The date is August 1914. The British Expeditionary Force is in France and You're in the Royal Field Artillery. You're riding alongside one of the battery's gun limbers on its way to the assigned position on the east side of Mons, Belgium. This begins your journey into the Hell they called World War One. To purchase this historical memoir go to https://createspace.com/3649268

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Story

Everything has a beginning and an end. My transformation into an author began with The Great Promise . People become authors for various reasons, for me it was a “light bulb” moment when I found a typed letter.

In 2008 I was given a box containing several of my parental grandparent’s personal documents. When I removed the lid, I stared at the aged items, my eyes probing for the book that was my grandfather’s World War One journal. I carefully removed documents until a corner of the reddish-brown ledger peeped out from overlaying paper. Plucking it from the confines of the box I held it in my hands. With concerned care I opened it to a page yellowed by age. I started reading the faded penciled script written by my grandfather’s hand so long ago.

A flood of emotion welled within me. First was the realization that I was holding a piece of history, then comprehension that the document was written by my grandfather almost 100 years previously. In an attempt to read a few entries, I realized that many words were impossible to identify. I knew I had to do something In order to grasp the significance of each journal entry. My solution was to scan in each page, then enlarge the image to facilitate in the identification of certain words.

As I navigated through the entries, their detail and flow started to release their compelling nature. Moved by what I was reading, I pressed on each night for a month until the transcription was complete.

During the transcription I noticed that the journal entries ended in May of 1915. Wondering why, I returned to the box of documents. I was searching for military records so I examined each piece of paper lifted from the confines’ of the box. One document caught my eye, it was typed on onion skin paper and titled, “I Had a Dream The Other Night”. Little did I know that this two page letter would become the “light bulb” moment that would alter the next four years of my life.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Great War Forum

They did it again

I posted the new pictures on the "Great War Forum" and typical to form I received some great feedback. The single photo with him in uniform is marked 1915 but it had to have been taken some time between 1918 and 1919. This was brought to my attention because he has the RAF insignia on his uniform. The RAF was not formed until 1918.

The parade photo was taken around the same time or later. In fact, one believed that it was taken in the US. I'm wondering about this since my grandfather didn't bring his family to the US until 1922. Perhaps it could have been an Armistice Day parade after he moved to the US.

Trying to assemble a 100 year old puzzle without the person who created the pieces is difficult.
The Great Promise

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sept 11, 1914

The following excerpts were written on Sept 11 1914      The Great Promise

At 6:00 a.m. we marched ahead of the main body and we
were soon engaged in the thick of the fight that afterwards
would be called the battle of the Marne. We dropped into
action in the open. My chum and I ran our headphone wire
over a small ridge from our observation post and then back
to the battery. As we were running the wire a French Cavalry
man galloped past me with blood running from himself and
his horse.
I was about to connect my instrument when I heard a loud
whining sound followed by a horrific explosion. It was our
christening of heavy artillery fire, amounting to two hours of
continual hell.

Our forces came under heavy artillery fire for more than
2 hours and many of our infantry started to run. CRA General
Finley and Colonel Sharpe tried to stop the retreat by urging
the solders to turn and move forwards. In the process the
General was killed and two officers were wounded.
The German artillery found the range of our battery and we
came under heavy shelling. As shells were bursting all around
me, I crouched beneath a gun limber. The whine of incoming
shells followed by deafening explosions kept up for what
seemed like an eternity.
Fear started to overcome my sense of duty and I had to force
myself not to run. I don’t know where or how I found the courage
to stand up and yell out orders to the battery leaders so
they could fire their guns.
As the Northampton and Sussex Regiments retreated through
our battery they also drew the enemy’s fire. During the infantry’s
mad rush they broke my telephone wire. I thought that
my chum at the other end had gotten knocked over — he
thought the same of me.
Without the ability to communicate with my chum on the
other end, the battery guns couldn’t fire.

To overcome this problem, we resorted back to using semaphore
flags4 to pass down firing orders.
With things seemingly under control, I set out to mend the
wire and restore communications. While I crawled along the
ground following the wire, I could hear bullets pass over my
head and striking the ground around me. Thank God the
Germans were lousy shots! I found and mended the break
just in time for the battery to help support the 60th Rifles’
advancement. They were able to retake the position that the
Northampton and Sussex regiments held prior to their retirement.
As the 60th Rifles advanced, the enemy retreated. The
regiment suffered heavy losses during this engagement.      The Great Promise

Monday, September 10, 2012

Find The Story

Several people have told me that they have family documents that they feel are noteworthy, that the information would appeal to a wider audience, should they write a book? My fist reaction is usually, "Hell no", who needs additional competition! Really it depends on the content of the documents and the person asking the question has any writing ability. The most important element, IS THERE A STORY? 

I was very fortunate in many ways. First, my grandfather already created my story line by detailing the promise. Second, my grandfather was a decent writer so his journal entries are compelling; plus the journal entries supported the story.

