Through Jade's Eyes

This blog is about the fictional character, Jade del Cameron (www.suzannearruda.com), and the historical time period in which she lives.

My Photo
Name:
Location: www.suzannearruda.com, United States

I'm the author of the Jade del Cameron historical mystery series set in 1920's Africa. Lots of action, intrigue, mystery and a dash of romance. Follow me at www.twitter.com/SuzanneArruda *The audio link (view complete profile) is an interview by Baron Ron Herron (9/17/2009, Santa Barbara {CA} News-Press Radio, KZSB, AM 1290

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Real Explorers: Osa Johnson in Cannibal Territory

Osa and Martin Johnson traveled the mining camps, showing Martin’s lantern show while Osa dressed in a flowered mumu and sang Hawaiian songs. Eventually their popularity increased to the point where backers invested $4000 in them. Their next stop: the South Seas. They arrived in the Solomon Islands in 1917.

Osa never became a tag-along wife. Like the character of Jade, Osa had a natural ability to pick up languages. That along with her charm and her bravery earned the native people’s trust quickly and allowed Martin to film everyday life in the villages. Martin, however, wanted to capture footage of cultures untainted by any contact with civilization so together they sailed to one of the more remote islands of the New Hebrides to look for the more fierce tribes of cannibal headhunters. That is when Osa came face to face with Nagapate, the chief of the Big Nambas tribe. Osa described him as “so frightful as to be magnificent.”

While Osa posed near the chief, Martin cranked film. It soon became apparent that the tribesmen were showing far too much interest in the Johnsons for their own safety. Osa and Martin bolted and ran for their lives through the jungle, headhunters in hot pursuit. They barely escaped and only because a British Man-o’-war steamed into view at the end of the chase. Later, the Johnsons returned to Malekula Island with their film of Nagapate. Osa played hostess while Martin filmed the Islanders’ first encounter seeing their own images on screen. This time, Nagapate tried to court Osa and once again, the Johnsons left before the situation got out of hand.

NEXT WEEK: OSA EARNS HER AFRICAN NAME

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Real Explorers - Osa Leighty Johnson: Part 1

Jade’s character has been called “larger than life” which is sometimes a polite way of saying “unbelievable.” To be honest, who would believe a fictional character that led troops in stirring charges, became president, pushed for conservation, spent time going down the Amazon, and hunted big game in Africa? Yet Teddy Roosevelt is real. Is he more realistic because he’s a man? Maybe, but there were also many “larger than life” women. Osa Leighty Johnson was one of them.

Osa Leighty started out with ordinary roots. Born in Chanute, Kansas in 1894, she learned what many Kansas girls learned. Her father taught her to hunt and fish, and her mother taught her domestic lore. But fate introduced her to Martin Johnson, another Kansan. This young man decided on a life of adventure at an early age and took up photography, traveling around the state taking portraits just to fund his real love, travel. He’d been on Jack London's boat called Snark with Jack's wife Charmian and wanted to photograph wild people. Osa met him, and after a whirlwind courtship, they eloped. She was sixteen.

Osa’s girlhood dreams had been to become a great actress, get married, and live in a pretty little house with her husband and children. Now her dreams would come true, but in ways she never imagined. Her homes and gardens were always temporary and in far away places such as at the top of a volcanic mountain in northern Kenya. Pet gibbons and cheetahs took the place of children. Osa starred in many movies, but she shared the screen with lions, elephants, and cannibal headhunters. During these adventures she saved the life of her producer-director-husband, Martin Johnson, many times.

NEXT WEEK: OSA IN CANNIBAL TERRITORY

note: I will do my best to update this blog site on a weekly basis. However, it may not happen with the regularity of clockwork. Or perhaps it will, but with the regularity of a clock whose battery is draining or whose works are a bit gummed up and in need of a good cleaning; the regularity of a clock in need of a laxative. So if you come back in a week and see the same article, try again in another 2 days. Thanks. Suzanne Arruda

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

An American Driver Under Fire

The character of Jade del Cameron is an American, and there’s an occasional question about how she ended up in a British Ambulance Unit to begin with. After all, why not put her in with the Red Cross? The answer to that last part is found in the fact that the Hackett-Lowther Unit saw more front line action than the jitney units where most women served. But were there Americans in the British Unit? Yes!

Charlotte Read was an American nurse who joined up with the Hackett-Lowther Unit and ended up becoming one of those “firsts” in history. She became the first woman ambulance driver to get right up to the front lines. Her assignment in May of 1918 was to evacuate the wounded from the poste de secours. Not an unusual assignment, but that day, the field dressing station was in a little run down farmhouse under three miles from the German trenches. No women drivers had gotten so close before. Just like Jade, Charlotte drove the wounded back in a Ford to a triage station, unloaded, and went back to the front for more.

