Category Archives: HMAS Sovereign

From Austria With Love

From the diary of Katharina Wollf, meteorologist. September 1890.

Why must the accomplishment of women be onerous, and even detrimental to one’s family?

I am to serve on Sovereign as part of the British-Austrian alliance over gravitar and its use. Alas, the news has brought my family little joy. Fortunately, I did not expect it to. My mother retains shock and feels disgust that I will be bunking with men of various classes although I have assured her that the new Woman’s Royal Navy Service means there will be other women on board, and that accommodations will not be mixed. Despite her grievances, I believe I see some relief in her eyes. I have forever been a subject of questionable circumstances for her.

Less so for my father, although some might think otherwise for he has often referred to me as ‘a plain beauty’, which must seem insulting to those who do not understand his meaning. My penchant for keeping my features unpainted, and my hair swept back from my face reveals that I am quite unlike the woman people assume my father describes. I am a natural beauty, my features pleasing, but there the attraction ends for most men of society. I am tall for a woman, and although I do not carry needless weight, I am too lean of shape and too muscular for many men to find me attractive. Suitable husbands are more taken with my younger sister who will make an ideal mother and hostess. This fails to bother me. I have no particular use for a man, and until such time as I do they are simply of the same species, although intellectually with the right gentleman I can enjoy his company, and…should I confess I have developed a talent for knowing how to be accepted by those of a less academic nature. Even then…men seem to have difficulty with a woman who matches or surpasses them in a scholarly way.

I have even found Vienna to be a disappointment in this regard. I can recall the day we arrived, my father Leopold Wollf taking up a position in the Austrian Academy of Sciences. I had heard Vienna classed as a ‘comparatively modern capital of a relatively backward empire’ so even as a young girl I had hopes far outweighing realistic expectations. I have forever envied my father for being a man who could move about the hallowed halls of learning, and my brothers for being able to claim a place in their chosen fields of study and profession.

I cannot say Vienna has been entirely frustrating. To one who has a passing propensity for the use of languages, the city provided access to diversity as well as opportunity. And it is definitely a city undergoing much growth, particularly economically. There is much change politically and socially, although the city feels overcrowded to me, and I hope one day the major transformations taking place will one day be extended to the poorer of our society.

Sibeli7

A cutter arrives in Vienna, 1890.

I have digressed. My parents upon seeing I was unhappy to take the traditional role of my sex, accepted my future lay elsewhere. My mother quickly gave way to tears, my father to trying to assist me. At home I am one of six children, two of which died young, one of whom is married. Johann is the remaining boy and Emmalina a mere slip of a girl. My father has forever been the more open-minded of the household, although his encouragement has been reserved. I’ve often received his approbation by means of a wink more than a verbal agreement. His thoughts, I am sure, are always freer than one might expect from his actions. He is a rational being, one might call him a humanist, although not too loudly for my father tempers his beliefs with caution so as to be seen to fit in with society. He often pushes at barriers gently, although he has his moments when it seems only brute force will suffice whereby he is poised to break into a tantrum. On such occasions I need to remind him not to do anything that would put any of us at a disadvantage.

Even from a young age I found the people he chose to entertain interesting. He never chased me off to bed—that ruling was left to my mother’s domain if she caught me awake of an hour later than I should be—but my father allowed me to sit quietly in dark corners of rooms particularly in that of his study where he would partake of a brandy and a cigar while arguing intellectually with men of similar cerebral leanings. Hence I was subjected to an open way of thinking and educated to a degree way before an appropriate age. I looked forward to learning—a lesson in ultimate disappointment when I discovered that my required training in life was of the type to teach me to be a good wife. Naturally, I rebelled.

Girls are not permitted a place at university, so my father paid for tutors. My mother wished me to study something other than my main interests so that if I continued in my dislike of the idea of applying my entire existence to marriage I would have a way to support myself, but my father would not hear of it. He is of a generation of men who wish to change the world and open the way for women. He proclaims that in the next decade women will finally be allowed to study at university.

