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The Evolution of a Soldier

The Evolution of a Soldier

Paul Fraser Collard on developing a series character over time

If you have read any of the Jack Lark books then it should not come as much of a surprise to read that I thoroughly love writing these novels. There is something rather wonderful in being able to control the events in a story over a period of time, and I cannot tell you how much I enjoy plotting Jack’s path. By writing a series, I am able to take him on a long, often perilous, journey and I am able to explore how his character is changed and shaped by the events and the wars I force him to endure.

One of my favourite parts in the whole process is the research. It is through writing Jack’s story that I have learned a huge amount of history that, in many cases, has largely been forgotten. It is only when I sit back and take stock of all the events he has witnessed and the places he has visited, that I start to realise quite how much ground he has covered. With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to start building up a timeline to track Jack’s journey and the incredible historical moments his life touches on. I hope it will serve as a point of reference for new readers whilst acting as an interesting record for those who have followed Jack’s adventures from the outset. The history is already written, but, as I continue with his story, Jack’s timeline will grow and grow.


The Jack Lark Timeline

November 1849

The execution of Mrs Manning, perpetrator of the ‘Bermondsey Horror’

  • Marie Manning and her husband were convicted of the murder of her lover and executed at a public execution at Horsemonger Lane Gaol, Southwark, London
  • Jack’s story: RASCAL


  • Jack Lark works as a potboy in his mother’s gin palace in Whitechapel, London
  • Jack Lark attests as a soldier in the British Army
  • Jack’s story: ROGUE  and RECRUIT

March 1854   

  • Jack Lark becomes orderly to Captain Arthur Sloames
  • Jack’s story: REDCOAT

Spring 1854               

The Scarlet Theif

  • When Sloames dies, Jack Lark faces a choice. Stay as a common soldier, or become the officer he has always dreamed of being. In the end the decision is easy, and the Scarlet Thief is born

20 September 1854

 The Battle of the Alma

 An Anglo-French army invades the Crimea peninsula. Determined to stop them reaching the strategically vital port of Sevastopol, the Russian army makes a stand on the heights above the south bank of the Alma River

  • Jack’s story: THE SCARLET THIEF


  • Jack Lark arrives in India under the alias Captain James Danbury
  • The Maharajah of Sawadh launches an attack on the British forces stationed at the cantonment of Bhundapur (fictional)

October 1856

  • Jack Lark is living in Bombay under the alias Lieutenant Fenris

5 December 1856

The Battle of Bushire

 A British Expeditionary force storms the Persian fort of Reshire then moves to capture the port of Bushire

7 February 1857        

The Battle of Khoosh-Ab

  • The British Expeditionary force under Major General Sir James Outram attacks the Persian army at Khoosh-Ab
  • Jack’s story: THE DEVIL’S ASSASSIN

May 1857

  • Jack Lark returns to Bombay

11 May 1857              

The Indian Mutiny begins

  • Mutineers from the East India Company army capture the city of Delhi

June 1857

  • Jack Lark is commissioned as an acting-lieutenant in Hodgson’s Horse

8 June 1857               

Battle of Badli-ki-Serai

  • The Delhi Relief Force attack a blocking force of rebel sepoys at Badli-ki-Serai en route to Delhi

25 August 1857         

Battle of Najafgarh

  • Brigadier General John Nicolson commands a column of British infantry and attacks a force of rebel sepoys threatening a relief column heading to Delhi

14 September 1857  

  • The British assault on Delhi begins under the command of Brigadier General John Nicolson
  • Jack’s story: THE LONE WARRIOR

March 1859

The Last Legionnaire

  • Jack Lark arrives in London and returns to his mother’s gin palace in Whitechapel

May 1859

  • Major Ballard’s party arrives in Paris

4 June 1859               

Battle of Magenta

  • French and Sardinian armies attack the Austrian forces holding the town of Magenta in northern Italy

24 June 1859             

Battle of Solferino

  • The French and Sardinian army clashes with Austrian forces around the town of Solferino, close to Lake Garda in northern Italy
  • Jack’s story: THE LAST LEGIONNAIRE

16 April 1859 

  • Jack Lark arrives in Boston and accepts the rank of sergeant in the 1st Boston Volunteer Militia

19 April 1861             

Baltimore Riot

  • Rioters attack Union forces as they cross the city of Baltimore on their way to defend Washington
  • Jack Lark promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant, 1st BVM

18 July 1861               

Skirmish at Blackburn’s Ford

  • Units from the Union Army of North-eastern Virginia clash with Confederate soldiers from the Confederate Army of the Potomac near the Bull Run River, Virginia

21 July 1861               

First Battle of Bull Run (Battle of First Manassas)

  • The Union army, under the command of Brigadier General Irvin McDowell, launches an ambitious flanking attack on the Confederate army holding the ground to the south of the Bull Run River, Virginia
  • Jack’s story: THE TRUE SOLDIER