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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 #47

Dear Reader,

This is exciting, Looking for Rosanna Mee, which is published in September, is a Hot 💯 new release sitting alongside the legendary Bill Pronzini 🙂

https://www.amazon.com/Looking-Rosanna-Mee-Smith-Mystery-ebook/dp/B086C624BC/

I suspect this will be my book statistic of the week, my sales on Kobo are up exactly 1,000% (!) 🙂

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?query=hannah%20howe&fcsearchfield=Author

A busy week with audiobooks with five in production: Smoke and Mirrors, Stardust, Digging in the Dirt, Boston and The Devil and Ms Devlin, all in the Sam Smith Mystery Series. It’s always fascinating to hear how narrators interpret your words and it’s always great to work with other creative people.

Here’s some we made earlier https://hannah-howe.com/audio-books/

My Author of the Week, Val Tobin

As part of the Authors Give Back sale where authors support readers during this difficult time Val Tobin is offering her books for free and at 60% off the recommended retail price.

Nothing is more glorious than finding a book that keeps you turning pages to discover what happens next. Val Tobin’s stories will do just that. Take a journey with characters who will inspire you, intrigue you, and entice you to read just one more chapter.

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/valtobin

The Chocolate Egg and the Router

Earlier this week, I lost my Internet connection. An engineer was due today, so yesterday evening I decided to tidy the living room to make space for him. And guess what I found? In a corner inaccessible to man or beast, the router plug was sitting on the floor. I plugged it in and within ten minutes our Internet was restored.

So, how did the plug get on to the floor? As unlikely as it sounds it seems that one of my children reached for an Easter egg, knocked a small 5.1 music speaker off the shelf, the speaker landed on the plug and knocked it out of the socket. Throughout this a light remained on the router – it’s fed by two sockets – and the corner is inaccessible except for the plug sockets so no one thought to look there.

I told the engineer there was no need to call because I’d fixed the problem. Doubtless, he was impressed. However, I didn’t tell him how I did it 😉

My current reading list for Eve’s War

Madame Fourcade was an amazing woman. Forget de Gaulle, Madame Fourcade was the real leader of the French Resistance. She was the one who rolled up her sleeves and got stuck in when it came to fighting the fascists.

Most of my Eve’s War series is set in Brittany, hence the need to top up my knowledge of that region.

After the war, Ann-Marie Walters established a career in literature and her book is the best written account of an SOE agent’s experiences in France.

“I’m very nervous, but patient. It’s a funny mixture really and you need that for radio work. You need the patience to do the coding and decoding. You need the resourcefulness of nervousness to be able to decide to go on if you think somebody’s listening in (the Gestapo used to listen in to transmissions in vans disguised as Red Cross vehicles) or to cut off and ask for another sked (transmission schedule).” – Yvonne Cormeau.

Yvonne was the ‘fastest finger in France‘. She transmitted Morse code messages at a rate of twenty words a minute (the average was twelve words a minute) and she sent more messages than any other female SOE wireless operator.

https://hannah-howe.com/eves-war/yvonne-cormeau/

In 1944, SOE agent Anne-Marie Walters, pictured below, had a narrow escape when travelling by train to Condom via Tarbes. A Gestapo officer approached to search her cases, which contained small arms and demolition equipment. However, a young woman with two babies, unknown to Anne-Marie, but sensing danger, created a fuss over the Gestapo searching her bags. In the commotion, the Gestapo officer didn’t search Anne-Marie’s cases. When he left the carriage, the young woman offered Anne-Marie a smile of understanding. In that moment she had saved Anne-Marie’s life.

On another occasion, Anne-Marie found herself at a bus stop facing a snap search. While one fascist inspected her (false) documents another searched her handbag and pulled out a crumpled ball of toilet paper. Anne-Marie blushed at the sight and the fascist returned the toilet paper to her handbag. That toilet paper contained thirty coded messages. The BBC broadcast these messages at set times during the day. They carried instructions for the Resistance, informing them of arms drops via parachute, details of other networks and most famously of all the timing of the D-Day invasion. The code for that message was the first stanza of Paul Verlaine’s poem “Chanson d’automne”. The first part of the stanza, Les sanglots longs des violons de l’automne (“the long sobs of the violins of autumn”) indicated that the invasion would begin within 24 hours; the second, Blessent mon cœur d’une langueur monotone (“wound my heart with a monotonous languor”) was the specific call to action.

