If this is the first of my virtual tour posts that you’ve stumbles upon, since Christmas I’ve been on a journey around the Solent from Fort Gilkicker, along Southampton Water, back out to Calshot, over to The Channel Islands and France and today we travel in our mind’s eye to Turkey and the Mediterranean. This is the journey of Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home, my second novel, and the destination of Harriet’s most adventurous son as he played his part in WW1.
It is the stories of Jack and his brother Tom which makes Ancasta such a unique story of WW1, but without giving too much away in today’s post I will explain the background to Jack’s tale. Jack was the lively son, full of a sense of humour and a need for adventure. (Tom was the quite, thoughtful one and Ernest the serious young man who took role as head of the family since his father died in earnest!) Mechanically minded Jack was never more at home than when he was working on engines. Apprenticed at White’s Boatyard as an engineer on the banks of the River Itchen, it was the most natural progression in the world for him to transfer to Calshot, where he maintained flying boats at the new RNAS station in 1913.
As war broke out he joined up and his story, told by letters back home to his loving wife Hannah, were of his excitement, joys and frustrations of working on one of the earliest sea plane carriers in WW1, The Ben my Chree, meaning ‘Lady of my Heart,’ which I thought such an apt double entendre. Was it his wife or his ship and the sea planes he so lovingly worked on who stole his heart? You, the reader, must decide.
Turkey was where the Ben my Chree contributed most to the war effort and this is where my novel describes real events through the eyes of Jack. My research, carried out mainly at the Shuttleworth Archives, of the Ben my Chree led me to visit The Fleet Air Arm Museum at RNAS Yeovilton, where I was excited to see scale models of early sea plane carriers like the one Jack served on. (In fact, I was more enthusiastic than my husband, who was keen to see jets and planes of a more modern era which meant nothing to me!) Before doing this research I was unaware of the part sea plane carriers played in WW1 and I hope that my novel will prove to be informative as well as a good read.
On a couple of occasions Jack’s ship docked in Port Said for repairs and supplies. I had vivid pictures of the port in my mind from early postcards my grandfather had collected of the area when he was in the Navy. I cannot share them with you today but hope to in the future. Since reading Ancasta my father has told me a story of my family history of which I was totally unaware before writing the novel. I am bursting to tell you this but can’t, and if you’ve been following my journey into writing from the beginning it is certainly not the first strange coincidence to take place. What I can say is that my grandfather actually met his brother quite by chance in Post Said back in WW1, but I’m afraid I’ll just have to let you read the book before I tell you what really happened.
Back to my novel Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home, what Hannah makes of these adventures as she is left at home with their young daughter waiting for news is the other side to my story of course. How did Jack and the pilot of his planes contribute to the war effort? Did the Ben my Chree survive the war? Did Jack return home?
All these questions I cannot answer. You’ll just have to wait and see, but if you’ve read Ancasta and want to know the true coincidence then drop me an email and I’d be happy to tell you!