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El Ombú: A British Family Saga in Argentina WWII

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El Ombú: A British Family Saga in Argentina WWII
  • by Beldon Butterfield
    • Published by author
      • First Edition 2019
        • 398 6.3x8.9-inch pages
A relevant historical family saga told through the eyes of Lt. David Redfield, DFC & Bar. David is a volunteer photo reconnaissance Spitfire pilot during World War II born and raised in Buenos Aires, known as BA by the British and their descendants. The reader will learn about the British and cultural hegemony in Argentina. David's war experience takes him to the Dover coastline, then to Tunisia where he becomes a POW of the Italian military. The oddyssey continues as he escapes on a submarine bound for the Island of Malta. He is then sent to the British Mandate of Palestine before returning to Great Britain. In London he is trained by MI6 as the Third Reich implodes and their leaders make plans to create the Fourth Reich in Argentina as they transship bullion and Nazi officers, the likes of Adolph Eichmann, along pre-established ratlines.


"El Ombu is the third Butterfield novel our Bayfield Book Club has reviewed and is his best yet. It's a rollicking adventure and love story about a young Anglo-Argentinian Spitfire pilot, David Redfield, who served with the RAF during World War II. Extraordinary research and a fresh perspective. As Canadian readers, we were intrigued by the chapter on Redfield's initial flight training in Canada at the commandeered Eglington Hunt Club, now the prestigious Toronto Hunt Club. Also, the little known fact that, after the war, hundreds of the young RAF Argentinian pilots, rather than returning to Argentina (then ruled by the new Nazi-friendly Peronista regime), instead chose to resettle in Canada at the invitation of MacKenzie-King's Liberal government."
—William A. Rowat, Former Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister of Canada and Assistant Secretary of the federal government.
"An interesting, revealing walk through an unknown history of Argentina by an author who spins an engrossing story of life at that time. As a fighter pilot in the Desert Air Force (DAF) during WWII the author's description of air warfare is quite real in the air and on the ground. His leading female character is not only an accomplished pilot in the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), but a demanding woman in her free time."
—Ret. Lt. Gerry Teldon, a P-47 Thunderbolt pilot in WWII


The Redfield family are owners of El Ombú, a 60,000-acre estancia (cattle and sheep ranch) located on the vast plains of the Argentine pampa. The Ombú is a majestic evergreen tree native to the pampa. Its magical qualities are also part of this story as seen through the eyes of Lt. David Redfield, an RAF photo-reconnaissance pilot in World War II. As an Anglo-Argentine volunteer, the reader follows David’s unlikely wartime romance in Great Britain. Follow his wartime experiences in Great Britain, North Africa, in Italy as a prisoner of war, his escape to Malta and a secret trip to the British Mandate of Palestine and an unusual visit to a kibbutz where he learns of Nazi atrocities carried out in Argentina against the Jews.

David’s Italo-Argentine boyhood friend and half-brother, Lodovico “Vico” Mancini will join the OVRA (Italian SS) in Musollini’s army rising to the rank of tenento colonnello. When David becomes a POW in Italy, Vico will facilitate David’s escape by sea on a submarine to Malta. The relationship with Vico with his knowledge of escape “ratlines” to get Nazis and their gold bullion to Argentina becomes the reason MI6 recruits David and Vico despite the latter being branded a war criminal. As the Third Reich crumbles, the leaders make plans to create the Fourth Reich in Nazi-friendly Argentina.

David returns to Argentina as it slowly spins out of control under the dictatorship of Juan Domingo Perón and his wife, Evita as the country proceeds to destroy the British economic hegemony and the Anglo-Argentine presence. After the loss of El Ombú cattle and sheep ranch and all the Redfield properties, David will move to the state of Colorado with his soon to be wife.

The book ends with the capture of Adolph Eichmann by a team of Mossad agents and sent to Israel to stand trial for his crimes against humanity.


