As the world marks the centenary of the Great War, a new book tells the story of a young family’s struggle during, and following, the conflict after the head of the household goes off to fight for King and Country.
Do Not Forget Me Quite is the tale of loving husband and father, John Hemingby, who did not have to go to war but felt he must. As the musician and teacher did not on principle want to kill people, he volunteered for the Medical Corps.
What he experiences changes his life and that of his family for ever.
Author Richard Pike, of Rippingale, said: “As John was a married man with a family in 1914, he did not have to join up but felt he ought to.
He had been earmarked for promotion by the head of his school yet chose to go off to war, this caused conflict within the family and within himself. His family suffered hardships.”
Richard, a former English teacher and lecturer, who retired early to pursue his passion for writing, said: “The story is very much also about the difficulties and hardships faced by stretcher bearers and medics of the day.
“It may be page-turning but the graphic descriptions of the horrors are not comfortable reading. Throughout this human interest story I have tried to give an impression of what it must have felt like to experience The Great War.
“When I started writing it in February 2011, the centenary commemoration was not high in my mind. I knew what the ending was going to be so I worked out what could happen and how to bring the main character to his fate.
“The second thing I wanted to do was to bring in the real-life poet and composer Ivor Gurney.”
The book has been described as literary historical fiction, and includes some of Gurney’s music and poems as well as John’s fictional encounters with the man – a brilliant, talented artist whose art and life is increasingly hindered by growing mental problems – unknown and untreatable at the time – which eventually mean that Gurney ends his days in an asylum.
The story also looks at the conflict through the eyes of John’s daughter Dorothy who recalls the difficulties and troubles of her early life, with a very different point of view to that of her mother.
Mr Pike said: “By looking back at events as an old lady, she gives a cooler perspective on what was going on at the time and tells us what is happening to other members of the family.”
The book, which goes on until 1932, recounts incidents in London such as the Zeppelin raids and also tells us something of what happened after the war.
“I had a very strong image of how the story was going to end. and I built the story around that notion,” said Mr Pike, whose research for the novel included books written by soldiers and diaries of medics, and wide use of the internet.
Do Not Forget Me Quite is a compelling story of the First World War, family life during the conflict and the peace that followed.
It is published by Matador at £8.99 and is available at bookshops and via the internet.