Hard to believe that I’ve been posting these weekly ‘letters’ for a year. I don’t publish a newsletter so the idea of these posts is to keep my readers up to date with my writing and publishing, and introduce new readers to my work. I hope you enjoy the content as much as I enjoy putting these posts together.
Published this week, the June 2020 issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads 🙂
Download or read the magazine online FREE
In this issue…
Lockdown for Teenagers
Modern Movie Classics
And an insight into the Month of June
Countdown to the D-Day anniversary, 6th June. From a Second World War edition of the Daily Mirror, a recipe for omelettes made from dried eggs.
Local views this week…Coney Beach, , my footprints, Porthcawl Harbour, Sger House, roses in our garden
In Looking for Rosanna Mee, Sam Smith Mystery Series book seventeen, Sam visits Cardiff Museum where she admires Renoir’s La Parisienne.
Henriette Henriot, sixteen at the time, posed for La Parisienne. One of Renoir’s favourite models, she enjoyed a distinguished acting career, appearing on stage from 1875 until the outbreak of the First World War.
Countdown to the D-Day anniversary, 6th June.
4th June 1944, Rommel left Normandy and returned to Germany to attend his wife’s birthday. As a gift, he’d bought her a pair of suede shoes.
Two days later, the Allies paved the way for our freedom from fascism by landing on the Normandy beaches. Many bloody battles followed, but for the Nazis this was the beginning of the end.
PS: The shoes didn’t fit.
5th June 1944, General Eisenhower wrote this note, taking full responsibility, success or failure, for the D-Day landings.
Our ancestors had it tough, but at least they had real leaders.
This is Resistance fighter Simone Segouin at the liberation of Paris, 25 August 1944. Wearing her distinctive shorts, she was just eighteen years old at the time.
Simone began her Resistance career by stealing a bicycle from a Nazi messenger, which she used to deliver Resistance messages. After that, she captured Nazi troops, blew up bridges and derailed trains.
On 23 August 1944, Simone participated in the liberation of Chartres and two days later in the liberation of Paris. After the war, she became a nurse.
Aged ninety-four, Simone still lives in France.
June 6th, the 76th anniversary of D-Day
During the evening of 5th June 1944, the BBC broadcast the following message, informing SOE agents and the French Resistance of the imminent invasion.
The long sobs
Wound my heart
With a monotone
The words were written by Paul Verlaine in his poem Chanson d’automne – Autumn Song.
The SOE agents and Resistance members acted instantly, securing many villages and small towns, sabotaging roads, bridges and railways in actions that delayed the Nazis for a fortnight, vital time that allowed the Allies to gain a vital foothold in Normandy before driving the fascists out of France.
Pearl Witherington’s story will continue next week.
A busy week with audiobooks with five in production: Smoke and Mirrors, Stardust, Digging in the Dirt, Boston and The Devil and Ms Devlin, all in the Sam Smith Mystery Series. It’s always fascinating to hear how narrators interpret your words and it’s always great to work with other creative people.
As part of the Authors Give Back sale where authors support readers during this difficult time Val Tobin is offering her books for free and at 60% off the recommended retail price.
Nothing is more glorious than finding a book that keeps you turning pages to discover what happens next. Val Tobin’s stories will do just that. Take a journey with characters who will inspire you, intrigue you, and entice you to read just one more chapter.
Earlier this week, I lost my Internet connection. An engineer was due today, so yesterday evening I decided to tidy the living room to make space for him. And guess what I found? In a corner inaccessible to man or beast, the router plug was sitting on the floor. I plugged it in and within ten minutes our Internet was restored.
So, how did the plug get on to the floor? As unlikely as it sounds it seems that one of my children reached for an Easter egg, knocked a small 5.1 music speaker off the shelf, the speaker landed on the plug and knocked it out of the socket. Throughout this a light remained on the router – it’s fed by two sockets – and the corner is inaccessible except for the plug sockets so no one thought to look there.
I told the engineer there was no need to call because I’d fixed the problem. Doubtless, he was impressed. However, I didn’t tell him how I did it 😉
My current reading list for Eve’s War
Madame Fourcade was an amazing woman. Forget de Gaulle, Madame Fourcade was the real leader of the French Resistance. She was the one who rolled up her sleeves and got stuck in when it came to fighting the fascists.
Most of my Eve’s War series is set in Brittany, hence the need to top up my knowledge of that region.
After the war, Ann-Marie Walters established a career in literature and her book is the best written account of an SOE agent’s experiences in France.
“I’m very nervous, but patient. It’s a funny mixture really and you need that for radio work. You need the patience to do the coding and decoding. You need the resourcefulness of nervousness to be able to decide to go on if you think somebody’s listening in (the Gestapo used to listen in to transmissions in vans disguised as Red Cross vehicles) or to cut off and ask for another sked (transmission schedule).” – Yvonne Cormeau.
Yvonne was the ‘fastest finger in France‘. She transmitted Morse code messages at a rate of twenty words a minute (the average was twelve words a minute) and she sent more messages than any other female SOE wireless operator.
In 1944, SOE agent Anne-Marie Walters, pictured below, had a narrow escape when travelling by train to Condom via Tarbes. A Gestapo officer approached to search her cases, which contained small arms and demolition equipment. However, a young woman with two babies, unknown to Anne-Marie, but sensing danger, created a fuss over the Gestapo searching her bags. In the commotion, the Gestapo officer didn’t search Anne-Marie’s cases. When he left the carriage, the young woman offered Anne-Marie a smile of understanding. In that moment she had saved Anne-Marie’s life.
On another occasion, Anne-Marie found herself at a bus stop facing a snap search. While one fascist inspected her (false) documents another searched her handbag and pulled out a crumpled ball of toilet paper. Anne-Marie blushed at the sight and the fascist returned the toilet paper to her handbag. That toilet paper contained thirty coded messages. The BBC broadcast these messages at set times during the day. They carried instructions for the Resistance, informing them of arms drops via parachute, details of other networks and most famously of all the timing of the D-Day invasion. The code for that message was the first stanza of Paul Verlaine’s poem “Chanson d’automne”. The first part of the stanza, Les sanglots longs des violons de l’automne (“the long sobs of the violins of autumn”) indicated that the invasion would begin within 24 hours; the second, Blessent mon cœur d’une langueur monotone (“wound my heart with a monotonous languor”) was the specific call to action.
A memorial to the SOE agents of the Wheelwright network in Lapeyrade, Landes. Yvonne Cormeau, Anne-Marie Walters and Yvonne Baseden have featured on my website.
Pictures taken near my home in South Wales this week: Kenfig, Mawdlam, Cefn Cribwr, the Goylake River, Kenfig and Ballas
Women of Courage Heroines of SOE
SOE agent Eileen Mary “Didi” Nearne was born on 15 March 1921 in London to an English father, John, and a Spanish mother, Marie. She was the youngest of four children while her elder sister, Jaqueline, and her brother, Francis, also became SOE agents.
In 1923, the family moved to France where Eileen became fluent in French. After the German invasion in 1940, Eileen and Jacqueline followed the well-worn path to London via Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, Gibraltar and Glasgow, while their parents and brothers remained in Grenoble.
In Britain, the SOE soon identified Eileen’s talents. Initially, she worked as a signals operator decoding secret messages, often written in invisible ink, received from agents in the field.
After a period of training, on 2 March 1944, Eileen arrived via Lysander in Les Lagnys, Saint-Valentin. Her mission was to work as a wireless operator for the Wizard network. She also organised sources of finance for the Resistance. Over five months she transmitted 105 messages, each one sent at enormous personal risk.
Coincidentally, Eileen’s organiser, Jean Savy, returned to Britain on 9 April 1944 on the same aircraft as her sister, Jacqueline, who had spent fifteen successful months in the field. Savy arrived in Britain with important information about the Nazi’s V1 rockets.
In July 1944, the Gestapo detected Eileen’s transmitter and arrested her. A period of barbarity followed, which included crude forms of inhuman treatment. Nevertheless, despite the torture, Eileen convinced the Gestapo that a businessman had hired her to send messages and that, at the time, she remained innocent of his British nationality.
In August 1944, the Gestapo sent Eileen to Ravensbrück concentration camp then on to Silesia. At the camps, the guards forced her into slave labour. However, she remained defiant and, despite more torture, refused.
On 13 April 1945, Eileen escaped with two French women. Marching to another camp through the snow and dark they hid in a forest then travelled to Markkleeberg where the S.S. arrested them. However, they managed to fool the S.S. (it’s remarkable how many agents managed to do this) and with the aid of a priest they hid in Leipzig until the liberating Americans arrived a few days later.
It’s ironic that Eileen constantly lied to the Gestapo and, for the most part, the believed her. They regarded her as ‘a silly little French girl who was wasting their time.’ However, when she told the Americans the truth they didn’t believe her and it took some time before they handed her over to the British authorities.
After the war, Eileen suffered from what we now recognise as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Jacqueline cared for her and in 1997 she felt well enough to appear on a Timewatch television programme where she discussed her wartime experiences.