A memorial to the SOE agents of the Wheelwright network in Lapeyrade, Landes. Yvonne Cormeau, Anne-Marie Walters and Yvonne Baseden have featured on my website.

Pictures taken near my home in South Wales this week: Kenfig, Mawdlam, Cefn Cribwr, the Goylake River, Kenfig and Ballas

Women of Courage Heroines of SOE

SOE agent Eileen Mary “Didi” Nearne was born on 15 March 1921 in London to an English father, John, and a Spanish mother, Marie. She was the youngest of four children while her elder sister, Jaqueline, and her brother, Francis, also became SOE agents.

In 1923, the family moved to France where Eileen became fluent in French. After the German invasion in 1940, Eileen and Jacqueline followed the well-worn path to London via Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, Gibraltar and Glasgow, while their parents and brothers remained in Grenoble.

Eileen Nearne

In Britain, the SOE soon identified Eileen’s talents. Initially, she worked as a signals operator decoding secret messages, often written in invisible ink, received from agents in the field.

After a period of training, on 2 March 1944, Eileen arrived via Lysander in Les Lagnys, Saint-Valentin. Her mission was to work as a wireless operator for the Wizard network. She also organised sources of finance for the Resistance. Over five months she transmitted 105 messages, each one sent at enormous personal risk.

Coincidentally, Eileen’s organiser, Jean Savy, returned to Britain on 9 April 1944 on the same aircraft as her sister, Jacqueline, who had spent fifteen successful months in the field. Savy arrived in Britain with important information about the Nazi’s V1 rockets.

In July 1944, the Gestapo detected Eileen’s transmitter and arrested her. A period of barbarity followed, which included crude forms of inhuman treatment. Nevertheless, despite the torture, Eileen convinced the Gestapo that a businessman had hired her to send messages and that, at the time, she remained innocent of his British nationality.

In August 1944, the Gestapo sent Eileen to Ravensbrück concentration camp then on to Silesia. At the camps, the guards forced her into slave labour. However, she remained defiant and, despite more torture, refused.

Jacqueline Nearne

On 13 April 1945, Eileen escaped with two French women. Marching to another camp through the snow and dark they hid in a forest then travelled to Markkleeberg where the S.S. arrested them. However, they managed to fool the S.S. (it’s remarkable how many agents managed to do this) and with the aid of a priest they hid in Leipzig until the liberating Americans arrived a few days later.

It’s ironic that Eileen constantly lied to the Gestapo and, for the most part, the believed her. They regarded her as ‘a silly little French girl who was wasting their time.’ However, when she told the Americans the truth they didn’t believe her and it took some time before they handed her over to the British authorities.

After the war, Eileen suffered from what we now recognise as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Jacqueline cared for her and in 1997 she felt well enough to appear on a Timewatch television programme where she discussed her wartime experiences.

Eileen died in September 2010 aged eighty-nine.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Categories
Dear Reader

Dear Reader #44

Dear Reader,

My personal top ten this week.

My top ten sales countries this week: America, Britain, Canada, Australia, Bulgaria, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, Germany, France.

My latest Sam Smith Mystery, Looking for Rosanna Mee, book seventeen in the series, is now available for pre-order 🙂

“Aged twenty-one, Rosanna Mee was housebound, severely agoraphobic. Yet, when Faye and I arrived at her flat to deliver legal papers we could not find her. She’d disappeared. How could a woman who had not travelled from her home in three years simply disappear? That was the first in a series of questions that led us into the world of bodybuilding, fraud and murder.

Meanwhile, the kaleidoscope of my life continued to change. As the picture settled I discovered that I was saying goodbye to a friend, hello to a new office and facing a development that would totally transform my personal life.”

https://books2read.com/u/banLVv

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Sam has new readers, in Uzbekistan

Pictured: Traditional embroidery from Uzbekistan

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I managed to get hold of another ‘top secret’ document. This document is the SOE file on traitor Roger Bardet who betrayal many of his colleagues to the Nazis. His story will form the basis for Operation Sherlock, book five in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series.

Local pictures taken at Sger and Kenfig this week, a stone’s throw from my home.

I’m outlining Operation Broadsword, book three in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series. In this story Eve, Guy Samson and Mimi Duchamp arrive in Dol-de-Bretagne, by parachute, to establish the Broadsword resistance network.

