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The Glorious Dead

A story of love, war and betrayal among the ruins of Ypres - a WW1 tale with a twist by Tim Atkinson

  • https://unbound.com/books/the-glorious-dead

The Synopsis

What happened when the Great War ended and the guns stopped firing? Who cleared the battlefields and built the great monuments to the fallen? And why did so many men who served - and survived - in France and Flanders end up living and working among the ruins of the war they'd fought?

The Glorious Dead is the fictional story of a group of soldiers who remained in France and Flanders following the Armistice, who served their King and country with a shovel and who found and buried the thousands of bodies abandoned on the road to victory. It is the story of men living among the destruction, death and decay of the so-called ‘war to end all wars’. It is the story of an uneasy peace as over 15,000 ex-servicemen remain abroad working in the former theatres of war, burying the dead and rebuilding their own lives. The work of these men is one of the most original yet neglected aspects of this most compelling era in our nation’s history.

Theirs is a story worth telling.

The Excerpt

Beside the old Ypres-Roulers railway, south of St Julien, the shattered relic of a copse called Wild Wood contains the remains of seventeen men killed in the heat of battle and buried hurriedly among the blackened stumps of trees. Over a year-and-a-half later, little has changed. The splintered wood is still the only feature on an otherwise empty, bombed-out landscape on the road to Poelcapelle.

‘Some men of the 10th Battalion Gordon Highlanders are buried…’ Ingham pauses before jabbing a finger at a square on the map that indicates their ultimate destination this mild, spring morning, ‘…here!’

The men lean over the concertinaed canvas spread over the bonnet of the truck parked temporarily in the middle of the cobbles of the old Grote Markt. Behind them are the surviving walls of the old Cloth Hall; beyond that, the rubble of St Martin’s Cathedral. Pillars and doorways remain shored up with timber buttresses; wooden scaffolding surrounds the remnants of the bell tower.

‘So just a simple exhumation job this morning, eh sir?’ Ocker asks. ‘Dig ‘em up and bring ‘em in.’

‘Correct,’ says Ingham.

This is the kind of work they like. Simple; straightforward. Map references; digging; re-burying. Not the searching, not the wandering, the constant prodding with improvised probes made from old machine-gun cleaning rods, the emptying of pockets, the checking muddy teeth.

‘According to our information they were killed during the initial phase of the advance to Pilkem Ridge and were buried here…’

‘…on 31st July 1917,’ Mac says. ‘Aye, I know.’ The men slowly turn their heads and stare at Mac, then back at Ingham.

‘Correct, Private MacIntyre. I ought to have realised.’

‘Realised what?’ Fuller whispers. ‘Realised what?’

Ocker shakes his head and holds a finger to his lips.

‘Anyway,’ Ingham goes on. ‘These men - these brave men - are to be transferred to White House Cemetery at St. Jean. Graves have already been prepared for them in the concentration area, Plot III. It’s a little higher than the battlefield burials so should be better drained.’

‘Which row, sir?’

‘Which row? Now let me see, row… row… Row H. Yes.’

‘And are they known, sir?’

‘I believe so, yes. Their details were recorded at the time…’ Ingham looks across the bonnet of the truck at Mac, who is studiously lighting a pipe. ‘And the graves have survived. Sergeant Townend and I located them while on reconnaissance the other day.’

‘Very good sir.’

The men dismiss and begin gathering their equipment together: sacks and shovels, jerry cans filled with cresol, seventeen canvas sheets, some ropes and pairs of rubber gloves.

‘Sergeant Townend?’

‘Yessir!’

‘You will supervise the exhumation. I will meet you at White House Cemetery at 1430 hours with the Chaplain.’

‘Very good sir.’

The men climb aboard the truck. Jack and Ocker load their bicycles on board as well, standing them between the wooden shelves that line each side of the wagon. There won’t be room on board for all the living on the journey home.

‘So what was it like Mac?’ asks Fuller as the truck bounces off along the cobbles. ‘Was it… did you? I mean…’

‘I know what you darn well mean laddie,’ Mac growls. ‘And well, I’ll tell ye shall I? Shall I? D’you really want to know?’

Fuller suddenly doesn’t seem so sure. Jack and Ocker look at each other.

