The Rance in Dinan. Eve was in Dinan this week, in Operation Broadsword, book three in my Eve’s War series. She is trying to get rid of a million francs, which is proving surprisingly difficult.
The print copies of Operation Locksmith have arrived 🙂
Café Society, Paris 1925.
I’m eclectic. Which one are you?
My latest translation, the German version of Operation Zigzag, book one in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series. Great to see that readers in Germany are also downloading the English version.
The streets of London, 1930. The car on the right is a Burney, made by Streamline Cars Ltd and designed by Dennis Burney in 1927.
A walk through the woods this week, Craig yr Aber, Glamorgan.
First Officer Maureen Dunlop was a ferry pilot for the Air Transport Auxiliary. The women of the ATA transported newly manufactured aircraft from factories to aerodromes throughout Britain. She was trained to fly 38 types of aircraft, including Spitfires, Mustangs, Typhoons and bombers.
Four ‘It Girls’ dressed for an evening out, 1927.
I’m a Surrealist. How about you?
Excited to see that Operation Broadsword, book three in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series, is ranked #32 as a hot new release. The book will be published in November 🙂
Heroines of the SOE
On 21 June 1944, 2,000 Nazi soldiers attacked a pocket of the French Resistance. During the battle, Anne-Marie distributed hand-grenades and buried incriminating documents in a cave under a church. She also collected SOE money and took it with her as the Resistance withdrew from the village.
Packed with shorts stories, articles, puzzles, recipes and so much more, the latest issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads.
Images from my garden this week.
My article about SOE heroine Anne-Marie Walters appears on page 20 of the magazine.
I’m enjoying Paula’s narration of Operation Locksmith, book two in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series. Normally, I don’t like listening to my own words, but it’s great fun to be a part of this production.
Nazi board game from 1941 – Wir fahren gegen England (We go against England).
“Fun for all the family.”
Normandy, 1944. While the battle rages, a Frenchwoman pours a drink for a British soldier.
We have more sheep than people 🙂
Walking through the clouds on Pen-y-Fan this week.
Basically, my approach to writing.
Hannah Arendt on Writing:
Gaus: Do you write easily? Do you formulate ideas easily?
Arendt: Sometimes I do; sometimes I don’t. But in general I can tell you that I never write until I can, so to speak, take dictation from myself…Usually I write it all down only once.
The organisational aspect of D-Day never ceases to amaze me. 2 August 1944. The French 2nd Armored Division arrived in France, landing at Utah Beach, Normandy. The division served under General Patton as part of the US Third Army.
Two weeks later, they helped to liberate Paris.
I’m really getting into my character Eve in my Eve’s War series, so much so that when she met a Maquis leader today and they shared cheese as a peace offering it gave me a strong urge to eat cheese. Tomorrow, Eve blows up a railway line. I hope I don’t get a strong urge to play with dynamite 🤣
On this date, with the First World War ten days old, George Bernard Shaw wrote an article urging both sides to shoot their officers and go home.
An inspiration for Guy Samson in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series, Francis Charles Albert Cammaerts was born in London on 16 June 1916. Under the code name Roger he was an agent of the Special Operations Executive. His parents were Professor Emile Cammaerts, a Belgian poet, and Tita Brand, a successful actress.
At the beginning of the Second World War, Cammaerts declared himself a conscientious objector. However, in October 1942 he joined the SOE and between March 1943 and September 1944 he led the Jockey network in southeastern France. Considered during training as more intellectual than practical he, nevertheless, completed the course with distinction.
Cammaerts became a pacifist in the 1930s while studying at Cambridge. After university, he established a teaching career where he met fellow teacher and pacifist Harry Rée. After much soul searching, Harry decided to join the SOE. This decision, along with the death of his brother, Pieter, who served in the RAF, convinced Cammaerts that he too should place his pasifist beliefs to one side and join the SOE.
Regarded as one of the finest male agents, Cammaerts recruited locals to the Resistance networks, supplying them with arms and training. He completed two tours as an SOE agent, totalling fifteen months, a period far longer than the average time served by an agent in France. He never stayed in the same house for more than three or four nights. Furthermore, he avoided hotels as their registers were checked by the Gestapo and French police, stayed clear of large railway stations and never told anyone of his plans.
In the Jockey network, Cammaerts linked up with wireless operator Auguste Fioras. On 27 May 1943, the pair sent their first message to SOE headquarters in London while Fioras went on to transmit 416 wireless messages during 1943 and 1944, a record for an SOE wireless operator.
Cammaerts’ Jockey circuit, which had developed to include over 10,000 people, played a crucial role in the action that followed the D-Day landings. His men and women cut communication and railway lines, which severely hindered the movements of Nazi troops and armaments.
Aware of the risks the locals were taking, Cammaerts always informed them that he was an SOE agent and reminded them of the consequences should anyone talk or be caught. Despite this, he always received a warm welcome. Later, along with many other agents, he gave a great deal of credit to the ordinary French citizens who provided him and his colleagues with safety and support. In the television series Secret Agent, broadcast in 2000, Cammaerts said, “The most important element was the French housewife who fed us, clothed us and kept us cheerful.”
At 193 cm tall and with feet so large his nickname in France was “Big Feet”, Cammaerts feared that he would attract the Gestapo’s attention. Furthermore, he spoke French with a noticeable Belgian accent, which made him vulnerable to informers in the Malice. His security fears were realised on 13 August 1944 when he was arrested at a roadblock by the Gestapo. He was taken to Digne prison where he was beaten and interrogated. During the interrogation, he insisted that he was involved in the black market, a cover story he concocted to account for the large sum of money he carried about his person.
Even though Cammaerts was the most important SOE agent in southeastern France, the Gestapo didn’t realise that they had captured him. Nevertheless, they suspected that he belonged to the Resistance and arranged his execution.
However, on 17 August 1944, two days before the Allied invasion of southern France, fellow agent and courier Christine Granville (aka Krystyna Skarbek) helped him to escape. Christine confronted two collaborators, Albert Schenck, a French liaison officer to the Gestapo, and Max Waem, a Belgian interpreter for the Gestapo. She told them that the Allied troops would arrive within hours and that if they did not cooperate they would be condemned as Nazi collaborators. Under threat from the avenging locals, Schenck and Waem secured Cammaerts’ release.
In March 1945, Cammaerts joined the Special Allied Airborne Reconnaissance Force. The SAARF’s main objective was to assist in the reconstruction work in Germany after the fall of Hitler. For Cammaerts this meant dealing with the aftermath of the newly liberated concentration camps. Understandably, he was appalled by what he saw and later said, “The SAARF period was blank and grey and one of those certain areas in my life when I didn’t know what I was doing.”
During his pacifist period, Cammaerts met Nancy Findlay (Nan), and they married on 15 March 1941. Over the following decades, the couple had four children, three girls and a boy.
In 1948, Cammaerts became the first Director of the Central Bureau for Educational Visits and Exchanges, a UNESCO agency. Four years later, he returned to teaching. He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1958 and in 1959appeared for the defence in the notorious Lady Chatterley’s Lover trial, a case won by the publisher, Penguin Books, and the author, D.H. Lawrence.
Further teaching posts in Britain and Africa followed. Throughout his career, Cammaerts won high praise as an innovative educator. He finally retired in 1987 to live in the south of France. He died there in 2006.
These two bullets collided during the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915. The chances of that happening are one in a billion.
A common question: where do you get your ideas from? My answer: mainly my imagination and research, plus observation and personal experience. Bizarre, but true, these ideas usually develop into a story while I’m cleaning my teeth. This week, an idea about a female pilot in the Air Transport Auxiliary developed into a story. I’m not sure where it will slot into my writing schedule, but I would like to write the idea as a novella and publish it as a free book for my readers.
This is Mary Ellis, an inspiration for my story. Aged 101, a week before she died, she talked with Dan Snow about her career. Mary flew hundreds of planes during her career, including her favourite, the Spitfire. Aged 99 she flew in a Spitfire again, adding another chapter to her remarkable life.
My latest audiobook, Snow in August, Sam Smith Mystery Series book sixteen. Working with talented narrators and translators is a highlight of publishing.
Humanism: think for yourself, act for everyone.
