This is my fourth blog on the British assault ship Empire Elaine and my grandfather’s experience as her Second Officer under Combined Operations, the British naval command responsible for seaborne landings during the Second World War. Empire Elaine had been designed for the Ministry of War Transport (M/T) as an L.S.C. (Landing Ship Carrier), one of few heavy-lift ships purpose-built to carry L.C.M.s (Landing Craft Mechanised). Despite her military role, the crew of Empire Elaine ...
'Operation Dragoon' was the codename for the Allied landings in the south of France on 15 August 1944, a massive naval and airborne assault that served as the counterpart to the Normandy landings a little over two months earlier. The assault was primarily a US operation, with most of the troops landed around Cavalaire Bay being from three US divisions, but many of the assault and supply ships and their escorts were British ...
The official history of the Clan Line during the Second World War, In Danger’s Hour by Gordon Holman (Hodder and Stoughton, 1948), contains many accounts of courage and loss among the Merchant Navy crews who provided a lifeline for Britain as well as support for Allied military operations in every theatre of the war. We are used to images of ships on Atlantic convoys, their crews enduring the constant threat of U-boat attack, but an oft-overlooked role of merchant seamen was the huge part they played in seaborne assaults and the dangers they faced there as well. Just what this involved is shown in the remarkable voyage of one of these ships ...
The present-day action in my novel Pharaoh opens with Jack Howard and his IMU team diving deep into the Mediterranean in search of a 19th century shipwreck thought to contain a fabled sarcophagus from ancient Egypt. Their search is based on fact: the ship was the Beatrice, a British merchantman lost in 1838, and the sarcophagus was the stone coffin of Menkaure, pharaoh of the 4th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom who died about 2500 BC. Only months before the wrecking the sarcophagus had been found in the Pyramid of Menkaure ...
My third post as guest-editor of 'The Afterword' for Canada's National Post newpaper:
I’m in England I write my novels in a sixteenth-century half-timbered cottage
beside a castle, and in Canada overlooking a 19th century wooden barn
on our farm in southern Ontario. In the course of looking after the woodland on
our farm I’ve felled many trees by axe and worked with timber a good deal, and
that’s helped me to appreciate the extraordinary skill and tenacity of
woodworkers in the past ...