‘For once,’ Mac begins, ‘on the morning of 31st July, you might have said things were going well. The bombardment had been good…’

‘That makes a change,’ Ocker interrupts. Mac glares at him and he looks down at the floor.

‘… the weather was dry too, that first morning.’

‘That was soon to change,’ says Jack.

‘Who’s telling the laddie this story?’ Mac grumbles.

‘Sorry Mac.’

Read more...

The Author

Tim Atkinson is the author of five books published variously by Hodder Wayland, Need2Know and Dotterel Press. He has a strong online and media presence both as an award-winning blogger (http://www.bringingupcharlie.co.uk) and through numerous TV and radio appearances. The Glorious Dead is his second novel, following ‘Writing Therapy’ which was nominated for the 2008 Young Minds Fiction Award.

Questions & Answers

Might be a silly question ..... but is this available to buy now in book form??

Tim Atkinson Tim Atkinson replied:

Not yet Paul. It'll be available once enough people have pledged (subscribed) to this special Unbound edition. (That's the way they work!) Once it funds, though, you shouldn't have long to wait. The quicker people pledge the sooner the book appears! Hope that helps.

Hi, this is probably a daft question, but will the In Memoriam section be in the book itself? Thanks

Tim Atkinson Tim Atkinson replied:

Yes Ciaran. It will be a special section and will include (where possible) the name, rank and regiment of the person commemorated. Hope that helps!

The Rewards

All supporters get their name printed in every edition of the book. All levels include immediate access to the author's shed.

$15
Digital
An ebook edition of the book and your name in the back of the book
📖 Pledge $15 120 pledges
$25
Hardback
A special edition hardback and your name in the back of the book
📖 Pledge $25 120 pledges
$25
Hardback and Badge
A special edition hardback, a poppy badge and your name in the back of the book
To honour the memory of the men who fought on the Somme exactly 100 years ago, 10% of the proceeds from this pledge will be donated to forces' charities

📖 Pledge $25 26 pledges
$25
In Memoriam
The name, rank and regiment of a service person listed in memoriam plus a special edition hardback and your name in the back of the book
📖 Pledge $25 7 pledges
$40
Collectable
A signed special edition hardback and your name in the back of the book
📖 Pledge $40 30 pledges
$65
Book Bundle
A signed copy of Tim's first novel, ​Writing Therapy, described by Reverend Richard Coles as 'a beautifully-angled novel about growing up and breaking down', as well as his books ​Tiny Acorns and ​Fatherhood: The Essential Guide plus a signed special edition hardback of ​The Glorious Dead, the ebook and your name in the back of the book
📖 Pledge $65 4 pledges
$45
Songs from the Book
Access to a playlist of songs from the book performed by Tim, plus a signed special edition hardback and your name in the back of the book
📖 Pledge $45 3 pledges
$95
Mentioned in Dispatches
Your name, or the name of a friend or relative, in the book as one of the characters listed in the ‘Battalion War Diaries’ interspersed throughout the novel. You could be winning the DSM, Croix de Guerre or Belgian Decoration Militaire, leaving for demobilisation, leading drill or PT or being selected for the Army of Occupation or the Paris Peace conference, plus a signed special edition hardback and your name in the back of the book
📖 Pledge $95 4 pledges
$125
Manuscript
Collector's item: an early bound draft of the manuscript, plus a signed special edition hardback and your name in the back of the book
📖 Pledge $125 5 pledges
$125
Find a Soldier
Tim will research the life of a fallen WW1 soldier uncovering details of his war service and providing details of his burial including cemetery location and precise position of the man's headstone along with any other information that is available plus a signed special edition hardback and your name in the back of the book
📖 Pledge $125 1 pledge
$315
WW1 Memorabilia
Specially curated box of WW1 memorabilia, including historic copy of ‘The Great War’ (a wartime weekly magazine reporting on the fighting) a genuine WW1 identity disc, an original copy of the poetry magazine ‘Listen’ (including an essay on war poet Edward Thomas), a genuine WW1 Victory Medal and an embroidered trench postcard plus a signed hardback edition and your name in the back of the book
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$1,250
Patron
A special thanks printed in the front of every edition of the book, plus a signed hardback edition and your name in the back of the book