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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

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #66

Dear Reader,

Published this week, Looking For Rosanna Mee, my seventeenth Sam Smith Mystery. The intention was to write just the one book, but Sam thought otherwise…

Freshwater West this week.

Maslow’s hierarchy for modern times 🤣

A tearful farewell at Paddington Station c1942, by Bert Hardy.


In 1952, Dwight Eisenhower gave a speech to D-Day veterans, discussing those who‘d died under his command. Before D-Day, he wrote a letter stating that whatever the outcome he’d take full responsibility. The memories moved him. Great leaders have empathy, they respect their men.

Delighted to announce that my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series will be translated into German 🙂

Introduced in Paris in 1932, this is the Cyclomer, an amphibious bicycle. With four air-filled floats for buoyancy and propelled by two fan blades, as you might have gathered the idea didn’t catch on.

I’ve completed the writing of Operation Broadsword, book three in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series. Editing to follow. This story ends with a Westland Lysander, a short-range aircraft that was adapted for clandestine operations. 

The Lysander could use small, improvised airstrips and therefore was well suited to delivering and recovering agents from behind enemy lines particularly in occupied France with the help of the French Resistance. 

Just made a bread pudding, based on my grandmother’s recipe 🙂

Cécile Rol-Tanguy and Henri Tanguy, the French Resistance couple who conducted clandestine operations, relayed confidential messages and participated in the liberation of Paris. Read their remarkable story here 👇

https://hannah-howe.com/eves-war/cecile-and-henri-rol-tanguy/

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #64

Dear Reader,

My new Twitter page. If you are interested in my Spanish Civil War and Second World War posts please follow.

https://twitter.com/HannahSOEAuthor

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

https://hannah-howe.com/mystore/

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.

https://hannah-howe.com/eves-war/andre-hue/

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Categories
Dear Reader

Dear Reader # 63

Dear Reader,

During the Second World War when SOE agents parachuted into France they took pigeons with them. Questionnaires from the BBC were attached to the pigeons. The locals filled in the questionnaires and the pigeons returned to SOE HQ at 64 Baker Street.

On 5 September, I publish Looking for Rosanna Mee, Sam Smith Mystery Series book seventeen. It’s lovely to see the book sitting alongside JK Rowling (aka Robert Galbraith) in the top forty. Many thanks to my readers for their support 🙂

Through consumption and entertainment, the slaves would love their servitudes.” 

So much of the 1930s speaks to us today.

When the Nazis captured SOE agent Odette Sansom they placed her in the dark for three weeks believing that would break her. However, Odette didn’t mind the total darkness because as a child a serious illness had blinded her for three and a half years.

https://hannah-howe.com/eves-war/odette-sansom/

This is a 393 year old Greenland Shark. The oldest living vertebrate known on the planet, it’s been swimming in the ocean since 1627.

Researchers used radiocarbon dating to determine the age of the shark. A possible explanation for this species’ longevity is that they spend their lives 2,000 metres down, where the water temperature is around 29 degrees Fahrenheit. Extreme cold is associated with slow metabolism and maturation – Greenland Sharks don’t reach adulthood until age 150 – as well as long life spans.

Photo by Julius Nielsen.

2020

“I Facebook, therefore I am.”

When captured by the Gestapo, SOE agent Alix d’Unienville pretended to be mentally ill. In reality, she was very strong and this enabled her to escape while in transit to a concentration camp. She fled into a wood, hid, then returned to Paris in a Jeep.

https://hannah-howe.com/eves-war/alix-marrier-dunienville/

The battle for Paris began on the 10 August 1944 when railway and Metro staff went on strike, an example followed by policemen and postal workers.

The strike became general on the 18 August and by the 19 August fighting had broken out across the city. On that day 3,000 police officers invaded the Préfecture de Police, which became the first building to be officially liberated.

With the Allies advancing, the Nazis retreated. Those who remained sought to defend and destroy until forced into surrender on 25 August 1944.

August 1944, Allied soldiers greeted by young Parisian women as they enter Paris during its Liberation. (Photo by AFP)

What’s your emotion right now?

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Categories
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

 

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