To determine if there is a story surrounding the documents, one must separate themselves from their emotional entanglements. Then they have to ask themselves, would others be interested in great uncle Jim crossing "No Man's Land" to capture 50 prisoners? If this event connects to a story line, then it must be determined if grate uncle Jim was a decent writer. If he wasn't, then one has to determine what genera the book will follow, non-fiction, memoir, or historical fiction. If you have to create the script for Jim's daring trip across the expanse of land between opposing trenches. Working his way towards the enemy's fortifications through the mud and water filled shell craters. Again I was lucky because my grandfather was a decent writer and thus his journal entries required very little adjustment.

I can use Neil's story to exemplify my point. His father was American and he volunteered to be a driver in the British Army. He was with the BEF when it first went to France in 1914 and experienced many of the battles my grandfather did. Therefore I found the information fascinating and expressed this to Neil. However, he thought that his father's writings were common among so many similar war accounts. He was right, except that the stories were from two different views, enlisted soldiers and officers. This makes the stories unique, but the problem remains, is there a story-line? I did express to Neil that together we could have written a very powerful book.

Friday, September 7, 2012

History net

Today I sent an inquiry letter to Weider History Group - Historynet.com/ British Heritage magazine. I gave them a brief summary of my grandfather's story, The Great Promise, and how I thought it would fit well with their magazine's intent. Since the story is a connection between the US, England and the up-coming centennial.

I have come to realize that the work involved in writing a book plays but a small part in having your story read. It has been an unexpected surprise that of the millions of people interested in The Great War only a few have purchased my book. Since the reviews I have received have been four out of five stars, it must be that I haven't reached them with the proper marketing. So the battle for readers will rage on!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Professional Review

As every author knows, book reviews control the success of their book. I've been fortunate with two excellent reviews and now one from Clarion Reviews -

Clarion Review
The Great Promise
Frederick L. Coxen
Create Space
Four Stars (out of Five)
Frederick L. Coxen’s life was changed when he stumbled upon his late grandfather’s journal
from World War I. Coxen did more than just transcribe the worn, weathered diary and annotate
it with maps and a historical narrative to create this volume. He devoted years attempting to
fulfill the terms of a pact his grandfather had made with three fellow soldiers in the summer of
1914—an unkept pledge that, to his dying day, haunted the elder Coxen.
The Great Promise is thus a primary source, a history, and a personal quest. Coxen’s
grandfather (also named Frederick Coxen) was called to the colors to serve in the Royal Field
Artillery. He was among the first British soldiers to land in France at the start of The Great War,
and he fought in every major engagement until being gassed in 1915. The journal covers his first
year at the front almost day by day. His reports, observations, emotional asides, musings, and
even occasional jokes lure the reader into a fascinating, detailed, and very human time capsule.
To assist those unfamiliar with the period, the younger Coxen intersperses his
grandfather’s entries with short but clear passages explaining the commanders, maneuvers, and
terminology of the First World War. His simple, clean maps show the routes his ancestor trod
and the towns he fought over. These help set the stage for his grandfather’s wonderful and rarely
hurried prose.
There are episodes of unconscionable horror, such as the crucifixion of captured soldiers
(by both sides) and reflections on the deaths of friends and enemies alike. Upon seeing one man
fall, for example, the elder Coxen writes, “I wondered if this means the breaking of a woman’s
heart, or had he little children?” There are also warm moments, such as when soldiers share their
already meager rations with starving refugee children, and bits of very British pluck, notably of
how “nothing short of an earthquake would make us miss our tea time.” The journal entries
allow the reader to follow one of many green young men as he matures within months into a
war-weary veteran.
While his ancestor’s words and experiences are the true stars of the text, there is a
second story here, one told almost as an afterthought in the last twenty pages of an already slim
book. The elder Coxen and three comrades made a pact that if any of them fell, the survivors
would visit the deceased soldier’s family, relate the story of his passing, and offer comfort.
Coxen saw all three of his mates die, even holding one of them in his arms as he expired. Yet, he
never made good on his part of the bargain.
As he laments in an entry made in another journal in 1945, when living in America and
writing during a second war, those old comrades continued to haunt Coxen’s dreams, asking if
he would ever fulfill that great promise. How his grandson sought to made good on Coxen’s
word, and the detective efforts he undertook to find the descendants of those dead soldiers, is a
short but engrossing and very moving story, and one well told by the author in his final chapter.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Another Amazing Story

Through the Western Front Assoc. a person by the name of Neil Munro contacted me regarding a book he was writing that is based on his father's memoirs. His father was Fredric Coleman, an American that went to France in 1914 and volunteered as a staff driver. He would drive officers around and thus experienced the war from both the enlisted soldiers and officer's point of view.
   I was stunned to find how closely Coleman's accounts mirrored that of my grandfather's journal. Mr. Munro is publishing segments of his father's story on the Western Front's website under the title "My Father's War".

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Want WW One Answers

I've been researching WWI for over four years and in the process I've joined several websites and forums. The best by far in the Great War Forum.

Why? Because the members of "old sweats" are experts on most topics. Beyond that, they don't just answer your post, they offer a great deal of background information. They have been a God sent to me and still are.
Check them out Great War Forum

The Western Front Assoc placed a nice article in their August newsletter about my submission of the journal, both images and transcription. Check it out! Western Front Assoc