Bearing in mind that all characters in Wounded are fictitious except for a few senior military personnel, this is a photograph of dad’s mother, my grandmother, May Robinson (c. 1868-1941). Snow stares at a photograph which has arrived from home along with a parcel of goodies just before leaving for battle at Bullecourt and thinks, ‘That’s mother all right; red, white and blue as the Union Jack, brazen Lancashire eyes accosting me, the intimation of a smile on her lips but more obdurate than warm.’
Here’s a card sent by dad’s half-brother, Albert, to their mother May (Robinson) from ‘somewhere in France’. Dad is second from the right, standing, and Albert is on his right, arm around dad’s shoulder. It looks like they’re outside a boot-maker workshop. Dad doesn’t look too well and I think he was about to undergo an operation for appendicitis, which wasn’t entirely successful. Of course in my writer’s mind, this group became the ‘gang’: lanky Collin on Snow’s left, John with his arm around Snow’s shoulder, next to Horrie and Big Louis and, kneeling in front of Snow, Siddy (Snow’s hand on his shoulder) and Badge. In Wounded, Snow survives a serious gunshot wound at Passchedaele only to almost die from complications attending an appendix operation..
In Wounded, between terrible battles in the Ypres Salient, Snow and his mates go wandering around Poperinghe looking for souvenirs and postcards, ‘fair dinkum six-bob a day tourists’. Silk postcards are expensive and he is saving money for leave in Paris where he plans to meet Cozette again ‘ … but a favourite with mothers so I lash out and buy two, one for Mother and another for Maman Vandenberghe.’
In Wounded: a Great War novel, the Old Bat takes a break in Poperinghe, Belgium, in September 1917. The officers want to have a group photograph taken of the sixty-five or so originals still serving from the thousand or so who left for Gallipoli in 1915. Snow is sent with an officer across the border to smuggle in a French photographer in a cart normally used for medical supplies ‘without international complications’.
Tending the cart while the photograph is taken, Snow reflects on how gutted the Old Bat was in Egypt following the withdrawal from Gallipoli when the battalion was split in two and half reassigned to 53rd Battalion, which was subsequently wiped out at Fromelles. If Snow hadn’t unexpectedly been recalled as a runner, he would have been in that. This was so, for my father.