Category Archives: Virtual Tour of the Solent and Beyond

Virtual Tour of the Solent and Beyond ~No 15~ India ~ The last Post

This is my last post in my virtual journey to the various locations in Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home and it’s a place I never expected to go to when I planned the novel. Although I made an outline before I began to write, for me it’s always the research, as well as intuition and listening to my characters, which leads the flow of my writing. I often end up in locations which are a complete surprise to me and India was one of these.

I had a vague idea that Siberia played a part in the Great War, but I had absolutely no idea that we sentSolent Google Map Karachi1 troops to India, in fact my character arrived in Karachi, which was part of India rather than Pakistan back in 1916, when this part of my novel took place.

I was asked during one of my talks at Bitterne Library whether I’d visited India (& Pakistan) as part of my research, and I have to hold up my hand and admit that I didn’t and so how did I write the relevant chapters?

I don’t want to tell you the story, but I my aim was to weave historical detail around a plausible tale. Letters reaching home from so far away were sporadic and so this added to the anxiety of family left behind in Woolston. First I read as much as I could on the internet but, always liking to verify these web pages, I was sent copies of accounts of the times sent to me by The Hampshire Regiment Museum in Winchester. I have subsequently visited the museum and, almost as if to prove a point that the world is not so far apart, there were Gurkhas and their wives visiting at the same time, who took part in WW2. These accounts coloured my writing, not only with detail but descriptions and atmosphere. How did the troops feel to be so far away? What did they do? What did the area look like?

Here is a link to the Imperial War Museum where you can see the badge of the 9th (Cyclist) Battalion, The Hampshire Regiment.

Other questions pertinent to my story were,

How did Harriet’s son Tom, the quiet unadventurous one, cope with life in India?

Did he return?

What part did he play in the Great War?

What news of his experiences was he able to send home in his letters?

Through my story I tried to show the contrast in conditions to life here in England, or even to those poor souls out in the muddy fields of France, but most of what you read in the ‘India’ chapters are my imagination, seamlessly interspersed with factual details of the day. I can thank staff at the museum for reading the chapters to check for authenticity.

And so I end my virtual tour today. I have enjoyed sharing my journey with you, of locations that have become so vivid in my imagination that, when I visit them, (maybe I will go to Karachi one day too) I can imagine my characters living and working as if it were all true. Well, they certainly are true in my heart!

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancasta, Historical Fiction, Planning a novel, The Great War, Virtual Tour of the Solent and Beyond, WW1

Virtual Tour of the Solent and Beyond ~No 14~WW1 in the Med and Port Said

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 theSolent Google Maps Turkey Port Said 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!

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancasta, Early Flight, Family History, Flying Boats and Sea Planes, Research, Virtual Tour of the Solent and Beyond, WW1

Virtual Tour of the Solent and Beyond~No 13~Over the English Channel to France in the Great War

Over to France

Over to France

Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home is set between 1910 and 1920 and so the members of the Newton family see many facets of World War One; the life changing experiences of the women at home in Woolston as Harriet opens her home for convalescent soldiers; the marked effect on their children and Jane’s world at The Royal Victoria Hospital. Life goes on as best it can.

There is a continuous flow of ships up and down Southampton Water, including Edward’s ship, commandeered to send new troops to France and to return full to the gunnels with the injured. Every home in every street is affected, when memories of the horror of the Titanic have barely had the chance to heal. Although Ancasta dwells more on those who remain in Woolston, France is never far from their minds, especially when Anthony, Harriet’s son-in-law is trained initially as an observer, on reconniassnace missions taking photographs of the area of conflict from the air. Then, having taken part in several successful fact finding missions he came home to fulifil his wish to complete his full pilot training.  

Thus Ancasta has chapters which tell Anthony’s story from his training at Gosport to his long journey to France, by ship to Le Havre and then by barge up the river to Rouen; the sights on this trip in sharp contrast to the ones he will witness shortly. We read of some of his  experiences in France through letters to his wife wife Sarah, who has moved back home to Woolston to live with her mother Harriet for the duration of the war. Through these extracts we learn of Anthony’s joy of learning to fly and we see the war on the home front through his eyes, not in the depths of the muddy fields of France but almost as a movie from above. It is nonetheless vivid in its devastation.

These chapters were inspired expecially by an old tome I borrowed from The Shuttleworth Archives called ‘Sagittarius Rising’ by Cecil Lewis, a gripping true account which reads more like a novel in itself.

Will Anthony be one of the lucky ones to return? What are the odds with my no 13 post on my virtual tour?

When you think of the sacrifice so many of these young men made for us all though, luck doesn’t really come into it, does it?

The name of the novel ‘Ancasta’ is even more pertinent during this period as the women prayed for the swift and safe return of their loved ones from France just as the Romans prayed to Ancasta, ‘The Swift One’ centuries before in this very location.

There are many websites and blogs related to The Great War but here is a link to one I follow:

Great War Photos

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancasta, Early Flight, Research, Role of Women, The Great War, Virtual Tour of the Solent and Beyond, Woolston, WW1