The Tin Triangle finally on the shelves

My new novel ‘The Tin Triangle ‘  about the First  Newfoundland regiment during WW1 is finally on the shelves. I’ve done several book signings which I am pleased to say went very well.

I had the honour of speaking with the son of a Blue Puttee- the title given to the first 500 men to enlist- and learned more than historical fact. He talked about the men who went over the ‘top’ at the Battle of the Somme, their fears and concerns about the battle and the British leadership. I got a glimpse into the daily trench life of a soldier during the great War, the hardships, the dangers, the senseless loss of life.

As a Newfoundlander, July I, the date of the massacre at Beaumont-Hamel, is an integral part of our heritage. It’s only been since I researched my book that I feel I have a small sense of the actual horror these men… most mere teenagers faced. A sixteen year old charging across the battle field with his eighteen year old brother had to continue on even though his brother is blown to bits next to him. How do you come to terms with that in a matter of seconds? How do you carry on with such intense grief?

July 1. 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel when 801 Newfoundland soldiers went over the top. Within thirty minutes over 700 hundred were  either killed or wounded. A mere 68 answered roll call the next morning.

Since writing my book I feel a greater sense of loss and sadness than I have ever experienced. Others who have read the story feel the same.

I finally have good news. My manuscript – The Tin Triangle- about the first Newfoundland Regiment of World World 1 will be published in the near future. The novel begins in St.John’s Newfoundland as the war begins and the first 500 men enlist until the day they return at the end of the war.

July 1, 1916 is the date most fixed in the memories of Newfoundlanders as this is the day over 700 hundred of our soldiers died or were wounded within thirty minutes at Beaumont Hamel on the Somme front in France.

The 100 year anniversary is fast approaching and I’m delighted my book will be on the market in time for this great occasion.

The title of my book refers to the tin triangle cut from biscuit tins and placed on the back of the soldiers as they moved over No-Man’s Land. The reflecting light from the sun was supposed to be a safeguard from the allied guns. Many wounded were killed by the enemy as they struggled to move back to their lines, easily picked off by the reflecting “tin triangle”.

Finally completed WW1 manuscript

I finally completed my manuscript about the 1st Newfoundland Regiment during WW1. At this time Newfoundland was a country, a colony of Great Britain. When England declared war on Germany, the country of Newfoundland was automatically at war.

I’ve done much research into the Newfoundland men who enlisted in 1914 to fight for ‘King and Country.’ The majority if not most of these men had never been to English, yet felt a loyalty I found amazing. My own father who fought in the WW2 felt the same pride and loyalty towards England, and as Newfoundland was not yet part of Canada fought with the British army.

July 1, 1916, Over eight hundred Newfounlanders went ‘over the top’ from their trench known as St. John’s Road  and tried to cross No-Man’s Land in France to reach the town of Beaumont-Hamel. Within a mere thirty minutes over seven hundred of these men were either dead, wounded or captured. This was a devastating blow to the Regiment and to their loved ones at home. All in all on that one day, twenty thousand men died, forty thousand wounded.

Newfoundland never fully recovered from this tragedy as many of our finest and best were lost. The population of St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland was thirty thousand. Eighty percent of the men originated  from the city.

Some contribute the disaster at Beaumont -Hamel to incompetence on the part of British generals, sending men into battle when reports received from earlier survivors stated the Germans were well armed and concealed. The seven day incessant bombing of German trenches by the British had little effect.

Much of my information came from the son of a survivor from the battle at Beaumont-Hamel. I’ve expressed, through my characters, his sentiments about the British Generals and the war in general. He was injured and captured at the battle of Cambrai. His leg was later amputated due that injury.

My father would never speak about the war, and in writing this novel I had a sense of the hardships he must have endured fighting for five long years. After his death at 56, we came across a postcard he’d sent his mother from France. He was nineteen at the time.This is what he’d written on the back. ‘Soldiers can survive bullets, but not the cold and hunger.’

In writing this novel I’ve become even prouder of Newfoundland, more in tuned with the tragedies that shaped the people, customs and traditions. Many times during the hours working on the manuscript I wished my father could read it and let me know if I captured the brutality of war.

At the end of long months of research and writing I almost fell like I lived through the “Great War’, ‘ the ‘War to end all wars’.  I sometimes think it had the opposite effect.

 

No-man’s Land and Newfoudlanders

Well, it’s been a long, long time since I posted on my blog. It’s the New Year so I’ll take another stab. I’m writing a new novel about the Battle of the Somme which took place in France during WW1, or ‘The Great War’ as it it often called. On July 1, 1916, Newfoundland was a country and a ‘dominion’ of Great Britain, so when England declared war on Germany, Newfoundland was automatically at war as well. The Newfoundland Regiment of over 800 men lined the trenches along the Somme River in France outside the villages of Beaumont-Hamel. Open land known as “no man’s land”lay between them and the German lines which had been bombarded for days with little or no effect. On July 1, even though hundreds of thousands of British soldiers died in an attempt to cross ‘no man’s land, the Newfoundland Regiment was ordered to attack. The next day at roll call 68 Newfoundlanders answered. The rest were either dead, wounded (many of whom died from their injuries), captured or never found.

