Treasure in a shoebox


I had a wonderful day yesterday poking about in a shoebox full of letters, receipts, chits and telegrams once belonging to granny. My granny (if you don’t already know) is the protagonist in the novel I am writing. I have just finished my novel (for the third time) and am just at the stage of letting a few close family members read it (brave). So I was totally thrilled to find relevant bits of information amongst the shoebox’s contents that clarified some of my detective/research work for the book.

I had to originally print out copies of the troopships deck layouts and plans to ascertain which deck and cabin they would have been allocated on their journey from Liverpool to Bombay in 1945….I was astounded to find a piece of crumpled up typed paper from The war Office, Whitehall with the word SECRET typed in caps and underlined at the top of the letter. It instructed granny to report to the Embarkation Staff Officer at Princes Landing Stage, Liverpool at 16,00 on 16th February. I then found an embarkation card with deck C, cabin 400….such detail is priceless to me…I’d spent days trying to work out where they would be sailing from and which deck and cabin number they would be allocated. I’ve even been on a recce to Liverpool and worked out exactly where the landing stage would have been….astonishingly I was right about it all apart from the exact cabin number which I will now correct.

I found granny’s ration book too for when she lived in Shaldon. I now know the name of her butcher and general stores where she had an account.

I even have the notification from The War Office regarding her repatriation to India being granted….a small detail but I have already written about this in the novel…I have her sitting on Shaldon beach as she reads the news shes be longing to hear…its a moving moment as Wilmot, her father had died in India only days before.

You often hear of writers who employ researchers to do all this sort of work before embarking on a novel. For me though this bit is like opening a treasure trove full of sparkling jewels….I wouldn’t miss it for all the tea in China!


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