In my latest book, ‘Shadow in Sunshine’ I write of my hero leaving Portsmouth Harbour aboard the commando carrier ‘HMS Illustrious’. His feelings are of self-doubt, countered by excitement regarding the future, which appears on the surface to be a simple diplomatic mission. He stands high up on the superstructure looking down at the helicopters lining the flight deck and the small groups of sailors staring at the shore, like many thousands before them. In times of peace these farewell moments are probably tinged with regret at leaving a loved one or the thrill of seeing new horizons, but in times of war must be the thought that it could be the last time they see that view of the ships home port. Ashore there are people with similar feelings, most for individuals onboard, but some seeing the ship as whole, both men and machine of war. The inhabitants of naval towns have endured the loss of many fine ships over the centuries, it is something that they accept, but never without a sense of loss, and in this age of rapidly moving political tensions, what appears to be a peaceful mission can easily escalate at the flick of a switch.
“There are many reasons why novelists write but they all have one thing in common a need to create an alternative world.” John Fowles