Newfoundland became a province of Canada in 1948, and as Canadians we celebrate Canada day on July 1. For us Newfoundlanders we also remember and celebrate the brave men of the Newfoundand regiment who went over the trenches into a blaze of canon and gunfire knowing full well that this would probably be their last day on earth. These young men, mostly between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five were willing to lay down their lives for a mother country across the ocean on another continent.

2016 will mark the one hundred year anniversary of one of the most tragic battles of any war. Newfoundland lost a large number of its young men in their prime and left a mark on every Newfoundlander.  Many sets of brothers and cousins lost their lives that day. I can only imagine what it must have been like for a small community of 200 to have lost thirty of their young men.

In my research I was astounded by the pride and loyalty that Newfoundland felt for England and their resolve to do whatever was needed to come to its aid.

I’d like to share the opening paragraph of my manuscript with you.

I never imagined I would die this way. Young, surrounded by thousands, yet alone and faraway from home. I thought I would be afraid, but I’m not. Only ten minutes ago. I was crouched in our trenches, anxiously smoking Woodbines, waiting for the whistle to signal our launch into attack. The pain in my chest has dulled to a mild ache, each throb in rhythm with my heartbeat. The ground is firm beneath my back. Funny, the firmness is comforting like the rugged ground  of my country, Newfoundland. Maybe if I close my eyes I’ll see my home, see Mom one last time. Her sea green eyes filled with tears as she waved to me from the dock. She’ll be upset if I don’t say goodbye. Dad stood tall as I marched with the other volunteers to fight for the empire. He’ll understand the sacrifice I made for King and Country. And little Alice. She’ll miss me the most I think. Her big brother always made time for her. I open my eyes and my breath comes out as a shudder. Can I still be here among the dead and dying in this barren place? No-Man’s Land?

BLOG HOP-WRITING PROCESS

I’ve been asked by two followers to talk about my writing process. The first is Paul Butler. His knowledge and skill in his craft has helped me get published. The second is Rati Mehrotra, who has quite the sense of hunour.

Now, let’s get to the questions.

1) WHAT AM I WORKING ON NOW?

I’m working on a murder mystery surrounding the death of a priest in a small community.  His untimely death leaves everyone stunned as he is well liked with no stains on his character or work.  My two previous novels, although works of fiction, are based on actual tragedies which happened in Newfoundland history. Therefore, the actual events helped in forming the characters and their reactions. The murder mystery is complete fiction, and although more challenging to write in terms of the general idea, the process of producing a story with a logical plot  consisting of twists and unexpected turns is refreshing and rather enjoyable.

I’m also re-drafting a children’s  a fantasy story about a twelve-year-old girl who comes to realize she’s descended from a line of wolves with all the abilities of the elusive creatures.

2) HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?

Are there really any set rules for a specific genre? My story deals with the murders of several people which makes it a murder mystery, and there are subtle clues to follow in solving the strange deaths. I’m concentrating on character development  so the reader will get to experience the main players as a living, breathing human beings.

3) WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

As you’ve probably guessed, I don’t stick to one type of ‘genre’.  I love inventing a story to fit in with an actual event just as I enjoy delving  into my imagination and see what wonders and mystical creations I can produce.

4) HOW DOES YOUR WRITING PROCESS WORK?

I envy  those writers who can sit down and work out an outline.  I’d have to say that there really isn’t a ‘process’. The germ of an idea takes hold and I start writing (by hand).  The ideas pop into my head as the pencil skims across the page.  Often I’m amazed and surprised by the turn of events and the situations I create.

Sadly I wasn’t able to pass along the blog hop as most of my followers have answered the four above questions.

Nursing Home Fire in Quebec

The Nursing Home Fire in Quebec was indeed a tragedy felt across the country. 8 people confirmed dead and over 25 still missing. I can only imagine the grief of family members as they wait for authorities to shift through the debris and identify victims. A daunting and disturbing ordeal to say the least.

Newfoundland has also been touched by nursing home fires. The first occurred 66 years ago in 1948 in St. John’s at the Hull Home, situated on the corner of Springdale and New Gower Street. 34 people , ranging from the ages of 21 to 92 died in a raging fire during one of the coldest winters on record. Several jumped to their deaths from the three storey building to escape the flames. The second was the Chafe’s Nursing Home,36 years ago in the Goulds where 26 people perished.

Most people recall or have heard of the Chafe’s Nursing Home fire. My mother told me about the Hull Home Fire as she witnessed the devastation herself. I was shocked I’d never heard of it before and neither had anyone I spoke to. It bothered me that the senseless loss of life of so many helpless, sick people should slip forgotten (for the most part) into our past. So I wrote a fictional account of the fire, detailing many factual events.

Our local media’s coverage of the fire in Quebec spoke about the Chafe’s Nursing Home with no mention of Hull Home. I wondered if it was an oversight, or maybe it happened too far in the past, or maybe they had no knowledge of the fire. An event so tragic, so needless, so horrific should never be lost in time, but should serve as a constant reminder we have to do better to protect those who can’t protect themselves. The elderly and infirm deserve to be safe and secure.