Arabia in the Middle East and on the Somme at the end of World War One.

Historians widely consider the Gallipoli Campaign as one of the biggest battlefield blunders in recent military history, and have described Susan’s book as of “great historical importance”.

But Susan’s remarkable success story doesn’t end there.

She is currently working on the sequel to her grandfather’s story, sharing more memoirs from 1919 to the early 1960s.

His experiences of a return to civilian life where there was high unemployment and no housing, the General Strike in 1926, his first plane journey in the 1920s, the rise of the trade unions, and his work with the Home Guard are all captured in his memoirs.

The book’s success means Susan, 54, has become a sought-after public speaker and will be talking at the War & Peace Revival Festival in Folkstone, Kent, from July 22 to 26. She will also be giving a talk in Chepstow Library on 6th October, organised by Chepstow Bookshop.

She added: “It has been a rollercoaster of a year, and I am grateful to my friends, family and readers for making it happen.”

On That Day I Left My Boyhood Behind is available now in paperback, including in Chepstow Bookshop and on Amazon priced £9.99 or on Kindle at £4.79.