When most of us think of the First World War (known as The Great War until yet another war devastated the world) we think of the muddy trenches across the fields of France. But the battles were fought in the skies and seas of Europe too.

My hero in Dear Julia is a former naval commander, a veteran of the naval battle of the Adriatic. When I researched the naval battles of The Great War, I chose to place William on the HMS Dartmouth, a light cruiser in service from 1911 to 1930, after stumbling across an article from The Times newspaper of 19th May 1917.

The article reports on an engagement between the Allied and Austrian forces off the Italian coast. What particularly caught my attention in this article were the lines:

During her passage back, H.M.S. Dartmouth was struck by a torpedo from an enemy sub-marine, but returned into port with three men killed and one officer and four men missing – believed dead – and seven wounded. There were no other casualties to our ships.

Digging further, I discovered that one of the wounded was a naval commander. No names were mentioned, so my Commander William Cavendish became one of the wounded.

What finally sealed William’s fate was when I discovered that at the outbreak of the war, HMS Dartmouth had been stationed in the East Indies. What if William received a last minute appointment to this ship before it sailed across the world? What if he couldn’t see his sweetheart before he set sail? What if he had to leave her a letter promising his heart and leaving her a ring as a proposal? And what if she never received the letter, and believing he’d left without making her any promises, she then met and married someone else?



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