The rivers of Wales.
Polish airmen who fought in the Battle of Britain. Airmen from Poland, and other Allied countries, trained at Stormy Down, an airfield a mile from my home.
A total of 145 Polish fighter pilots took part in the Battle of Britain. Poles made up 5% of all RAF pilots during the battle. At the peak of the battle, Poles accounted for 13% of frontline fighter pilots. In October 1940, this figure rose to 20%.
“The streets were dark with something more than night.” – Raymond Chandler
Poster for the 1945 General Election
Jeannie Yvonne Ghislaine Rousseau was born on 1 April 1919 in Saint-Brieuc. A brilliant linguist, she graduated in languages from Sciences Po in 1939. When the Nazis invaded France she joined her family in Dinard where she became an interpreter for the occupiers. However, as she interpreted she also gathered intelligence.
Jeannie’s intelligence gathering included secrets of commercial deals and details of the steel and rubber industries. She said later, “I was storing my nuts, but I had no way to pass them on.”
The Gestapo arrested Jeannie in January 1941, but they released her with the proviso that she did not visit the coast. Later that year, she moved to Paris where she gathered more intelligence from a Parisian company that supplied materials to the Nazis.
Jeannie’s formal career as a spy began in 1941 when she met Georges Lamarque on the Paris-Vichy night train. Lamarque remembered Jeannie, and her talent for languages, from the University of Paris. He invited her to work for him and she agreed immediately.
During 1943, Jeannie filed her most remarkable reports – details of the missile and rocket development at Peenemünde. These reports alerted R.V. Jones, the Assistant Director of British Intelligence (Science), to the V1 and V2 rocket threat and in so doing saved thousands of lives.
When R.V. Jones received Jeannie’s reports he enquired about their source and was told that they came from “one of the most remarkable young women of her generation.”
Thanks to R.V. Jones’ persuasive nature, the Allies bombed Peenemünde. Initially, he met with departmental resistance before convincing Churchill about the importance of the mission. Because the raid would take place in August, partly in daylight, it carried great risk. Also, it involved a great number of Allied bombers, diverting them from other targets. The mission was successful, although the Allies did lose a large number of planes and aircrew during the daylight leg of the raid.
Shortly before D-Day, with the Gestapo closing in, Jeannie planned to escape with two other agents. However, she was caught by the Gestapo. Bravely, during her capture, she alerted her colleague and he escaped.
R.V. Jones later said, “Amniarix’s (Jeannie’s code name) reports stand brilliantly in the history of intelligence, and three concentration camps – Ravensbrück, Königsberg (a punishment camp) and Torgau could not break her.” Thankfully, the Swedish Red Cross rescued Jeannie shortly before the end of the war.
After the war, Jeannie worked as a freelance interpreter for the United Nations and other agencies. She also married Henri de Clarens whom she met while recovering in Sweden from tuberculosis, contracted during her imprisonment. Henri had endured periods in the Buchenwald and Auschwitz concentration camps. The couple had two children.
Henri died in 1995 while Jeannie died on 23 August 2017 in Montaigu, aged 98.
“The heart has its reasons which reason knows not.” – Blaise Pascal
In 1942 a Lockheed P38 Lightning crashed during training on the beach at Harlech, Wales. It is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Picture: RC Survey
Listening to and loving Paula’s interpretation of Eve’s War: Operation Zigzag, which is currently in production.
‘It wasn’t only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding; above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you.’ – Ian McEwan, in Atonement.
This is a Welrod Mk 1, the gun of choice for SOE agents during the Second World War.
In Operation Locksmith, book two in my Eve’s War series, Eve uses a Welrod for the first time.
The Welrod is an extremely quiet gun, producing a sound of around 73 dB when fired, and thus is ideal for clandestine operations.
“There was a definite process by which one made people into friends, and it involved talking to them and listening to them for hours at a time.” – Rebecca West
This week, I enjoyed a documentary about the Spitfire. With its elliptical wing design it must be the most graceful aeroplane ever built.
“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world do this, it would change the earth.“ – William Faulkner
Local pictures this week, Kenfig coast.
