New Book: The Accidental Daughter
New novel by Lesley Nelson, dedicated to the 306 British and Empire soldiers executed for military offences in World War One and commemorated at the Shot at Dawn Memorial in Staffordshire.
Six years ago, a news item snagged my attention. "Soldiers shot at dawn honoured after 90 years" ran the headline.
I read about Private Harry Farr, executed for cowardice by a British firing squad in the First World War, and finally pardoned when the armed forces bill was amended.
At a remembrance service in 2007, his 94-year-old daughter said she'd always argued that her father was suffering from shell shock.
At the time, I was living in rural Spain while I finished a picaresque biography. Now I was haunted by the stories of families who'd campaigned for decades on behalf of their shamed young men.
They were men who'd volunteered to fight for their country, only to be shot at dawn by a British bullet. My great uncle died at 20 on the Somme, but at least he was shot by the enemy.
So began The Accidental Daughter, about a London boy who grows up knowing his father was executed for cowardice in 1916.
Fearing his own disgrace on the battlefield, he joins the fire service as the Second World War approaches. But on the frontline of the blitz, a night of fear and passion leads to lifelong consequences.
This is a tale of human error; a narrative of loyalty and loss, love and bitterness, against a backdrop of war and a love of jazz.
The Accidental Daughter by Lesley Nelson, published by Troubador/Matador in November 2013, £7.99
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