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Dear Reader #83

Dear Reader,

Many thanks to my loyal readers for their pre-orders and for placing Stormy Weather, Sam Smith Mystery Series book eighteen, on the Hot 💯 chart.

Delighted to announce that my Ann’s War series will be translated into French 🙂

More translation news. We started work on two new translations this week both in Spanish: The Devil and Ms Devlin, Sam Smith Mystery Series book fifteen and The Olive Tree: Branches, book two in my Spanish Civil War saga. Many thanks to all my translators for their contributions to our translation projects.

Mom’s Favorite Reads

Happy New Year to All Our Readers!

In our New Year issue…

Surviving the Stone Age

Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree

Nicolas Winton – The British Schindler 

Meditation

National Hat Day

Stories, Puzzles, Recipes, Humour, Poetry, International Bestsellers and so much more…

20 February 1927, the wedding of Louisa and John, my grand aunt and uncle.

The French Grand Prix, 1906.

Marseille, the setting for my Heroine’s of SOE story, Eve’s War: Operation Zigzag, drawn in 1886.

A Roll of Honour produced by the Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company in recognition of company officials who served in the First World War.

Ancestry

Three letters from Ken Howe (born 13.3.1919 in Corneli, the son of Billy Howe and Gwendolyne Thomas). In 1940 when the call came Ken responded to the threat of fascism and joined the Queen’s Own Hussars. His letters offer an insight into life at the front and here is the first of them.

30.9.1940

Dear Sis (Priscilla) Handel (brother-in-law) and Clive (nephew),

Thanks for your letter, which I received this morning. Glad to here that you are all okay, as I am. I have just come from dinner, which wasn’t so hot, and after reading about that rabbit my mouth is watering.

Jerry was around here (Newmarket) last night dropping his eggs, but far enough from us. As long as he keeps that distance I’ll be quite satisfied. I was in Newmarket last night with one of the boys from our tent and we spent most of our time in a church canteen reading and talking and it was a pleasant evening, what with free tea and cake. We were issued with a suit of denim last week, the stuff that the Home Guards use, and we use it for our work. We look like Home Guards walking around our camp. There has been talk of us moving this week, but I don’t know if it is right or not.

It is getting cold in the night time now, and I woke last night with my feet like lumps of ice. I think I will have to get a hot-water bottle sez me. We have been on wireless training this morning and I was nearly sleeping on my feet. We are going out in tanks this afternoon, messing about.

I had a letter from Aunt Edie yesterday, and she said she hoped to see me on my next leave, remember the 48 hours.

Joan (sister) sent me some fruit and biscuits in her parcel and I’ve been doing alright the last two days. Well old girl this is about all the news this time so I will sign off. Give my regards to the sergeant (his father?).

Till the next time, love to all,

Ken

Here is the second letter written by Ken Howe of the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars. Undated, 1940.

We have been cleaning this place out today. We will be a long way from here (Newmarket) by Saturday. Well, Sis, I’m not feeling too good about leaving the old country. It’s been a lovely autumn day, with the sun out, and it brings back memories of South Cornelly, and walks in the moonlight with the boys. It will be a new experience like when I was called up, and I expect I shall get used to it.

Ken Howe’s third letter, 9.2.1941, Middle East Forces

Dear Sis, Handel and Clive,

Just a few lines to say how we are getting on here. We are doing alright so far, and we haven’t got much to grumble at. Elwyn and myself were in Cairo a few days ago on leave, and we had quite a good time there. It isn’t as modern as I thought it would be, and in the native quarters how it smells. We stayed at the barracks there and it cost us nothing, though the money doesn’t half go. I ordered two cushion covers from one of the shops, with our badge on it. They make them and post them duty free for the troops. I’m afraid it will take a long time before you have them, one for you and Joan.

While in Cairo we met a few of our boys who were in our squad in Catterick and we hadn’t seen them for months, and in one of the clubs for our troops I met a chap named Thomas. He owns the Swan in Nottage and he knows Handel and Roy Edwards well. Surprising how small the world is, eh. We went to see the pyramids and Sphinx and other sites.

