… pro patria mori. (Wilfred Owen, war poet, 1917)
Only 25 when he died in the trenches of the first world war, Wilfred Owen’s poetry has fascinated me since I was at school. The raw truth of his words versus the smoothed over propoganda printed in both the papers and forced into the letters of the soldiers sent home, opened my eyes for the first time to the possibilities of slant and interpretation. Many of those letters insisting to wives and mothers back in England that everything was rosy on the Somme arrived home after the writer had been blown to bits. My great-grandfather was one of those writers. Only he managed to sneak out an uncensored letter via a fellow soldier about to go home on leave. His account is as raw as Owen’s and has haunted me for years in light of what was about to become of him, all those years ago.
Fitting then, that on this remembrance day I’m researching another war for my second book. This as yet untitled novel is following on from my first, The Psychic Detective Agency. A key part of the story circles around the work of the Special Operations Executive and the secret work they carried out with resistance organisations all over Europe in WW2. It’s fascinating and daunting to think of all they faced; missions dangerous enough in concept, but also largely already intercepted by the Nazis before the agents even left English airfields in the dead of night. Many parachuted straight into capture.
So that’s where I’m going today. As the SOEs said as they boarded their planes to France or Belgium, ‘Wish me luck.’