Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Day For Poppies

This post was first published five years ago.        

           A Facebook friend posted pictures from her trip to London. Having been there, I enjoyed perusing them. A surprise greeted me with the Tower of London photos. A sea of red flowed from the Tower.



From August 5, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red has on display at the Tower of London, marking one hundred years since Britain's involvement began in World War I. Ceramic poppies have progressively filled the Tower's moat. It ends today on Remembrance Day, November 11, the date the armistice ended the war in 1918. Each of the 888,246 ceramic poppies represents a British military fatality in the war. 
Photos by Richard Lea-Hair

            Why poppies?

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

     Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae wrote this poem early in World War I, before the disillusionment that came as the years dragged on. The poem so inspired Moina Michael of the American Young Women's Christian Association that she wrote a poem of her own.

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet - to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never deis,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

     
 Moina wore a red silk poppy pinned to her coat at a YWCA Overseas War Secretaries' Conference in November, 1918, and gave out twenty-five more. She sought to have the poppy adopted as a national symbol of remembrance.
     The National American Legion did adopt the poppy as their official symbol of remembrance at a 1920 conference. Attending was a French woman, Anna Guérin, who began selling artificial poppies. She sent her sellers to London in 1921, where the poppy was adopted by Field Marshal Douglas Haig, a founder of the Royal British Legion.
The poppies at the Tower of London will now be sold for £25 (about $40) and will benefit charities.


         Have you ever wondered why service organizations sell poppies at stores' entrances on Veteran's Day?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

It's Here!



Roll Back the Clouds is now available at Amazon, both as an ebook and in print. A large print version will come in a day or two. And on Friday, Barnes & Noble will offer the print book.
The timing works well for those who suddenly find themselves with time on their hands with all the closures and isolation demands. Now you can sit back and read without feeling guilty.
Join Geoff & Rosaleen for the Lusitania’s final voyage.



Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Lusitania Passengers: the Crompton Family


Roll Back the Clouds, my new novel about the Lusitania, releases on March 17. Many of the passengers aboard the ill-fated, final voyage appear alongside main characters, Geoff and Rosaleen Bonnard. I’ll be profiling several of them here. This week, meet the Crompton family.

       
            Paul and Gladys Crompton married in 1900 and had six children. Because Paul traveled frequently for the Booth Group (parent company of the Lusitania) and usually took his family with him, the children were born in different places around the world.
In 1915, while living in Philadelphia, Paul was offered a position with Booth Steamship Company, and the family planned to move to England. The Lusitania was their usual mode of transportation. Along with nurse Dorothy Allen (for eight-month-old Peter), the family occupied staterooms D-56, D-58, and D-60. The children made so much noise that the passenger in D-54 requested another cabin.
As the Lusitania sank, another passenger said he saw Paul Crompton fastening a lifebelt to baby Peter, and he himself helped one of the daughters adjust her belt. None of the family survived. The bodies of the three sons, Stephen, 17, John, 6, and Peter were recovered.
In Roll Back the Clouds, Rosaleen meets Gladys and several of her children. She later gives Peter a bottle in the nursery, and identifies John and Peter in a morgue.



Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Lusitania Passenger Father Basil Maturin


Roll Back the Clouds, my new novel about the Lusitania, releases on March 17. Many of the passengers aboard the ill-fated, final voyage appear alongside main characters, Geoff and Rosaleen Bonnard. I’ll be profiling several of them here. This week, meet Father Basil Maturin.

     
   Basil Maturin was born in 1847 in Ireland. After receiving an education at Trinity College in Dublin, he was sent to Philadelphia to be the rector at St. Clement’s Episcopalian Church. He became a Catholic in 1897.
In 1913, he became Catholic chaplain at Oxford University. He embarked on a preaching tour in the United States in 1915, and was returning to England on the Lusitania. While in New York, he spoke to several Irish-Americans and was surprised, but relieved, to discover they were not pro-German.
As the Lusitania sank, he administered absolutions to several people, and was seen placing a child in a lifeboat. He did not wear a lifebelt, and was lost in the disaster. His body was recovered by two elderly fishermen and identified by his papers, silver watch, banker’s drafts for ₤2,000. He was buried in England.
In Roll Back the Clouds, Father Maturin meets the Bonnards in the first-class lounge, where they partook of afternoon tea.



Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Lusitania Passenger Marie Depage


Roll Back the Clouds, my new novel about the Lusitania, releases on March 17. Many of the passengers aboard the ill-fated, final voyage appear alongside main characters, Geoff and Rosaleen Bonnard. I’ll be profiling several of them here. This week, meet Marie Depage.

        Marie Picard married Antoine Depage, a noted Belgian surgeon and chairman of the Belgian Red Cross, in 1893, and they had three sons. Marie was a nurse, and worked alongside her husband in Constantinople during the Balkan Wars in 1912.
When the Germans invaded Belgium in 1914, Dr. Depage established L’Hôpital de L’Océan in La Panne, Belgium. Marie helped train nurses, working closely with English nurse Edith Cavell. With the means for caring for the wounded becoming scarce, she embarked on a fund-raising trip to the United States in February, 1915. She raised over $100,000 and half that again in supplies.
Her middle son, Lucien, would soon be sent to the battlefront, and Marie headed for home to see him off. She had a ticket for the Red Star Lines S.S. Lapland, which would sail on April 29. The opportunity for a final fund-raising meeting that evening prompted her to switch to the Lusitania, which sailed on May 1. Both ships were due to arrive in Liverpool on May 7.
After the torpedoing, Marie was seen on deck calming children and assisting women into lifeboats. While onboard, she had met a friend, Dr. James Houghton, who would join her husband in La Panne. They jumped together when the water came over the deck, but became separated when Houghton struck his head. He believed she became entangled in ropes and drowned.
Contributors to her cause were assured their money wasn’t lost. Marie would not have carried such a large sum of cash. It was remitted to Belgium through the bank.
In Roll Back the Clouds, Rosaleen recognizes Marie Depage as the woman her Belgian father went to hear and contributed to the hospital.



Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Lusitania Passenger Ian Holbourn


Roll Back the Clouds, my new novel about the Lusitania, releases on March 17. Many of the passengers aboard the ill-fated, final voyage appear alongside main characters, Geoff and Rosaleen Bonnard. I’ll be profiling several of them here. This week, meet Ian Holbourn.


        On an expedition to Iceland in 1899, 27-year-old Ian Holbourn passed by the Isle of Foula in Scotland. He visited Foula the following year, and determined to buy the island. He succeeded in doing so, and thus became laird of Foula. When he took his future wife to visit Foula, she was surprised they were treated like royalty.
            Ian was a lecturer at Oxford, Cambridge, and London. His topics ranged from archaeology and architecture to Greek philosophy and medieval history to social and ethical problems. He was invited by the Lecturers’ Association of New York to tour the United States, and presented over one thousand lectures at universities across America.
            For twenty years, he had been working on a manuscript entitled The Fundamental Theory of Beauty.  He had taken it with him to the U.S., hoping to have it ready for publication in 1916.
Returning home on the Lusitania, he was outspoken in lobbying for passengers to learn proper evacuation and how to put on lifebelts, and was critical of the captain’s refusal to hold lifeboat drills for passengers. A group of men came to him and ordered him to stop talking of these things and upsetting the others. For their refusal to face the dangers of sailing into the war zone, he called them the Ostrich Club.
When the Lusitania sank, he jumped into the sea with a few of his most important manuscripts.  He swam to an overcrowded lifeboat, where he was refused to come aboard. He threw in his manuscripts so at least they would be saved. After nearly an hour in the water, he was pulled into another lifeboat, and survived.
In Roll Back the Clouds, Geoff Bonnard hears Professor Holbourn warn of the possible danger and derisively refer to the Ostrich Club.



Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Lusitania Passengers: the Pearl Family


Roll Back the Clouds, my new novel about the Lusitania, releases on March 17. Many of the passengers aboard the ill-fated, final voyage appear alongside main characters, Geoff and Rosaleen Bonnard. I’ll be profiling several of them here. This week, meet the Pearl family.




        Surgeon-Major Warren Pearl serviced with the Medical Corps in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. After he married Amy Lea Duncan in 1909, he retired from the military. While vacationing in Europe in 1914, their third child, Susan, was born, and the Pearls recruited Alice Lines to help with the children.
While they were in Denmark, Dr. Pearl went back to England, hoping to enroll Stuart, their eldest, at Eton. On his return to Denmark through Lübeck, Germany, he was arrested by the Germans on suspicion of spying for England. He was, after all, wearing English tweeds and carrying a copy of the London Times. He telegrammed his wife to come at once. While she was away, Alice Lines hired a Danish girl, Greta Lorenson, to assist with the children.
In the spring of 1915, Pearl was ordered to report to the American Embassy in London. The family traveled on the Lusitania. After the ship was torpedoed, Warren and Amy became separated from the children and their nurses on the crowded decks. When the ship sank, they were thrown into the sea. Both were pulled into lifeboats. They were reunited in Queenstown, and later found Alice Lines with 5-year-old Stuart and 3-month-old Audrey. No trace was ever found of Greta Lorenson, 3-year-old Amy (called Bunny), and 15-month-old Susan.
Survivors Audrey and Stuart Pearl

In Roll Back the Clouds, Rosaleen Bonnard is in the same lifeboat as Alice Lines with Stuart and baby Audrey.