A colleague of his—a lecturer of some renown whom I shall not name here—supports his theory. I believe this fellow possibly has future romance in mind, but I am offering no such thing in return for his collaboration. Neither is my father. To my own purposes, I have been auditing his lectures, and it is under the guidance of these men that I have already published papers in my chosen fields of meteorology and ecology, be they under a false and male label. Many would be surprised by my verbosity in my written work, which I do not retain upon speaking, but I have discovered that this is a requirement to fit in with current expectations and helps to disguise my associations with my published documents.

These same people would be more surprised by the hidden truth that I am more educated than most of the men running the university. I am only allowed to associate with such beings in a secondary way. The first position I took was without pay and as an assistant only. Even when my experiments and knowledge exceeded that of my fellow researchers too often my accomplishments were attributed to those of a male persuasion. My father is awaiting the day I am called to lecture on one of my papers and a woman stands before a hall of gentlemen. The possibility is not yet upon us and will have to wait, for within a few days I will have been called away.

I have to admit I am in two minds. I could not ask for a greater opportunity and yet it puts my long term plans on hold somewhat. I fear that the papers I have already penned will drift into obscurity in my absence. Although I will be able to continue to write papers while away, enhanced no doubt by knowledge I will gain during the journey, and I will likely return to Earth with stories of the unimaginable, what I will be able to reveal will be in the hands of greater authorities than my father.

Despite these misgivings and at their basis, worries, the opening is not one I can refuse. Even if I am able only to reveal an edited rendition of my discoveries, I will be the only female scientist who has ventured past the asteroid belt, and I know it is through my father’s connections that this is possible. Father tells me that if the world changes in my absence as he believes it will, I will be able to claim the papers so far published and step into a position already built upon a good reputation. He has promised to do everything he can to pave a way for me to become a professor of the university and to head my own department. I cannot see this ever being possible for women, but I admire my father’s tenacity, and have only advised caution to not be seen as this being a case of nepotism. I have thrown his very words back to him—those he has spoken to me so often during my younger years: we must all learn to walk before we attempt the complicated business of running.

My mother is distraught to see me go; my father delighted but sorrowful. I share his mixed emotions, though I would never admit so in his presence. I will miss his influence and erudite conversation.

One thing I will not miss. I understand that the manner of dress for women will be quite impractical during this journey and I will be assigned something of a uniform to undertake various tasks. I could not be more elated, as is evidenced by my smile as I write this journal entry. If there are changes coming as my father predicts, then if these alternatives in clothing prove to be as comfortable as I believe they will be, I may have to add another endeavour to my list upon my return to Earth—that of changing the despicable garments of women’s apparel. If I can understand the art of calibration, I am sure I can take measurements that will allow for the design of a more comfortable dress, or even a variation of a suit as a respectable substitute.

Advertisements

Brought to Account

Historians Note; unless you are familiar with the document “Horizons of Deceit Book I” you should not read any further. Said document can be purchased by following the link to the right. The following takes place during chapter five of “Horizons of Deceit Book I”.

The final entry in the journal of Jacob Folkard, Captain, Her Majesty’s Royal Navy.

 Friday September 19th 1890.

The Admiralty

The Admiralty

I find myself still awake as the sun rises over London—of course it is not comparable to the sun rise one sees in the countryside, but as the sun rises over London it creates a nimbus in the smog of industry, churning around twenty-four hours of a day. There is nothing majestic about a sun rise in London, but this one has a special meaning for me. It will be, I fear, the last sun rise I ever witness in England. Indeed, I would hardly be surprised if it is the last sun rise I ever witness.

A dangerous mission lies ahead of me—Enderby and I have discussed the particulars of the mission with Admiral Hamilton and I foresee a multitude of problems ahead of us. Enderby seems less concerned, but that’s the Bureau for you. I am certain they encourage idiocy in their agents—the wiliness to take foolish risks. On the surface it seems simple enough—Enderby and I will lead a small team of Bureau agents to Severnaya, Russia, to uncover the secret weapon they are developing based on, if our suspicions are realised, stolen blueprints of Sovereign. This is why I have been selected for this mission; no-one in the Navy knows the ship like I, and should our suspicions be confirmed then I will have to find a way to put the Russian’s corruption of my ship out of service. I have already devised several ways in which I can do this.

