Category Archives: WW1

A Poignant and Unexpected Walk in The Somme

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Classic Le Mans

We were travelling through France this summer to fulfill two of my husband’s dreams. The first was to attend Classic Le Mans, an exciting series of car races on this famous circuit, reflecting the early eras  of racing ~ each group of cars from the 1920’s to 1960’s racing over a 24 hour period. An event such as this takes you back in time and I love to imagine the crowds through the ages, their style of dress and way of life, quite removed from our own. We did not watch through the night, although I’m sure many did, but instead enjoyed the warm ambiance of the historic centre of Le Mans, well worth a visit.

My husband’s second wish was to visit The Somme where two of his great uncles died, all the more poignant since our trip coincided with the 100 year commemorations. It was Bastille Day, quiet in many villages we passed through, and so we stopped at the small town of Albert for lunch before setting the sat nav to The Thiepval Memorial. I had in fact looked at a map and reasoned that it might be better to travel a little further on the larger roads but I was overruled.

We turned right down a small side street which led into a little lane. The narrower our chosen route became the more nervous we all felt. By the time there was grass up the middle and pit holes only suitable for tractors it was too late and impossible to turn my husband’s jaguar. There was no choice but for us three passengers to  bale out. I walked in front of the car pointing to the highest ridges as hubby crept painfully forward. The sun was shining. We could just catch glimpses of the memorial over the hedges, approximately two miles away. At times we held our breath. Was the car going to bottom out on the large flint boulders? It would be impossible to reverse safely all that way back.

Surrounded by fields, rolling hills and wooded glades it would have been a beautiful stroll in the French countryside. We were filled with conflicting emotions. It was in those moments that I experienced visions of our men 100 years ago in WW1, trudging along that very same path, following carts loaded with men or armaments on the way to war or with the injured on the way home. I was humbled to imagine treading in their footsteps and wondered what they had been thinking. Many in the early days must have been excited, elated to be on an adventure ~ and yet, closer to the reality of war, the intensity of fear must have filled the air with each step.

Awakened from my reverie, I gasped at the sight of a ford ahead of us,  but was flooded with relief a hundred metres on to see that the track, previously hidden from view, veered to the right well above water level. Soon after this the surface became gravel and then tarmac and we were able to get back in the car and continue to our destination, The Thiepval Memorial.

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Thiepval Memorial

(Diana Jackson has written two books partly set during The Great War.

‘Ancasta ~ Guide me Swiftly Home’ is historical fiction, a family saga set between 1910 and 1920 which also reflects the story of early flying boats and sea planes.

‘Murder, Now and Then’ is a mystery of two murders set 100 years apart.)

 

 

 

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‘Unsolved Case of Body in Wilstead Woods’ ~ Beds on Sunday Reporter writes …

I’m celebrating being featured in the Beds on Sunday local newspaper! Great article and I do appreciate their time, especially the photographer who was very patient with me, taking shots in various poses in The Swan Hotel, Bedford – in the library of course, in the lobby, up the staircase and out the back. The week had been a bit stressful and I had not had much sleep,  thus the photo in the paper is a bit severe – perhaps they wanted me to look serious and a bit frightening – spooky lighting maybe:

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Beds on Sunday Feature

Their online version photo is much more flattering (when you are not too photogenic you can’t help being a bit over sensitive – hubby says ‘Don’t worry – You look fine in real life’ – charming!)

http://www.bedfordshire-news.co.uk/8203-Unsolved-case-body-Wilstead-woods-inspires/story-27472102-detail/story.html

What is all the fuss about. Well, if you have an hour or so to spare next Monday at 2 pm I will be at The Swan Hotel giving a talk ‘Murder in the Library‘ followed by cake and tea and a chance to have a chat and sign a few copies of ‘Murder, Now and Then‘. A very English happening in a charming English hotel. What are you waiting for? Here are the details:

Swan Murder Flyer

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Filed under Bedfordshire, Book reading, Marketing your novel, Murder Now and Then, WW1

Mid Bedfordshire Murder Mystery Tour ~ No 2 ~ A Walk to look over the vale of Bedford

For the next few posts I will be exploring the places in Bedfordshire I know so well, which feature in my murder mystery ‘Murder, now and then. This time we will leave the bicycle at home and venture on foot.

There are many pleasant walks around Haynes and Clophill ~ one passing the old church and through Pedley Woods returning via great Lane ~ another progressing further through the woods until you emerge overlooking the valley towards Hitchin and the Barton Hills, but today I’m going to take you from Haynes Church, the inspiration for my novel.

There is parking (at your own risk) in the church car park, unless there is a service on, and I’d like you to follow the steps of the video and pause a while at Nelly Rault’s grave. Nelly was the young Jersey lass whose true story and unsolved murder set my writing journey in a direction I had not anticipated, but have thoroughly enjoyed. Once you have found her grave you can also admire the view across to Haynes Park, close to the setting of my murder back in 1919.

We shall walk today because you will be  following in my heroines footsteps, who I have renamed Lucille Vardon.

Back-tracking along the church path, turn left, passing the unspoilt cottages of Haynes Church End on you right. You will pass one of the imposing gateways to Haynes Park, but this is private land. Fortunately for us the farm track immediately to its right is a

Haynes Park, Bedfordshire

Haynes Park, Bedfordshire

designated footpath and this leads parallel to the drive and winds on the edge of farm fields. Taking a right hand turn, clearly marked, the footpath veers towards the village of Haynes before joining another path from the village. Turning left the other side of the hedge you continue, back towards Haynes Park and their farm buildings until you reach a small pond. You can pause on the bench here if you wish to seek some peace and quiet.

The path continues until you are standing above the valley looking over towards Bedford. The sight of the Shortstown hangers, great cathedrals paying homage to the airships of

Shortstown Hangers

Shortstown Hangers

yesteryear including the R101 in the distance ~a sight which captures you breath in a moment’s reflection. Did ‘Lucille’ stop too and gaze in awe of this remarkable sight whilst walking this way from her work at the army camp to Bedford?

Below there are footpaths towards Wilshamstead and, although there is no legal path through the woods now where the 1919 murder took place, but the trees are clearly visible and whilst I was planning my novel my imagination ran riot here, as ideas flowed to intertwine past and present. It was here that I came up with the title ‘Murder, now and then,’ before the ins and outs of the novel were conceived but not long afterwards the idea of a centenary in 2019 began to take shape and the ‘now’ murder shifted a few years!

You may retread your footsteps to return to the church or, if you have a longer walk in mind you could continue back towards the village of Hayes and return to Church End by road, adding another couple of miles or more to your walk.

Returning along the lane you may glance over towards the farmhouse in my novel and your eyes may do a double – take. It does not actually exist and it superimposed on the video ~ clever hey! (I did not wish to upset a local farmer!!)

‘Murder, now and then’ is Diana Jackson’s third novel and is a murder mystery in Bedfordshire set in 2019, with flashbacks to the original murder in 1919. 

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Filed under Bedfordshire, Murder Now and Then, Virtual Tour of Bedfordshire, Writing, Writing a novel, WW1