We both played football yesterday afternoon for the squadron and had our snaps taken by one of the boys, so I’ll send you some on when they are developed. We have had a few sandstorms and boy is there a mess. There’s sand in your nose, eyes, everywhere, and they blow for hours. Well old girl I’m afraid this is all for now. Hoping you are all in the best of health as I am. Cheerio for the present.

Love to all,

Ken

The cushion covers, made of black velvet, were sent to Priscilla and Joan with the message ‘To Sis All My Love Ken’ embroidered on them.

In March 1941 the Queen’s Own Hussars were mobilised to Crete and then to mainland Greece in the forces gathered together at short notice to defend Greece. Sadly, Ken was killed in action on the 23.4.1941, the day the Greek forces surrendered to the Axis. He was twenty-two years old.

The Greek campaign ended with a complete German and Italian victory. In many respects it was a ‘pointless’ campaign for the British because they did not have the military resources to carry out big simultaneous operations in North Africa and the Balkans. Even if they had been able to block the Axis advance, a counter-thrust across the Balkans was impossible.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #79

Dear Reader,

Reading, you know it makes sense.

Exciting news. Sam’s Song is #1 in Australia. Sam is also top five in America, Brazil, Britain, Canada, France, India and Spain while Operation Zigzag is top five in Spain and France, and Betrayal is #1 in America 🙂

My 3 x and 2 x great grandfathers, both William, worked at this quarry so would have been aware of this shocking incident. Maybe they witnessed it.

The apartment of Gustave Eiffel in the tower he designed, 1909.

A Christmas card sent to Sergeant Major Fear in 1918. From The People’s Collection Wales.

Frost on the sand dunes this week.

Mary Francis, a friend and neighbour of my 3 x great grandmother, Mary Hopkin.

At 12.15 a.m., on Thursday 17 September 1890, Mary Francis, also known as Bopa, died; she was 110 years old.

Mary Francis hailed from Llansamlet, near Swansea. According to her obituary in the Glamorgan Gazette she was born on the 15th August 1780, the youngest of seven daughters.

Around 1810, Mary arrived in Corneli where she worked as a servant to Owen Howells at Pen-y-Mynydd Farm. Her first husband was a collier named Griffiths. In search of work, the couple returned to Llansamlet, only for Mr Griffiths to expire when he fell into a canal. A widow, Mary went into service at Aberavon.

Mary’s fortunes changed when she returned to Corneli to work on Ty Tanglwst Farm. There, she met one of the farm-hands, David Francis. The couple married on 21 May 1814 and they settled at Ty Capel, adjacent to the chapel, where Mary lived for the rest of her life.

Mary Francis had six children, four of whom were still alive at the time of her death. Her mother, reputedly, lived until she was 111 years old and she is buried at Llansamlet. Mary’s husband, David, died on the 2 November 1839, aged fifty-nine, and so Mary lived as a widow for a further fifty-one years.

The Gazette remembered Mary as an industrious, respectable woman whose faculties remained clear until her closing years. Apparently, she could distinguish people at a considerable distance and her hearing and mind were well preserved. 

Physically, she was short and of small proportions and, like many of her generation, she could neither read nor write. Throughout her working life Mary was employed on various farms in the neighbourhood and was also in demand as a midwife and feather cleaner.

When she was seventy years old Mary broke her leg in an accident and from that point on she was compelled to seek parish relief. Of a religious disposition, Mary regularly attended Capel-y-Pil; she had a fine voice and she loved the hymns. When she could no longer attend the chapel the Rev. E. Williams, himself eighty, would visit her at home.

In her younger days Mary would frequently walk with my 3 x great grandmother, Mary Hopkin, fifteen miles to Neath market to sell their homemade dresses.

Unfortunately, in the last two years of her life Mary was confined to her bed, except for a few hours when she would sit by the fireside. During those final years people would call on her and leave donations.

When Mary Francis died her body was covered with a white sheet strewn with sweet scented thyme and rosemary. She was buried at Mawdlam Church and an estimated 1,000 people attended her funeral.

————-

Life for my 3 x great grandparents, William Howe and Mary Hopkin was hard, typical of working class Victorians. They lost four of their five children, in infancy, young adulthood and middle age. They also lost three of their grandchildren.

William’s working life reflected the changing landscape. Instead of a lifetime spent labouring on the land, he left farming in his twenties to become a collier in the recently established coal mines. He returned to the land only to work in the local limestone quarry during the second half of his life. Meanwhile, Mary was a dressmaker walking fifteen miles to the market to sell her dresses. Social life for the family revolved around the Methodist chapel.

Mary had strong material instincts. She brought up her niece, Ann Price, and looked after an orphan, Ann Beynon. Later, she brought up her grandson, Edward Reynolds. Her house was a home for waifs and strays.

On 12 July 1897, aged 79, Mary died of ‘senile decay’. Her son, William, was at her side. The inscription on her gravestone, written in Welsh, reads, ‘To walk in honour to the land of peace. May the good lord return her soul to me.’

Those words on Mary’s gravestone were obviously written by William. He died of bladder and prostrate disease, and exhaustion, on 31 December 1903. Edward Reynolds’ wife, Rachel Thomas, was at his side thus maintaining a link with the Reynolds family that existed for sixty years.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #75

Dear Reader,

My latest translated titles, Stardust, Sam Smith Mystery Series book ten, and Eve’s War, Operation Locksmith, both in Spanish.

The calm after the storm, Paris 1947.

An amazing week for my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series. Operation Zigzag is #1 while Operation Broadsword and Operation Treasure are top twenty hot new releases. This landmark is dedicated to all the remarkable men and women of the SOE.

So now we know…

An autumnal view of the Goylake River.

You thought that beautiful woman was holding her parasol in her left hand simply because she was left-handed. However, her actions might reveal something totally different…

Men and women of the French Resistance during the summer of 1944, probably after the liberation of Paris.

Family History

John Howe, my 5 x great grandfather, was born on 28 April 1761 in St Hilary, Glamorgan. His parents, John and Mary, were successful farmers so it’s probable that John spent his formative years learning the business of farm management.

The parish register confirms John baptism. Note the small number of births, marriages and deaths in the parish between 1760 and 1762.

John married Cecily Lewis on 1 January 1785 in nearby Cowbridge, Glamorgan. The location is significant because for well over a hundred years all of the Howe’s activities, including births, marriages and deaths, had centred on St Hilary. The family was branching out, which ultimately would lead to mixed fortunes.

Cowbridge was a market town so it’s easy to imagine that John met Cecily there while on farm business. Cecily was born in Cowbridge in 1764 and the custom was that marriages took place in the bride’s parish.

Some genealogists list Cecily’s parents as John Lewis of Swansea and Elizabet Humphreys, but I have found no records to confirm that fact. Lewis is a very common surname and without cross-references it is difficult to identify the correct ancestor. 

The parish record reveals that John was literate, but Cicely signed her name with a cross. The witnesses were John’s younger brother, William, and John Jenkin, a ‘Gentleman’ of Cowbridge, which confirms that at this time the Howe family were still members of the gentry.

Continuing the story of my 5 x great grandparents, John Howe and Cecily Lewis. The couple married on 1 January 1785 in Cecily’s home parish, Cowbridge, Glamorgan. Five children followed: John (yet another one) my 4 x great grandfather, born 26 February 1786 in St Hilary, Glamorgan; Cecily, born 20 January 1789 in St Hilary; Priscilla, born 13 November 1793 in St Hilary; Richard, born 1 January 1797 in St Hilary – what a wonderful twelfth wedding anniversary present that was; and William, born on 1 February 1799 in St Hilary. Sadly, young Cecily died on 20 April 1798.

Well into the twentieth century, on average a couple produced a child every twenty-four months. However, John and Cecily’s children were born three or four years apart, hence ‘only’ five additions to the family.

Like his father before him, John was an Overseer of the Poor. In 1796-7, he paid 2s 6d to ‘Ten men in distress coming from the sea.’

In 1798, the Howe family featured in the Land Tax Redemption register twelve times, far more than any other family in St Hilary, which indicates that they were farming more land than anyone else in the parish.

Early in the nineteenth century, John and his family left St Hilary, moving ten miles west to Coity, breaking the family’s bond with the parish. Why did they leave? 

By 1799, the Napoleonic wars had taken their toll on Britain. The British royal treasury was running out of money to maintain the royal army and navy. Soldiers were starving and His Majesty’s navy had already mutinied. For Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, the solution was simple: impose an income tax. Under the Act of 1799, all citizens who earned above £60 were to pay a graduated tax of at least one percent. Those with an income of over £200 were taxed ten percent. Some people regarded the tax as a patriotic duty while others complained. I don’t know what John Howe thought of the taxes, but it seems they were the reason he moved his family to Coity.

The impressive nature of John and Cecily’s gravestone suggests that the couple lived in some style in Coity. By this stage the family had become scattered, living in various towns and villages throughout Glamorgan.

After 49 years of marriage, Cecily died  on 7 May 1834, aged 70 while John died on 4 February 1835, aged 73. The couple are buried together in Coity. 

Tugged away from their St Hilary roots, future generations of the Howe family lost their gentry status. Although a member of the family did become deputy prime minister of Britain in the 1980s, most branches led humbler lives, including John and Cecily’s son, John, my 4 x great grandfather.

Which classical composer are you? Apparently, I’m Schubert.

“You have a natural curiosity and enjoy finding out what makes people tick. You are a bit of an idealist who wants to make the world a better place, and you like to help others improve. You might sometimes appear stubborn, but you are only staying true to your values.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/what-classical-composer-are-you/zscrydm

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #68

Dear Reader,

“We all have our time machines, don’t we. Those that take us back are memories…And those that carry us forward, are dreams.” – H.G. Wells, 21 September 1866.

19 September 1944. Dutch residents of Velp welcome British Sherman tanks of 30 Corps as they advance towards Grave and Nijmegen.

From The People’s Collection Wales. A common sight in the Victorian era and first half of the twentieth century, housewives scrubbing their front doorsteps.

A clean doorstep was regarded as a badge of pride.

Pictured, Mrs Blodwen Williams of Ynys-y-bŵl during the 1930s.

This week in 1946, filmmakers from twenty-one nations arrived in Cannes, an already-glamorous resort on the French riviera, and presented their films to their peers, establishing the Cannes Film Festival.

My Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series has entered the top five. We will start promoting the series during the autumn so I’m hoping it will attract more readers. From my point of view, it’s a great series to research and write.

Views from the Bwlch this week.

Health and Safety takes a holiday. Painting the Eiffel Tower in 1932.

Pictured in 1942, the long wave radio transmitter at Criggion Radio Station, mid-Wales. The centre was vital to British communications during the Second World War.

I’m researching songs of the Spanish Civil War. This is A Las Barricadas, To The Barricades, a rousing call to arms based on Whirlwinds of Danger, Warszawianka, a Polish song.

Eileen Nearne who, along with her sister Jacqueline, served in France as an SOE agent. After transmitting over one hundred messages, Eileen was captured by the Gestapo. However, she escaped. Read her remarkable story here https://hannah-howe.com/eves-war/eileen-nearne/

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #67

Dear Reader,

This week, my writing takes me to the Spanish Civil War with Branches, book two in The Olive Tree. This story actually starts in Paris during the International Exposition of 1937. Pictured, The Soviet pavilion and the German pavilion near the Eiffel Tower.

Enjoying dinner aboard a Zeppelin, Berlin to Paris, 1928.

The proof copy of Looking for Rosanna Mee has arrived from the printer. Also, I’m delighted that a Spanish version of this book, my latest Sam Smith Mystery, is now in production.

