Writing Historical Fiction? - Check the Timeline

For any writer delving into the past, one of the first orders of business is to print out the timeline of the era about which one is writing. My first novel, Another Ocean to Cross, is set from 1938 to 1945. That’s right, World War II, which is so well-documented, that any writer who messes up key dates, such as the fall of France, or the London Blitz, is going to be laughed out of the bookstore.

Although Wikipedia is eschewed by serious historians, one thing it got right (almost) was the timeline for WWII, from pre-war events in the late 1930s to the end of war in 1945. I must have printed out fifty pages of timeline, which covered every theater of war: European, North African, Mediterranean, Asian, Atlantic and so on. My book doesn’t cover all those theaters, so I picked the most relevant dates, which occurred in the Mediterranean, North African, and European theaters. The printouts sat on my desk as I wrote, and I referred to them constantly.

From the title, you’ve likely correctly guessed that several ocean voyages are part of the story. I chose to use for my main character’s toughest voyage, the name of the ship on which my family emigrated from Britain to Canada in 1953, the M.V. Georgic. The Georgic was utilized during WWII, and was bombed near the Suez Canal. The ship was nearly destroyed, but at the time, the Allies could not afford to let good steel sink to the bottom of the ocean, so Georgic was hauled up, rebuilt with a single smokestack, and used as a troop ship, and later, as a bargain passenger ship. The details about the Georgic are unimportant except to those who sailed on her, so I chose to change the location and circumstances under which she was bombed.

Photos below show her after the bombing, and then later, when she was rebuilt.

The Georgic after she was bombed.

Shipwreck photo: Titanic-titanic.com

The Georgic as she looked when I travelled on her in 1953

Restored Georgic photo: Joe Taft, rgjphotos.org

#ships #WWII #fiction #historical #ocean

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