In peacetime, Guy is an archaeologist, a professor, and he uses that cover in Dol-de-Bretagne. One of the historical objects that catches his eye is the Menhir de Champ-Dolent, the largest standing stone in Brittany at over nine metres high. The menhir is made of pinkish granite and weighs an estimated 100 tonnes.

In the story, Eve discovers that friends can be enemies. However, can enemies also become friends?

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I’ve finalised the running order for my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series. The stories, all based on true events, will cover December 1942 to October 1944. The books are in various stages of production, from draft outlines to completed manuscripts. Publication will begin in June and will continue at two monthly intervals.

The running order:

Operation Zigzag 
Operation Locksmith 
Operation Broadsword 
Operation Treasure 
Operation Sherlock
Operation Cameo
Operation Rose
Operation Watchmaker 
Operation Overlord
Operation Jedburgh 
Operation Butterfly 
Operation Liberty

https://www.amazon.com/Hannah-Howe/e/B00OK7E24E/

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Women of Courage Heroines of SOE

Virginia Hall Goillot was a rare breed, an American who worked for the SOE. 

Born in Baltimore, Maryland on 5 April 1906, Virginia attended university where she studied French, German and Italian. Completing her studies in Europe, she travelled to France, Germany, Austria and Poland. In Poland in 1931 she secured employment as a consular service clerk at the American Embassy.

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In 1932, Virginia lost her left leg below the knee after a shooting accident. The surgeons affixed a wooden leg, which she nicknamed Cuthbert. 

After her accident, Virginia made several attempts to become a diplomat. However, the American authorities rejected her on the grounds that she was a woman and disabled. Consequently, in March 1939, she resigned as a consular clerk.

In February 1940, Virginia became an ambulance driver for the French army. After the fall of France in June 1940, she made her way to Spain where she met George Bellows, a British Intelligence Officer. This meeting led to an invitation to join the SOE.

Virginia joined the SOE in April 1941 and, after training, she arrived in Vichy France on 23 August 1941. Her cover story, as a reporter for the New York Post, allowed her to travel, talk with people and gather information. During this period, she became adept at changing her appearance through various forms of disguise.

In common with other SOE agents, Virginia organised the Resistance, supplied agents with money, conducted weapons training, helped downed airmen to escape, tended wounds, established safe houses and recruited new members to the cause.

Among Virginia’s recruits was Lyon brothel owner Germaine Guérin. Guérin made several safe houses available to Virginia. She also passed on information garnered from her prostitutes, tidbits gleaned from the German officers who frequented her brothel. Furthermore, while in Lyon, George Whittinghill, an American diplomat, allowed Virginia to smuggle reports to Britain in the diplomatic pouch.

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Downed airmen often made their way to Lyon where contacts told them to visit the American Consulate and say they were, ‘A friend of Olivier’. Olivier was Virginia and with the help of brothel owner Germaine Guérin and others she hid, fed and helped the airmen to escape to Spain then on to Britain.

Unfortunately, the Nazis captured Germaine Guérin and sent her to a concentration camp, but she survived. On hearing this news, Virginia arranged compensation of 80,000 francs from Britain for Guérin.

M.R.D. Foot, the official historian of the SOE, said that an agent’s motto was “dubito, ergo sum”  –  “I doubt, therefore I survive.” Virginia took this motto to heart. Indeed, in October 1941 she sensed danger and refused to attend a meeting of SOE agents in Marseille. That meeting led to disaster and the arrest of a dozen agents.

Virginia learned that the Nazis had incarcerated the twelve agents arrested in October 1941 in the Mauzac prison near Bergerac. With the aid of Gaby Bloch, wife of prisoner Jean-Pierre Bloch, Virginia smuggled tools and sardine tins into the prison. With these tools and tins the prisoners made a key to the prison door and on 15 July 1942 they escaped and hid in the woods. After an intense manhunt, Virginia helped the men to escape into Spain then on to Britain. Later, several of the escapees returned to France to lead SOE networks.

Furious with the escape, the Nazis flooded Lyon with Gestapo officers. Also, on 7 November 1942, the American Consulate in Lyon informed Virginia that the Allied invasion of North Africa was imminent and that the Nazis would retaliate in brutal fashion. Therefore, she escaped by train from Lyon to Perpignan. Then, with a guide, she walked – on one good leg – over a 7,500 foot pass across the Pyrenees into Spain, covering fifty miles in two days.

