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War Writing – You couldn’t make it up

8 July

War Writing – You couldn’t make it up

One hundred years ago today, Sister Muriel Wakeford on board H.S. Gascon wrote the following entry in her diary.

Thu 8 Jul

Nothing of importance, except submarine scare – which turned out to be a false alarm – in as much as what was thought to be a periscope turned out to be a big jam tin.

I used this real-life entry to create a scene in my novel Gallipoli: Year of Love and Duty. The scene depicts the nurses’ individual reactions to an alarm on the ship. One nurse refuses to put on her life jacket and has to be coaxed into it by the ship’s safety officer. The scene concludes with the arrival of the jam tin. I made the whole thing up – apart from that most far-fetched part. Life really is stranger than fiction.

I had to do a lot of research to create an authentic world on board the hospital ship. I relied heavily on my local library http://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/libraries/ for books about the First World War and war nursing. A full list of my sources is given at the end of the novel.

One particular gem the library  provided was:

Flinders Petrie, W.M. Ten Years’ Digging in Egypt 1881-1891 London: Religious Tract Society, 1892

My character Sara visits the Pyramids and has tea with an archaeologist there. I needed to know about developments in archaeology during that era. I couldn’t believe my luck when I found an original book by Flinders Petrie, a leading archaeologist of the time, on the library catalogue. I ordered it and walked a mere mile and half to my local library to get it.

We need libraries for so many reasons. Research for future generations is just one of them.

By Rachel Sargeant

Rachel Sargeant is a British author. Her latest thriller, The Roommates, is a Closer Magazine "Must Read". Her other titles are The Good Teacher, The Perfect Neighbours and Gallipoli: Year of Love and Duty. Rachel won Writing Magazine’s Crime Short Story competition and has been shortlisted in various competitions including the Bristol Short Story Prize. She was born in Lincolnshire and is a graduate of Aberystwyth University. She now lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and children.

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