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Dear Reader #60

Dear Reader,

“Have the courage to use your own reason. That is the motto of enlightenment.” – Immanuel Kant

From QI

The Aryan poster child used in Nazi propaganda was, in fact, Jewish. A photographer submitted her image to a contest to find “the most beautiful Aryan baby”.

The cover for the print version of Operation Zigzag, currently with the printer.

“All good books have one thing in common – they are truer than if they had really happened.” – Ernest Hemingway

From 1914. If you wanted a copy of this map, you had to collect ten coupons from Black Cat cigarette packets. As if the war wasn’t bad enough, smoking also increased substantially.

The writing is on the wall…

I wrote the Ann’s War series for my own amusement so I’m amazed and delighted to see Betrayal, book one in the series, at #1 for the eleventh time on the mystery and literature charts.

“Lies are often much more plausible, more appealing to reason than reality, since the liar has the great advantage of knowing beforehand what the audience wishes or expects to hear.” – Hannah Arendt

East and West Berlin before the fall of the wall. The different street lights indicate the border.

This is what happens when society tolerates or embraces fascism. Staff at Auschwitz enjoying their ‘work’.

Please pause and give this some deep thought.

Wanted: replacement electrician. Must supply own rubber boots.

From Future Generation Wales

If you think this is extraordinary you should have seen the bull 👀

If all the ice melted…

History often overlooks the great women…

One of the inspirations for Guy Samson in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series, André Hunter Alfred Hue was born in Swansea, Wales on 7 December 1923. 

Andre Hue, the photograph attached to his fake identity card

André’s father, also André, was French while his mother, Caroline, was Welsh. A First World War veteran, André senior received a bullet wound to the head. The bullet remained in place and contributed to his early death in 1938.

Caroline did not speak French. Indeed, before their marriage neither she nor her husband spoke each other’s native language. However, Caroline insisted that her children should learn French.

From Swansea, André’s family moved to Le Havre. There, in 1939, he became a sailor in the French merchant navy with the rank of purser. 

On 17 June 1940, André’s ship, the SS Champlain, struck a mine off La Rochelle and sank. André was in the shower at the time, but he managed to swim ashore, naked.

While working as a railroad clerk in Guer, Brittany, André fulfilled a burning ambition and joined the French Resistance. The railroad station at Guer was strategically important because it served as a key artery for supplying German troops to north-western France.

Working in the railroad office, André provided information about secret timetables so that the RAF could attack trains carrying German troops and supplies. 

As trust in André’s abilities increased, the Resistance encouraged him to smuggle Allied airmen, shot down over France, to safety, often by guiding them to the coast and the waiting boats and submarines.

With André’s courage and his trustworthiness established, the Special Operations Executive invited him to train as an agent. In February 1944 he crossed the Channel to Britain to commence training. His reports stated that he was “a very active, energetic, enthusiastic man with a reasonably stable personality, although inclined to excitement at times.”

André succeeded with his training and the SOE awarded him the rank of Acting Captain in time for Operation Overlord.

During the night of 5/6 June 1944, André parachuted into France. Men from the French Special Air Service accompanied him. Upon landing, an immediate task was to avoid Cossacks who were patrolling the countryside. The Cossacks were Soviet POWs who’d joined the German Army.

Maquis in an armoured Jeep

In Brittany, André’s task was to organise the local Maquis so that they could launch guerrilla attacks on communication lines, railroads and roads. Their ultimate aim was to prevent the four Nazi divisions stationed in Brittany from joining the rest of the German army in Normandy.

André was based at La Nouette farmhouse near Saint Marcel. He noted in his autobiography, The Next Moon, that he feared the Milice more than the Germans because the Milice being French could identify regional accents. However, as a natural French speaker he escaped initial suspicion.

On one occasion, André was present when the Nazis shot five SAS men  and seventeen French civilians. On another occasion, he was trapped in a barn, which the Nazis had torched. Despite the smoke and flames, he managed to escape.

On 18 June 1944, the Nazis attacked André’s farmhouse. Four thousand Maquisards rushed to defend the farmhouse and the Battle of Saint Marcel ensued.

La Nouette after the battle

In The Next Moon, André recalled the battle. “Now every weapon that the enemy possessed was brought to bear on our front line in a cacophony of shots and explosions which could not drown an even more sinister noise: the occasional crack of a single bullet. A man within feet of me slumped to the ground with blood spurting two feet into the air from the side of his neck. We had anticipated an infantry assault – possibly backed up with light armour – but snipers, a threat we had not met before, were difficult to counter. Within minutes of the first casualty, another seven of our men lay dying within the farm complex: all had been shot from long range.”

As the Nazi snipers continued to assassinate André’s men, he could hear the sound of panzers in the distance, so he ordered a retreat into the woods under the cover of darkness. There, André used his radio to contact the SOE and RAF. They organised an air strike, which resulted in mass confusion. During that confusion, André and his men escaped.

La Nouette restored after the Second World War

Throughout August 1944, André participated extensively in the liberation of France. He executed an operation where the Resistance secured the villages in Brittany to aid the advancing Allies. After his work in Brittany, he parachuted into the town of Nevers in Burgundy, where he coordinated operations between the SOE and the Resistance.

On 30 August 1944, André landed in the Nievre just west of Dijon where he took command of the SOE Gondolier circuit. There, he trained the local Maquis and blew up three bridges in Burgundy, which denied the retreating Nazis an exit point from the South of France. Also, in Luzy, André removed mines, placed by the Nazis to kill and maim local civilians. 

For his extraordinary efforts, André was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his work in France. At the age of twenty, he was one of the youngest men to receive a DSO.

By the end of the Second World War, André held the rank of Major in the British Army. He served overseas, in Burma, Palestine, Cyprus and Cambodia. During his stint in Cambodia, he met his future wife, Maureen Taylor, who worked in the British Embassy in Phnom Penh. The couple married in 1957 and had one daughter.

Before establishing a successful business career, André worked for MI6, his activities centred on the Far East.

In later years, André suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, which claimed his life in 2005.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #58

Dear Reader,

During the Second World War, with coffee in short supply, many people in France turned to roasted barley as a substitute. The drink originated in Italy and because it’s caffeine free it became popular in Europe as a beverage for children. Chicory was another popular drink which stayed with the wartime generation for decades. I remember seeing chicory drinks in my ancestors’ pantries.

In occupied France the Nazis controlled the distribution of petrol, gasoline and diesel so the locals adapted their cars and trucks adding wood-gas generators. In this picture note the secondary radiator, which cooled the gas before its introduction into the engine.

Because of curfews only Nazi vehicles travelled at night. If an SOE agent heard a vehicle at night he or she knew it belonged to the Nazis. Therefore, their main hope was that the car continued on its way and didn’t stop outside the agent’s apartment.

My latest translation, the Spanish version of The Olive Tree: Roots, A Spanish Civil War Saga. Available soon 🙂

The road sweeper who keeps our street and field clean told me yesterday that he had the perfect job. He works at his own pace, in the sunshine, with no stress. Not everyone wants to be a banker.

This is London. In Wales we have zebra crossings 😂

Delighted that an Italian translation of The Olive Tree: Roots, A Spanish Civil War Saga, is now in production to join the Spanish version of this book.

More translation news. Eve’s War, Operation Zigzag will soon be translated into Spanish. A German version of this book will also be published soon.

A fact from the Second World War. Less than five percent of British pilots shot down five or more enemy planes.

British pilots shot down 2,698 enemy aircraft between 10 July and 31 October 1940, the Battle of Britain, so it was a great team effort.

Local views this week, the Glamorgan coast.

Love is…

Marie-Madeleine Fourcade

Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was born on 11 August 1909 in Marseille. Under the code name ‘Hérisson’ (‘Hedgehog’) she had the distinction of being the only female leader of a French Resistance network, ‘Alliance’, later named ‘Noah’s Ark’.

Marie-Madeleine Fourcade

Marie-Madeleine married Edouard Meric, a future colonel, when she was twenty. The couple had two children, but later became estranged.

Aged thirty, Marie-Madeleine worked on a magazine, L’ordre national, and became involved in espionage. During her first mission she created Resistance sections in occupied France and assigned agents to these sections. This network developed into Noah’s Ark.

After the Gestapo arrested a number of leading Resistance figures it fell to Marie-Madeleine to lead the movement. She achieved a notable success when her agent Jeannie Rousseau convinced a Wehrmacht officer to draw a rocket and a testing station revealing details of Peenemünde and the V2 rocket programme. These details were forwarded to the Allies.

The British military authorities were so impressed with the quality of Marie-Madeleine’s reports that they sent her a wireless operator. Unfortunately, the wireless operator became a double agent and a number of her colleagues were arrested and murdered by the Gestapo.

After sending her children to live in the safe haven of Switzerland, Marie-Madeleine spent months on the run, moving from city to city to avoid detection. While on the run she gave birth to her third child, a son, whom she hid in a safe-house.

One of Marie-Madeleine’s identity cards

In July 1943, with the Gestapo closing in, Marie-Madeleine left France for Britain where she worked for British intelligence. Although eager to return to France, she had to wait until July 1944 when she rejoined her Noah’s Ark agents.

In Noah’s Ark all the agents were assigned animal names as code names. Their assignments involved gathering information about Nazi troop movements and transmit this intelligence to Britain using a network of couriers and clandestine wireless transmitters. 

The Nazis were able to track down wireless signals, which meant that wireless transmission was perilous work. In total, the Noah’s Ark network lost 438 agents, but still others stepped forward to continue the fight against fascism.

The Gestapo captured Marie-Madeleine on two occasions. Arrested with her staff on 10 November 1942 she escaped and was transported by aeroplane to Britain where she continued to direct the network. 

On her return to France, Marie-Madeleine was captured for a second time. Once again, she escaped this time by stripping naked and squeezing her petite body between the bars of her cell window.

After the war, Marie-Madeleine wrote L’Arche de Noé, a memoir of her wartime experiences. The book was published in 1968 and later abridged and translated into English as Noah’s Ark

My battered second-hand copy of Noah’s Ark

Active in her community, Marie-Madeleine’s social works included the care of 3,000 Resistance agents and survivors, and the publication of Mémorial de l’Alliance, which was dedicated to the 438 Resistance fighters lost during the war.

Marie-Madeleine remarried and in total had five children. She remained active on many committees, often chairing them, throughout her life. One of her last battles involved the Klaus Barbie lawsuit in Lyon in 1987, which resulted in his conviction for war crimes.

Marie-Madeleine Fourcade died on 20 July 1989, aged eighty, at the military hospital of Val-de-Grace. She was buried with honours and is remembered as one of the true heroines of France.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #56

Dear Reader,

That noble beast, the thesaurus…

The great philosophers…

My Song of the Week

We can be anything, anything at all

We can be everything, everything and more

Another new project, the translation of The Olive Tree: Roots into Spanish. This series is about the Spanish Civil War so I’m delighted that the books are being translated into Spanish.

Chess and music are two of my passions. This is brilliant, a U2 cover of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” performed by Juga. The lyrics, by Vladimir Kramnik, refer to his World Championship match with Garry Kasparov.

My article about SOE agent Alix d’Unienville appears on page 20 of the magazine. Lots of other interesting features too 🙂

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway

Difficult times for everyone at the moment with some political leaders making it even more difficult than it needs to be. Hopefully, this calendar will help you in some small way.

Resistance Couples

Lucie Samuel, better known as Lucie Aubrac, was born on 29 June 1912. A history teacher in peacetime, Lucie became a leading member of the French Resistance.

In 1939, Lucie married Raymond Aubrac and after the Nazis occupied France in 1940 the couple joined the Resistance. In 1941, the Aubrac’s group sabotaged the train stations at Perpignan and Cannes, and distributed thousands of anti-Nazi flyers. 

Lucie and Raymond Aubrac

Despite harassment and threats from the Nazis, the Aubracs published an underground newspaper, Libération. With the help of local printers and trade-unionists, 10,000 copies of Libération were produced and distributed in July 1941, bringing news and hope to the French people; a reminder that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

An issue of Libération

In March 1943, the Gestapo arrested Raymond. In May, they released him, only to arrest him again in June. With Raymond sentenced to death, Lucie concocted an audacious escape plan.

Under French law, engaged couples were allowed to marry if one of them was soon to die. Therefore, Lucie claimed that Raymond was her fiancé. She was pregnant at the time, carrying her second child (of three). 

Lucie informed the Nazis that Raymond’s name was “Ermelin” (one of his many aliases) and that he had been caught in a raid while innocently visiting a doctor. She claimed that she was unmarried and that Raymond was the father of her expected child. 

Furthermore, Lucie pleaded with the Gestapo that they should allow Raymond to marry her before his execution. The Gestapo believed her story and granted her wish.

Later, after the ‘marriage’ ceremony, as the Gestapo escorted Raymond back to his prison the local Resistance executed Lucie’s plan. In cars, they ambushed the prison lorry and liberated fifteen prisoners. In the melee, Lucie freed Raymond and the couple escaped.

In 1944, Lucie was the first woman to sit in a French parliamentary assembly and in 1945 she published a short history of the French Resistance.

Outwitting the Gestapo, a semi-fictional version of Lucie’s wartime diaries, followed in 1984. Lucie published her book after notorious psychopath, Klaus Barbie ‘The Butcher of Leon’ claimed that Raymond had betrayed the Resistance after his arrest. 

Undoubtedly, there were factions and conflicts within the Resistance, particularly between the Gaullists and the Communists. As a result of these conflicts, betrayals did occur. However, when seeking the truth it is difficult to place great faith in a psychopath, particularly one who had reason to hate the Aubracs.

In support of the Aubracs, twenty leading Resistance survivors published a letter, condemning the accusations. Voluntarily, the Aubracs appeared before a panel of leading French historians. After examining the case, the historians concluded that Raymond was not a traitor.

To date, the Aubracs’ story has featured in two films – Boulevard des hirondelles, 1992, and Lucie Aubrac, 1997. While, in 1996, Lucie was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government for her heroism during the Second World War.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, in a statement after Raymond’s death in 2012, said that Raymond’s escape from the Nazis had “become a legend in the history of the Resistance” and praised him and all Resistance members as “heroes of the shadows who saved France’s honor, at a time when it seemed lost.”

While President François Hollande said, “In our darkest times, he [Raymond] was, with Lucie Aubrac, among the righteous, who found, in themselves and in the universal values of our Republic, the strength to resist Nazi barbarism.”

Lucie once said: “Resistance is not just something locked away in the period 1939-45. Resistance is a way of life, an intellectual and emotional reaction to anything which threatens human liberty.”

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


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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