The Gestapo referred to Virginia as ‘that Canadian bitch’ even though she was, of course, American. You have to wonder at the basic intelligence and ability of the Gestapo when they couldn’t capture a one-legged woman with distinctive red hair. Furthermore, she spoke French with a broad American accent. 

Although Virginia was eager to return to France, the SOE refused on the grounds that she was known to the Gestapo. However, the Americans had no such qualms and so, by gunboat, she returned to France in March 1944 as a wireless operator for the American OSS. 

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French identification certificate for Virginia Hall as “Marcelle Montagne” forged by OSS

While working for the OSS, Virginia fell in love with a colleague, Paul Goillot. After the war, the couple lived together and eventually married in 1957. 

In 1947, Virginia joined the CIA, one of the first women hired by the new agency. She retired in 1966, aged sixty, to a farm in Barnesville, Maryland, where she lived until her death on 8 July 1982.

Admired by fellow agents, Virginia did much to establish the early SOE networks in France. Quite rightly, she is remembered as a woman of remarkable ability and courage.

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Happy Easter and as ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Categories
Dear Reader

Dear Reader #43

Dear Reader,

My personal top ten this week with Ann’s War proving popular. This mini series has greatly exceeded my expectations.

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https://www.amazon.com/Hannah-Howe/e/B00OK7E24E/

April 1st was Sam’s birthday. I write the stories in ‘real time’ so Sam has a real age, thirty-seven, although believe me she still looks twenty-seven and in terms of attitude to life she’ll always be seventeen 😉

I‘ve been writing about Sam for six years and have enjoyed every minute. Sam is a writer’s dream, always full of stories.

At the moment, I’m storyboarding Looking for Rosanna Mee, book seventeen in the series, and have many more stories planned.

Happy Birthday, Sam! 

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Published today, Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine April 2020. As ever, there are some great articles and features included this month. Read or download your copy FREE 🙂

My latest article for the Seaside News

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To date, Imprint Digital have printed all my books. I’m delighted with the quality of their printing and it’s great to see that even in difficult times they are proceeding with the expansion of their printing plant, pictured here.

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My Imprint Digital paperbacks are available from my website at special reduced prices for visitors to my website store.

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

This lyric by Al Stewart could serve as a soundtrack to one of the chapters in my Spanish Civil War Saga, The Olive Tree: Roots.

While traveling northwards on a back country lane

I came on the village where first I grew

And stopped to climb up the hill once again

Looking down from the tracks to the gray slate roofs

I watched the village moving as the day went slowly by

In the fields we lay here, my very first love and I

Under timeless arcadian skies

Under timeless arcadian skies

The old canal lies sleeping under the sky

The barges are gone to a lost decade

On overgrown banks here, lovers’ footsteps went by

Long before ever the roads were made

And in our turn we passed here and carved our names on trees

As the days washed by like waves of an endless sea

Under timeless arcadian skies

Under timeless arcadian skies

Time runs through your fingers

You never hold it at all till it’s gone

Some fragments just linger with you

Like snow in the spring hanging on

I left the village behind in the night

To fade like a sail on the darkening seas

The shifts and changes in the patterns of life

Will weather it more than the centuries

And in another village, in a far off foreign land

The new day breaks out opening up its hand

And the sun has the moon in his eyes

As he wanders the timeless skies

As part of their psychological assessment, the would-be agents at the SOE training school were shown Rorschach‘s inkblots, including card nine, the card featured here. Most of the students interpreted this image as dragons, which coincidentally is my interpretation.

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Harry Rée is one of the inspirations for Guy Samson, my character in Eve’s War Heroines of SOE, therefore I was delighted to see that Harry’s son, Jonathan, has edited his father’s memoirs and published them recently.

I’m looking forward to reading this book 🙂

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This is exciting, for today at least Operation Locksmith is #1 in France, outselling James Patterson 🙂

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Operation Locksmith is now available for pre-order.

“I understand that you wish to return to France,” the man behind the mahogany desk said.

“That’s correct,” I said.

“Your motivation?” he asked, smoothing the corners of his moustache.

“To do my bit for the war effort,” I said, “to defeat the Nazis and to discover what’s happened to my husband.”

“It would be extremely risky,” the officious-looking man said, “suicidal even, for a lone woman to undertake such a venture. However, there is an alternative.”

