My personal top ten this week.
My publishing schedule for 2020
*March: Snow in August, Sam Smith Mystery Series book sixteen
*June: The Olive Tree: Roots, A Spanish Civil War Saga
*June: Operation Zigzag, Eve’s War Heroines of SOE
*August: Operation Locksmith, Eve’s War Heroines of SOE
*September: Looking for Rosanna Mee, Sam Smith Mystery Series book seventeen
October: Operation Broadsword, Eve’s War Heroines of SOE
November: The Olive Tree: Branches, A Spanish Civil War Saga
December: Operation Treasure, Eve’s War Heroines of SOE
* Currently available to order or pre-order
As mentioned above, my latest Sam Smith Mystery is now available for pre-order 🙂
Aged twenty-one, Rosanna Mee was housebound, severely agoraphobic. Yet, when Faye and I arrived at her flat to deliver legal papers we could not find her. She’d disappeared. How could a woman who had not travelled from her home in three years simply disappear? That was the first in a series of questions that led us into the world of bodybuilding, fraud and murder.
Meanwhile, the kaleidoscope of my life continued to change. As the picture settled I discovered that I was saying goodbye to a friend, hello to a new office and facing a development that would totally transform my personal life.
Sam has new readers, in Peru 🙂
Pictured, Cusco, capital of the Incan Empire
My merchandiser produced a Hannah Howe calendar. This is the image for March, the Rakotz bridge in Kromlau, Germany.
Andre Hue is one of the inspirations for Guy Samson, my male SOE agent in Eve’s War. Andre was born a few miles from my home in Wales to a Welsh mother and French father. An interesting fact about Andre’s parents is when they met and married Andre’s mother, Caroline Hunter, could not speak French while his father, also Andre, could not speak English. Obviously, they communicated through the greatest universal language of all, love.
This picture was taken from Andre’s fake ID card issued by the SOE in June 1944
I managed to get hold of a ‘top secret’ document from 1944 that details the Special Operations Executive’s contribution to Operation Overlord. I will be using these details in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series.
I have a wealth of archive material for this series. However, it’s estimated that 85% of the SOE’s records were destroyed in a suspicious fire and there is speculation that that fire was started deliberately so that the records would be forever hidden from the public’s gaze.
Local views of Sger beach this week
Women of Courage Heroines of SOE
Yvonne Cormeau, born Beatrice Yvonne Biesterfeld on 18 December 1909, served the SOE as a wireless operator for the Wheelwright network under the code name Annette. She operated in southwestern France from August 1943 until the liberation of France in September 1944. Yvonne was an unusual SOE agent in that she was a mother.
The SOE acclaimed Yvonne for the quality and quantity of her wireless transmissions. Wireless operators were vulnerable to detection and capture, often within weeks of landing. Nevertheless, she performed her duties with great courage and skill for over a year.
Educated in Belgium and Scotland, Yvonne was living in London in 1937 when she married Charles Emile Cormeau, a chartered accountant. Charles enlisted in the Rifle Brigade and, in 1940, was wounded in France. Tragically, he was killed shortly after his return to London when the Nazis bombed his home. Yvonne survived the bombing when a bathtub fell over her and protected her head. However, her unborn baby did not survive.
Yvonne sent her two-year-old daughter Yvette into the countryside for her own safety. Then she decided to “take her husband’s place in the Armed Forces”. She joined the WAAF as an administrator in November 1941. From there the SOE recruited her to train as a wireless operator. After much agonising and fearing that she might make her daughter an orphan, she joined the organisation on 15 February 1943.
With Yvette in a convent, where she remained until she was five, Yvonne parachuted into France, arriving on 23 August 1943. In common with many agents, she declined to take a cyanide pill with her to commit suicide if captured. The SOE issued her with a .22 revolver, but she did not carry the firearm because discovery of a weapon could lead to instant execution.
Wireless operators transmitted an average of twelve words per minute in Morse code. However, Yvonne averaged twenty words per minute. This meant she was a very talented “pianist”, SOE slang for wireless operators.
Yvonne also worked as a courier, cycling 50 kilometres on regular occasions. As a “district nurse” Yvonne travelled the countryside avoiding the Nazis and the dreaded Milice, a radical and brutal branch of the French police.
A “wanted” poster in Yvonne’s neighbourhood offered an accurate description of her appearance, heightening the danger. On one occasion, the Nazis stopped her at gunpoint at a roadblock. Eventually, they accepted her false papers and her story, passing her wireless equipment off as an X-ray machine.
M.R.D. Foot, the official historian of the SOE said of Yvonne, “She was a perfectly unobtrusive and secure craftswoman. She broke one of the strictest rules of wireless security – i.e. always keep on the move – with success: she transmitted for six consecutive months from the same house. She could see for three miles from the window where she worked, which was one safeguard; a more effective one was that there was no running water in the village, so the Germans who knew there was an English wireless operator somewhere close by never thought of looking for her there.”
Bloodstained dress and briefcase of Yvonne Cormeau on permanent display at the Imperial War Museum
Yvonne assisted in the cutting of power and telephone lines, resulting in the isolation of the Wehrmacht Group G garrison near Toulouse. In June 1944, she was shot in the leg while escaping from a Nazi attack on Castelnau, but managed to rescue her wireless. The dress she wore on that occasion and the bloodstained briefcase she carried are on permanent display at the Imperial War Museum in London along with her WAAF officer’s uniform.
After the war, Yvonne worked as a translator in the SOE section at the Foreign Office. She also became a leading organiser of veterans’ reunions. Reunited with her daughter, Yvette, she lived in London.
As ever, thank you for your interest and support.