Victorian Soldier

In memory of Private James Stafford DCM
9260, 4th Bn., The King’s Liverpool Regiment transf. To (Lce. Cpl. 405902), Labour Corps who died aged 44 on 17th October 1918.
Cousin of Mrs. A. Brough of 1 Grape St. Macclesfield. 
Awarded Cross of St. George 4th Class (Russia).

The great British Empire, stretching, at times from the American colonies and Canada to Australia and New Zealand, India, and to massive areas of Africa, including South Africa, Egypt, and Rhodesia (Zambia and Zimbabwe), is what created the seemingly endless need for Victorian soldiers.

The establishment of colonies, the protection of trading posts and the fight against rivals such as the Dutch and Spanish fuelled the need for continued growth in numbers of men to serve their country.

By 1914 Britain ruled an empire that covered nearly a quarter of the World's land surface.

Living conditions at home were for most challenging. Millions were classified by economists as the ‘doomed class’, one-sixth of people received some form of welfare assistance and for most this was a deprived and degrading experience.

New laws in 1834 legislated that every citizen had a right to welfare. However this welfare was not the all encompassing woollen blanket that would save the majority of the population from their mostly miserable, short and difficult lives.
Dickens’ highlighted the dire conditions of this ‘doomed class’; in his novel ‘Oliver Twist’ and explored the previously hidden reality of life for those in receipt of welfare.
Through loss of liberty and deep social humiliation the workhouses became poorhouses, housing mainly those unable to work. Those able to work were likely to attempt to do so, however, jobs were scare and competition for them was fierce. For many men, a life in Queen Victoria’s army was their only way to avoid starvation and deprivation.
But life as a soldier of Queen Victoria’s army was not an easy one either and effectively, enlistment was for life - however short that may be.
British soldiers were brave and tough men often recruited from backgrounds where violence and survival had gone hand in hand, because of this, they were distrusted by ‘upper class’ civilians and classified as ‘a bad lot’, but accepted as marginally more acceptable than those who inhabited the workhouses.

Pay was minimal, living conditions often draughty and scant and soldier’s lives dangerous and mostly short. What they did have however was personal pride, dignity and a community of friends with whom they trusted their lives.

Few soldiers were allowed to marry and those who did shared barracks with the unmarried soldiers. A linen sheet or blanket was strung over a line in the barracks to provide minimal privacy for married couples and children.
Not all wives and children were allowed to follow their husbands to their posts and many families were permanently split when Queen Victoria’s soldiers were deployed overseas to expand or defend the Empire.

The prosperity and economic growth that upper class Britain experienced during the reign of Queen Victoria was as a direct result of the Victorian army. Sadly the men who fought and died for this prosperity benefited little themselves. The under classes in Britain remained and the gap between the upper and lower classes widened.
Many soldiers of Queen Victoria’s army went on to serve Britain in the First World War.

My own great grandfather was one of them. Having already served his time and survived as a Victorian solider he re-enlisted in the army in his early forty’s to fight the First World War. 
Sadly the records of his service time prior to the First World War were destroyed in a Second World War bombing raid on London, however I do have full copies of his original First World War records along with the citation report of his ‘Distinguished Conduct Medal’, which he was awarded:- 
‘for conspicuous bravery; he was wounded after volunteering for patrol and sniping duties. He also displayed great coolness and gallantry in carrying messages to and from the trenches when the telephone had been cut:’
Further to this, he was awarded the Cross of St. George 4th Class (Russia).
Sadly, after a lifetime of service he died on the 17th October 1918 from war wounds, aged only 44 and never having been permitted to marry the mother of his son.

Historical novels, fact or fiction?

 

Historical novels, fact or fiction?

 

Is it possible to write an Historical fiction book?

 

I know there are many who expect absurd accuracy from such novels.  But to my mind the genre is something of an oxymoron; a bit like quiet children.  History is the story of actual past events; fiction is a fabrication of an event.  Where do the two meet?

 

I love Historical novels, especially those that teach me something.  However what I don’t want, when I pick up a novel, is to read a text book of facts.

 

Can we balance fact and fiction?

The simple answer is yes, but with great difficulty.  Every reader expects different levels of Historical accuracy versus fictional content from an Historical novel therefore the balancing act is always going to be challenging.

 

Should we explain in great detail the awful, squalid conditions that existed in cities hundreds of years ago?  Do we give our readers a dentist’s view of the rotting teeth of our ancestors?

No, I don’t think so, unless it is needed in the story.  If it doesn’t need saying to enhance your plot, then don’t say it.

 

Equally, don’t include modern day ‘norms’ in the lives of your characters.  No one would expect to find a character in the early 16th century sitting in their living room watching television.  Alright, that was too obvious.  How about one I did actually read in a book once, it was a 17th century setting where a character walked into a room and switched the light on.  That, I think was more error than considered.  However, there are many Historical novels on the market, especially those with strong romantic elements, where the main characters appear to hold all the charm, ideals and morals of 20th century individuals.  An imagined world which holds very little, if any, Historical accuracy coupled with unrealistic characters compromises the integrity of the book and its place in an Historical genre.

 

I personally love a good story that attempts to stay as true as possible to the facts of its time.  However, generally we read for enjoyment and fiction allows us to indulge our imagination.  If a book can excite and draw its readers into the story of the past then I believe it lives up to its genre.

 

 Elizabeth M. x

 

17/4/2011- Paella 

 

What a magnificent day yesterday was.  The sun shone brilliantly from a deep blue sky.  The hills bustled with the sound and sight of new born lambs.  Pheasants nested in the long grass of the paddock and I sat in the garden with a glass of white wine and dinner, and watched as the sun set on a perfect day.

 

Dinner was sort of cobbled together at a rather late hour.  The day was busy due mainly to the fact that the children’s holidays are at an end.  Pack up’s had to be made, uniforms washed and ironed and homework brought up to date.

 

When you are constantly cooking for a large amount of people you learn, very quickly to make a lot up as go along.  So please don’t expect technically perfect meals recipes from this blog.  The food I cook is made up of what is available, what I can afford and what I think will help to keep my family healthy and strong.  However, many people have eaten in my kitchen and gone on to lead perfectly healthy lives.

 

On the off chance that you don’t know, paella originates from the Valencia region of Spain.  It gets its name from the pan it is cooked in a paellera.

So technically we didn’t really have paella for dinner, as I don’t own a paellera.  However, for the sake of simplicity, I am going to continue to call last night’s dinner, paella.

 

Elizabeth M. x 

 

Fed the manuscript, edited the puppy and walked my daughter.

 

Balancing the responsibilities of life are challenging at best.

 

How often do we wish for a survival guide?

 

Steps by step fix, to the daily adventures of being everything to everyone.

 

Muddled by a million requests; confused because we try to address all those requests.

 

What if we fail?

 

Sometimes mistakes are made but mostly we get it right, because life is about meeting challenges and addressing them.

 

Life is about being brave and meeting challenges head on.

 

Writers strive to tell stories and once that is done, they work to have their stories read.

 

Sadly not all stories are read – But -

 

An untold story doesn’t make a bad author.

-It makes a storyteller with untold stories.

 

 

If you have written a story - give the world the chance to share it.

-Don’t be that storyteller with the untold story.

 

Do your best in whatever job you have in life;

 

-don’t be afraid of failure

 

-don’t ever believe you have failed

 

The only failure is the failure to try.

 

 Elizabeth M. x