While this is a work of fiction, much of the story is factually accurate when dealing with Argentina and the Anglo-Argentine dominance when the country was considered an “informal colony of Great Britain.” Towns, schools, churches, monuments built by the British are real. Most exist to this day. Entertaining British merchant marine sailors during the war at our Olivos home is accurate, as is the encounter with a German U boat.

The information dealing with the First World War came directly from my father who served as a trench sniper. After the war he shipped out to Argentina as an immigrant. During the Second World War he served the Allied cause preparing blacklists of Argentines supporting the Axis powers.

When Juan Doming Perón and his wife Evita came to power it was only a matter of time before the fascist leaning government exposed my father causing him and my mother to flee Argentina to Uruguay on a private yacht. Both are buried in the British cemetery in Montevideo. During these difficult times, my brother and I were sent to schools in the United States.

I want to thank my brother Alan, who as an agronomist educated in New Zealand, provided me with information on life on many estancias when acting as a consultant in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. In particular, a famous estancia, San Pedro El Timonete, located in Cerro Colorado, Uruguay, that eventually became a popular resort known as a casa de campo as well as recognized as a national treasure. People visit to relive life on an estancia from a bygone era; that is to say when my brother worked there and I visited.

Eight hundred Anglo-Argentines volunteered to join the RAF and were trained by the RCAF outside of the city of Ontario in Canada. Four hundred became pilots, while 150 died in combat. They did have their own 164 Squadron and flew under the Argentine flag on their flight suits below which appeared the words firmes volamos. It took until 1994 for these flyers to be recognized in a ceremony held at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa.

Gerry Teldon served as a lieutenant in the Desert Air Force (DAF) flying a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter-bomber. He taught me the “ins” and “outs” of strategic and tactical air warfare as well as “traps” employed by the German military on the ground.

The encounter in the desert between a German and British tank was told to me by a German tank commander who ended up as a POW in the state of Kansas. The two chapters that take place on the submarine HMS Sickle are accurate according to memoirs written by English submariners. The Sickle was one of two British submarines named after agricultural equipment. The submarine served in the Mediterranean Sea.

The information on Spitfires flying out of bases along the British Channel is largely based on a documentary called Spitfire. The information on Nazi gold in Argentina is based on the Argentine documentary German Gold in Argentina. The arrival of U boats 530 and 970 at the naval base in Mar del Plata is true, including the dates four months after the end of the war. The description of the Negba Kibbutz existed in the time frame of this book. Some descriptions are accurate while some are fictional.

The descriptions of post-war London are taken from 1950 when my family and I lived a summer in Marble Arch Mews in London. Places like the Canning Club, previously known as the Argentine Club, are real.

The Author

Beldon Butterfield came to Mexico in 1962 with Time/Life International. He is a dual national and presently lives in San Miguel de Allende. He is a regular lecturer to newly arrived foreign residents titled: Mexico - History, Legend and Cross Border Culture. He has published two novels in Mexico, The Crystal Bull and The Line/La Línea. He has represented the Financial Times and Business Week for over 20 years. From 1975 to 1985 he published a series of magazines along the west coast of Mexico titled About: About Tijuana (including Ensenada, Loreto and San Felipe). Los Cabos (including La Paz), Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Guadalajara and Acapulco. (For more information:

In the 1980s, as a representative of Business Week, we published four special sections on "production sharing" along the border. As a representative of the magazine, I was also a member of a Mexican think tank in Mexico City known as The Pinnacle Group. During these years in the late 90s, I had the opportunity to meet and listen to many leading Mexican politicians and businessmen.

In conjunction with the editorial staff of the Financial Times we annually publish two FT Reports on Mexico. I have been doing this over the last 20 years. The last report appeared in the March 31st 2010 edition of the FT. In addition I have worked from 1994 to 2008 outsourcing for the Mexican Bank of Foreign Trade (Bancomext). I have also worked as a consultant to the Center of Advanced Studies in Tourism (CESTUR), a division of the Ministry of Tourism.

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