A new series, Resistance Couples
Cécile Rol-Tanguy, born 10 April 1919, was a leading member of the French Resistance during the Second World War. She participated in the liberation of Paris, conducted clandestine operations and relayed confidential messages.
In 1936, Cécile met Henri Tanguy, a political activist who volunteered for the International Brigades and fought against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. The couple married in 1939 and their first child, Françoise, was born in November. Sadly, Françoise fell ill and died on 12 June 1940, two days before the Nazis entered Paris.
In an interview in 2014, Cécile recalled that painful episode: “I can still remember the terrible pall of burning smoke over Paris and wondering if that was what had made my baby ill. I left her in the hospital overnight, and when I went back the next day, there was another baby in her bed.”
During the Nazi occupation, Henri joined the French Forces of the Interior while Cécile supported the FFI as a liaison officer.
After the birth of her second child, Hélène, Cécile used her baby’s pushchair to conceal guns, grenades and clandestine newspapers. At this time, 1942, the Nazis arrested Cécile’s father and deported him to Auschwitz, where he died.
Despite this setback, Cécile and Henri fought on. In May 1944, Henri was appointed regional leader of the FFI. With Cécile’s help he established an underground command post at Place Denfert-Rochereau, and from there the couple distributed messages to the Resistance.
On 19 August 1944, Cécile and Henri published a pamphlet, a call to arms for the citizens of Paris. The people responded and on 25 August they liberated Paris, sweeping the hated Nazi occupiers aside.
Recalling that momentous day, Cécile said, “When they told us, (of the victory) we didn’t hear the bells ringing, but we had a pillow fight with the girls who were with me.”
After the liberation, Henri became an officer in the French army while Cécile joined the Union des Femmes Françaises, an organisation that maintained the memory of Resistance and anti-fascist fighters.
The couple had four surviving children: Hélène and Jean, who were born during the war, and Claire and Francis, who were born after the war. Later, the family left Paris to live near the Loire.
After 63 years of marriage, Henri died on 8 September 2002. Cécile passed away at her home at midday on 8 May 2020, the 75th anniversary of VE Day, aged 101.
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison
This is how I started writing and why I write.
My latest translation, the Spanish version of Snow in August, available soon 🙂
My latest audiobook. We hope to complete production next week 🙂
“In books we never find anything but ourselves. Strangely enough, that always gives us great pleasure, and we say the author is a genius.” – Thomas Mann
You mean, I’m not a genius?! 🤣
“Some cry with tears, others with thoughts.” – Octavio Paz
Picture: On the Green Bank, Sanary, 1911 – Henri Lebasque
A statue problem, solved. From 1949.
This week is refugee week. My country, Wales, has a proud history of welcoming refugees. This picture shows the children at Cambria House, Caerleon, Basque refugees from the Spanish Civil War.
Sandra Puhl translated my Ann’s War series into German and I’m delighted that she has agreed to translate my Eve’s War series. One of the joys of writing is working with creative people.
Art as therapy.
A crochet panel produced by George Preece following a life-changing accident at Abercynon Colliery in 1909.
George was involved in a transport accident which resulted in the loss of both legs. Unable to work again, he spent his time making the crochet panel, and other items from old food tins.
I enjoyed this film this week. During the first half, I thought the hero and heroine were too flippant for the subject matter. However, a tragic incident at the halfway mark changed the mood and the various strands came together to produce a suspenseful conclusion. Not a classic, but a good variation on the POW theme.
Brittany, 16 August 1944. Members of the FFI (French Forces of the Interior). Their uniforms show the French flag with the Free French emblem, the Cross of Lorraine.
By mid-August 1944 the Nazis were in full retreat and these women were contemplating the liberation of Paris, which arrived after a week-long battle, 19 August to 25 August.
Approximately twenty percent of the FFI were women. Many fought alongside their husbands, including Cécile Rol-Tanguy, Lucie Aubrac, Paulette Kriegel-Valrimont, Hélène Viannay, Cletta Mayer and Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux. They organised acts of sabotage, wrote and distributed newspapers, and freed many from Nazi concentration camps. Indeed, Marie-Hélène Postel-Vinay rescued Pierre Lefaucheux from a Gestapo prison camp. The couple subsequently married.