Wednesday, May 28, 2014

From Bloody Battlefields to the Azure Mediterranean

View from the Hotel du Cap, already a luxury hotel in WW1 -  photo © Melanie Wills

Beginning in March of 1917, Canadian troops were allowed to take their leaves in Paris or on the Riviera, rather than just Britain. The soldiers' money went further in France, where there was also good food and wine to be had cheaply - 1 franc a bottle. There was no discrimination between ranks in Paris, whereas in the British sector of France and Belgium as well as in the UK there were hotels and cafes for officers only.

The Canadians were better paid than most. Stretcher-bearers of the 5th Canadian Field Ambulance related that some hotel clerks in Paris were surprised that simple soldiers could afford rooms with baths.

During the latter part of the war, nurses were allowed to take their leaves on the Riviera. This appealed particularly to the Colonials who had no family in Britain, especially as hotels in London were notoriously expensive. Newfoundland VAD, Fanny Cluett, wrote excitedly to her family about her idyllic days in Cannes. (Your Daughter Fanny: The War Letters of Frances Cluett, VAD) She also mentioned that the Canadian VADs had “no end of money; they are paid extraordinarily well”. Newfoundland was not yet part of Canada.

The cove at Cousin Bea's villa - photo © Gabriele Wills
Some of my characters enjoy a reprieve from war in Cap d’Antibes in The Summer Before the Storm and Elusive Dawn. Of course I had to go there and see what made it special, and was delighted to discover this enticing cove, which was the perfect location for Cousin Beatrice’s villa.

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