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Acceptable Casualties - Background and Inspiration

Background and inspiration for the story 'Acceptable Casualties'

By Ron BennettPublished 13 days ago Updated 11 days ago 10 min read

Acceptable Casualties tells the story of Mira Thabiti's first mission. In the novel, Har Megiddon, she is an old warrior, having served the Empire most of her life. In Acceptable Casualties, she is much younger, and we get to see a little of her home life. Some inspiration for this story is taken from history.

Rainbow, the ship transporting the Regiment to Beautiful Mountain, is the first Currie class destroyer in the Imperial Defense Force. Namesake for the Currie class is Arthur Currie, commander of the Canadian Corps during World War One. Rainbow's namesake is HMCS Rainbow, the first ship commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy in 1910.

The commune of Beaumont-Hamel is in the Somme department in France, Beaumont translates to English as Beautiful Mountain. During World War One it was the site of a disastrous battle for the Newfoundland Regiment, part of the British Army. They went into battle after seeing flares they believed indicated success of earlier attack waves. They were enemy flares calling for reinforcements. The Newfoundland Regiment charged across No Man's Land into a storm of machine gun fire. They had started the day, 1 July 1916, ~800 strong. On the morning of 2 July 1916, 68 answered roll call.

Mira is accompanied by seven others in her vehicle. The namesakes of all seven served with the Newfoundland Regiment (renamed the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in 1918).

Private Brake and Corporal Skanes, the two survivors, along with Mira, both enlisted after the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel, and survived the war. The other five were casualties in the story, and at Beaumont-Hamel. A brief summary of their service files is below.

During the Raid on Dieppe in August 1942, one lesson learned, and put to use during similar operations in North Africa, Italy and Normandy, was to avoid shingle beaches. These beaches are covered in loose pebbles and were a major obstacle for tanks during the Dieppe raid, twelve of the twenty nine tanks brought ashore got stuck on the beach. Many of the defensive positions in place were well camouflaged, and defensive fire was much higher than anticipated.

There is a persistent rumor the Dieppe Raid was planned as cover for a British secret service “pinch” operation to steal an Enigma coding machine. A number of commando operations are known to have occurred along with the raid : to silence gun batteries that could fire on the beach and to gather information on radar and radio capabilities. But there was apparently more. Historian and author David O’Keefe, after reviewing declassified documents has discovered that Ian Fleming (author of the James Bond novels, who served with the British secret service during World War Two) participated in the planning and execution of the raid. There's also the involvement of a commando unit whose job was to steal classified files and equipment. Obtaining an Enigma coding machine was essential to the war effort. The earlier version had been cracked by British Intelligence, which allowed them keep shipping away from U-boats. But the Nazis had begun using a new version earlier in the year, and shipping losses were again mounting.

Private Decoteau's namesake is Alexander De Coteau, who served with the Canadian Army in World War One. He was a member of the Red Pheasant First Nation, an excellent athlete who won many races. He put his running skills to use running messages between the front lines and command centres. He was “Killed in Action”, by a sniper on 30 October 1917, three weeks before his thirtieth birthday. In later stories we learn more about Private Decoteau's clan, their removal from their homeland, and the role they, and their “gravity plates”, play in the Empire's rise to power.

Service file summaries :

Arthur Driscoll

Arthur Driscoll, 19, lived on Lower Battery Road in St. John's. He was five feet five inches tall, weighed one hundred seventeen pounds, had a "ruddy" complexion, black hair and brown eyes. He left Newfoundland on board the SS Stephens on 20 March 1915, arriving in Scotland on 30 March. He left for the Middle East on 20 August 1915, arriving at the end of the month. He shipped to Gallipoli on 13 September, arriving on 20 September. He was evacuated on 15 January 1916, and was in France on 22 March.

Arthur enlisted on 29 January 1915, he may have tried to enlist earlier. His service file contains a note from his Mom, Virtue, dated 3 December 1914, in which she stated he was underage and she did not want him to enlist. According to information in the 1911 census, he was nineteen years old at the time. He probably joined to help support his large family, he had four brothers and two sisters, and sent seventy cents of his dollar ten daily pay to his Mom. He was "Killed in Action" on 1 July 1916. No details are given. He is buried at SERRE ROAD CEMETERY No.2 XXX. M. 10., France.

Charles Skanes

Charles Skanes was born on the 26th of April 1894, to parents Francis and Diana. A single man, resident of the town of Cow Head, he enlisted with the First Newfoundland Regiment on the 30th of April, 1917 and was posted to F Company. He sent 50 cents of his $1.10 a day pay to his Dad. On the 31st July he was promoted to Lance Corporal, and was subsequently promoted to Sergeant. He boarded the SS Florizel for Halifax on the 4th of August, and from there traveled to Southampton, England on the 4th of February, 1918, with 200 other Newfoundlanders.