On her first trip to the front, there was shelling. She reports in a letter that she nearly jumped through her tin hat once. Again, this is a standard day for the unit. Driving wasn’t always rushing here and there. There were lulls as she waited for the stretcher bearers to come in from the trenches, but remember, Charlotte’s a nurse. No standing around for her. They needed water at the poste so she hauled water to the field station from a French artillery unit farther down the road. In case you are thinking, “that’s nice,” keep in mind that she was on foot at the time while orderlies filled her ambulance with wounded.

So Charlotte is taking her stroll, lugging water, a few miles from the front. Her hike is not unobserved. Overhead is a German balloonist, spying on the French lines. The next thing poor Charlotte knows is that she’s getting shelled. German 220’s are sending a pounding all around her in the hopes that they’ll hit whatever building she came from because it surely must be an important building. Never mind a lone ambulance driving woman standing in the way.

Charlotte took off running towards the farmhouse. She writes that she was “dodging in every direction,” so I picture her crouched and running in a zig zag, serpentine pattern. Probably tried to make herself as small and inconspicuous as possible. Jade would have recited her mantra about then: “I only occupy one tiny space. The enemy has all the rest of France to shell.”

There’s no cover for Charlotte. The last 50 yards was a wasteland of pounded dirt. So it was hell bent for the second coming to head for the cellar entrance and the protective brick wall outside. In her words she wrote that she “took a deep breath, and made one wild, desperate dash across that open space and slid on my stomach into our hole under the bricks just as a shell hit outside the entrance – missed by less than a second.”

Charlotte Read, along with the other women of the Hackett-Lowther Unit, were each awarded the Croix de Guerre for bravery under fire. They earned those medals.
If you want to read more of Charlotte Read’s letter, head to a university library and request The Overseas War Record of the Winsor School, 1914-1919.

NEXT WEEK: SOME “FOR REAL” EXPLORERS

(note): I will do my best to update this blog site on a weekly basis. However, it may not happen with the regularity of clockwork. Or perhaps it will, but with the regularity of a clock whose battery is draining or whose works are a bit gummed up and in need of a good cleaning; the regularity of a clock in need of a laxative. So if you come back in a week and see the same article, try again in another 2 days. Thanks. Suzanne Arruda

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Real Ambulance Drivers: Part 1

The character of Jade is based on many real people including explorers, adventurers, and some women ambulance drivers. I’d like to spend a few blogs on the ambulance drivers since Mark Of The Lion opens with WWI, and can’t think of a better place to start than with the actual Hackett-Lowther Unit.

If you’ve seen the silent movie WINGS, you’ve seen Clara Bow play the role of a perky ambulance driver. Her character portrayed that of a jitney driver. Jitney duty transferred wounded soldiers from one hospital to another, from a sanitary train to a hospital, or from a hospital to a ship. It was considered safer since it took place far behind the front lines. That’s not to say that the work wasn’t dangerous. Front lines shifted and, even if they didn’t, aerial attacks still occurred. Ambulance drivers were injured or even killed doing jitney duty.

Jade’s ambulance corps fell into an all together different category. The Hackett-Lowther Unit, comprised mostly of British women with a sprinkling of Americans who had been studying abroad and joined up, were paid by the French army. In particular, they followed and served the French 3rd Army. While their duties might include some jitney work removing men from evacuation hospitals to the trains, they often took wounded from the front line field dressing stations poste de secours) to the evacuation hospitals. So how much more dangerous was this type of driving? Think “dukes of hazzard” meets blitzkrieg.

The usual route for wounded is described in Gentlemen Volunteers (Arlen J. Hansen) as follows: Comrades carried wounded soldier to a first-aid station in the trenches. Next, stretcher bearers carried him through communication trenches to the field dressing station, usually less than a mile from the front line. This poste might be in a farmhouse cellar, or a reinforced cave. Finally, drivers took the wounded to a triage hospital where they were divided into three groups: dead, in need of immediate surgery, able to be sent to rear-line hospital. Drivers took the men to one of those places. As you can see, it gave the enemy a lot of opportunities for blowing your little ambulance (and you) to smithereens, especially when you also had to avoid un-detonated shells lying around.

In placing Jade in the Hackett-Lowther Unit, I was able to give her the opportunity to show her bravery and resourcefulness that might be more hidden in the equally important jitney units.

NEXT WEEK: AN AMERICAN DRIVER UNDER FIRE.

note: I will do my best to update this blog site on a weekly basis. However, it may not happen with the regularity of clockwork. Or perhaps it will, but with the regularity of a clock whose battery is draining or whose works are a bit gummed up and in need of a good cleaning; the regularity of a clock in need of a laxative. So if you come back in a week and see the same article, try again in another 2 days.

Thanks

Suzanne

Labels: , , ,