Stabbed was obviously Shakespeare’s default modus operandi, but I’d love to work The Winter’s Tale’s Pursued by a Bear, or maybe Titus Andronicus’ Baked into a Pie into my books 🙂
Members of a Jedburgh team who supported Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands, 17 – 25 September 1944.
After D-Day, Jedburgh teams assisted SOE agents and the local Resistance. The teams usually consisted of three men: a commander, an executive officer and a non-commissioned radio operator. One of the officers would be British or American while the other would originate from the host country. The radio operator could be of any nationality.
The October 2020 issue of our Amazon #1 ranked eMagazine, Mom’s Favorite Reads 🙂
A beautiful murder ballad…Jean-Paul Marat murdered by Charlotte Corday with a dagger in the bath.
Sunday, 4 October 1936, The Battle of Cable Street when 20,000 anti-fascists clashed with 3,000 fascists. Facilitated by the Tories, Mosley sent his blackshirts into the East End of London to intimidate the Jewish community. However, the locals supported the Jews and repelled the fascists.
Colette, A Schoolteacher’s War was going to be a standalone novel. However, my research has taken the book into a trilogy. Based on the French Resistance and D-Day, each story will centre on a different lead character. Working titles, A Student’s War and A Housewife’s War.
Stories are universal, of course, so it’s lovely that I now have readers in 44 countries 🙂 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, Ukraine, Vietnam and Wales.
One of the dogs trained to deliver first aid kits to frontline medics in the fight against fascism during the Spanish Civil War.
Movie stars who appeared in the Lux Screen Stars series weren’t paid. Novices at beauty product advertising, they didn’t think to ask.
By common consent, Violette Szabo was regarded as the most beautiful of all the SOE F Section agents. A mother, she served the SOE in France until an unfortunate incident led to her capture and murder by the fascists.
This memorial by Karen Newman, featuring Violette Szabo and dedicated to all SOE agents, was unveiled in 2009.
I wrote a chapter today where two of my characters in The Olive Tree: Branches, part two of my Spanish Civil War saga, walked along the banks of the Seine encountering a scene similar to this painting by Georges Seurat.
Packed with shorts stories, articles, puzzles, recipes and so much more, the latest issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads.
Images from my garden this week.
My article about SOE heroine Anne-Marie Walters appears on page 20 of the magazine.
I’m enjoying Paula’s narration of Operation Locksmith, book two in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series. Normally, I don’t like listening to my own words, but it’s great fun to be a part of this production.
Nazi board game from 1941 – Wir fahren gegen England (We go against England).
“Fun for all the family.”
Normandy, 1944. While the battle rages, a Frenchwoman pours a drink for a British soldier.
We have more sheep than people 🙂
Walking through the clouds on Pen-y-Fan this week.
Basically, my approach to writing.
Hannah Arendt on Writing:
Gaus: Do you write easily? Do you formulate ideas easily?
Arendt: Sometimes I do; sometimes I don’t. But in general I can tell you that I never write until I can, so to speak, take dictation from myself…Usually I write it all down only once.
The organisational aspect of D-Day never ceases to amaze me. 2 August 1944. The French 2nd Armored Division arrived in France, landing at Utah Beach, Normandy. The division served under General Patton as part of the US Third Army.
Two weeks later, they helped to liberate Paris.
I’m really getting into my character Eve in my Eve’s War series, so much so that when she met a Maquis leader today and they shared cheese as a peace offering it gave me a strong urge to eat cheese. Tomorrow, Eve blows up a railway line. I hope I don’t get a strong urge to play with dynamite 🤣
On this date, with the First World War ten days old, George Bernard Shaw wrote an article urging both sides to shoot their officers and go home.
An inspiration for Guy Samson in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series, Francis Charles Albert Cammaerts was born in London on 16 June 1916. Under the code name Roger he was an agent of the Special Operations Executive. His parents were Professor Emile Cammaerts, a Belgian poet, and Tita Brand, a successful actress.
