Thursday, 18 June 2015

Writing - Battle anniversaries

As I have an active interest in history I have often written of historical occurrences and it would be remiss of me to omit significant conflicts near Waterloo in Belgium and Orgreave! Where I hear you ask? Please read on.

Image result for battle of waterloo

The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday, 18 June 1815, near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. A French army under the command of Napoleon was defeated by the armies of the Seventh Coalition, comprising an Anglo-allied army under the command of the Duke of Wellington combined with a Prussian army under the command of Gebhard von Blücher.
Upon Napoleon's return to power in March 1815, many states that had opposed him formed the Seventh Coalition and began to mobilize armies. Two large forces under Wellington and Blücher assembled close to the north-eastern border of France. Napoleon chose to attack in the hope of destroying them before they could join in a coordinated invasion of France with other members of the coalition. Waterloo was the decisive engagement of the Waterloo Campaign and Napoleon's last. According to Wellington, the battle was "the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life". The defeat at Waterloo ended Napoleon's rule as Emperor of the French, and marked the end of his Hundred Days return from exile.

This battle was significant because it brought a degree of stability in Europe that lasted until the First World War. Battles sometimes can have a positive legacy even though they are to blame for thousands of deaths. Whichever, as writers we have a duty to keep as close to the truth as is possible when recording historical events. I have adopted that attitude as I gather information to support the writing of my first historical novel.

The Magic Show is nothing to do with war or battles but it is an anniversary. On the 14th June 1883 a magic show took place in Victoria Hall, Sunderland at which 183 children tragically died. In researching this I have collected information from the local newspaper, Google and descendants of people involved. Carrying out research in this way has opened up accurate information and human stories that I hope will lend verisimilitude to the story when it is eventually written. It would be perverse of me to collect 'real' information then to ignore the wealth, colour and texture it provides.

Image result for orgreave miners strike

So to the 'Battle of Orgreave', that occurred this day 31 years ago, it was not a battle between nations but between striking coal miners and the police.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) organised a mass picket of Orgreave for 18 June 1984, with the intention of blockading the plant, and ideally forcing its temporary closure. Aware of the plans by means of MI5 infiltration, the police organised counter-measures.
The NUM was represented by 5,000 to 6,000 pickets from across the UK. The police deployed between 4,000 and 8,000 officers, and were deployed from 10 counties.
The purpose of the strikers was to prevent the delivery of coal into the coking plant at Orgreave and of course the police's role was to get the wagons through the picket lines. The battle occurred when the first of the wagons arrived and the striking miners surged forward to block their progress.

The legacy of the violence and police action of that day rolls on. Some compensation has been paid out to members of the striking miners; there have been calls for a public enquiry; and, the police watchdog has issued a recent report. Its a little like the law of motion that states 'for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction'. Battles, violence and fighting have consequences which are all seen by the protagonists from their unique viewpoint so extracting the actual events is difficult.
Similarly, when writing stories, we can engage the reader by relating viewpoints with slightly differing opinions. These have the effect of getting the readers to take sides which is a real plus. So keep researching and considering and hopefully the magic will come.

God Bless