The Nettleby Trilogy – Book One
A WW1 Novella
Europe is on the brink of catastrophe. In a small village in rural Lincolnshire, a wife kisses her husband goodbye.
Childhood sweethearts, Eliza and Joe have only been married two years. They could not have imagined how soon they would be torn apart by war, nor that the most unexpected of guardians would offer them hope during their darkest hours.
Eliza: August 1914 – Nettleby-under-Wold
Joe looked so smart in his uniform. The badge, denoting he was part of the 5th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, gleaming on his cap.
He kissed me as though he never wanted it to end but, of course, it had to.
“I love you, Lizzie.”
“I love you too, Joe. Please come back to me.”
“I promise.” Too quickly, his loping stride took him down the path and along the road to the village.
I ran after him a little way. “Joe,” I shouted.
He turned, blew me a kiss, and was gone.
Joe: July 1915 – France
The guns fell silent.
Deliberately, I envisaged Eliza. I allowed her image to fill my mind, sent up a heartfelt apology that I was about to break my promise, and surrendered to the inevitable.
“An honour.” I dipped my head and gave the signal
We ignited and hurled the grenades, each one discharging in a dazzling blast, showering lethal fragments over the enemy. Shimmying up the ladders and, using the explosions as a screen, we propelled ourselves over the top as though the hounds of hell were behind rather than in front of us, screaming like banshees.
A Guardian Unexpected was inspired by my great grandparents. My great grandfather, Joseph Elliott, was killed on 4th July 1915 in Flanders. A member of the 5th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, he was 36 years old when war broke out, had already served in the Boer War, and had no need to re-enlist.
He, like so many others, answered the call to protect King and Country. He, like so many others sacrificed his life in the commission of that duty. He is one of 669 soldiers buried in the Brandhoek Military Cemetery in Ypres, Belgium.
I have read copies of letters sent to his widow from his comrades, who made it clear Joe was well-liked and respected. A snapshot into the life of a man I never met, touched my heart, and I wanted to give him, albeit posthumously, a happy ending.
Originally published in an anthology, I have revised and extended what had been a short story to create this novella, the first in a trilogy set in rural Lincolnshire against the backdrop of the First World War.
Nettleby-Under-Wold is a fictitious village, as are all the characters, except Joseph and Eliza Elliott, but several places referred to in the series can be found on a map, most of which are where I spent many happy hours while growing up.
The 5th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment was a successor to an infantry unit originally raised in 1685 as The Earl of Bath’s Regiment of Foot during the Monmouth Rebellion. Eventually it became the 10th (North Lincolnshire) Regiment of Foot, and then simply the Lincolnshire Regiment.
Whatever its title, the regiment has served in numerous British Army campaigns throughout its existence and continues today under the umbrella of The Royal Anglian Regiment. The sphinx on the badge (and used as an ornamental break in all three books) was granted by Royal Approbation for the regiment’s service in the campaign against Napoleon in Egypt.
As far I can determine, the badge is still displayed on the Colours and uniforms of the successors of the Lincolnshire Regiment. Yes, I am a very proud Great Granddaughter. Joseph… this is an homage to your courage, to the lads of the Lincolnshire Regiment, and to all who serve their country in what ever capacity.
NB: While the part played by the 5th Lincolnshires in WW1 is well documented and the campaigns they were involved in form the basis of each story, these three novellas are a work of fiction, and I used artistic licence to weave certain scenarios.