At the beginning of the Second World War, Cammaerts declared himself a conscientious objector. However, in October 1942 he joined the SOE and between March 1943 and September 1944 he led the Jockey network in southeastern France. Considered during training as more intellectual than practical he, nevertheless, completed the course with distinction.
Cammaerts became a pacifist in the 1930s while studying at Cambridge. After university, he established a teaching career where he met fellow teacher and pacifist Harry Rée. After much soul searching, Harry decided to join the SOE. This decision, along with the death of his brother, Pieter, who served in the RAF, convinced Cammaerts that he too should place his pasifist beliefs to one side and join the SOE.
Regarded as one of the finest male agents, Cammaerts recruited locals to the Resistance networks, supplying them with arms and training. He completed two tours as an SOE agent, totalling fifteen months, a period far longer than the average time served by an agent in France. He never stayed in the same house for more than three or four nights. Furthermore, he avoided hotels as their registers were checked by the Gestapo and French police, stayed clear of large railway stations and never told anyone of his plans.
In the Jockey network, Cammaerts linked up with wireless operator Auguste Fioras. On 27 May 1943, the pair sent their first message to SOE headquarters in London while Fioras went on to transmit 416 wireless messages during 1943 and 1944, a record for an SOE wireless operator.
Cammaerts’ Jockey circuit, which had developed to include over 10,000 people, played a crucial role in the action that followed the D-Day landings. His men and women cut communication and railway lines, which severely hindered the movements of Nazi troops and armaments.
Aware of the risks the locals were taking, Cammaerts always informed them that he was an SOE agent and reminded them of the consequences should anyone talk or be caught. Despite this, he always received a warm welcome. Later, along with many other agents, he gave a great deal of credit to the ordinary French citizens who provided him and his colleagues with safety and support. In the television series Secret Agent, broadcast in 2000, Cammaerts said, “The most important element was the French housewife who fed us, clothed us and kept us cheerful.”
At 193 cm tall and with feet so large his nickname in France was “Big Feet”, Cammaerts feared that he would attract the Gestapo’s attention. Furthermore, he spoke French with a noticeable Belgian accent, which made him vulnerable to informers in the Malice. His security fears were realised on 13 August 1944 when he was arrested at a roadblock by the Gestapo. He was taken to Digne prison where he was beaten and interrogated. During the interrogation, he insisted that he was involved in the black market, a cover story he concocted to account for the large sum of money he carried about his person.
Even though Cammaerts was the most important SOE agent in southeastern France, the Gestapo didn’t realise that they had captured him. Nevertheless, they suspected that he belonged to the Resistance and arranged his execution.
However, on 17 August 1944, two days before the Allied invasion of southern France, fellow agent and courier Christine Granville (aka Krystyna Skarbek) helped him to escape. Christine confronted two collaborators, Albert Schenck, a French liaison officer to the Gestapo, and Max Waem, a Belgian interpreter for the Gestapo. She told them that the Allied troops would arrive within hours and that if they did not cooperate they would be condemned as Nazi collaborators. Under threat from the avenging locals, Schenck and Waem secured Cammaerts’ release.
In March 1945, Cammaerts joined the Special Allied Airborne Reconnaissance Force. The SAARF’s main objective was to assist in the reconstruction work in Germany after the fall of Hitler. For Cammaerts this meant dealing with the aftermath of the newly liberated concentration camps. Understandably, he was appalled by what he saw and later said, “The SAARF period was blank and grey and one of those certain areas in my life when I didn’t know what I was doing.”
During his pacifist period, Cammaerts met Nancy Findlay (Nan), and they married on 15 March 1941. Over the following decades, the couple had four children, three girls and a boy.
In 1948, Cammaerts became the first Director of the Central Bureau for Educational Visits and Exchanges, a UNESCO agency. Four years later, he returned to teaching. He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1958 and in 1959appeared for the defence in the notorious Lady Chatterley’s Lover trial, a case won by the publisher, Penguin Books, and the author, D.H. Lawrence.
Further teaching posts in Britain and Africa followed. Throughout his career, Cammaerts won high praise as an innovative educator. He finally retired in 1987 to live in the south of France. He died there in 2006.
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.
I’m honoured to have two of my articles featured in the Seaside News this month. You can find them on page sixteen of the magazine.
This is Lilly of the Valley. A French friend informs me that it’s a tradition to share this at the beginning of May to wish friends good luck and happiness throughout the coming year, so I’m happy to share it with you 🙂
We are making good progress with the audiobook version of Digging in the Dirt and hope to publish in early June. Meanwhile, here’s the cover.
The May 2020 issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now available to read and download FREE 🙂
Sam visits the Rhymney Valley in Looking for Rosanna Mee.
Lightly populated for centuries, the valley developed through heavy industry – iron, steel and coal.
Local legend states that a giant harassed the fairies. They asked an owl for help and he slew the giant. As the fairies burned the giant’s body the scorched earth revealed the coal.
This is a letter written by Captain Selwyn Jepson of the SOE recommending Jacqueline Nearne for service in the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. It’s pure fiction. For this letter to be authentic, Jepson should have known Jacqueline for at least two years (he’d known her for two weeks). Prudence Macfie of the FANY wrote a similar letter, even though she‘d known Jacqueline for a shorter period than Jepson.
Why the deception? The FANY was used as a cover for female SOE agents and in Jacqueline, Jepson saw someone who could serve the SOE well. His judgement proved correct. Jacqueline served the SOE with distinction and was awarded numerous honours after the war.
Local views this week, from Ogmore, Kenfig and the Goylake River.
Wishing you a Happy 75th VE Day Anniversary.
Our ancestors gave so much, including their lives, in the fight against fascism. We owe it to them, ourselves and our children to ensure that the current generation of fascists with their racist views, false smiles and pathological lies do not triumph.
Our ancestors gave their lives for a better world. It is up to us, everyone of us, to make their dream a reality.
Women of Courage Heroines of SOE
Odette Victoria Wilen was born on 25 April 1919. She served the SOE in France under the code name Sophie. Odette’s experiences in France read like a romantic adventure novel, with tragic twists and turns, and a fairytale ending.
Born of a French mother and a Czech father, who served as an RAF officer, Odette became a naturalised British citizen in 1931. In June 1940, she married Dennis Wilen, a Finnish RAF pilot instructor. Sadly, he died during a flying accident in 1942.
In April 1943, Odette joined the SOE. At her request, she trained as a wireless operator and was parachuted into France on 11 April 1944 to join the Stationer network in Auvergne.
Odette’s organiser, Maurice Southgate, believed that she had not received sufficient training, which was symptomatic of the SOE’s desperate need to send wireless operators into the field. Subsequently, she was replaced.
Meanwhile, through a network of contacts, which included fellow agents Pearl Witherington and Virginia Hall, Odette transferred to the Labourer network where she worked in Paris as a courier alongside Marcel Leccia, who became her fiancé. Sadly, through betrayal the Gestapo captured Marcel and two of his colleagues. In keeping with their barbaric code, the Gestapo murdered Marcel in September 1944.
Odette was saved from the Gestapo by Pearl Witherington and by Marcel’s sister, Mimi, who warned her of their impending threat. After trying to secure Marcel’s release, Odette fled Paris by bicycle before following the well-warn escape route over the Pyrenees into Spain, then on to Gibraltar and Britain, arriving in August 1944.
During her exfiltration, Odette met the head of the Spanish escape network, Santiago Strugo Garay. Although they spent only three days together, Odette must have left a strong impression on Santiago because at the end of the war, he left Spain to meet up with her in Britain. The couple married in March 1946 and later settled in Buenos Aires.
