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Authors: Robert Ryan

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BOOK: The Dead Can Wait
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And I want you to know that you are sorely missed. I have been knitting. It does not come naturally, but I can manage socks and mittens. I am sure the winters are cold over there.

Let us hope the war is over soon and we can all be together. Dinner at The Connaught (as they call the Coburg now), says Mr Holmes. Doesn’t that sound grand?

I will write again soon, but in the meantime look for my parcels.

With all my best wishes

With all my love,

Georgina

AUTHOR’S NOTE

 

Although many of the characters in this novel existed, and tanks were developed at Thetford in Suffolk in circumstances roughly analogous to those depicted here, I have taken many liberties with history. There was no G Company of the Heavy Branch, Machine Gun Corps, although a G Battalion of the new Tank Corps was formed in December 1916. Similarly, I have not replicated the exact geography of the area, although Elveden Hall exists (albeit currently unoccupied) and the story of the maharajah and the Koh-I-Noor is true. You can find out more in Peter Bance’s book
Maharajah Duleep Singh: Sovereign, Squire, Rebel
(Coronet), which contains photographs of the hall. It is available at the Elveden shops (see www.elveden.com).

For details of the tank’s inception, development and deployment, David Fletcher and Tony Bryan’s monograph on the
British Mark 1 Tank 1916
(Osprey) was invaluable in describing the layout of the first machines. I also drew on Patrick Wright’s
Tank
(Viking). I am particularly indebted to
Band of Brigands: The Extraordinary Story of the First Men in Tanks
by Christy Campbell, which put me on the trail of the
Notes for Tank Commanders
, the original of which is in the wonderful Bovington Tank Museum (www.tankmuseum.org) in Dorset. I also used
Tanks and Trenches
, edited by David Fletcher (The History Press). Reading many of the accounts of the early tanks, it will come as no surprise to discover that men really did lose their sanity in these metal beasts – carbon monoxide disoriented them and, in some cases, the combination of noise, heat and fumes sent them over the edge completely. One tank commander really did use his revolver to shoot the engine of his tormentor. The bravery of the men who drove those first tanks into battle, with little experience of war or the machines, is wholly admirable. The tank, though, was not the super-weapon the Allies had hoped for, mainly because the element of surprise was squandered in the mud of the Somme and because the early versions were so primitive and unreliable (although some tanks did make it across no man’s land on 15 September and helped liberate a village or two).

There were later successes, notably at Cambrai in 1917, but the tank did not really come into its own as a fighting machine until the next war when, of course, its initial, devastating successes came in the hands of German crews and commanders. And, as Colonel-General Heinz Guderian said in his book
Panzer Marsch!
, published in 1937: ‘The higher the concentration of tanks, the faster, greater and more sweeping will be the success – and the smaller our own losses . . .’

I’d like to thank Frances Armstrong at the Elveden Estate (elveden.com) and Brian Dawson of Nature Break Wildlife Cruises (wildlifetrips.org.uk). The latter showed me the Broomway and the fascinating island of Foulness and the little community of Churchend. His company offers walks, boat rides and even tractor rides along the Broomway to the island.

My thanks go to Maxine Hitchcock and Clare Hey for their exemplary editing and enthusiasm; Yvonne Holland for saving me from myself so many times; and to Sue Stephens, James Horobin and Kerr MacRae and all at Simon & Schuster for continuing support, even when it involves listening to jazz. David Miller, Alex Goodwin, Susan d’Arcy, Katie Haines, Jonathan Kinnersely, Gary Cook and Barry Forshaw have all offered sterling back-room work in various capacities. Finally, thank you to Guy Barker, whose various attempts to turn me into a lyricist at least offered a welcome respite from the writing trenches.

Robert Ryan

Table of Contents

PROLOGUE

PART ONE 10–29 JULY 1916

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

PART TWO 11–15 AUGUST 1916

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

TEN

ELEVEN

TWELVE

THIRTEEN

FOURTEEN

FIFTEEN

SIXTEEN

SEVENTEEN

PART THREE 16–19 AUGUST 1916

EIGHTEEN

NINETEEN

TWENTY

TWENTY-ONE

TWENTY-TWO

TWENTY-THREE

TWENTY-FOUR

TWENTY-FIVE

TWENTY-SIX

TWENTY-SEVEN

TWENTY-EIGHT

TWENTY-NINE

THIRTY

THIRTY-ONE

THIRTY-TWO

THIRTY-THREE

THIRTY-FOUR

THIRTY-FIVE

THIRTY-SIX

PART FOUR 1–16 SEPTEMBER 1916

THIRTY-SEVEN

THIRTY-EIGHT

THIRTY-NINE

FORTY

FORTY-ONE

FORTY-TWO

FORTY-THREE

FORTY-FOUR

FORTY-FIVE

FORTY-SIX

FORTY-SEVEN

FORTY-EIGHT

FORTY-NINE

FIFTY

FIFTY-ONE

EPILOGUE

AUTHOR’S NOTE

BOOK: The Dead Can Wait
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