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Dear Reader #108

Dear Reader,

The munitions factory at Bridgend, 1942, known locally as ‘The Arsenal’. The factory was of huge significance to Britain’s war effort employing 40,000 people.

The chemicals in the munitions turned many of the women’s skin temporarily yellow. When the Americans arrived in 1944 and dated the women they called them their ‘Welsh daffodils’.

‘The Arsenal’ features in my Ann’s War Mystery Series.

Evening at Tenby this week.

I’ve added a Keats branch to my family tree. Thomas Keats Esq built Sulham House, Berkshire (pictured) c1525. His daughter, Alice, married John Wilder and inherited the estate.

The Wilders arrived from Bohemia in the shape of another John, born 1418. John of Bohemia’s son, Nicholas, fought in the Battle of Bosworth alongside Henry Tudor. After his victory, Henry gifted lands to Nicholas Wilder, which secured the family’s fortune.

Researching Burt Lancaster for my writing, seen here as Dr Ernst Janning in the timeless classic Judgement at Nuremberg. Burt Lancaster, “A liberal with balls.” – Screen Actors Guild president Ed Asner.

In this month’s issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads…

A Family of Mice

Flash Fiction

Picnic Recipes

Author Features

Travel: Azerbaijan

Independent Bookshops

International Tiger Day

Plus, photography, puzzles, poems, short stories and so much more!

George Wood, my 9 x great grandfather, was born on 12 March 1625 in Bonsall, Derbyshire and baptised on 10 January 1632 while Hannah Quick, my 9 x great grandmother, was born in 1635 in Derbyshire. The couple married in 1658 in Matlock, a fact recorded in the Monyash Ashford Meeting of Quakers.

Quakers, a Protestant group also known as the Religious Society of Friends, established themselves in mid-seventeenth century England. Undoubtedly, the English Civil War had a strong bearing on their creation and beliefs. 

The Quakers based their message on the belief that ‘Christ has come to teach his people himself.’ They stressed the importance of a direct relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and a direct religious belief in the universal priesthood of all believers.

Quakers used thee as an ordinary pronoun. They wore plain dress, were teetotal, refused to swear oaths, refused to participate in wars and opposed slavery. Later, they founded banks and financial institutions, including Friends Provident, Lloyds and Barclays. They also founded three major confectionery makers, Cadbury’s, Fry’s and Roundtree’s.

James Naylor, a prominent Quaker leader, being pilloried and whipped.

A notable difference between Quakerism and Orthodox Protestantism was that many of the early Quaker ministers were women. Quakers were noted for their philanthropic efforts, which included the abolition of slavery, prison reform and social justice.

George’s union with Hannah was his second marriage. Previously, he married Anne who produced three children before her death in 1656. George and Hannah’s marriage also produced three children, including their last born, my 8 x great grandmother Elinor Wood.

The upheaval of the English Civil War left a deep scar on society, which took generations to heal. In some communities Quakers were accepted while in others they were ostracised and persecuted. At the age of 57 and 47 respectively, George and Hannah made the momentous decision to create a new lives for themselves and their children by emigrating to Pennsylvania. They began this hazardous journey on 27 May 1682.

George and Hannah were not a young couple looking to make their mark on the world. Indeed, they were approaching the stage where they could contemplate a quiet life. Yet, they embarked on their Pennsylvanian adventure. This suggests that their commitment to the Quaker cause ran deep and was central to their lives.

William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania and West Jersey, as a young man.

Along with his son-in-law Richard Bonsall, and seven other families – six from Derbyshire – George was a founder member of Darby Township, alongside Darby Creek. The records described George as a yeoman or landowner with 1,000 acres of land to his name. George bought the land from William Penn on 23 March 1682. He also subscribed £50 (approximately £5,725 in today’s money) to the Free Society of Traders. A dam, saw mill and grist mill existed on his portion of the creek, which was obviously a hive of activity.

George was also active within the community, serving on the local Assembly. His fellow settlers elected him to this post in 1683, shortly after his arrival in Pennsylvania. 

Darby Township, Pennsylvania.

Quakers introduced many ideas that later became mainstream in American society, such as democracy in the Pennsylvania legislature, the Bill of Rights, trial by jury, equal rights for men and women, and public education. Furthermore, the Liberty Bell was cast by Quakers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Quaker meetings in Delaware recorded the births, marriages and deaths of the Wood family, including Hannah’s death on 9 March 1687, five years after her arrival, and George’s death on 27 April 1705. George bequeathed his land, buildings, purse, apparel and ‘some books’ to his son, John, while his three daughters, Mary, Elizabeth and Elinor received a shilling each.

George and Hannah’s daughter, Elinor, married Evan Bevan, son of John Bevan and Barbara Aubrey, founder members of the Welsh Tract in Pennsylvania. More about the Bevan family and their lives in Pennsylvania in future posts.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #74

Dear Reader,

My article about SOE heroine Yvonne Cormeau is on page 36 of this month’s Seaside News 🙂

Did you know that the road to the IKEA in Valladolid, Spain is “Calle Me Falta un Tornillo” – “I’m Missing a Screw Street”.

Swans and ducks on a local pond this morning.

The Spanish Civil War. French journalist Raymond Vankers crossed the bridge from Irún, Spain to Hendaye, France to save a baby during the Battle of Irún, 6 September 1936.

Where the Sidewalk Ends, a 1950 noir movie, reunites Dana Andrews with Gene Tierney after the success of their 1944 classic, Laura. Where the Sidewalk Ends doesn’t quite match the class of Laura, nevertheless it is a excellent film with solid performances all round and a tight plot centred on one man’s path to redemption.

Occupied France, 1940. No petrol, so the locals converted their trucks to run on wood and coal.

November 5th was Bonfire Night in Britain. These are thought to be the earliest photographs of a bonfire. They were taken in 1853 by John Dillwyn Llewelyn at Penllergare in Swansea.

The Million Pound House

My ancestors in St Hilary owned Howe Mill, which recently went on the market for well over a million pounds.

I read about Howe Mill in a gazetteer that included this line ‘the Regency finery of Howe Mill’. The Regency refers to the period 1795 to 1837. However, further research revealed this entry, ‘Thomas David of Howe Mill was buried in 1699.’ Therefore, the mill existed in the seventeenth century and the Regency finery must refer to a refurbishment.

Howe Mill ground corn until the end of the nineteenth century. It was active in 1889, but maps published in 1899 list the mill as disused. It is situated within a twelfth century ringwork enclosure that might have served as the caput for the knight’s fee of Llandough. 

Howe derives from the Old Norse, haugr, which means hill, knoll, or mound. The Vikings settled, peacefully, in the Vale of Glamorgan in the ninth century so it is possible that my Viking ancestors acquired land that became a ringwork enclosure then a mill. Before 1699 their descendants sold the mill for a considerable sum of money. 

My St Hilary ancestors were wealthy. I know this because for many generations they held prominent places within the community. From a financial point of view they were lucky, probably because of a Viking who settled in the area and made his home on a piece of prime land.

Sger Beach this week.

My Ancestry

John Howe, my 6 x great grandfather, was baptised on 24 July 1726 in St Hilary, Glamorgan, probably a week after his birth. Sadly, many babies died within a week of their birth so baptisms were often swift affairs.

The son of Joseph and Elizabeth, John became a successful farmer. When Joseph died on 5 July 1742, sixteen-year-old John became the ‘man of the house’ and helped his mother to run the farm.

In 1753, John became a churchwarden, Petty Constable and Overseer of the Poor. Overseers of the Poor were chosen from the ‘substantial householders’ within the community and were elected at the annual vestry. Although elected for a year, they often served multiple terms over many years.

As Overseer of the Poor, John made a payment of £1 17s 6d for the making and binding of bibles, 1s for attending a coroner’s inquest and 7d for a pair of male stockings. He also awarded payments of a few pence to ‘the little boy of whom nothing else is known’.

This is John’s account of 1753, written in his own hand.

Continuing the story of John Howe of St Hilary, my 6 x great-grandfather, a successful farmer, churchwarden, Petty Constable and Overseer of the Poor.

The pivotal period of John’s life arrived in April and May, 1761. On 3 April 1761 he married 39 year old Mary Williams, a widow, also of St Hilary. Then his first son, John, my 5 x great grandfather, was born on 28 April 1761. That’s right, Mary was eight months pregnant at the time of her marriage. On 1 May 1761 John’s mother, Elizabeth, died aged 62. A marriage, birth and death within four weeks. A very stressful time for John.

More children followed at regular intervals: Anne, born 17 March 1763, William, 25 November 1764 and Joseph, 12 October 1767. 

William died on 20 April 1795, aged 19, and Mary followed him three years later, on 8 January 1798. Her burial record is the first entry on the parish register for 1798.

The parish register for marriages reveals that both John and Mary were literate and that John’s cousins, John and Margaret, witnessed the wedding. With his farm, community activities and mother at home, John was probably waiting for the right moment to marry. With his standing in the community, he was an eligible bachelor so Mary, four years older than John, must have been pleased with the match. Equally, she must have possessed qualities that set her apart from younger women. The couple spent 37 years together and I trust enriched each other’s lives.

John died on 23 February 1818, aged 91. For the time, he certainly led a privileged life. And through his family, farm and community activities I sense that it was a rewarding life.

In this month’s issue of our Amazon #1 ranked magazine…

Celebrating the Little Things

Things Children Say

A Young Writer’s View of Our Oceans 

Nature

Poetry 

Art

Classic Movies 

And so much more!

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #70

Dear Reader,

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.

Modern Philosophy

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.

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