Odette and Santiago produced two children. He died in 1997 while she died in 2015, aged 96.
As ever, thank you for your interest and support.
PS Apologies for any formatting errors, these are a result of WordPress’ increasingly unreliable platform.
Another excellent week for Ann in my personal sales top ten.
Published this week, the March issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads!
I’m delighted to be a member of the editorial team. In this issue you will find a number of my articles and interviews plus great contributions from a range of talented writers.
In this issue…
Our authors gaze into their crystal balls and predict the future.
Articles on mental health, physical health, women of courage plus everything you need to know about March.
The story of StreetVet, vets who help the pets of homeless people
Interviews, puzzles, poems, humour, travel, young writers and so much more!
This week, I made a start on Roots, The Olive Tree, A Spanish Civil War Saga. This mini series offers fresh and interesting challenges for me because the stories are not mysteries. That said, I’ve never regarded myself as a mystery writer in the Agatha Christie tradition.
Although these stories are set in 1937-8 the characters are familiar to me mainly because of their backgrounds.
As I branch out with The Olive Tree and Eve’s War the more I’m drawn to Sam. By exploring various formats and genres I believe it will strengthen my writing of the Sam Smith Mystery Series.
My latest translation, the German version of Saving Grace. Sandra has agreed to translate my forthcoming Eve’s War series. She’s a wonderful translator so I’m looking forward to that project.
While reading Pearl Witherington’s SOE file, I discovered an amazing coincidence. As secretary ‘Genevieve Touzalin‘, Pearl’s false papers and cover story stated that she lived on Rue Paradis, Marseille. Yesterday, I wrote a chapter of Operation Zigzag set on Rue Paradis 🙂
In Operation Zigzag, Eve’s husband, Michel, drives a Talbot Lago T150 SS Teardrop Coupe, like this one, along Rue Paradis.
My updated store, which features Snow in August, my latest Sam Smith mystery for only £2.99 a saving of 66% off the recommended retail price 🙂
I completed the writing of Operation Zigzag today. The editing and proofreading will follow. Next week I will develop the storyboard for Operation Locksmith. This story introduces Guy Samson and Mimi Duchamp to the series. The interplay between Eve, Guy and Mimi will be central to this series so I’m looking forward to writing this story.
Operation Zigzag is receiving excellent pre-order support from Canada, so many thanks to my Canadian readers.
The SOE had a team of boffins who designed everything from pen guns, to exploding cow pats to clothes in the latest French fashions. One of the tricks they employed was ageing, for clothing, briefcases and money. To age money the women in the Cover and Documentations department used to wear freshly minted banknotes in their brassieres to soften the notes.
Women of Courage Heroines of SOE
Yvonne Fontaine was born on 8 August 1913. From Troyes, Yvonne witnessed Allied bombing raids and her initial contact with the French Resistance came about through helping Allied airmen, shot down over France, to escape to Spain.
For the SOE, Yvonne began work for the Tinker network as a courier with organiser Ben Cowburn. When the Gestapo closed in on the network, the SOE recalled Yvonne to Britain on 15 November 1943. At this stage Yvonne was not officially recognised as an SOE agent. Indeed, some sources still do not recognise her, which is a shame given her level of bravery and commitment.
In Britain, Yvonne underwent SOE training. She returned to France by boat landing on the North Breton coast on 25 March 1944 to continue her work as a courier, travelling throughout France, carrying messages and sabotage materials.
Yvonne’s network enjoyed numerous successes, which included destroying railway tracks and engines, sabotaging canals by lowering the water levels and dusting itching powder on to the shirts and singlets of German submarine crews.
When the Nazis arrested the leaders of Yvonne’s network, she stepped up and continued their work helping to organise the Resistance in the lead up to D-Day. In the euphoria post D-Day, she collected information and materials, and collated reports before returning to Britain on 16 September 1944, her mission successful.
After the war, Yvonne settled into married life. She died on 9 May 1996.