None of the above truly concerns me. It is a dangerous mission, of course, but I have been in military service for a very long time, including twenty-six years in Her Majesty’s Navy; I have been in dangerous positions before. No, the mission is not what keeps me awake. It is the knowledge that I will never again see people who I have come to regard as my friends. George and Annabelle are already in Arizona, ostensibly on their honeymoon, but I know there is another reason. No doubt George suspects the same. He is ever a shrewd man—a far cry from the sixteen-year-old rating I first met on HMS Raleigh in ’69—and he will know there is more to the hospitality of the Admiralty and Bureau than there seems to be on the surface. Professor Stone is in Ireland, following another lead at the behest of the Bureau, while Fontaine is in Calcutta doing the same. These last two trouble me—I cannot claim a friendship with Fontaine, although I would not consider him simply an acquaintance either. We have served together since February and he has earned my respect, but what I saw only a few days ago… I can barely bring myself to write of such things.

Professor Stone

Professor Stone

I think of what I saw and I feel only betrayal. At first it was anger, disgust, but by the cold light of day, when I next saw them the following morning I found myself carrying in me a seething resentment. I do not quite understand it. I have been betrayed before—both professionally and personally. It is difficult to have had a career like I and not be betrayed, but this is something different. Of course one hears rumours, tales of deviant behaviour, of the fops and the houses they visit, but to think there were two such people serving with me for the past six months… It beggars belief! Stone I have known for well over a year, and it is true that on first meeting he seemed to carry himself with a certain regard, a man of refined language, but I have since come to learn that is merely a sign of his propriety upon meeting new people. I have seen him relaxed, seen him almost on a daily basis for over six months… I never questioned Stone’s lack of attachments; indeed, I seem to recall believing there to be an attraction between him and Annabelle. This has been proven an error of judgement on my part, as witnessed by the wedding of only three days ago. Stone is a man of science, and such men often seem to be married to their work, to the discoveries they make. I have come to consider Stone a friend—I have seen him go through the worst kind of pain, I have protected him, survived death with him. Certainly during our last journey to Mars I began to doubt my opinion of the man, but he once again proved himself during our adventure on Phobos. As for Fontaine…he is French and a scientist, one expects certain things from the French. But not this, never this. It feels as if Stone had been lying to me all this time—deliberately misleading me, feigning an interest in Annabelle to dissuade my suspicions! Oh, what am I saying? Suspicions, indeed! I never had any. Stone has never given me any reason to suspect anything of the sort.

What would dear Charlotte say?

Captain Jacob Folkard

Captain Jacob Folkard

Another reason for my lack of sleep. Ever since I saw Charlotte again I have not been able to shake from my mind the words she spoke to me; “I shall see you soon.” Just one more reason for me to believe this to be my last mission. None of us have spoken about the events aboard Esmeralda 2, of the aether tear and our deaths. It is not the kind of topic one can just bring up; but I know it often occupies the thoughts of both Stone and Annabelle. Fontaine I have seen less of since returning to Earth, and he has shown himself to be a master of deceit. But the other two—yes, I see that their experiences have changed them, too. I do not know what it is they saw in Heaven (I find myself laughing at even writing this—but I cannot deny what happened to us), but I suspect that, like I, it was something deeply personal. A lost loved one, no doubt. For Annabelle I imagine it was her parents, and for Stone…perhaps his brother? As for Fontaine—I know little of his history, but it would seem likely he has lost at least one person he loved deeply. For me it was Charlotte, my darling wife who died over eight years ago, but not only did I see her but finally I met our daughter, Felicity. I do not think that any passage of time would be enough for me to come to terms with their deaths—Charlotte, who I had known since we were children, and Felicity, my daughter who I never got to know as she was still-born. The weight of that loss has pressed on me every day since, but I carried on, focussed all my energies on my career, raced up the ranks until I became captain of the most advanced aether ship ever built. It was my commission on Sovereign the led me to here—every event since April last year has prepared me for this final mission. Even know I can feel the tug of the Heart of Luna, an alien intelligence that lives in the centre of that moon, trying to speak to me. It is never with words, just images, thoughts, things one can barely put words to. And it tells me that this will be my last mission, that it shall lead me back to Charlotte and Felicity.

I am all packed, provisions ready. Sovereign is due at 0800 hours, barely an hour away. I should leave, but first I must make certain my journal will not be found after my departure. Normally I would take it with me, but to do so risks someone finding it. And there are words here, revelations that would destroy a good man. I cannot pretend to understand how Stone and Fontaine can find love in each other’s arms, but I feel I must not let that lead me to anger, to a feeling of betrayal. Stone and I have been through much, experienced things most will never do. We have both visited Heaven, and I must believe that the peace I felt there, the love that awaits all men there, is enough to overlook the ignorance of men. I feel the British Empire, indeed Earth itself, is standing at a crossroad, that a big change is coming. Something that will force humanity to take a long hard look at itself…

Everything is connected. Man is a speck of sand on a beach. Soon we will all be brought to account for the deeds we have done.

No. This journal must go to someone I can trust, to the only person I know who will not use it to destroy another.


Red Sands of Vulcan

Historians Note; unless you are familiar with the document “Horizons of Deceit Book I” you should not read any further. Said document can be purchased by following the link to the right. The following takes place shortly after the climax of “Horizons of Deceit Book I”.

Friday October 3rd 1890.

The events that followed happened with such speed that I can barely recall them. I didn’t even have a chance to look upon the face of the lady with the knife in my back; I was soon set upon by ruffians, coshed on the back of the head, and unconscious.

I came to sometime later—I did not know how much time, only that it had been some hours since I was later informed that I had been smuggled out of Syrtis Major to the nearby principality of Meepsoor. I was not offered the chance to explore this small town, and indeed was told I would not like it if I were able to. Although largely under British protection, Meepsoor was beginning to question their choice of allegiance, worried that the war in the south with Oentoria would soon lead to their doorstep. Of course none of this really mattered to me at the time, I was more concerned with my captors and what they wanted of me. There were two of them, a man and a woman. Considering their dress, the finest of silks and cloth, I knew I had been right when I earlier considered the woman a lady. Lady Hyperion, as she had introduced herself, idly waved a small pistol around as she talked, careless of the damage such a weapon could cause. He husband, Lord Hyperion, stood behind her, watching her with admiration through his monocle. At first I refused to answer any of their questions, except to give my rank and position. This seemed to irritate Lady Hyperion.

redsands

Lord and Lady Hyperion

“We know who you are, and this is of no interest to us. What we wish to know is about your experiences on Luna, what you learned from these Drobates we have heard so little about.”

They were well informed, considering the secrecy of the British involvement on Luna, and of course my own incarceration. I refused to tell them anything.

“A great pity indeed,” Lord Hyperion said, his voice rich, the French accent seeming to be little more than an affectation. It was hard to tell if they were truly French, or simply pretended to be. “Perhaps you have heard of the Followers of Decay?” I shook my head. The local culture was not a speciality of mine. “They are more commonly known as the Worm Cult. Ah, I see this is a name familiar with you. And well it should be—the tales of their depravity is the stuff of myth, even to us men of Earth. Kronos, our leader, was once a priest in the Worm Cult, and has ways of making a person talk. Ways you, Mister Stevenson, would not wish to experience.”

I believed him. Even now I am haunted by the tales told to me by Professor Stone shortly after my rescue from the Drobates—tales of his own experiences at the hands of the Worm Cult. As if what the Drobates had done to me was not enough. Not a night has gone past since Luna that I have been able to sleep without my dreams being invaded by the experiments conducted on me by the Drobates. Doctor Greever, chief medical officer on Endeavour, believes the dreams will eventually fade, although he does not think my forthcoming tour of duty will help. Perhaps he is right, or perhaps facing my fears will be the tonic I need?

“We need to know all the Drobates know of the Red Sands, and where on Mars it was buried.”

Red sands? I have never heard of such a thing. Despite being called the Red Planet, I had seen little evidence of any red sand on Mars during my short time there. I told them this and was instantly stung on the cheek by the back hand of Lady Hyperion.

“Insolent fool! The Red Sands is a weapon, a mind-controlling substance created by the Drobates and the source of the war that destroyed Vulcan. We have recently learned that these Drobates of Luna are the original inhabitants of Vulcan. You must have heard of the Red Sands?”

How could I make them see reason? The Drobates did much to me, put both my physical and mental capacity to the test, but they never talked directly to me. Never discussed anything of their past—indeed, as we later learned the Drobates of Luna were ignorant of their past. It was Doctor Grant who had learned of their connection to Vulcan. That they had created a mind-controlling weapon came as little surprise to me, after all the Drobates communicated telepathically, and my exposure to them revealed a latent telepathic gene in myself.

I shook my head. “You have my word as a member of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy that I know nothing of these Red Sands.”

“Then perhaps we shall have to find another way to make you speak the truth,” said another voice, this one sounding quite different from any I heard before. It was clear that English was not the native language of this person. From the darkness stepped a cloaked figure, a cowl covering his face, although his hands were on display. I had seen such hands before. It was a Martian, although which kind I could not tell. I supposed this had to be the mysterious Kronos. “Lady Hyperion, pass me the cylinder.”

She walked over to a table and picked up a cylinder of brass, each end studded with brilliant gems. She handed it to Kronos, who gently unscrewed one end.

drobate

A Drobate

“The Red Sands of Vulcan,” he said, and shook out onto the palm of his other hand a few red crystals, so tiny I could only see them by squinting. “According to the ancient manuscripts we uncovered in a lost temple in Egypt, the Red Sands, over years of misuse, created infectious hatred and derangement. This led to a war between different factions of Drobates, which in turn began the cataclysmic war that created the asteroid belt. But taken in small quantities, the Red Sands can have a potent effect on the mind of those who ingest them.”

With a nod from Kronos, Lord Hyperion stepped forward and gripped my head in his vice-like hold. I tried to struggle, but he had incredible strength. Kronos, with only one hand, forced my jaw down and deposited the crystals into my mouth. Before I had time to spit them back out he clamped his hand over my mouth and nose, blocking the air waves. For a short while I resisted, feeling the coarse texture of his alien skin on mine, but soon the need for air was too much and I found myself swallowing the Red Sands.

The results were, for Kronos and his brotherhood, disappointing. They continued to question me, but I still had nothing to offer them, and soon they realised that the Red Sands had no effect on me whatsoever. I have spent much time in the last two days trying to understand why. Perhaps Kronos was mad, and this story had as much weight as the lost city of Atlantis? Or, and I think more likely, the Drobates did something to me that inured me against the effects of their ancient weapon? It is a question to which I hope one day to discover an answer—perhaps on the mission ahead.

Realising I was useless to his cause, Kronos was in favour of killing me and Lady Hyperion, a professional assassin, prevented him from doing so, explaining that I was expected and could not be missing for too long. It would not do to arouse the suspicion of the Royal Navy at this point. They spoke quietly, but did not account for the sharpness of my hearing—another result of the experiments done on my by the Drobates. I think, sometimes, that I don’t listen so much with my ears as with my mind. The Brotherhood of Luxor needed the Red Sands if they were to remove the Earthers off Mars, and they could not alert the authorities to their presence just yet.

And so, once more, I was coshed senseless and smuggled back to Syrtis Major. By the time I awoke the second time it was dark. I returned directly to the British quarter, intent on reporting the threat to Commander Armstrong, who was also enjoying a small bout of shore leave, but by the time I reached the British quarter I decided to keep my own counsel.

Saturday October 4th 1890.

I am not entirely sure why, even as I write this, but I feel to speak out now would serve little purpose. For some reason my instinct tells me it is the right thing to remain quiet on this. As I understand it, several experts on Luna and the Drobates will be joining Sovereign on this mission, and I wish to learn more about the Drobates history before I recount my experience with the Brotherhood of Luxor.

It has been two days since my encounter, and I have made discreet enquiries. It seems rumours of the brotherhood are rife, and some say it is connected to Kereeque, a former priest of the Worm Cult who vanished seven years ago. Could this be Kronos? I feel it is likely, in light of the fact that Kereeque created the Ground Cleanser crusade with his Canal Martian disciples—their purpose, to remove humans from Mars. A goal, I have to say, that sounds much like what Lady Hyperion had said. I fear that there are troubled times ahead for mankind, but for now I will not be a part of it. My immediate future lies beyond the asteroid belt, and not on Mars…

To learn more about the Brotherhood of Luxor, purchase a copy of “Red Sands” by following the link to the right…


The Thieves Way

Historians Note; unless you are familiar with the document “Horizons of Deceit Book I” you should not read any further. Said document can be purchased by following the link to the right. The following takes place shortly after the climax of “Horizons of Deceit Book I”.

So much has happened to Mars in the past 124 years, it is often easy to forget that in 1890 it was still being colonised and subjugated by the European powers. The English, French, Germans, Russians, Belgians, and Japanese had all established colonies there, and American traders were everywhere. The reasons were plain – lift-wood was a valuable commodity, and the growing importance of aerial navies had made many countries desirous of establishing their influence on Mars. Moreover, in addition to lift-wood there were other Martian products that brought a good price on Earth, and the huge Martian population was a ready market for European manufactured goods. Not all Martians welcomed the people of Earth, chief among them were the Brotherhood of Luxor and its mysterious leader, Kronos. What follows is the first part of a two-part account, a rather typical account, of the state of play in Syrtis Major during those early days, given by Able Seaman Erasmus Stevenson.

s2artwide

Mars, viewed from Phobos

Thursday October 2nd 1890.

I am beginning to think that visiting the worlds of our Solar System is not good for my health. I still remember the joy and pride I felt at being assigned to HMAS Sovereign early last year, to be serving on board the flagship of Her Majesty Aether Navy was a great honour indeed. But since then I have been captured, tortured, and experienced things I am certain I would be saved from had I remained serving on the ships of Earth’s sea.

HMAS Endeavour made Marsfall earlier than anticipated, allowing us a small amount of shore leave before Sovereign was due to arrive. We carried supplies with us, to assist in the refit of Sovereign in preparation for her long mission ahead. Supplies and personnel transfer–one of which was to be me. My presence was requested by Commander Bedford himself, due to my experiences on Luna. I cannot say it was a tour of duty I was much looking forward to–not least of all because of the mission’s connection to the Drobates of Luna.  However, I was promoted in rank one level on condition of my transfer, and as someone who hopes to become an officer one day, I could not refuse orders. I have enjoyed my service on Endeavour these past months; Captain Ferguson is a strong leader and I have learned much from him. I will especially miss serving with Commander Armstrong, a noble and resolute officer, one of the finest I have ever met. When I finally returned to active service I did not expect a position on another Royal Sovereign-class battleship, but my familiarity with the design came in very useful. Much least did I expect that I would be transferred back to Sovereign so soon. I disembarked Endeavour, happy for a chance to explore the British-run city of Syrtis Major. It is strange to think, but I was walking in alien sand, the first person in my entire family to step foot on an alien world. Certainly I spent a considerable amount of time on Luna, but that was merely the Earth’s moon, but Mars…truly another world!

Syrtis Major

Syrtis Major

I should have remained on Endeavour!

After a brief tour of the bazaar where I purchased a local trinket for my little sister, I headed to the British quarter where I was hoping to grab a pint with a few other seaman from Endeavour. The quickest way was a short cut through the infamous Harbour District–although, of course, I did not know it was infamous then, neither did I know why. I suppose I should have guessed by the colloquial name for Old Harbour Road; the Thieves Way. I was new to Mars, barely been there a couple of hours. In what way could Syrtis Major possibly be worse than London? I soon saw. It was on Old Harbour Road that I witnessed the kind of villainy one expects in the alleys of London by the dark of night, but here it was happening in plain sight. People were being beaten senseless just so the miscreants could take whatever possessions they could, no doubt to later sell at the bazaar. Occasional British Army soldiers walked the road, but they studiously ignored the happenings of Thieves Way.  I was, to say the least, dumbfounded by such wilful ignorance. I was of a mind to intercede on the behalf of one particular fellow when I felt a sharp object dig into the small of my back.  My hand, already in my jacket pocket, gripped tightly on the present I had purchased for my sister. I was a member of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy and I had survived worse at the hands of the Drobates than anything a mugger could inflict upon me. He was in for a mighty shock, should he continue to push his luck.

“I would advise obedience, Monsieur Stevenson,” said the delicate tones of a French lady.

A lady! Even now I can scarce believe that a member of the fairer sex would do such a thing, and worse that it should be a lady. And she was a lady–there was no doubting the cultured tones in her aquiline accent. Even at the time, while I felt the object dig ever deeper, piercing my clothes I felt sure, I wondered why would a French lady have heard of me?

“Kronos seeks an audience with you, and you would be must unwise to refuse.”

…continued tomorrow!

 


Posting

Historians Note; unless you are familiar with the document “Horizons of Deceit Book I” you should not read any further. Said document can be purchased by following the link to the right. The following takes place shortly after the climax of “Horizons of Deceit Book I”.

The WRNS was created in November 1887 as a result of heavy naval losses since the Navy expanded into the aether, resulting in a shortage of manpower for active naval service. Many sailors were based on shore and it was felt that they needed to be released to the ships, although their shore jobs still needed to fulfilled. As in the civilian world, it was felt that by employing women to do these jobs, the men would then be able to go to sea. The promotion of the Women’s Royal Naval Service was “Free a man for sea service”.

Initially, the Admiralty decided that only 3,000 women would be recruited and would mainly perform domestic duties, such as cleaning, cooking and serving meals. In the three years since, these roles have expanded into all areas of naval service, including postings overseas. But now, as 1890 draws to a close and with a new fleet of Royal Sovereign-class aether battleships being deployed, it has been decided that a limited numbers of Wrens will be allowed to serve aboard the aether fleet.

What follows is a letter from one such woman–19-year-old Sophia Davies…

Thursday October 16th 1890

Dearest Mama,

It has happened, what started off as a service to free up the men for the fleet has advanced into a new programme, initiated by some forward thinking men in the Admiralty. At last, members of the Women’s Royal Navy Service will be able to serve aboard naval vessels. Naturally only a select few have been chosen, a token gesture, but it is a start. The best news of all, I have been selected as one of those special few.

1986.004.581I cannot tell you how happy and proud I am–that a girl like me, from such humble beginnings, will soon be serving aboard the flagship of the Royal Navy’s aether fleet; HMAS Sovereign! Yes, dear Uncle Harry’s ship. And what’s more, I shall be working with him. My technical and practical skills will be put to use in Sovereign‘s engine room. I have heard so much about this ship–the first aether battleship of her kind. Uncle Harry has sent me numerous letters, expounding on the advancements in aether flight Sovereign has made. I simply cannot wait to get my hands dirty!

Yes, Mama, I can hear the sigh of disdain as you read this. I know you and father wanted me to marry the Hughes boy, but you knew I would never be happy running a household and raising children. It simply is not for me. I want to serve our glorious empire, not sit at home changing dirty nappies. Dear Gwyneth can do that if it so suits her–and I suspect it will–and perhaps she will find a rich young man to whom she can become wed. Fulfil your dreams through her.

I am sorry. But I hope you can be happy for me, Mama, because I will be an example to all the women out there who wish to be more than home builders, those who wish to do all the things men do. I am only one of six women who had been assigned to serve on HMAS Sovereign, and it is a very great honour. Please try to be happy for me. I leave England–I leave Earth–for Mars at the end of this month. It would be so wonderful to see you before I leave, if you can find the money to meet me. I have yet to be given the particulars of my first duty, but I believe I shall be away for at the very least a year, and so I would absolutely love to see you before I go.

I love you, Mama.

Your daughter, Sophia.

P.S. Now, officially, Ordinary Wren Engineer Sophia Davies–how lovely does that sound?


%d bloggers like this: