FACT OR FICTION?

by Author | March 25th, 2011

Many of the people who have now read the book have been keen to learn more about the characters featured in the novel. The more knowledgable amongst them have obviously sussed out who is an historical, real life figure, and who was made up by me for the benefit of the story. Many people however, casual readers or those new to military historical fiction, may not be able to spot the difference, so, just to put people’s minds at rest, here is a quick list of characters who either really did exist, or didn’t, as the case may be!

GERMAN – HISTORICAL

Albert Kesselring – Air Commander, Gunther Prein – U Boat Commander, Grand Admiral Raeder, Generals Jodl, Keitel and von Brauchitsch, SS Commander Theodore Eicke, Koch and Witzig from the storm-battalion, Generals Putzier, von Sponeck, Colonel Utz, Major Schulz, General Reinhard.

GERMAN – MADE UP BY ME

Heinkel Pilot – Heinz Gerring, Captain Dullman, Sergeant Johann Saltz and Corporal Martin Nuemark, all Saltz’s men, Hauptsturmfuhrer Merkal of the SS Totenkopf, All the rank and file who fight in the Cawood Pocket, Private Fredrick Wessel at Seamer Bridge, Major Stadtmann and his staff, Lieutenant Viktor Malk and Sergeant Jaeger.

BRITISH – HISTORICAL

Winston Churchill, Generals Sir John Dill, Alan Brooke, Bernard Montgomery, Sir Ronald Adam, Captain Barney Charlesworth, Sir Dudley Pound – First Sea Lord, Air Chief Marshal Sir Cyril Newall.

BRITISH – MADE UP

Sergeant Jackson, his Home Guardsmen and all the members of the Holme Box Garrison, Major Jack Tobin, Tommy McGinn, Brigadier ‘Sulky-Slacks’, Brigadier Charles Willard, Aircraftsmen Bevan and Scotton, all members of the Spurn Point gun batteries, all members of the British tank crews, the motor torpedo boat crew.

UNITS, SHIPS, ETC – MADE UP

The Hambeldon and Moorlanders, The Hallamshires (which should not be confused with the historical Hallamshire regiment!), several German destroyers and lots of purpose-built German landing-craft(!), The Guards Armoured Division (2 years premature from the historical Guards Armoured Division), HMS Elektra and its entire crew.

VIRTUALLY ALL THE PLACES, INCLUDING ALL THE PILL-BOXES, REALLY EXIST. I DID HOWEVER CHANGE THE NAME OF THE GRAND HOTEL IN SCARBOROUGH TO THE “GREAT EASTERN”. JACKSON’S “HOUGOUMONT” FARM DOES NOT EXIST, BUT THERE ARE NUMEROUS FARMS AROUND HOLME-ON-SPALDING MOOR THAT WOULD FIT THE BILL PERFECTLY!

2 Responses to “FACT OR FICTION?”

  1. Is there any reason why the Regimental names and Ships names are fictional? I could understand if they were stuffing up in the novel but most of them seem to be doing fine. It seems a good opportunity to air some of the fine old regimental names now so sadly lost with all the amalgamations… Just a thought, I hate to nit pick such a great read!

  2. A good question! The simple answer is, as this was my first novel and I was covering a period still on the edge of living memory, I was wary about the sensibilities of those who were a part of the events of 1940, and their relatives. In addition to this, it did become very difficult to pin down certain units, ships and squadrons, and I was of course aware that some readers who adopt the ‘rivet-counter mentality’ might protest if I was to deviate too far from accepted fact. To that end, I took the coward’s way out and played it safe by making quite a bit up. In some case too, to use the original facts would have been slightly inconvenient if I was to make the idea of a German invasion believable, so I just had to go for it and invent some stuff where I needed to make the novel work. Having said all of this, due to the fact that the novel has been so well received thus far, especially amongst the military and veterans community, I have been much bolder with the prequel. Around 60-70% of the characters in the prequel really existed and about 85% of the units mentioned are also the original units. One of the great things about writing a novel based on the Dunkirk campaign is that there is a wealth of information available so it has allowed me to dramatise the events with (I believe) a fair amount of accuracy. Mind you, even with such a well documented campaign, there is no shortage of contentious points and conflicting accounts, so where that has occurred I have tried to steer a middle course through it, or else resorted to my favourite trick of just making it up! Now spending several weeks going back through it all to double check all the facts, times, places, etc and make sure there is a balance between action and narrative as the novel covers a 24 day period, 6 countries and half a dozen armies. Very difficuly to squeeze the story into 200,000 words but think I’ve managed it quite well. Finally, in the foreword to this novel, I will emphasise that the novel is designed to honour the memories of those who were a part of these momentous events. In fact, there is only one part of the novel where any character, German or British, is viewed from a negative angle, and that is during a passage on a well known and proven war-crime. Other than that, I hope it will make people appreciate the tremendous feats of military skill and personal courage accomplished by all the protaganists back in 1940. As ever, each new piece of writing becomes a learning experience. My biggest decision now is whether to continue with a WWII theme for book three or try something different. I have no shortage of ideas ranging from English Civil War, to Bronze Age Fantasy, to Near Future Dark Fiction, along with a whole range of WWII options of course. We shall have to see.

Welcome!

Seelöwe Nord is the online home of Andy Johnson, a war fiction novelist. Seelöwe Nord is a war novel that tells the alternative history of Operation Sealion, the proposed German invasion of Britain in 1940. Followed by Thunder in May, and the recently released Crucible of Fate, the trilogy of War Fiction remains a popular read within the genre.

Andy has also started to publish small Leadership and Management Booklets drawing from his extensive experience across many sectors and industries, both military and civilian, the first of which is entitled Captains of the Gate and is now available for download on eReaders directly from Amazon.