My main area of historical interest is World War Two. I’m fascinated by it – perhaps because there were still air raid shelters around to play in when I was growing up in Glasgow. And I can still clearly remember my Dad pulling on his old army overalls and beret before climbing underneath Mum’s car when it needed fixed.
So when I heard about a two-day symposium on The Great War being offered at the Military Museum here in Calgary, I hummed and hawed before deciding to sign up. It’s not ‘my’ time period.
But I’m glad I did.
Here’s what I learned.
1) Two days and 25 papers later, I probably know more about Alberta in WWI than most of my native-born Albertan/Canadian friends.
2) As a writer, ANYTHING you learn is invaluable. Everything can be adapted to add depth, texture and veracity to your writing.
3) More importantly, if you write anything inaccurate in your novel, someone somewhere will pick up on it. And when they do, it will pull them out of the story. From then on they will question everything else you say. Pull a reader out of your story and you’ve lost them.
No matter what you’re writing about, please – please – make sure your facts are sound.
I still haven’t managed to make too much progress on finding out more information on the Canadian Native soldier who apparently died in Glasgow in 1916/17. However, while researching information about him and his unit, I’ve discovered some great tidbits from The Glasgow Herald newspaper’s archive.
These were all taken from the paper’s December 7-10th, 1916 editions. When it comes to ideas for stories, they’re an absolute gift for historical fiction writers.
Penpals wanted for Irish POWs imprisoned in Germany.
1,000 maids wanted in Canada. Travel and personal costs all paid for. (Why did Canada need 1,000 maids in the middle of a war??)
An ex-soldier, who married at the beginning of the war in 1914, was discharged a year later for medical reasons. His wife then ‘refused to take up house’ with him, so he ‘married’ another woman. He was found guilty of bigamy and jailed for 2 months and the woman he ‘married’ jailed for 30 days!
A psychic, who told a woman her husband would die in France, was jailed for causing emotional distress and lowering morale.
An angry letter from a woman whose husband was a POW. She was required to donate over 2 pounds sterling a month to insure he received care parcels while only receiving 3/4 of that per month to house, feed and clothe her family. Imagine the physical and mental hardships she must have suffered caring for her family while worrying about her husband.