Tag Archives: Woolston

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

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

Virtual Tour of the Solent ~ The Story so far and where to next?

Solent map googleCalshot

I began this virtual tour to show that a sense of place is important in my writing. I need to describe the areas in my novel enough to help the reader to feel that ‘sense of place,’ but I thought it might be helpful to give a little more background information and description. I have written ten posts around the Solent area so far, but before I leave the shores of mainland England I thought a summary would be helpful:

1 ~ At the beginning of this year I began my virtual tour at Gilkicker Fort on the strategic peninsula guarding the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour. It was there that one of my main characters, Harriet’s daughter Sarah, was stationed  with the husband, at the newly refurbished married quarters, back in 1910. It was a life that Sarah found hard to come to terms with but then came the war which changed everything.

2 ~ Close by was Fort Grange, still enclosed in the Naval Station today, where early pilots were trained for combat and reconnaissance missions in WW1 including Anthony, Sarah’s husband.

3 ~ A short distance along the coast is Lee on Solent, not strictly speaking in Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home, but it may be in the no, 3 in the series. Lee was important at that time though, since it was one of the earliest Flying Boat Stations on the south coast.

4 ~ Just up the estuary takes you to the sheltered inlet into Hamble, which is an unspoilt haven for sailing boats. Anthony’s family lived there, with its cobbled streets and a small ferry over to Warsash, much the same today as it was at the turn of the last century, I should imagine.

5 ~ Further up Southampton Water is The Royal Victoria Park, once the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, with only the tall chapel remaining as a signal to the grandeur of the original building which had corridors a quarter of a mile long. It is still a lovely place to visit, go for a stroll, have a picnic and find out about its interesting history. Jane, one of my characters, well known to those who have read Riduna, was stationed there, close enough to Harriet for them to remain friends although Jane had little time to spare for social calls, especially during the war.

6 ~ Visiting the ghostly remains of Netley Abbey en-route, popular with the Victorians, we reach Weston Shore, important in both of my novels as a place to feel the sea and watch those on their journeys too and from Southampton Docks. It could be a place you might overlook, but if you make the efffort and stop and have a walk along its shores, it’s a haven for wildlife and it’s a wonderful place to watch the world go by. It’s here that the name of my novel seemed so apt. ‘Ancasta’ ~ ‘The Swift One.’ Many folks have stood, as Harriet did, on these shores and prayed for the swift and safe return of their loved ones, but for Harriet it was more than that. It was here she watched the Channel Island Ferries as they journeyed to the place of her birth. It was a direct channel to Guernsey (Sarnia in my novel) and Alderney (Riduna in my novel) which she loved but had left behind so long ago.

7 ~ Woolston. The Newton family grew up in the heart of Woolston, working in the local industry, initially as boat builders but subsequently early flying boats. (Supermarine) Harriet ran a popular guest house mainly for travellers. One of her son’s worked in a bicycle shop too. Each of her family played their part in WW1, Sarah returning home for the duration of the war with her little son Timothy.

8~ Southampton. Across the Floating Bridge is Southampton itself, still a thriving port and the window to the world to many of my characters including Edward, also well known to many of you from Riduna, Harriet’s childhood sweetheart from the island of Riduna. Their lives took very different paths but they continue to cross at times and Edward’s occasional visits still have a positive impact on the lives of the Newton family, especially Timothy and Sarah.

9~ Over the Hotspur to Hythe is where Edward lives, when he’s on land, with his more than housekeeper Marie. She’s a larger than life character and I’m quite fond of her, even though I feel a bit disloyal to Harriet for doing so.

10 ~ Just a few miles up to the peninsula we reach Cashot, at the mouth of Southampton Water, and if you want a place to ‘ship watch’ this is it. One of Harriet’s son’s Jack was stationed here before and at the start of WW1, where he was an engineer at the new RNAS flying boat station back in 1913.  He continued to travel home to his young family in Woolston, that was until he joined up and travelled to join the HMS Ben my Chree, one of the earliest sea plane carriers which went out to Turkey.

So, where does my virtual tour go to next? We reach the point when we now travel beyond the Solent, and we’re heading across the sea to The Channel Islands as from Monday. In fact that’s where the original story  of Riduna began.

Meanwhile I’m continuing my real centenary tour

at Waterstones in St Neots this Saturday on 23rd March from 11am.

I look forward to meeting some more of you then.


Filed under Alderney, Ancasta, Early Flight, Events, Flying Boats and Sea Planes, Riduna, Southampton, Virtual Tour of the Solent and Beyond, Weston Shore, Woolston

Centenary Book~Signing Tour begins March 1913 to 2013!

Hi folks

I have some good news!

I’m back on the road again to celebrate three centenaries in my novel:

Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home


I wrote about the first centenary, RNAS Calshot in March 1913, in my last post and so to celebrate a year of centenaries leading into 2014 and the big event to commemorate the Great War I have organised various events and these are the ones confirmed so far:

I am really pleased to launch my tour at the very heart of my novel, where the story began on the banks of the River Itchen:

16th March 2013 Above Bar Waterstones Southampton 12pm to 2pm

Then I will be popping in to say hello at The Yacht Tavern, Woolston to have a chat, answer questions and sign copies:

16th March 2013 The Yacht Tavern Woolston after 2.15pm

(dependent on the football traffic!)

The following week I am at St Neots, closer to home, where the history of aviation is hugely important, with Duxford and Shuttleworth not far away:

23rd March 2013 St Neot’s Waterstones from 11am to 2pm

Then in October I will be even closer to home in Hitchen, but this time I will be giving a talk in the evening about my novels and how the history of aviation, early flying boats, Supermarine, sea planes and sea plane carriers into WW1 influenced my writing. With Shuttleworth just up the road, it should be a good night. Refreshments available!

Thursday 3rd October 2013 at Hitchen Waterstones at 7pm

Then I will conclude my tour back in Southampton, where it all began!

Saturday 12th October 2013 at Waterstones West Quay Southampton 11am to 2pm

More venues in the pipeline to be confirmed.

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Filed under Ancasta, Book Shops, Events, Southampton