Don't Step on a Stonefish! was published in 1993 by:
Buckland Publications Ltd
Chaucer Business Park
Kent TN15 6PW
Email: publications buckland.co.uk
Used copies are available through Bookfinder.com and elsewhere.
In 1960, when channels through the coral reefs of the former Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony (now the independent countries of Kiribati and Tuvalu) were being contemplated, Dan Raschen happened to be the only Royal Engineers officer going that way. He knew nothing of coral, but that would not stop him advising! He was, however, disquietened by the advice "Don't step on a stonefish!" Evidently they were almost invisible and invariably deadly.
Reaching those untouched and highly remote atolls where the International Date Line crosses the Equator was itself an adventure but, assisted by the colonial community and the magnificent islanders, Dan and his companion, Jack Cheeseman, learnt by trial and plenty of error. Their unique trip was, almost literally, "out of this world". Coconuts mattered more than money and the allure of a grass skirt was judged by its rustle.
An unconventional approach to this unusual and sometimes dangerous task resulted in this entertaining account of Dan's experiences on, and in, the Pacific Ocean, so vast, so clear, and so seldom pacific! His deductions at the time regarding the formation of coral atolls are still of interest.
I knew Dan Raschen long before we came to live in the same village, and I am delighted, both as a friend and a fellow Sapper, that he has continued to record his varied life. He has a keen sense of the incongruous, and a puckish sense of humour which is more than a match for most situations.
Dan's two previous books give many splendid examples of sapper tasks in war, but Don't Step on a Stonefish! is about a project, no less challenging, undertaken by the Royal Engineers in peace. I am particularly glad to be associated with it as it shows how well our Corps can cope with the unusual and the unexpected, anywhere in the world - and the need to be something of a soldier, administrator, diplomat and scrounger!
I was pleased to read how old fashioned and half forgotten engineering techniques can still be made to work when modern resources are lacking. The same return to basics lies behind Dan's very interesting thoughts on the formation of coral atolls; if you can't find out, work it out! Just what others would have worked out when anchored to a large explosive charge with its quickly burning fuze, I would be interested to hear. Dan describes the incident, in chapter 15, as "sporting".
Wrong Again Dan! took him to the age of 22, and in its foreword Sir Hugh Beach predicted the start of a saga. How right he was, as this third book still only takes Dan to the ripe old age of 35! Many of us, whether or not associated with the Royal Engineers, will look forward to more.