Over By Christmas

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Over By Christmas

As the threat of war gathers like a storm over Europe in 1914, George Royal, a young gunner in the Royal Navy is at Portsmouth naval barracks waiting to be drafted to his next ship. At the same time, his naval gunnery officer father, Jack, has arrived home after a long spell at sea. All too briefly, the Royals are a family once again and George’s mother, Emily, is doing her best to cope with the real prospect of being left alone at home in Gosport, Hampshire, when the two men in her life go back to sea and into war.

George’s best friend, Bill Guy, who lives alone above the shop he owns in the small naval town of Gosport, falls in love with a beautiful young woman, Carrie, who enters his life quite by chance but in a state of distress. When she quickly makes herself a major part of his life Bill is not keen to probe too deeply into the few unspoken questions he has about her past. He is in love for the very first time and won’t do anything to risk that. But then Carrie, after not liking  George Royal when she first meets him, is gradually drawn to him, eventually placing her relationship with Bill and the friendship between the two men at risk as a love triangle closes in around them.

Then, at midnight on August 4, 1914, the sonorous tones of Big Ben echoing over London’s rooftops announce the beginning of the Great War. Suddenly, Emily’s brief happiness crumbles as Jack and George put to sea and head for different oceans.   

Meanwhile, at much higher levels of British society, Britain’s lack of war preparedness becomes evident and the leadership of the 69-year-old married Prime Minister is tested as never before. However, just when he needs to be particularly clear-headed and focused, his thoughts  are preoccupied by the obsessive love he has for a close friend of his daughter. It drives him to write a constant stream of love letters to the 24-year-old woman even while he is presiding over his bickering warlords who are making momentous decisions – decisions that will ultimately set the fate of both Jack and George Royal as well as hundreds of thousands of other servicemen.

Jack is dispatched to the South Pacific in HMS GOOD HOPE to face the fleet of German Admiral von Spee while George sails for the North Sea in HMS INFLEXIBLE for his initiation into war. Later, George stands accused of murder when INFLEXIBLE’s much-reviled Gunnery Officer disappears at sea one night. Things suddenly look bleak for George and his career. It is only then that he discovers a guardian angel watching over him in the form of Lieutenant Parker, a good friend of his father. 

Over By Christmas is two stories set in parallel: George’s coming-of-age as he lives through tragedy and love at home, and the comradeship and horrors of ferocious naval battles in the North Sea, the Falkland Islands and Gallipoli; the other is of the personal frailties, loves and machinations of the leaders at Whitehall, against which the first story unfolds.

Although worlds apart in social terms, these two stories are as inextricably linked as puppet-masters and their puppets, and they raise an important question:

Can it be that those responsible for directing the Great War allowed their personal emotions and machinations to  influence the course of the war and the lives of those caught up in it?

To read excerpts from Over By Christmas please click 

Copyright (c) 2008, 2011 William Daysh.