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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #57

Dear Reader,

“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.

Hélène Viannay

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.

Philippe Viannay

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 the Prix Philippe Viannay-Défense de la France, a prize awarded annually to works promoting resistance to Nazism in France and elsewhere in Europe.

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 #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

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #50

Dear Reader,

Very excited to announce that Paula has agreed to narrate Mind Games, Sam Smith Mystery Series book eleven, The Olive Tree: Roots and Eve’s War: Operation Zigzag. Production will begin this week and continue over the summer 🙂

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The suitcase radio was a lifeline for SOE agents. However, it could also be a death trap because the Nazis could identify the source of a radio transmission in twenty minutes. Consequently, the life expectancy for wireless operators was only six weeks.

Yvonne Cormeau was the leading female SOE wireless operator. She sent more messages than any other female operator and her Morse code speed was a staggering twenty words a minute (the average was twelve words a minute).

As you can see, these radios were huge – an agent couldn’t hide them in a pocket, shoe or handbag. However, on at least two occasions cornered agents persuaded the Gestapo that their radios were X-ray equipment and filmmaking equipment. It was not necessary to possess a high IQ to be a member of the Gestapo.

BFBFA72E-63B3-43C9-A0A9-F8B8A62FC2C4The story of incredibly brave Norwegian SOE agents who wrecked the Nazi’s plans to acquire heavy water for the production of nuclear weapons. Includes interviews with the agents who took part in this daring raid.

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My friend Sally invited me to a barbecue. She’s a terrible ditherer, she couldn’t decide what to eat…the meat, the salad or the sweet treats. While she was trying to decide, she sat down, mistaking the grill for a chair. Yep, you’ve guessed it, she walked away with hot cross buns.
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Local views this week, the Bwlch, Pink Bay and Kenfig.

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From the Daily Mirror, 8 May 1945, the VE edition.
Jane, created by Norman Pett, was a saucy comic strip that ran from 5 December 1932 until 10 October 1959. A recurring theme of the comic strip was the variety of ways Jane found to lose her clothes.
In 1944, when Jane first appeared nude in the comic strip, she was regarded as ‘Britain’s Secret Weapon’ and was credited with ‘inspiring’ the 36th Division to advance six miles into Burma.
Originally, Pett’s wife, Mary, modelled for him, but in the late 1930s she abandoned modelling for golf (!) From 1939 nude model Chrystabel Leighton-Porter became the inspiration for Jane, whose full name was Jane Gay.
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I was shocked to discover that my cat was pregnant. I was double shocked to discover that she’d also eaten a ball of wool. But everything turned out all right. She gave birth to mittens.
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Song of the week, “A street in Paris in the rain, I shoot in black and white a hundred frames, I watch your make-up, Begin to run.”

In Looking for Rosanna Mee, Sam Smith Mystery Series book seventeen, Sam likens her friend Faye to a 1920s ‘It Girl’.
The phrase ‘It Girl’ gained in popularity in 1927 after Paramount Studios released the film ‘It’, starring the notorious Clara Bow.
The earliest literary reference to ‘it’ in this context can be traced to 1904 and a Rudyard Kipling short story, which contained the line, “It isn’t beauty, so to speak, nor good talk necessarily. It’s just ‘It’.”
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A new language for my books, Afrikaans. Nelmari has started the translation and we will publish in the near future.
Versions of my books are now available in Afrikaans, Bulgarian, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish 🙂
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This week, I had an idea for a novel about a French schoolteacher and her involvement with the Resistance on D-Day. I’m outlining the basic plot and will add the story to my ‘to be written’ list.

I always start with a character’s name. For my D-Day novel, I liked the sound of Colette for the central character. And when research revealed that Colette means ‘people of victory’ the choice became obvious. Sometimes, some things are just meant to be.

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Pearl Witherington’s story, as told by her official SOE file.

2 July 1943. Pearl impressed her instructors with her skills and personality. She struggled with the forward roll, but inspired confidence in others. Her reports were painstaking, an indication of her thorough and cautious character. Indeed, her financial accounts from the field were the most detailed the SOE had seen.

 

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17 July 1943. Pearl received another outstanding report from her instructors. Amongst many highlights is the comment, “Probably the best shot (male or female) we have yet had.”

 

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Over six days in August 1943, the SOE gave Pearl an ‘assignment’. As part of this ‘assignment’ as Pearl Wimsey she was to meet a contact, George Bluck. Unknown to Pearl, Bluck intended to trick her into revealing information through loose talk with a mutual acquaintance, Fifi. It’s alleged that Fifi used to seduce the male agents with the aim of extracting information. Clearly, the SOE took this training very seriously.

In the event, Bluck was late and Pearl, acting on her initiative, aborted the rendezvous. Instead, she went to the cinema where she viewed ‘Tarzan Triumphs’.

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Pearl performed other aspects of her ‘mission’ with competence. However, overall for the SOE and Pearl the exercise proved unsatisfactory, although doubtless she learned from the experience, which was the main point. In her handwritten report, Pearl admitted that she found it difficult to talk with strangers and that she was ‘cautious’ and ‘slow’. A year later she was performing acts of bravery beyond the call of duty, so her self-effacing comments are extremely touching.

You can read her report here https://hannah-howe.com/eves-war/pearl-witherington-soe-reports/

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

 

Formatting errors courtesy of WordPress. In June, they are introducing yet another new platform. Maybe this time they will get it right.
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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #49

Dear Reader,

Wow, this week a historian specialising in the Special Operations Executive congratulated me on my Heroines of SOE blog posts. Obviously, I’m delighted about that 🙂

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Amazing to relate, but over the past month the Bulgarian version of The Hermit of Hisarya was my most popular book on iBooks. Yesterday broke all records for the book with a 400% increase on the previous best.

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Well, that’s my evening sorted…
The Daily Mirror, 14 October 1943
Mrs Josephine Skrodenis, 25 of Chicago, was granted a divorce yesterday because she claimed her husband used her as a “corpse” in solving murder mysteries.
When she was looking forward to spending a quite night at home with her husband, he would glare at her from pages of the latest detective novels and order her to “lay on the ground and act dead.”

Then, while she played “the reluctant body” he would try to discover who had “killed” her she told the court.

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From the Daily Mirror, 8 May 1944, VE Day

Women in Work

Agriculture 1939, 67,000…1944, 184,000
Mining 5,000…13,000
Civil Service 123,000…495,000
Utilities 17,000…32,000
Transport 51,000…212,000
Building and engineering 16,000…23,000

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I’m in talks with a narrator about recording audiobook versions of The Olive Tree and my Eve’s War series.
Meanwhile, I was listening to an audiobook chapter of Digging in the Dirt today when my youngest son asked, “Did you write that?”
Wondering what was coming next, I offered a tentative reply, “Yes.”
He smiled. “It’s good isn’t it. It sounds like a real book!”
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I’m super excited! Last night, I wrote a song! About tortillas. Although, on reflection, maybe it’s a (w)rap…

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The most popular page on my website this week. Harry Rée was a schoolteacher who starred in a documentary-drama film. He also fought the war in an extraordinary way. An inspiration for my Eve’s War series his philosophies continue to enlighten our thoughts today. https://hannah-howe.com/eves-war/harry-ree/

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Good news, I’ve got a new job washing dishes and the pay is excellent. Bad news, it’s at a radar station…

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Our local castle at Kenfig

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My song of the week. “But mama, that’s where the fun is…”

My Women of Courage Heroines of SOE articles will continue in the near future, with male agents included as well.

Meanwhile, here is the first episode in Pearl’s Witherington’s story, as told by her official SOE file.

Pearl Witherington was a remarkable woman. Her life story serves as an inspiration for my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series.

In 1943, Pearl underwent training to become a SOE agent. Her file reveals a page of signatures where she practiced her new identity as Genevieve Touzalin, a secretary in a match company.

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This note is from the intelligence service M15 who looked into Pearl’s background when she volunteered for SOE training.

Initially. Pearl worked as a secretary for the British Embassy in Paris before making her escape, with her mother and sisters, from France. Her escape entailed many risks and adventures, which are not evident in this rather dry note.

Pearl showed great ingenuity in helping her family to escape and M15 concluded that she was a suitable candidate for training.

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From Pearl’s SOE file, her training notes on codes and cyphers.

Pearl’s keywords ‘fou tez moi la paix’ sound very much like her personal selection and offer a direct plea to her instructors to accept her as an agent…’give me a break’.

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As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx