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Dear Reader #55

Dear Reader,

“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.”

Cécile and Henri Rol-Tanguy

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.

25 August 1944, the 2nd Armored (Leclerc) Division destroy a Nazi tank in front of the Palais Garnier.

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.”

Parisians line the Champs Élysée for a parade conducted by the French 2nd Armoured Division, 26 August 1944.

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. 

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #54

Dear Reader,

“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.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #53

Dear Reader,

Delighted to see that Smashwords are featuring The Olive Tree: Roots on their homepage 🙂

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/996773

An iconic photograph from the Spanish Civil War. This is Marina Ginestà i Coloma, born in Toulouse on 29 January 1919 after her family had emigrated to France from Spain.

Aged eleven, Marina returned to Spain, to Barcelona, with her parents, who were tailors. When the Spanish Civil War broke out she served as a translator and reporter. 

This picture was taken by Juan Guzman on 21 July 1936 when Marina was seventeen years old. The location is the rooftop of the Hotel Colón in Barcelona.

In 1952, Marina married a Belgian diplomat. She moved to Paris in 1978 and died there on 6th January 2014.

It’s an amazing fact that the vast majority of the female Resistance fighters I have researched lived well into their nineties.

My article about SOE heroine Jacqueline Nearne is on page 16 of the Seaside News. Lots of other interesting features included too.

The Longest Day contains many remarkable pieces of filmmaking, but from a technical point of view this scene is the highlight.

Sara Ginaite-Rubinson was born in Kaunas on 17 March 1924. She was a schoolgirl in 1941 when the Nazis invaded Lithuania, killing three of her uncles and imprisoning her and the surviving members of her family. 

While imprisioned in the Kovno Ghetto, Sara met Misha Rubinson, whom she later married. During the winter of 1943-44 the couple escaped and established a Resistance group. Twice, she returned to the ghetto to help others escape.

In 1944, Sara and Misha participated in the liberation of the Vilnius and Kaunas ghettos, freeing Sara’s sister and niece among many others.

After the war, Sara became a professor of political economics at Vilnius University. She also wrote an award-winning book, Resistance and Survival: The Jewish Community in Kaunas, 1941–1944.

Sara died on 2 April 2018, yet another remarkable Resistance fighter who lived well into her nineties.

* * *

Every year in France the locals collect sand from Omaha Beach, where the Americans lost 2,400 lives on D-Day, and use it to fill in the letters on the tombstones of the fallen.

Delighted that Paula Branch has agreed to narrate Operation Zigzag, book one in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series. Production will begin next week. Meanwhile, here’s one we made earlier https://www.amazon.com/Digging-Dirt-Smith-Mystery-Book/dp/B089CJLFWG/

“In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.” – Pico Iyer

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx


Categories
Dear Reader

Dear Reader #51

Dear Reader,

Roots, book one in The Olive Tree: A Spanish Civil War Saga is published on 6.6.2020 and I’m delighted to say that the book is a top forty hot new release in Britain 🙂

My song of the week. Three years gone in the heart of Spain, He brings home a quiet pain, He’ll never be that young again, There was always the Cause

Local views this week around Sger and Kenfig.

This week, Betrayal, book one in my Ann’s War Mystery Series, reached #1 on Amazon’s literature chart for the tenth time 🙂

The cover for Colette: A Schoolteacher’s War, a companion novel to my Eve’s War series. Colette is about a schoolteacher who becomes involved with the French Resistance in the lead up to D-Day.

A stone walked into my consulting room looking very depressed.

“Take a seat,” I said. “How can I help you?”

“I’m lacking in self-esteem,” the stone said. “I’m lacking in confidence.”

“Don’t worry,” I said, “we can address those issues. But before we do, tell me, what are your long-term aims?”

“Well,” the stone sighed, “I just wish I could be a little bolder…”

The Connections eMagazine Reader’s Choice Award is open to all independently published authors and their work. This is an annual award. The winners will be featured in the August issues of the magazine. Authors can be nominated by anyone who has read the novel. See our website for details.

https://melaniepsmith.com/readers-choice

My latest audiobooks in production.

The Pearl Witherington Story, Part Three, as told by her official SOE record.

Pearl’s second assignment, in Portsmouth, was more successful than her first. In this assignment, as Patricia Winter, she had to discover details about the town and recruit possible members of her network. In France this task carried great risks because of potential informers and collaborators. Pearl’s cover story – she had had a row with her ‘boyfriend ‘ was deemed unsatisfactory. In general the SOE training course was detailed and thorough, but it does seem light in regard to the practical assignments.

26.8.1943. Pearl received a negative report. The assessor described her as possessing ‘average intelligence’, ‘slow’, ‘cautious’ and ‘shy’. 

I don’t think Pearl would have disagreed with any of those assessments. However, it is worth recalling her background. 

Pearl’s father, an alcoholic, died when she was young while her mother had health issues. As the eldest child, Pearl ran the family home from an early age. She was denied schooling until her teenage years. This upbringing certainly shaped her personality. In the field, however, her cautious character proved an asset because it helped her to survive. Indeed, Pearl’s childhood was all about scrambling and surviving, and those real-life experiences served her well as an agent.

The assessor also considered that Pearl was not leadership material. In that assessment he made a mistake because a year later in France Pearl led a Resistance network of 4,000 men, the only woman to attain such a position.

Pearl prepares for her parachute training.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Categories
Dear Reader

Dear Reader #50

Dear Reader,

Very excited to announce that Paula has agreed to narrate Mind Games, Sam Smith Mystery Series book eleven, The Olive Tree: Roots and Eve’s War: Operation Zigzag. Production will begin this week and continue over the summer 🙂

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The suitcase radio was a lifeline for SOE agents. However, it could also be a death trap because the Nazis could identify the source of a radio transmission in twenty minutes. Consequently, the life expectancy for wireless operators was only six weeks.

Yvonne Cormeau was the leading female SOE wireless operator. She sent more messages than any other female operator and her Morse code speed was a staggering twenty words a minute (the average was twelve words a minute).

As you can see, these radios were huge – an agent couldn’t hide them in a pocket, shoe or handbag. However, on at least two occasions cornered agents persuaded the Gestapo that their radios were X-ray equipment and filmmaking equipment. It was not necessary to possess a high IQ to be a member of the Gestapo.

BFBFA72E-63B3-43C9-A0A9-F8B8A62FC2C4The story of incredibly brave Norwegian SOE agents who wrecked the Nazi’s plans to acquire heavy water for the production of nuclear weapons. Includes interviews with the agents who took part in this daring raid.

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My friend Sally invited me to a barbecue. She’s a terrible ditherer, she couldn’t decide what to eat…the meat, the salad or the sweet treats. While she was trying to decide, she sat down, mistaking the grill for a chair. Yep, you’ve guessed it, she walked away with hot cross buns.
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Local views this week, the Bwlch, Pink Bay and Kenfig.

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From the Daily Mirror, 8 May 1945, the VE edition.
Jane, created by Norman Pett, was a saucy comic strip that ran from 5 December 1932 until 10 October 1959. A recurring theme of the comic strip was the variety of ways Jane found to lose her clothes.
In 1944, when Jane first appeared nude in the comic strip, she was regarded as ‘Britain’s Secret Weapon’ and was credited with ‘inspiring’ the 36th Division to advance six miles into Burma.
Originally, Pett’s wife, Mary, modelled for him, but in the late 1930s she abandoned modelling for golf (!) From 1939 nude model Chrystabel Leighton-Porter became the inspiration for Jane, whose full name was Jane Gay.
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I was shocked to discover that my cat was pregnant. I was double shocked to discover that she’d also eaten a ball of wool. But everything turned out all right. She gave birth to mittens.
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Song of the week, “A street in Paris in the rain, I shoot in black and white a hundred frames, I watch your make-up, Begin to run.”

In Looking for Rosanna Mee, Sam Smith Mystery Series book seventeen, Sam likens her friend Faye to a 1920s ‘It Girl’.
The phrase ‘It Girl’ gained in popularity in 1927 after Paramount Studios released the film ‘It’, starring the notorious Clara Bow.
The earliest literary reference to ‘it’ in this context can be traced to 1904 and a Rudyard Kipling short story, which contained the line, “It isn’t beauty, so to speak, nor good talk necessarily. It’s just ‘It’.”
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A new language for my books, Afrikaans. Nelmari has started the translation and we will publish in the near future.
Versions of my books are now available in Afrikaans, Bulgarian, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish 🙂
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This week, I had an idea for a novel about a French schoolteacher and her involvement with the Resistance on D-Day. I’m outlining the basic plot and will add the story to my ‘to be written’ list.

I always start with a character’s name. For my D-Day novel, I liked the sound of Colette for the central character. And when research revealed that Colette means ‘people of victory’ the choice became obvious. Sometimes, some things are just meant to be.

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Pearl Witherington’s story, as told by her official SOE file.

2 July 1943. Pearl impressed her instructors with her skills and personality. She struggled with the forward roll, but inspired confidence in others. Her reports were painstaking, an indication of her thorough and cautious character. Indeed, her financial accounts from the field were the most detailed the SOE had seen.

 

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17 July 1943. Pearl received another outstanding report from her instructors. Amongst many highlights is the comment, “Probably the best shot (male or female) we have yet had.”

 

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Over six days in August 1943, the SOE gave Pearl an ‘assignment’. As part of this ‘assignment’ as Pearl Wimsey she was to meet a contact, George Bluck. Unknown to Pearl, Bluck intended to trick her into revealing information through loose talk with a mutual acquaintance, Fifi. It’s alleged that Fifi used to seduce the male agents with the aim of extracting information. Clearly, the SOE took this training very seriously.

In the event, Bluck was late and Pearl, acting on her initiative, aborted the rendezvous. Instead, she went to the cinema where she viewed ‘Tarzan Triumphs’.

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Pearl performed other aspects of her ‘mission’ with competence. However, overall for the SOE and Pearl the exercise proved unsatisfactory, although doubtless she learned from the experience, which was the main point. In her handwritten report, Pearl admitted that she found it difficult to talk with strangers and that she was ‘cautious’ and ‘slow’. A year later she was performing acts of bravery beyond the call of duty, so her self-effacing comments are extremely touching.

You can read her report here https://hannah-howe.com/eves-war/pearl-witherington-soe-reports/

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

 

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