Why I am writing ‘Glory’

RB beside a ‘spiked’ gun on Gallipoli

My grandfather died at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli on August 21st 1915. He led his men across a dried salt lake towards a well-armed, well led enemy who held all the upper ground, including Scimitar Hill where my grandfather was killed. His body was never found and my grandmother who had six young children, continued to believe that he would emerge from a Turkish hospital or prison camp. Most probably he was burned, dead or alive, in the fires all around.

I was born during the Second World War and grew up in its aftermath and later lived in New York during the Vietnam War. War was always an important part of my consciousness. But this family loss in the First World War is the inspiration for the novel I’m working on, ‘Glory’. I have archive letters and diaries to bring the events alive. But when I travelled to Gallipoli and walked the jagged cliffs and gullies for myself, I soon realised that my grandfather’s experience was a very small part of that tragic and pointless campaign.

In ‘Glory’, as well as basing the older soldier on my grandfather’s military history, I am creating other characters, young soldiers who endured all the misery and horror of the campaign. It is taking me from Gallipoli to England where wives and lovers have their own struggles, and to Egypt and Malta where men were held in reserve or lay in hastily commandeered hospitals.

The dream of snatching Constantinople and opening the gateway to Russia was a powerful one. But as I continue to research and write the story, I am more and more clear that it really was only a fantastical dream, hatched up by politicians in London with no real understanding of the enormous difficulties. Unfortunately, it had to be fought by brave men like my grandfather, Brigadier-General Thomas, Earl of Longford, who gave their lives out of duty or patriotism. If there is any glory, it is all theirs. Sometimes I find the waste of lives almost unbearable.

‘Glory’ will be published by Orion in 2015, the centenary year of the landing of allied troops on Gallipoli.