Originally Posted By: Banjoman
Raine, what I love most about your stories is your ability to make the everyday life of your pilot sound so interesting. Where do you find the names of the stores and other businesses that you have in your stories?

Thanks for indulging my insanity, Banjoman! I'm happy you appreciate the stories, because like a true history geek I try to ensure that they are as accurate as possible.

You asked about stores and businesses. Fortnum & Mason, mentioned in the last story I posted here, has been a London purveyor of fine foods since the 1700s and wealthier British families famously sent F&M gift hampers to men at the front in both world wars (In Rommel's 1942 attack on the Gazala Line in North Africa, so many retreating British officers had to leave so many of their goodie boxes behind that the former defensive position was jokingly called the "Fortnum & Mason line"). You can still visit the store on Piccadilly. Two years ago my son and daughter in law in London sent us one of their famous hampers of delicacies for Christmas.

Most business references are researched on line. For example, I've referenced Gieves and Hawkes, the London tailor known for making officers' uniforms; period hotels like the Regent Palace; theatres like the Alhambra (making sure to know what was playing where); and restaurants like Ciro's or the Criterion. Because the stories have to make historical sense, I'll check the rail lines from Southampton or Dover and make sure that the character on leave is arriving at the right station. Sometimes this leads to weird searches, such as "what soldiers' canteens were operating in Charing Cross Station in 1918 and by whom -- Red Cross, YMCA, someone else?"

Other references come from book or Internet searches, or from personal experience. For example, I spent Christmas of 1971 and 1972 at the Lion Inn in the town of Shrewsbury in western England. Having got to know a little of the surroundings, I placed my latest pilot in that part of the world. Back in 1971 I watched the South Shropshire Hunt in Church Stretton, which inspired the reference in Cottingham's first story to his father having been the Hunt Master. A book on 60 Squadron described the accommodations at Savy and helped me get the squadron and flight commanders right. I knew that the "Tatler" was a popular society magazine of the day (I think it was mentioned in Downton Abbey), but I googled up the sporting magazine that Cottingham got in a package from home. The reference to "gentlemen's relish" came from V.M. Yeates's "Winged Victory."

Sometimes I'll use modern maps or Google Earth and combine them with period memoirs to make sure that descriptions of places are accurate to the time. In the other DiD campaign my characters were in Paris. You could trace their outings easily on a map.

Finally, sometimes I'll use tales from family history. For example, my Jack Cairns character in the other campaign was born in Glasgow after his vicar father moved there to stay with his parishioners, who had moved north when Yarrow shipyard moved from London to Glasgow. That pretty much mirrors my great-grandfather, who was an engineer with Yarrow and moved to Glasgow from London around 1911 when the business relocated.

One of the hardest things is to get the language right. In my last post, Cottingham says "We had a wizard time playing soldier in the fields about Peterborough" (incidentally, the Shropshire Yeomanry were in fact training in that part of England in 1915). It took a half hour to confirm that the use of "wizard" to mean "terrific" or "wonderful" was in current use as early as 1916.

I admit I've gone a little nuts about all this, but it's fun for me, and helped RAF_Louvert accept that I was barmy enough to join the BWOC. I remember one night searching online sources for three hours to make sure that a character forced down over British lines would meet folks from the right regiment for that place and time, and that he would be processed through the right casualty clearing station and end up in the right hospital for his situation.

Sad, isn't it? I suppose the payback is that you really become immersed in your pilot and his times, and try very hard to take care of him. It makes for a wonderful flight sim experience.