In Spain, Vice-President Pablo Iglesias announced that descendants of those who fought in the International Brigades will be able to apply for Spanish citizenship. In 2007 a law granted members of the International Brigades citizenship.

Los descendientes de los brigadistas internacionales que combatieron por la libertad y contra el fascismo en España, podrán acceder a la nacionalidad española. Ya era hora de decir desde el Gobierno a estos héroes y heroínas de la democracia: gracias por venir.

Translation:
“The descendants of the international brigade members who fought for freedom and against fascism in Spain, will be able to access Spanish nationality. It was time to say from the Government to these heroes and heroines of democracy: thank you for coming.”

Commemorating the Battle of Britain, an international team effort.

A worker at the B.T.H. factory in Neasden Lane, Willesden writing messages on a Covenanter tank of British Guards Armoured Division, 22 September 1942.

A post World War Two silk dress made from ‘escape and evade’ maps. The maps were given to RAF pilots and SOE agents to aid their escape should they be trapped behind enemy lines.

Maps were printed on silk during the war because the material is durable, rustle free, easy to conceal and doesn’t degrade in water. The maps, along with secret messages, were often sewn into an agent’s clothing.

This weekend’s sweet treat in our house is a Teisan Lap, a moist cake that was very popular with coalminers.

The Train, a 1964 Second World War movie, is based on an interesting premise: are great works of art more valuable than human life?

Directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Burt Lancaster, The Train is an ‘industrial’ movie in that sweat and coal dust are never far from the actors’ faces. It’s also a stirring action movie with a number of dramatic, explosive scenes.

It’s August 1944 and with the Allies closing in on Paris, the Nazis decided to transport, by train, the great art treasures of France to Germany. In the movie, the main protagonists are Paul Labiche, a railwayman and Resistance member, played by Burt Lancaster, and art lover Colonel Franz von Waldheim, played by Paul Scofield.

Given that the Allies are approaching, the Resistance only need to delay the train by a few days, while protecting its priceless cargo. Although initially reluctant to participate in the plan, Labiche devises an elaborate plan where, instead of travelling in a straight line to Germany, the train travels in a circle. In all aspects, the movie is gritty and realistic. However, this concept does require a suspension of disbelief because the Nazis never suspect that the train is taking a circuitous route.

Paul Scofield and Burt Lancaster

One of the most dramatic scenes in the movie is a train crash. This was filmed for real. However, the stuntman pulled the throttle back too far and the train travelled too fast, demolishing a dozen cameras en route. This left just one camera, buried in the ground, to capture the action, which it did to stunning effect, the wrecked train coming to rest above its all-seeing lens.

Due to a number of complex sequences, the movie overran it’s production schedule. Many of the French character actors in the film were committed to other projects. Therefore, director John Frankenheimer came up with a simple solution. As Resistance fighters, they were placed against a wall and shot by the Nazis. Historically correct, this explained their absence from the closing scenes of the film.

An agile performer, Burt Lancaster performed his own stunts. These included jumping on to a fast moving train and, later, being pushed off a fast moving train. He escaped without injury. However, on a rest day he played golf and badly damaged his knee. John Frankenheimer needed a reason to explain Lancaster’s limp, so he included a new scene in which the Nazis shoot Lancaster in the knee as he makes his escape thus allowing the production to continue without further delay.

Jeanne Moreau

With filming complete, John Frankenheimer showed The Train to the production company, United Artists. They realised that the movie required another action scene. Therefore, Frankenheimer reassembled the cast for a dramatic Spitfire attack scene, a highlight of the movie. 

At Lancaster’s suggestion, Frankenheimer also added a philosophical/romantic scene, which Lancaster largely wrote. This scene featured Lancaster and Jeanne Moreau, and is another highlight of the movie.

Throughout the film, John Frankenheimer juxtaposed the value of art with the value of human life. A brief montage at the close of the movie intercuts the crates full of paintings with the bloodied bodies of the hostages, shot by the Nazis, before a final scene shows Lancaster as Labiche limping away.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx