This is a fictional novel based on a history which is thoughtfully guided by a true accounting of the official service records for Lieutenant Robert (Bob) Courtenay Pitman during the Great War, records held by Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa and the National Archives, Kew, London, England. The story line begins in September 1916 and ends December, 1918.
The novel’s theme is courage, a difficult and at times abstract concept to define. The courage in the novel is developed through one man’s experience on the battlefield, on land and in the air, thereby portraying his struggle to keep true to core values while facing challenges created by a wartime setting and wartime circumstances. It is said that one’s courage is only truly tested when facing death; if that is true then Lieutenant Pitman is representative of the courage demonstrated by countless Canadians and for that matter, soldiers in general who fought on the battlefields of every conflict, including the First World War because they all faced death, multiple times and in many ways.
Main events covering such aspects as artillery shell shock, hospitalizations and the air war (Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force) are historic. The dates and locations of every bombing sortie described are matters of historic record, from aerodrome base to ultimate target. The final, fateful bombing sortie toward the close of the war, when Lt Pitman and his fellow crew were shot down, has been documented in many non-fiction publications.
The two main medical issues, shell shock and venereal disease are accounting’s from service records and from an historical body of knowledge. The circumstances leading to shell shock are exactly as portrayed in the novel while those leading to gonorrhea are surmised from a mosaic of facts.
For the most part supporting characters are real, serving at the same time as Bob Pitman and documented by historic service records. Where physical description is lacking, or personality uncertain, characterizations were invented. Similarly, where actual characters are missing but essential to the development of the story, suitable invention was employed. Notably, Cissy Ann Taylor and Sam Hardy are fictional characters, yet similar companions existed.
The character of Lt Pitman is based on known physical descriptions circa Great War, while his gentle and sensitive personality is based on his true spirit as witnessed by those who later knew him in post-war years.