Thursday, 30 March 2017
Museums and Memories
One of the key areas of research in writing my new book, The Girl from Simon's Bay, was the ships that called into Simon's Town naval base before and during World War 2. I wanted to position my hero, David Horrocks, on vessels that not only played a significant part in the war but also visited the dockyard at particular periods during the conflict. I'm most grateful to Simon's Town Museum for giving me access to their records, and here is a pic of me presenting a copy of the book for their collection.
As I researched, I began to build up a picture of ship movements in and out of the dockyard. I settled on four ships: HMS Durban, HMS/HMNZ Achilles, HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cumberland. Based on their real wartime action, I designed David's war service. For example, while posted on HMS Durban just before the outbreak of war, David visits Simon's Town and happens to notice a young woman on St George's street, laughing with a young admirer. Slender, with that twist of the exotic so unmistakeable in the local girls...
War breaks out and he is transferred to HMS/HMNZ Achilles, part of the task force hunting for the German raider, Graf Spee. In the ensuing battle, David is wounded and carries a scar on his temple for the rest of his life. While on convoy with HMS Dorsetshire down the coast of West Africa, he develops appendicitis and, when the warship calls in to Simon's Town, he is rushed to the Royal Naval Hospital where he is nursed by a young woman who looks vaguely familiar...
David rejoins to HMS Dorsetshire in time for its role in the sinking of the Bismarck, but Dorsetshire's days are numbered.
Rescue came on the second day, just as hope - and water - were almost spent.
Then to HMS Cumberland, and the final days of the war in the Far East.
Two bombs, and it's over at last.
Wait for me, please. I will return.
Four ships, a world war and, in fleeting moments between the carnage, an unlikely romance...