Goodbye Dolly Gray

Many conflicts have a song or a tune which has come to symbolise it, WW1 and “Tipperary” comes to mind, as does “Brighton Camp” for the Napoleonic Wars and for the Boer War the popular song was “Goodbye Dolly Gray”.

These days two great wars have separated us from conflict in South Africa which dominated the years bridging the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but it was a hugely influential time. It was the first time The Empire was really challenged and it was the first “popular” war, when men flooded to the colours in a rush of patriotism.

The short comings of the army which were shown up by the tenacity and courage of the Boers led to the reforms which would produce the BEF which went to France in 1914.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because a while ago we were approached by a lady who was the owner of a diary, or at least part of a previously unpublished diary from the Boer War and she wondered if we as representatives of The Victorian Military Society would be interested in it. It covered a year of his service in South Africa during 1900.

What she gave us was a day by day account of an ordinary soldier on campaign and I have had the privilege of being one of the transcribers and it has been a riveting and fascinating insight into the life of an ordinary man who lived in extraordinary times. Someone once said that war is long periods of tedium punctuated by short moments of terror, Charlie (author of the diary), was a very lucky man, because all he got for the duration of the diary was the tedium.

So why was this so interesting?

What has made transcribing this document so enthralling?

And why is The VMS going to be publishing it?

Because while there are endless accounts of battles and officers careers, there are very few about the day to day life of a ranker at this time. Charlie tells us what they ate and what they thought of it. Where they slept and what they did to entertain themselves. He also tells us what he thought of the great events which were taking place near him or which he got news about. Views which are often very modern in their outlook.

We know a bit about Charlie Holmes, gleaned from odd bits and pieces he mentions. He was a reservist, called back to the colours and had served in the Far East. We know where he was born and when, but what we don’t know for certain is if his surnames was Holmes. As if often the case when searching military records, the one you want is missing.

“The Boer War Diary of Charlie Holmes” will be out soon.

The picture is an Imperial Yeoman c.1900 courtesy of “Scarlet Gunner”.

Boer War

 

 

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The Pipes! The Pipes!

Today I come to a controversial subject and one which divides people like no other…bagpipes.

Once upon a time someone thought “Its a pity to waste this animal’s stomach, why don’t we shove a couple of hollow reeds in it and see if we can make a noise” And so the bagpipe was born and I bet my last chocolate biscuit people have been arguing about the resulting sound ever since.

As far as I can see they come in two types, one where the bag is inflated by pumping and the other by blowing. My eldest goddaughter (Hi Lyndz) playing Northumberland pipes where she inflates the bag by means of some sort of bellows she works under one arm…don’t ask me for details, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but I have enormous respect for anyone who can make music.

On the other hand, Scots and Irish pipes are inflated by the pipers blowing into the bag.

Either way, the music comes when the air is squeezed out of the tubes. That the full extent of my grasp of the technical details.

How either of them manage to squeeze, blow and run their fingers up and down the holes in the reeds is a mystery to me, but thank god they can, because I love both versions, it sends shivers down my spine and brings a lump to my throat. I will admit I prefer Northumberland pipes in a confines space as the other sort can make the wax in your ears melt if they are played close by.

My Faran mercenaries love the sound of the pipes with one single exception. Stopping his pipers play is on of Lord Darach’s chief objects in life and as he is the boss, he gets his own way much of the times, but even he can’t stop them all the time.

“The Lord of the Faran Hills”

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B072R61BJS
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B072R61BJS

Soldiers of Fortune

“The Lord of the Faran Hills” is now live on Amazon.

Huzzah!

The soldiers in the book are mercenaries, but before you recoil in horror, its worth remembering not all soldiers of fortune are without merit.

Our own much loved Brigade of Gurkhas are technically mercenaries, they are foreign nationals we employ to fight for us and they are the pattern of honourable service I used for my troops.

Farans might fight because they are paid to fight, but that is all they do, they don’t turn on the civilian population causing as much or even more misery than the supposed enemy, unlike the many examples who ravaged Europe during the 14th and 15thC.

When fighting is your profession, you obviously take a keen interest in developments in the tools of your trade. At the beginning of the book Lord Darach and his men rely on swords, crossbows and the pike, they know about “gonnes”, they just aren’t convinced about their reliability or flexibility, but when offered the advancement of the musket, they will be among the first of their kind to exploit its potential.

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B072R61BJS

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B072R61BJS

 

 

 

Muskets Are Here

Hi everyone.

I am very pleased to say my next book “The Lord of the Faran Hills” will be available on Amazon Kindle in the next few days (possibly hours).

When Aulay Fitzgellis allowed himself to be talked into rebellion against his brother the king, it never cross his mind he might not win.

Now the only thing keeping his head on his shoulders is the leader of the mercenaries who defeated him.

Lord Darach of the Faran Hills is willing to save Aulay, but he also has a few other things on his mind, there’s the possibilities of a new weapon called a “musket” and there’s also the problem of stopping the bagpipers from assaulting his ears with their so called music.”

I’ve had a lot of fun writing this, loads of research on muskets and how an army works on the march. I also got to play a wargame while I worked out how a siege. I must thank my lovely husband for the loan of his model castle – yes, -I know I moaned like hell when you monopolised the dining room table while you were building it, but I didn’t know then how useful it was going to be.

If you give the book a try, let me know what you think, I love to hear from readers.

 

Mercenaries, Muskets and Monkeys.

I will be honest, I added the “monkey” bit because it sounded good, but there is a reason for the mercenaries and the muskets.

NEW BOOK!

Huzzah!

Currently with Dave, my lovely editor and undergoing his rigorous scrutiny is my next offering “The Lord of the Faran Hills”.

This is a bit of a departure for me, because it is fantasy, although fantasy without magic, I reserve magic for the weird stuff like in “A Solemn Curfew”, but it is fantasy and not science fiction.

However, I am returning to a favourite theme…soldiers. I have a soft spot for all things military, having been married to a military historian for quite a few years. Normally my soldiers are regulars, but this time I wanted to explore the world of the soldier of fortune.

Normally these guys get a very bad press and rightly so, but there are many who don’t deserve it. They are men who fight and defend a foreign power in exchange for a salary like The Swiss Guard who look after the Pope and The Gurkhas who serve with the British Army, technically these guys are mercenaries, but their honour and reputation is well established.

The same is true for the ones in my new book.

And then there are the muskets. I’ve has so much fun researching muskets. More of that next post.

The book will be out soon I hope and I hope some of you will find it as fun to read as it was to write.