A story of love, war and betrayal among the ruins of Ypres - a WW1 tale with a twist
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.
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 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. The Poelcapelle road fades to earth like a scar.
‘Some men of the 10th Battalion Gordon Highlanders are buried - ’ Ingham pauses before jabbing his forefinger at a square on the map that indicates their ultimate destination. ‘Here!’
The men lean over the bonnet of the truck. The Albion is parked on the cobbles in the middle of the old Grote Markt. Behind them are the surviving walls of the old Cloth Hall and the rubble of St Martin’s Cathedral. Pillars and doorways are shored with timber buttresses; wooden scaffolding surrounds the remnants of the bell tower; grass grows from the tops of walls.
‘So it’s just a simple exhumation job this morning eh, sir?’ Ocker says. ‘Dig ’em up and bring ’em home.’
‘That’s right.’ Ingham nods before correcting himself. ‘Actually, no - not ‘home’, Private Gilchrist. None of these men are going home.’
‘No, sir.’ Ocker picks dirt from underneath his fingernails. ‘A bit like us.’
Wednesday, 4 April 2018
After years of blogging (and blagging) and other ephemeral internet activity I have at last acquired a more permanent presence on the world wide web - to whit, a website.
Here it is: https://www.timatkinson.info/
As you can see, it contains news - news about this book. Specifically, it contains news that the book now has a cover for you to judge.
What do you think?
Thursday, 18 January 2018
On this day, 18th January, in 1936 that great poet of the Empire, Rudyard Kipling, died. Friend of kings and yet keeper of the 'common touch', Kipling was never more active than in his work as literary advisor for the nascent Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission.
The Commission had started as a small group of volunteer drivers, known as a Red Cross mobile unit. One of their number…
The Proof of the Pudding
Tuesday, 2 January 2018
It's never to late to get correcting. In fact, New Year seems an especially appropriate time to make good all the mistakes of the past year. Or, in my case, the mistakes of the past five years - specifically, those mistakes that still appear on the MS of my book, The Glorious Dead, which I can now say (officially, it being 2018 an' all and thanks to all you lovely people) will be published LATER THIS…
Tuesday, 3 October 2017
Yes, progress is being made. Apologies for the lack of news in recent weeks. But things are happening, and have been happening, and it's all been rather busy.
First, the book has undergone a thorough and extremely valuable structural edit. That's when someone (Scott Pack, in my case) reads the book with a critical eye, making artistic judgments on the story and identifying any inconsistensies…
While you're waiting...
Monday, 24 July 2017
You might be wondering what's happening. You'll have seen (of course) the book has 'made it'. And in case you're interested it's now in the hands of the editor. Leaving me feeling ever-so-slightly like a schoolboy waiting for his homework to be marked by the headmaster.
Some people have been asking how long they'll have to wait to read the book. The answer is... a while. The MS has to go through…
We made it!
Wednesday, 14 June 2017
What a ride! I’m exhausted. But exhilarated too, and very very grateful to everyone who’s pledged, everyone who’s helped spread the word and everyone who’s supported The Glorious Dead in any other way.
I’ve been constantly surprised by the people who’ve pledged (as well as, occasionally, by those who haven’t). I’ve made new friends. Probably lost a few, too, thanks the relentless need to hustle…
Lawrence of Arabia
Friday, 19 May 2017
The story of Lawrence of Arabia is one of the Great War's most enduring legends. It's Indiana Jones but for real - shy archaeologist excavating crusader castles in Arabia turns guerrilla leader (on behalf of the British Empire) inspiring Arab rebels to overthrow their evil Turkish masters.
And in doing so, of course, helping to knock Germany's chief ally out of the war...
The Arab revolt (which…
World Poetry Day
Tuesday, 21 March 2017
My timetable this year has involved teaching poetry - epic poetry. First, the Iliad; then the Aeneid. I was pleased to be able to 'forget' the war for a while (as in the Great War, World War One, whose literary and historical battlefields I've been immersed in for the last five years while researching this book). But I was a little daunted by the length of both classical epics, as well as by their…
What FIFA should remember
Wednesday, 2 November 2016
In case you haven't heard, Football's world governing body has banned the England and Scotland football teams from wearing poppy armbands when they meet at Wembley in a World Cup qualifier next Friday... the 11th of November.
Their objection is that the poppy could be seen as a political symbol. Such things are banned, along with any 'commercial or religious' endorsement on official clothing…
What's the strangest thing you've ever done in the name of crowdfunding?
Wednesday, 19 October 2016
Ok, so... here's the thing. Crowdfunding is fun, but it's also bloody hard work.
I've sent hundreds of emails, handed out postcards, held a reading at a local branch of Wetherspoons, sent countless messages, thousands of tweets, pestered probably now ex-friends on LinkedIn and Facebook and generally made a thorough nuisance of myself. Oh and I've also dressed up and wandered around at various…
Here's what I do all day
Monday, 10 October 2016
At least, when I'm in 'The Shed'. My daughter even got me a sign for the door for my birthday. And of course, I've shown you round before. But this is what it looks like 'behind the scenes' as-it-were... Only, without the music. And with a lot more coffee!
Back to school
Sunday, 11 September 2016
For the first time in some years, I find myself on a Sunday evening anticipating school again on Monday morning. Yes, I'm back - for a bit. But not for long. Just a couple of days a week until May, but it's enough to bring that slight sense of foreboding as the sun sets on the weekend, as the Countryfile theme begins and as the kids get ready for bed.
Sunday nights in September always bring that…
Saturday, 13 August 2016
Unfortunately, the good people over at Unbound Towers don't work weekends, so this post is unlikely to reach you before Monday morning. But writing today, Saturday 13th August, the day the GB Men's Eights won Olympic Gold at Rio, is especially appropriate and poignant as a former Olympic gold medallist in the same event was killed on the Somme 100 years ago this year.
Frederick Septimus Kelly…
All the nice girls...
Saturday, 30 July 2016
.. love a soldier.
(Or should that be a sailor? Never mind...)
I never thought publishing fiction would be easy. Far from it. But I must admit I didn't anticipate having to do this...
So, if you see me dressed thus this summer, playing World War One trench songs and handing out postcards, do please take one, pass it on and maybe encourage somebody to make a pledge to The…
The Last Day of World War One
Wednesday, 20 July 2016
That was the title of an excellent documentary on Monday night - presented by Michael Palin - about the men who died, and continued to die, after the 1918 Armistice was signed.
It's been on before and I saw it first time round. But it still makes fascinating viewing. It's this hinterland of Great War history - the margins, peripheries and hidden corners - that fascinates me. It's what led me…
Unknown on Unbound
Tuesday, 21 June 2016
It's not easy as a relative unknown on Unbound. Although there are a few of us on here, there are plenty more Unbounders who come to crowdfunding with an armful of loyal readers or viewers or fans.
What this seems to mean so far is this: the majority of people who have supported my book seem to know me in some way. They're friends, family, colleagues, ex-students, acquaintances and so on. Some…
A hero in the family
Tuesday, 14 June 2016
Everyone - everyone, that is, with a family history stretching back in the UK for a few generations - has their own, personal Great War story. Mine is a simple one, maybe; but how it affects me - and how it came to inspire this book - is quite complicated.
My great Uncle, William Foster Johnson, my great-grandmother's brother, fought and died in the Great War. His record is a proud one: he won…
Meeting Martin Middlebrook
Tuesday, 24 May 2016
Bit dusty in here, isn't it? Let me just blow a few of these cobwebs away...
RIght, that's better. Although I've neglected the shed just lately, I've not been idle. Far from it. In fact, I'm about to embark on a tour of The Somme, taking with me this - a book by my postman's uncle. Well, postwoman actually, and great-uncle.
Martin Middlebrook is an icon among military historians, internationally…
The Battle of the Somme
Saturday, 16 April 2016
It can’t have escaped anyone's notice that this year marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. That huge, wasteful diversionary tactic (while the French were being ‘bled white’ at Verdun) which lasted 141 days and gained virtually nothing (unless, as Keegan says, you count the destroyed terrain which slowed the German advance in Spring 1918) began 100 years ago this year.
Thousands of people…
Saturday, 9 April 2016
My blog book tour (bit odd that, when you think about it - a virtual tour for a book that doesn't yet exist!) begins today and I'm delighted to be a guest on Iain Standen's excellent blog 'Historic Musings'.
If you don't know Iain, he's a former Colonel in the Royal Corps of Signals, now CEO of the wartime code-breaking HQ Bletchley Park, as well as being an historian with a wide range of interests…
Truth and Memory: British War Art
Tuesday, 5 April 2016
At the start of the war there were no official attempts to recruit artists or to commission them to paint the conflict. But the Army's insatiable appetite for men ensured that many artists ended up enlisting, and many of them sketched and painted what they saw. By 1917 there was a recognition that what was happening needed officially recording and the War Memorials Committee was established. Official…
The crowd-funding diaries... episode two
Sunday, 27 March 2016
Here it is folks, episode two of the video diary detailing the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the good and the bad and the happy and sad of the whole crowdfunding process... In this edition our intrepid crowd-funder engages in a detailed discussion about the Unknown Soldier and is forced to launch a defence of crowdfunding against the charge that there is 'nothing in it for the investor' (apart…
The Unknown Soldier
Friday, 18 March 2016
One of the most rewarding - yet unexpected - advantages of crowd-funding has been the level of engagement with readers (or would-be readers) - even those who may have no intention of pledging but have an interest in the subject matter.
One such occured the other day. I'd posted a link to the book on one of the many World War One sites on Facebook. As usual, my link to the book page made the still…
The crowd-funding diaries...
Monday, 14 March 2016
Apparently, YouTube is where today's stars are made. And what are they doing? Singing? Dancing? Writing? No. They're just talking - talking to camera, chatting, waffling, burbling away about whatever takes their fancy. And people love it. Or rather, them. So, in the spirit of the age I thought, 'why not?'. I'd been thinking of doing something to record the progress of my crowd-funding efforts and…
These people are helping to fund The Glorious Dead.