During the Hundred Days Offensive, on the 14th of October, 1918, Sgt. Skanes was wounded. A bullet went through his left bicep, but luckily, didn't hit bone. He was initially treated at No. 35 Field Hospital, Calais, and then transferred to England where he was admitted to the 3rd London General Hospital on the 19th. He would not see action again. By the time he was released on the 27th of November, the war was over. But his adventure wasn't over. With some time on his hands he apparently spent a few nights on the town. He was admitted to Hilsea Hospital on the 17th of December and treated for gonorrhea. On Old Christmas Day (6 January), 1919, he left the hospital, without permission, to go drinking. He did manage to get drunk ... and got into a fight. Disciplinary action reduced his rank to Corporal. He was discharged from the hospital on the 18th of January.

By June he was back in Newfoundland. He paid Mrs. Roche $6 for four days room and board while he waited in Curling for the SS Ethie to get home. His injury left him with a weakened arm and grip but he was able to resume his job as a mechanic. He passed away on the 30th of May, 1967.

John Brake

Born in March of 1891 John A. Brake, a fisherman, not married, enlisted with the First Newfoundland Regiment on the 12th of January, 1917. Private Brake sent 60 cents a day to his Mom, Elizabeth. He left Newfoundland on his 26th birthday, the 17 of March 1917, aboard the SS Florizel, bound for Halifax. The Florizel had carried the first volunteers from Newfoundland in October 1914.

Private Brake had some time off while in England. In May he sent a Western Union cablegram to his Dad, John, asking for $25 to be wired to London. He left Folkestone, England on the 3rd of June 1917, arriving in Boulogne, France a few hours later. He was on the front lines by the 2nd of July and saw fighting in Belgium, France, Germany, Cambrai and Passchendaele. When the war was over he was back in England by the 19th of January, 1919. He didn't have to wait too long to get home, returning to Newfoundland on the 7th of February. Four days later he was in his home town, St. Paul's, having paid Noram Nicholas $5 for the two hour drive from Deer Lake. He was demobilized on the 22nd of May, 1919. The Department of Veterans Affairs received notice of his death on the 17th of June, 1966. Place, date and cause of death were "Not Stated".

John Joseph French

From Brigus, John French, 25, enlisted with the Newfoundland Regiment on 1 October 1914. He listed his occupation as Boiler Maker, earning ten dollars per week. He was described as having a sallow complexion with dark hair and brown eyes, one hundred and fifty nine pounds, five feet nine inches tall. His next of kin was his father, Benjamin. He embarked on the SS Florizel on 3 October. He spent some time in England before leaving for the Middle East on 20 August 1915. He was in Cairo by the end of the month. He left for Gallipoli on 13 September, arriving on 20 September. He returned to Cairo and hospital on 1 October, being discharged for duty on 8 November. He returned to his unit on 26 January 1916 and joined the British Expeditionary Force, arriving in France 22 March 1916. During the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel he was reported wounded and missing. He has no known grave.

Joseph Andrews

Joseph Andrews was eighteen years old when he joined on 12 February 1915. He lived on Water Street West in St. John's. He was five feet five inches tall and weighed one hundred twelve pounds. He had a dark complexion with brown hair and eyes. He listed labourer as his occupation, earning twenty dollars per month. While serving he sent his Mom, Catherine, eighty cents a day. He arrived in Gallipoli on the 1 December 1915 and was evacuated on 16 January 1916. He arrived in France on 22 March. On 1 July 1916, during the battle of Beaumont-Hamel, he was reported missing. He has no known grave.

Gordon Etheridge

Gordon Etheridge, 22, enlisted on 28 September 1915. He was five feet one and half inches tall, and listed teacher as his profession. He was from the town of Trinity and was not married. While serving he sent fifty cents a day of his pay to his Dad, John. He traveled to Quebec on 27 October 1915. He left to join the British Expeditionary Force on 28 March 1916, joining his unit on 15 April. On 1 July 1916, during the battle of Beaumont-Hamel, he was reported missing. He has no known grave.

James Raymond Mooney

James Raymond Mooney, 20, enlisted on 9 January 1915. He was five feet nine inches tall, with a light complexion and hair, blue eyes and weighed one hundred forty nine pounds. He was from Great Placentia and had worked as a whaler, earning thirty dollars per month. While serving he sent fifty cents a day of his pay to his Mom, Agnes. He boarded the SS Stephens on 20 March 1915 and arrived in Cairo on the last of March. On 13 September 1915 he left for Gallipoli and arrived on 20 September. He was evacuated to Alexandria on 15 January 1916, and in France on 22 March 1916. He was reported "Killed in action" during the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel, on 1 July 1916. No particulars of his death are given in his service record. His grave site is not recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

science fiction

About the Creator

Ron Bennett

Currently living in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada with my son Mark and cat Sprite. Grew up in historic, picturesque Newfoundland with many, interesting, friendly people, inspiring adventures, songs, stories, and wonderous beauty of nature.

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