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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #146

Dear Reader,

My latest translation, the Italian version of Operation Broadsword, Eve’s War Heroines of SOE, book three.

This week, I started rewatching The Rockford Files. Most of the regular cast appeared in the pilot, including Stuart Margolin as Angel. Jamie Farr of M*A*S*H was considered for the part, and would have done a fine job, but Stuart Margolin made it his own. He portrayed the character so well with just the movements of his eyes. Around this time Margolin also featured in an episode of M*A*S*H.

The answering machine messages at the start are iconic. In the pilot, Luis Delgado (who appears as ‘himself’ in a marriage scene later in the episode) said, “Billings, L.A.P.D. You know, Thursday is Chapman’s 20th year, and we’re giving a little surprise party at the Captain’s. I think you should come. By the way, we need five bucks for the present…” Cue the equally iconic theme music…

In this month’s issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads…

Writer and historian Mary W Craig interviewed by Wendy H Jones. Plus, Author Features, Health, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Recipes, Short Stories, Young Writers, Nature Photography Day, and so much more!

Do you have one of these, a Princess Mary Christmas Gift Box? As you can see, I have two, from both sides of my family, one in better condition than the other.

Each box was decorated with an image of Mary and other military and imperial symbols and typically filled with an ounce of tobacco, a packet of cigarettes in a yellow monogrammed wrapper, a cigarette lighter, and a Christmas card and photograph from Princess Mary. Some contained sweets, chocolates and lemon drops.

The boxes were distributed to all members of the British armed forces on Christmas Day 1914, although some servicemen had to wait until 1920.

Most baptism records tend to be scrawled, but for some reason many in the West Country were recorded with a neat hand. Here’s the baptism record for my 5 x great grandfather, John Bick.

Many of my Bick ancestors were baptised in St Mary de Lode Church, Gloucester. It is believed that St Mary’s was built on the site of the first Christian church in Britain. Certainly, it was built on top of two Roman structures, possibly temples.

Photo: Wikipedia

In honour of the Wales football team and their World Cup qualifying achievement, I intend to feature pen-portraits of past players on Twitter and my website. I will feature some ‘big names’, but the majority will be ‘unsung heroes’ from the 19th and 20th centuries. 

I’m starting with Alf Sherwood because he used to visit my great grandmother. For more details, read on…

The son of Herbert Sherwood, a labourer and coal miner from Wiltshire, and Alice Maud Williams, a labourer’s daughter from Aberdare, Alfred Thomas Sherwood was born on 13 November 1923 in North View Terrace, Aberaman, a stone’s throw away from his hometown football club. 

In 1939 Alf was an apprentice wagon painter. Then, during the Second World War, he was drafted into the coal mines to work as a ‘Bevin Boy’.

Scouts recognised Alf’s footballing prowess at an early age and he gained caps at youth level for Wales. He was also an accomplished cricketer. 

In 1942, Alf joined Cardiff City from Aberaman Athletic. A wing-half at Aberaman, he switched to full-back at Cardiff. He was so impressive that he made that position his own for the rest of his career.

When the Football League returned for the 1946–47 season, Alf missed just one match for Cardiff City. That season the club gained promotion as champions of Third Division South. In the 1951–52 season, Alf was appointed club captain and under his leadership Cardiff City gained promotion to the First Division.

Alf’s senior international career began on his 23rd birthday in a match against England in the British Home Championship. The score: 3 – 0 to England. However, on 22 October 1955 in the British Home Championship match played at Ninian Park, as captain Alf led Wales to a famous 2-1 victory over England.

In total, Alf won 41 Welsh caps. He earned a reputation as ‘the king of the slide-tacklers’. Indeed, Stanley Matthews described him as “the most difficult opponent he ever played against.” Students of the game reckoned that Alf’s main qualities were outstanding pace, sound tackling and a wonderful positional sense.

Alf also served club and country as a stand-in goalkeeper. On 17 April 1954 in a match against Liverpool, he saved a penalty taken by Scottish international Billy Liddell, which ultimately condemned Liverpool to relegation.

After an illustrious career, Alf worked for the National Coal Board. He also worked as an insurance agent and during the course of this work he called on my great grandmother, Edith, to collect her monthly insurance premiums and chat.

Alf died on 12 March 1990.

You can read more player profiles here https://hannah-howe.com/sixty-four/

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

#1 for value with 565,000 readers, The Fussy Librarian has helped my books to reach #1 on 32 occasions.

A special offer from my publisher and the Fussy Librarian. https://authors.thefussylibrarian.com/?ref=goylake

Don’t forget to use the code goylake20 to claim your discount 🙂

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #137

Dear Reader,

After a break since Christmas 2021, my blog is back. A week before Christmas, I became ill with Covid. That illness continued well into January. Since then, I have been catching up with my writing schedule, hence the break. 

I hope you will enjoy this blog post and future content.

My latest translations, the Italian version of Operation Locksmith and the Portuguese version of Damaged: Sam Smith Mystery Series book nineteen.

In this month’s issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads…

An exclusive interview with Jennifer Shahade two-time USA Women’s Chess Champion, poker champion, author and podcaster. Plus, Author Features, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Recipes, Short Stories, Jazz Appreciation Month, and so much more!

My Recent Genealogical Research

My 3 x great grandmother Sarah Ann Cottrell was born on 24 June 1848 in St Leonard’s, Shoreditch. Aged twelve she worked as a matchbox maker, on piece rates. Sarah Ann’s father, Mathew, was a fishmonger, a decent trade, so her matchboxes brought in bonus pennies to support her mother and five siblings.

Picture: Wellcome Trust

My 4 x great grandfather Mathew Cottrell was a fishmonger at Billingsgate Market. Here’s the market as Mathew would have seen it plus a description, both from the Illustrated London News, 7 August 1852.

In 1852, my 4 x great grandfather Mathew Cottrell was a fishmonger at Billingsgate Market so it seems fair to assume that his wife, Sarah, was adept at preparing fish dishes. Here’s some advice from A Mother’s Handbook, published the same year.

“Fish should be garnished with horseradish, or hard boiled eggs, cut in rings, and laid around the dish, or pastry, and served with no other vegetable but potatoes. This, or soup, is generally eaten at the commencement of a dinner.”

My 5 x great grandfather Samuel Cottrell was born on 11 July 1796 in Finsbury. After his marriage to Ann Baker he moved to Billingsgate where he worked as a fishmonger. Samuel and Ann were nonconformists, protestant dissenters. He lived in Dunnings Alley, a hotbed of dissent.

Somehow, Samuel and Ann avoided every census in the 1800s. However, the nonconformists kept detailed records, including details of Samuel’s family. These records confirm that a midwife was in attendance for all of Ann’s births along with, on occasion, a surgeon.

My 5 x great grandfather Samuel Cottrell lived a long life, 84 years. However, he struggled during his final two years. Unable to move freely, in 1878 he spent a month in Homerton Workhouse Infirmary. He signed himself out.

Two years later, Samuel spent two years in Bow Road Infirmary, pictured. Shortly after he left, a ‘Mad Russian’ murdered one of the inmates, slicing him with a knife. Within ten days Samuel was back in Homerton. He spent a further six months there, dying on 1 September 1880.

They kept stealing his shoes. My 6 x great grandfather John Cottrell was a boot maker. The Old Bailey website lists three occasions 1830 – 1832 when boys aged ten, twelve and seventeen stole his shoes. The court offered mercy to the ten year old, but the other two were transported for seven years.

St Mary Woolnoth, London. My 7 x great grandfather John Cottrell was born there on 6 Nov 1747 and baptised there on 29 Nov 1747. He ran a business as a chandler. He served on several coroner’s inquest juries and, like my Howe ancestors, was an Overseer of the Poor.

1 July 1762. An indenture belonging to my 7 x great grandfather John Cotterell. His father, also John, paid John Coleratt £80 (£8,200 today) so that he could learn the trade of tallow chandler. These indentures were standard in the 18th and 19th centuries with the names and trades added as applicable.

Apprentices were forbidden from playing cards, dice, entering taverns or playhouses, fornicating or marrying. Usually, these indentures covered a period of seven years. Little wonder that some apprentices broke the agreement and absconded.

John served his apprenticeship and in 1775 established a business on 55 Fore Street, Moorfield, selling food and household items.

As a ‘respectable member of the community’ my 7 x great grandfather John Cotterell served on five Coroner’s juries, in 1776,  1779, 1781, 1783 and 1785, each time investigating suspicious deaths in the community. 

In 1785 on ‘Friday this 20th. Day of May by Seven of the Clock in the After noon twenty-four able and sufficient Men of said Liberty’ gathered at John’s house to investigate the death of Robert Jurquet. The jury concluded that being of unsound mind, with a razor, Robert Jurquet took his own life.

My 7 x great grandfather John Cotterell’s elder brother, William, was sword bearer of the City of London. The office was created in the 14th century when it was recorded that the Lord Mayor should have, at his own expense, someone to bear his sword before him: 

‘a man well-bred’, one ‘who knows how in all places, in that which unto such service pertains, to support the honour of his Lord and of the City.’

Picture: George III receiving the Civic (Pearl) Sword from the Lord Mayor of London on his way to St Paul’s Cathedral, an event William probably attended.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah

For Authors

#1 for value with 565,000 readers, The Fussy Librarian has helped my books to reach #1 on 32 occasions.

A special offer from my publisher and the Fussy Librarian. https://authors.thefussylibrarian.com/?ref=goylake

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #135

Dear Reader,

Cover reveal for Sugar Daddy, Sam Smith Mystery Series book twenty, due for publication later this year. This story is about an unscrupulous businessman who lures a student into prostitution and the brink of suicide. Sam isn’t impressed and sets out to nail the bastard.

My latest genealogy article for the Seaside News appears on page 48 of the magazine 🙂

My latest translation, the Italian version of Sam’s Song, available soon. And the good news is Stefania has agreed to translate more books in my Sam Smith mystery series 🙂

On 18 April 1887 my grand aunt Elizabeth Middleton was accused of ‘receiving’. It’s likely that she came into contact with stolen goods at a London market. This was common at the time. Also common for the time, the case was dismissed.

I’ve researched the Aubrey branch of my family tree back to Saunder de Sancto Alberico, aka Aubrey, of Normandy. He arrived with William the Conquerer in 1066. Earlier, he produced a son, Sir Reginald Aubrey, born c1060, who married Isabel de Clare. The de Clare family produced William the Conqueror so it’s clear that all these noble families were close.

Sir Reginald was a member of an army commanded by Bernard Newmarche. This army fought the Welsh c1093 in the Brycheiniog (Brecknock) region of Wales. After numerous battles, Newmarche granted Sir Reginald the manors of Abercynrig and Slwch. Unrest continued, so Newmarche’s forces stayed at his castle in present day Brecon until the early 1100s. By that time, through their land-grab, the Aubreys had established themselves in the Brecon Beacons.

The line continued through another Reginald to William. Marriages to other noble families, such as the Gunters, ensured that the Aubreys consolidated their position in society then prospered. William produced a son, William, who produced a son, Thomas, born c1190 in Abercynrig. A hundred years after their arrival in Brecon, the Aubreys were now one of the leading noble families.

The Aubrey Manor House

Five Thomases take us to Richard Aubrey, born c1350 in Abercynrig. Abercynrig Manor in the parish of Llanfrynach is located just over a mile north of Llanfrynach village and just over two miles southeast of Brecon. Aubrey ownership of the manor house is listed as follows:

Reginald Aubrey, born c1095

William, born c1125

William, born c1160

Thomas, born c1190

Thomas, born c1220

Thomas, born c1255

Thomas, born c1285

Thomas, born c1315

Richard, born c1350

Walter, born c1380

Morgan, born c1410

Jenkin, born c1435

Hopkin, born c1465

William, born c1480

Richard, born c1510

Dr William Aubrey, born 1529

Sir Edward Aubrey, born c1550

Sir William Aubrey, born 1583

The succession of father to son was broken in the 1550s when Richard Aubrey sold Abercynrig to his cousin Dr William Aubrey, an anti-Puritan lawyer and judge.

William Aubrey, born c1480, disinherited his sons Morgan and John, my direct ancestor Richard therefore inheriting. Morgan went to London where he established a trade in salt and silk. This made him a wealthy man. Later, he moved to Herefordshire, took over the estate of Clehonger, and established a cadet branch of the family.

Dr William Aubrey was born in 1529 at Cantref, Brecknockshire, the second son of Thomas Aubrey MD and Agnes Vaughan. He was educated at Christ’s College, Brecon, then Oxford. He entered  Oxford c1543 and obtained a degree in 1547. Two years later he was made a Bachelor of Civil Law and five years after that a Doctor of Civil Law.

Dr William Aubrey

After a distinguished career at Oxford, Dr William Aubrey became a prominent member of the group of Welsh civil lawyers who played a notable role in ecclesiastical, judicial and diplomatic affairs during Elizabeth I’s reign. 

John Aubrey, the seventeenth-century antiquary, left an account of his great-grandfather, William, praising his ‘rare skill and science in the law’, and ‘sound judgment and good experience therein.’

John described William as of ‘medium build and somewhat inclining to fatness of visage, with a grave countenance and a delicate, quick, lively and piercing black eye.’

Although he lived most of his life in London or Kent, William considered himself a Welshman. He bought land off family members and became one of the largest landowners in Brecon. Indeed, he was able to ride ‘nine miles together in his own land.’

Through his Welsh and English lands, William acquired an income of £2,500 a year, approximately £350,000 a year in today’s money. He wrote, ‘God of his goodness hath very plentifully bestowed upon me.’

An engraving of Dr William Aubrey’s monument by Wenceslaus Hollar. William’s six daughters and wife are depicted on the bottom, along with two of his sons. It is not known why his third son was not depicted.

William married Wilgiford and the couple produced three sons and six daughters. He died on 25 June 1595 and was buried at Old St Paul’s on 24 July. It’s suggested that his chief clerk, his ‘loving and trusty servant’ Hugh Georges, proved the will on 29 July, then ran away to Ireland with the money. Antiquary and great-grandson John Aubrey stated somewhat tersely, “Georges cosened (deceived) all the legatees.”

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

#1 for value with 565,000 readers, The Fussy Librarian has helped my books to reach #1 on 32 occasions.

A special offer from my publisher and the Fussy Librarian. https://authors.thefussylibrarian.com/?ref=goylake

Don’t forget to use the code goylake20 to claim your discount 🙂

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #127

Dear Reader,

Preparing for 2022. The new year will see the continuation of my Sam Smith and Eve’s War series, the conclusion of my Olive Tree Spanish Civil War Saga, and the start of a new series, Women at War, five novels about ‘ordinary’ women fighting fascism in France, Spain and Bulgaria, 1936 – 1945.

Exciting news. My Sam Smith Mystery Series will be translated into Italian. We will make a start on Sam’s Song this week. As a European, I’m delighted that my books are available in twelve languages.

A rarity in the Victorian era, a husband’s petition for divorce, filed 16 November 1883. The husband stated that on ‘diverse occasions’ his wife committed adultery with ‘sundry persons’. Marriage dissolved. Damages awarded to the husband.

For Armistice Day.

My latest genealogy article for the Seaside News appears on page 36.

My direct ancestor Sir Edward Stradling was born c1295, the second son of Sir Peter de Stratelinges and Joan de Hawey. The exact location of his birthplace is unknown, but likely to be the family estates in Somerset.

When Sir Peter died, Joan married Sir John Penbrigg, who was granted wardship over Sir Peter’s estates and both young sons, Edward and his older brother, John, until they reached their twenty-first birthdays.

As an adult, Edward was Lord of St. Donats in Glamorgan, and Sheriff, Escheator, Justice of the Peace, and Knight of the Shire in Parliament for Somerset and Dorset. He rose to such prominence through his staunch support for Edward III.

St Donats Castle, a print from 1775.

Edward Stradling married Ellen, daughter and heiress of Sir Gilbert Strongbow. They produced the following children:

Edward (my direct ancestor) who married Gwenllian Berkerolles, daughter of Roger Berkerolles of East Orchard, Glamorgan.

John, who married Sarah, another daughter of Roger Berkerolles. Two bothers marrying two sisters.

When John died, c1316, Sir Edward inherited the following lands:

St Donat’s Castle, Glamorgan.

Combe Haweye, Watchet Haweye, Henley Grove by Bruton, Somerset, all of which included three messuages, a mill, five carucates, two virgates of land, thirty-one acres of meadow, and one hundred and forty-one acres of woodland.

Halsway and Coleford in Somerset.

Compton Hawey in Dorset.

Through his wife’s inheritance, he also obtained two manors in Oxfordshire. 

As Lord of St. Donats, Sir Edward rose against the Crown in the Despenser War of 1321–22. The war was a baronial revolt against Edward II led by marcher lords Roger Mortimer and Humphrey de Bohun, fuelled by opposition to Hugh Despenser the Younger, the royal favourite.

15th-century illustration showing Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer; execution of Hugh Despenser the Younger in the background.

The Crown arrested Sir Edward in January 1322 and seized all his lands in England and Wales. It took two years and a loyalty payment of £200 – £92,000 in today’s money – before his estates were restored.

When Edward II was deposed in 1327, Edward Stradling was knighted by Edward III. Several appointments followed, including Sheriff and Escheator of Somerset and Dorset 1343, MP for Somerset 1343, and Justice of the Peace for Somerset and Dorset 1346–47. On 11 September 1346, Sir Edward was one of three knights of Somerset at Edward III’s Westminster parliament.

Sir Edward was one of the chief patrons of Neath Abbey and on 20 October 1341 he gifted the monastery one acre of land. He died c1363, either in St Donats or Somerset.

The Strandling line continued through the second Sir Edward, born in 1318 in St Donats Castle to Sir William, born in 1365 in St. Donats, to another Sir Edward, born in 1389 in St Donats. This Sir Edward was Chamberlain and Receiver of South Wales, Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset 1424-6, Steward and Receiver of Cantreselly and Penkelly, Keeper of Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire (appointed 22 August 1439), Constable of Taunton 1434-42, and Knight of the Sepulchre.

Already well established amongst the nobility, the Stradling’s influence increased through the deeds of the third Sir Edward. He married Jane, daughter of Cardinal Beaufort, great uncle of Henry VI. This marriage ensured that he held a powerful position within the royal court. 

Administrative posts in South Wales and money followed. As with modern nobility, medieval nobility was a moneymaking-racket, a mafia, exploiting the poor. Lords and knights gave money to the Church to assuage their sins. Many lords were brutal and ruled through fear. Some, and I hope Edward was amongst them, used their positions of privilege and wealth to better their communities. For Edward these communities included parishes in Glamorgan, Somerset, Dorset and Oxfordshire. Of particular interest to me is the Stradling manor of Merthyr Mawr, a beautiful village, which is on my doorstep.

Sir Edward fought at Agincourt. He was captured by the French, and wool, a staple product of South Wales, was shipped to Brittany to defray his ransom.

In 1411, Sir Edward Stradling went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In 1452, aged sixty-three, he went on a second pilgrimage, but did not return. He died on 27 June 1452 in Jerusalem.

View of Jerusalem (Conrad Grünenberg, 1487).

To be a peasant or a noble in medieval times? Although I’m descended from noble houses, my inclination is to side with the peasants. Life is hard for the poor in any age, and it was certainly hard in medieval times. Against that, the nobles had to contend with political intrigues, treachery, wars and pilgrimages, from which many did not return. 

Given a choice, I think I would select a middle course, neither peasant nor noble, but an observer, a chronicler, recording my life and times. After all, through fiction, that’s what I do today.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

#1 for value with 565,000 readers, The Fussy Librarian has helped my books to reach #1 on 32 occasions.

A special offer from my publisher and the Fussy Librarian. https://authors.thefussylibrarian.com/?ref=goylake

Don’t forget to use the code goylake20 to claim your discount 🙂


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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #37

Dear Reader,

My top ten this week, which features Sam, Ann and Grace. Many thanks to everyone who supports my books.

Sam now has readers in Latvia, Slovakia and Switzerland.

To date, I have readers in America, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Columbia, Denmark, El Salvador, England, Fiji, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland. Italy, Japan, Latvia, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Wales.

My aim is to reach more of these readers, in as many languages as possible. Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to this quest.

Following the career of SOE agent Pearl Witherington, a truly remarkable woman and an inspiration for my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series.

From Pearl’s SOE file, her training notes on codes and cyphers.

Pearl’s keywords ‘fou tez moi la paix’ sound very much like her personal selection and offer a direct plea to her instructors to accept her as an agent…’give me a break’.

Read more about Pearl at the SOE here https://hannah-howe.com/eves-war/pearl-witherington-soe-reports/

In association with Mom’s Favorite Reads and NeoLeaf Press I’m delighted to feature in the Strong Women anthology.

The anthology features many fabulous authors along with my Sam Smith short story Over the Edge.

The anthology is currently available for pre-order at the offer price of 0.99. More details via this universal link.

https://books2read.com/u/bwv7A0

A modern picture of Eve and Michel Beringar’s penthouse apartment at the Canebiere, Marseille, one of several homes owned or rented by the couple.

Chapter One of Operation Zigzag takes place in this apartment when a member of the Resistance asks Eve to assist them in springing Zigzag from a Gestapo prison before escorting him to the relative safety of Spain.

https://books2read.com/u/mKDDyv

With the first draft of Operation Zigzag complete, this afternoon I created the character profiles for book two, Operation Locksmith. In Locksmith, the SOE recruit Eve and she undergoes training. Her training is based on the SOE manual of 1943 and includes how to fire hand guns and machine guns, plant bombs, martial arts, climb mountains, run cross country, overcome obstacle courses and pick locks.

During her training, Eve meets Guy Samson and Mimi Duchamp, two agents who will play significant roles in her life, plus Major-General Cunningham and Vera Penrose, the ‘father’ and ‘mother’ of SOE. She also encounters a psychiatrist, who probes her mind, and Major McAllister, an SOE instructor whom she takes an instant dislike to.

There’s a fair amount of humour in this story, which will make it even more fun to write.

The sort of people I’m writing about right now.

Meet me at the station underneath the clock

Carry an umbrella, no need to talk

The man in the homburg, hiding in the fog
Will be watching

Get yourself a ticket, go through the gate

At seven forty-five precisely, don’t be late

If anybody follows don’t hesitate

Keep on walking

And take the night train to Munich

Rumbling down the track

After half an hour in the restaurant car

Look for the conductor

And there will be a stain on his tunic

A paper underneath his arm

Then you’d better pray that he doesn’t look away

Or you’ll never, never, never come back.

When you get the paper take a look inside

On page twenty-seven there’s a photo of a bride

Underneath the story of a man who died

In Morocco

Memorize the article word for word

The man in the homburg understands the code

Make sure the conversation isn’t overheard

They’re around you

And take the night train to Munich

Rumbling down the track

After half an hour in the restaurant car

Look for the conductor

And there will be a stain on his tunic

A paper underneath his arm

Then you’d better pray that he doesn’t look away

Or you’ll never, never, never come back.

I really wouldn’t ask if there was anybody else

But I now you’ve got the knack of taking care of yourself

And they don’t know your face so there won’t be anyone

Looking for you

When you get to Munich we’ll be waiting in the car

Don’t look around, just walk straight out

If you don’t show, I’m sorry for the pain

I caused you

Upon the night train to Munich

Rumbling down the track

After half an hour in the restaurant car

Look for the conductor

And there will be a stain on his tunic

A paper underneath his arm

Then you’d better pray that he doesn’t look away

Or you’ll never, never, never come back.

A selection of my audiobooks. More to follow 🙂

https://books.apple.com/gb/author/hannah-howe/id1017374616

Story ideas come from multiple sources, including songs. This song helped to shape Snow in August, Sam Smith Mystery Series book sixteen.

Goylake Publishing is named after a local river, which is flowing fast on this stormy day.

Women of Courage Heroines of SOE 

Described by fellow agent Peter Churchill as ‘a woman full of humour and common sense’, Marie-Thérèse Le Chêne was born on 20 April 1890 in Sedan, France. A small woman, she possessed grey hair and sharp determined features.

Aged 52, Marie-Thérèse was the oldest female SOE agent sent to France where she served from 31 October 1942 until 19 August 1943 as a courier working alongside her husband, Henri Le Chêne, and her brother-in-law, Pierre Le Chêne.

Early in World War Two, Marie-Thérèse fled France for London with her husband,Henri. In London, Marie-Thérèse worked as a cook and manager of a hotel. Henri, a British citizen despite his French birth, had previously managed a hotel in Nairobi, Kenya.

Interestingly, the Le Chêne family decided to join the SOE, and not Charles de Gaulle’s Resistance movement. There was great rivalry between the SOE and de Gaulle’s Resistance movement, and a lot of in-fighting, mainly based on rival political beliefs.

On the night of 3/4 November 1942, Marie-Thérèse landed at Port Miou, near Cassis. She arrived with fellow agents George Starr, Mary Herbert and Odette Sansom and worked alongside her husband as a courier and later as a distributor of political pamphlets and anti-German leaflets. Towards the end of her period in France, she also conducted a sabotage mission on a canal and railway line.

During a visit to Clermont-Ferrand, a town that strongly favoured the Resistance, Marie-Thérèse discovered that the workers at the Michelin Rubber Works were sabotaging production and delivering inferior tyres to the Germans. This not only disrupted the Germans, but also kept the workers in constant employment.

In January 1943, with the Gestapo closing in and Pierre captured, Henri fled France via the Pyrenees, the most popular land escape route at the time. Too tired to join him, Marie-Thérèse hid in friends’ houses until an SOE Hudson evacuated her from a field in Angers on 19 August 1943. Back in Britain, she rejoined her husband who added wryly that he had joined the SOE to get away from his wife, but that she had followed him into the service.

After the war, Marie-Thérèse, Henri and Pierre, who’d managed to escape, returned to France where they opened a hotel in Sainte-Menehould. 

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx