“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/
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.
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.
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.
It’s always exciting and a relief to finish writing a novel. Just finalised the edits for Looking for Rosanna Mee, book seventeen in my Sam Smith Mystery Series 🙂
My latest translation, Ripper in Spanish. Available soon 🙂
On 21 August 1944, more than 4,000 Spanish Civil War veterans joined the Maquis in Paris to drive the Nazis out of the city. A sweet moment for the anti-fascists. After the liberation the Spanish soldiers took their rightful place in the victory parade.
Ann’s War, a mini-series I wrote for my own amusement, is #1 for the eleventh time 🙂
The world where we live…
Keep your eyes on the watch. Watch the watch. You are becoming sleepy, sleepy…
I published Operation Locksmith this week, book two in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series, which was exciting. However, even more exciting was the support from my readers who pre-ordered Operation Broadsword, book three in the series, and placed it in the top fifty hot new releases, alongside Ken Follett 🙂
Jacob Naken, a seven foot six inch German soldier, talks with Canada’s Corporal Bob Roberts, five foot three inches, after his capture at Calais on 29 September 1944. Before the war, Jacob was a doorman at a West End cinema.
Soldiers of the Great War paying tribute to the eight million horses, donkeys and mules that died during the conflict.
I’m going to try numbers 17, 19, 21 and 30 tomorrow. If they don’t work, it’s number 40, stand on a corner and cry then number 24, looking for ‘leftovers’ 😂
The proof copy of Operation Locksmith has arrived from the printer 🙂
My updated store with paperbacks from £0.99 to £2.99
Judgement at Nuremberg is more relevant today than when it was made in 1961. Three hours long, it doesn’t waste a minute. How do tyrants prosper? Through the support of men and women who know the tyrants are tyrants, but remain silent out of fear, greed or ideology. With superb performances from Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster and Maximilian Schell the film helps us to understand the atrocities of the Second World War and the dangers facing our age. Easily one of the best films ever made.
Ernst Janning, a judge during the Nazi era and now on trial for crimes against humanity, says, “I never knew that it would come to that.” (The mass murder of innocents).
Judge Haywood, the chief judge at Nuremberg replies, “Herr Janning, it came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.”
At the Battle of La Madeleine on 25 August 1944 Cristino García led 32 Spanish anti-fascists and four French Maquis against a Nazi column of 1,200 soldiers.
Garcia’s men blew up a bridge in front of the Nazis and mined the road behind the column. Boxed in by a forest on either side of the road, the Nazis were trapped.
In the confusion, the Nazis thought they were under attack from a large army so they negotiated a truce then surrendered.
Such incidents were taking place throughout France in August 1944 as the Resistance sprang to life and helped to defeat the occupying Nazis.
A spotter on the alert for Nazi warplanes during the Charlton Athletic vs Arsenal match at The Valley, 1940.
26 August 1944. The Allies have liberated Paris. However, a Nazi sniper opens fire.
A forerunner to Coca Cola, Coca Wine was a mixture of cocaine and alcohol. Queen Victoria and Jules Verne loved it while three Popes awarded the wine a gold medal for excellence. Note: medical men and clergymen could receive a bottle for free!
André Hue, the SOE agent who escaped from a sinking ship in the nude, took part in a major battle against the Nazis and organised a series of sabotage operations after D-Day. A hero of the war, he continued in espionage as a spy for MI6.
“But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” – W B Yeats
I enjoyed the movie Lucie Aubrac this week and would place it in my top ten. I love the Continental style of filmmaking where the camera lingers on a scene and facial expressions say more than words. Some of the linking scenes were dialogue and music free, yet the story flowed effortlessly.
Lucie Aubrac is a French movie and I viewed it in its native language. I find that subtitles draw you into a story and make it more compelling. It’s a true story and I knew the outcome. All the same, the movie is gripping from the opening dramatic scene to its heartfelt conclusion.
A fitting cinematic tribute to a remarkable woman.
One of my favourite actresses, Eva Marie Saint, was 96 on 4th July 2020. Happy birthday and thank you for your wonderful films.
A record-breaking sales day for my books and Sam’s Song at #1 for the ninth time. Difficult to get excited with so much going on in the world, but many thanks to everyone who supports my books.
The birth of speech. And it all went downhill from there 🙂
René Descartes as Nostradamus?!
Of course, he actually said, “Cogito, ergo sum.” – “I think, therefore I am.”
One for the album. Nice to see my latest Sam Smith Mystery, Looking for Rosanna Mee, alongside Ian Rankin in the Hot 💯. We will publish Looking for Rosanna Mee in September.
I see my new keyboard is well equipped for the modern age…
Bicycle-taxis, Paris, spring 1945. Research for my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series.
This week in 1932, the Great Depression in America reached its lowest point. After the 1929 Wall Street Crash, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell. Disaster followed for investors, alongside further declines in consumption, production and employment.
Also interesting on this front page: ‘State Plans to Roundup Tax Dodgers’. And, ‘Jury Believes Her Story’. I’m intrigued to know what her story entailed.
Written in the 1970s, the lyrics are still highly relevant today.
An inspiration for my Eve’s War series, Nancy Wake was one of the most remarkable women of World War II. Born in New Zealand and brought up in Australia, she married a Frenchman and became a leading figure in the Marseille Resistance. In 1943, she joined the SOE and was heavily involved in the liberation of France.
This DVD arrived from New Zealand today and I’m looking forward to watching it.
An in-depth article about Nancy Wake will appear on my website in the near future.
Don’t believe everything you hear. Don’t believe everything you see. This is a stationary image.
Some ideas to lift your mood. Try to achieve at least three a day.
Resistance Couples – Hélène and Philippe Viannay
Hélène Victoria Mordkovitch was born on 12 July 1917 in Paris after her Russian parents had emigrated to the city in 1908.
A brilliant student, Hélène attended the Sorbonne where she studied geography. There, in September 1940, she met her future husband, Philippe Viannay, a philosophy student seeking a certificate in geography.
Opposed to the Nazi occupation of France, the couple decided not to escape to London. Instead they created an underground newspaper,Défense de la France, publishing the first issue on 14 July 1941. The journal took its motto from Blaise Pascal, “I only believe stories told by those witnesses who are willing to have their throats cut.”
Despite the dangers of producing an underground newspaper, Défense de la France remained in production until the Liberation in August 1944. By that time the newspaper regularly reached half a million readers, the largest circulation of the whole clandestine press.
Hélène and Philippe married in 1942. Their first child, Pierre, was born the following year while the couple were on the run from the Gestapo. Along with the newspaper, Hélène also organised the mass production of false identity papers for Frenchmen resisting deportation to the forced labour camps in Germany.
In 1944, Hélène joined the Ronquerolles Maquis, a Resistance group led by Philippe. After her husband was injured, Hélène coordinated the group and participated in the liberation of France.
After the war, the Viannays created the Centre for the Training of Journalists (Centre de Formation des Journalistes) in Paris, which continues to this day. In 1947, they also founded Les Glénans (Le Centre nautique des Glénans), which initially served as a convalescent centre for deportees and battle-weary résistants. Hélène managed the association from 1954 until her retirement in 1979.
The Canadian journalist Caitlin Kelly, who studied with Philippe Viannay at the Centre in Paris, later described him as “the most inspiring man I’ve ever met.”
In 1991, Hélène participated in the creation of thePrix Philippe Viannay-Défense de la France, a prize awarded annually to works promoting resistance to Nazism in France and elsewhere in Europe.
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison
This is how I started writing and why I write.
My latest translation, the Spanish version of Snow in August, available soon 🙂
My latest audiobook. We hope to complete production next week 🙂
“In books we never find anything but ourselves. Strangely enough, that always gives us great pleasure, and we say the author is a genius.” – Thomas Mann
You mean, I’m not a genius?! 🤣
“Some cry with tears, others with thoughts.” – Octavio Paz
Picture: On the Green Bank, Sanary, 1911 – Henri Lebasque
A statue problem, solved. From 1949.
This week is refugee week. My country, Wales, has a proud history of welcoming refugees. This picture shows the children at Cambria House, Caerleon, Basque refugees from the Spanish Civil War.
Sandra Puhl translated my Ann’s War series into German and I’m delighted that she has agreed to translate my Eve’s War series. One of the joys of writing is working with creative people.
Art as therapy.
A crochet panel produced by George Preece following a life-changing accident at Abercynon Colliery in 1909.
George was involved in a transport accident which resulted in the loss of both legs. Unable to work again, he spent his time making the crochet panel, and other items from old food tins.
I enjoyed this film this week. During the first half, I thought the hero and heroine were too flippant for the subject matter. However, a tragic incident at the halfway mark changed the mood and the various strands came together to produce a suspenseful conclusion. Not a classic, but a good variation on the POW theme.
Brittany, 16 August 1944. Members of the FFI (French Forces of the Interior). Their uniforms show the French flag with the Free French emblem, the Cross of Lorraine.
By mid-August 1944 the Nazis were in full retreat and these women were contemplating the liberation of Paris, which arrived after a week-long battle, 19 August to 25 August.
Approximately twenty percent of the FFI were women. Many fought alongside their husbands, including Cécile Rol-Tanguy, Lucie Aubrac, Paulette Kriegel-Valrimont, Hélène Viannay, Cletta Mayer and Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux. They organised acts of sabotage, wrote and distributed newspapers, and freed many from Nazi concentration camps. Indeed, Marie-Hélène Postel-Vinay rescued Pierre Lefaucheux from a Gestapo prison camp. The couple subsequently married.