Charlie’s Diary

I started my working life in an office. In fact I spent nearly ten years working in a variety of offices and I can, hand on heart, say that apart from one reasonable year I hated every bloody second of the time. I was emotionally and temperamentally totally unsuited to office life, but I’d believed the accepted propaganda of the time that every young single woman needed a good steady job with a pension.

If this had continued I think I would have ended up in a straight jacket, but I got married to the military historian and my working life took a dramatic turn. In the years we have been married I’ve been a china restorer, an antique dealer, a charity worker, a novelist and the toughest job of all, a mother, but the job we’re here to talk about today is as researcher.

Not unsurprisingly the research I’ve done has been on military history and it has been such fun. I’ve sat in a library searching through Medal Durbar programmes looking for recipients while a smiling Gurkha insisted on bring me endless cups of tea, calling me “Mem” and telling me about his uncle who was a VC winner.

I have been trapped in a lift with a bunch Korean War veterans, each of them a Glorious Gloster. I’ve attended conferences where I’ve met dignified old Sikh gentlemen, their beards white with age and every one of which had fought their way down the Burma Road.

It has all been fantastic and fascinating, but the bit I want to share here is Charlie’s Diary. A few years ago the VMS  ( http://www.victorianmilitary.org.uk) was approached by a member of the public who had an ancestor’s unpublished Boer War diary…. would we be interested in it?

We didn’t actually bite their hand off, but it was close.  What they had was not the whole thing, but a fragment, but it was a substantial fragment covering most of a year and it had been kept on an almost daily basis. There was just one problem, no-one in the family was entirely sure who the diarist was.

For my husband and I what followed was a long period of discovery and as we carefully transcribed the hand written whole, checking place names and finding collaborating accounts in books and memories and magazines, the London Illustrated News was a real help. We researched the people and events mentioned and we sifted out every scarp of personal information we could find about Charlie.

We worked out his regiment, the Northamptonshire and we found his age when he recorded his birthday. We discovered he was a reservist, called back to the colours and that he had previously seen service in India, he’d even had fever and been in the hospital at Doolally. From the date the diary started and the date it ended we knew he would have been awarded both The Queen’s South Africa Medal and The King’s South Africa Medal. Armed with all this we consulted the medal roles, certain we would find him and we came up with a short list, including one very promising name….and of course the records that that particular soldier were missing! So while we can make an educated assumption Charlie’s surname was Holmes, we can’t say for sure.

However, all this work and the every day life and opinions of an ordinary British Tommy on active service c.1900 were way, way to interesting to keep to ourselves, so the VMS published his diary and our research and you can find it here.

https://tinyurl.com/y469oo5t

 

 

 

 

Soldier, Soldier!

Judging by the number of people who have liked my FB page recently, this title will go straight to their hearts. Yes, I like soldiers, but, as I have said on many, many occasions, this does NOT mean I stand on street corners near barracks swinging a handbag and asking passing squaddies if they are looking for company, it means I feel a deep respect for those who put on a uniform in defence of their home and a deeper respect for their courage in being willingly doing so.

I discovered this Affection for the military mainly through reading, but I am of that generation whose grandfathers fought World War One and whose fathers fought World War Two.

My first “date” was inevitably with the likes of Harry Smith, Johnny Kincaid and Sir Arthur Wellesley, you can’t be a teenage girl, read all those Regency Romances without wondering why all those young men went off to “The Peninsula,” …well I suppose you could, but I’m not made like that, I read and I read and I read, so when I met my husband and we had our first date and he found not only did I know about Elizabeth Longford’s “Wellington : The Years of the Sword”, but I’d read it and could talk. without sounding like an idiot, on the Napoleonic Wars, he tells me he was hooked. I think we knew we were made for each other even before we had agreed on the superiority of square over column, although it might all have fallen when he kept referring to my beloved Rifle Brigade as “cocky little bastards in green uniforms”. He still does it and I grit my teeth.

So we got married and I learned more than I wanted to know about “The War of the Spanish Succession” , but never enough about The H.E.I.C and The Indian Army. In time I came to write stuff and inevitably soldiers became a part of much of what I wrote, even the paranormal stories, which my adoring family refer to as “Ma’s weird stuff”…seriously,  eleven hours in labour and this is the respect you get. My  lady occult detective, Mrs Lillicrop” is the wife of an Indian Army officer, even though no-one yet knows what has happened to Major Lillicrop, maybe I’ll tell you one of these days.

I wrote a book called “Jabin” which is stuffed with soldiers. It is currently out of print, but I will get around to re-publishing it soon. Amazon frightens the life out of me and I need to build myself up to the trauma of adding a book, it always ends with me in tears and wailing for help from several long suffering friends.

However,,,should you feel like seeing if I can handle the military successfully, may I point you in the direction of “The Lord of the Faran Hills“, a tale of muskets and mercenaries.

https://tinyurl.com/yyzd7hve

I am currently working on a new Mrs Lillicrop story and at the back of my mind there is brewing a new book, Time will no doubt bring both to the front if this irritating fatigue lets up, it is one of my the main bug bears of the embuggerance, this feeling of being sand bagged every now any again, however, we will not allow it to stop the advance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weird and Wonderful

Not so long ago I went to see someone about my inner demons. To be honest, it was not a success, the demons had a lovely day out, released from the prison I try to keep them confined in. They raced up and down my memory paths gleefully shouting “remember this?” and it took me weeks to shove them back to where they belong.

I realise now that the best way to deal with them is to write them out. The biggest of the little buggers has been dealt with in a book I call “Jabin” which I will be re-releasing in a couple of months, but some of the lesser ones are trapped in my weird short stories.

Not all of them of course and I think I will need to write a lot more ofodd tales before I get shot of most of them.

That deals with “weird”, so what about “wonderful”. Well, wonderful is the memories I have built in the years of my marriage and of motherhood. Its been a wonder to me to see what a decent caring father can bring to the raising of decent caring kids. These memories are stuffed into “The Tattooed Tribes” ( as well as all my ecology ideals and worries) and they are also in “The Lord of the Faran Hills”, a completely new book which I will be bringing out just as soon as the beta reader and the editor stop laughing hysterics over the fluffs and typos. It is also stuffed with mercenaries, muskets and a delicious little bit of siege warfare which I spent two happy days war gaming…back to soldiers, I can help it, I have a deep seated affection for the military.

To be fair, you did already know I was a little bit around the bend, all I just did was confirms it.

Anyway, you can see some of my inner demons exposed in all their glory here

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

And here

Amazon
Amazon UK

I love wolves and I love looking at the moon.