Sunday, April 5, 2009

Surprising facts make good stories

Who would have thought that civilian women could travel across war-torn France in 1916 to meet their husbands in Marseille before the men went off to Salonika? That's exactly what my British grandmother-in-law and her friend did! In my grandfather-in-law's memoir, he talks about staying in a hotel with his wife for a week, during which he only had to go to his military camp a couple of hours a day to work. (He was a Captain then.) Not the sort of scenario most people would associate with the First World War, especially as the bloody Battle of the Somme was raging up in the north of France at that time. 

Also surprising is that wives of officers were allowed to travel to Paris to meet them for short leaves. And how about the wives of officer Prisoners of War being allowed to live with them in Switzerland or Holland while they were interned there? Germany sent men who were ill or suffering psychologically from imprisonment to these neutral countries. Although not allowed to return to England, those who could afford to, lived in hotels and had their families join them for the duration of the war. 

Aviator Cecil Lewis in his fascinating autobiography, Sagittarius Rising, mentions flying secretly from France to England for a weekend rendezvous in London.

 It's odd and intriguing facts like these that I like to incorporate into my historical novels. I'll be posting more of them later.

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