“Alternative?” I frowned.

“Yes. We’ll parachute you in, as one of our people. Of course, you’d have to undertake training first. Rigorous training. Top secret training. If you fail, I’m afraid it will mean a spell in the cooler, possibly until the war is over.”

“The cooler?”

“But I trust it won’t come to that,” he said, ignoring my question. “When can you start?”

I began immediately. And during my training I met two people who would radically reshape my life – Guy Samson and Mimi Duchamp. I also discovered secrets about myself, abilities beyond my imagination. However, as the training heated up so the situations became all too real, until they reached a point where I had to kill, or be killed.

EVE'S WAR OPERATION LOCKSMITH MASTER

Women of Courage Heroines of SOE will continue next week, but this week I present Men of Courage Heroes of SOE 

Harry Alfred Rée was born on 15 October 1914. An educationalist, he was regarded by historian M.R.D. Foot as one of the best male SOE agents.

The son of Dr. Alfred Rée, a chemist who was from a Danish Jewish family, and Lavinia Elisabeth Dimmick, Harry Rée was a conscientious objector, ordered to work for the National Fire Service. However, in 1941 he re-registered for military service and was called up into the army. Later, he volunteered for the SOE. 

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In April 1943, as a Captain, and with the code name César, Harry parachuted into France to join the Acrobat Network. He argued against the RAF bombing targets in France because it turned public opinion against the Allies. Instead, he suggested that SOE agents should organise effective sabotage of factories on the ground. 

Harry convinced the director of a Peugeot factory at Sochaux to cooperate with the SOE. The director, a member of the Resistance, not only assisted in the sabotage, but also shared tactical information on Wehrmacht projects, including the V1 rocket. Due to this action, the RAF did not bomb the factory, saving many lives.

The Nazis tried to capture Harry. Indeed, he escaped a Feldgendarmerie group after being shot four times, swam across a river and crawled through a forest to reach Switzerland. In May 1944 he returned to Britain. 

Shortly after the war, Harry starred alongside fellow agent Jacqueline Nearne in the film Now it Can be Told (aka School for Danger), produced by the RAF Film Unit, which told the story of SOE’s activities in France.

In 1940, Harry married Hetty Vine. They had three children, the first of whom was born while Harry was in France.

Harry died in 1991.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

P.S. Apologies if the Issuu links do not load and for any formatting errors. This is entirely the fault of WordPress who, once again, have undated their platform at the expense of their customers. WordPress’ ‘improvements’ continue to make blogging and website management more difficult. When I joined them they were excellent, but now they provide a second-rate service.

Categories
Dear Reader

Dear Reader #42

Dear Reader,

My personal top ten this week.

My publishing schedule for 2020

*March: Snow in August, Sam Smith Mystery Series book sixteen

*June: The Olive Tree: Roots, A Spanish Civil War Saga

*June: Operation Zigzag, Eve’s War Heroines of SOE

*August: Operation Locksmith, Eve’s War Heroines of SOE

*September: Looking for Rosanna Mee, Sam Smith Mystery Series book seventeen

October: Operation Broadsword, Eve’s War Heroines of SOE

November: The Olive Tree: Branches, A Spanish Civil War Saga

December: Operation Treasure, Eve’s War Heroines of SOE

* Currently available to order or pre-order

https://www.amazon.com/Hannah-Howe/e/B00OK7E24E/

As mentioned above, my latest Sam Smith Mystery is now available for pre-order 🙂

Aged twenty-one, Rosanna Mee was housebound, severely agoraphobic. Yet, when Faye and I arrived at her flat to deliver legal papers we could not find her. She’d disappeared. How could a woman who had not travelled from her home in three years simply disappear? That was the first in a series of questions that led us into the world of bodybuilding, fraud and murder.

Meanwhile, the kaleidoscope of my life continued to change. As the picture settled I discovered that I was saying goodbye to a friend, hello to a new office and facing a development that would totally transform my personal life.

https://books2read.com/u/banLVv

Sam has new readers, in Peru 🙂

Pictured, Cusco, capital of the Incan Empire

My merchandiser produced a Hannah Howe calendar. This is the image for March, the Rakotz bridge in Kromlau, Germany.

Andre Hue is one of the inspirations for Guy Samson, my male SOE agent in Eve’s War. Andre was born a few miles from my home in Wales to a Welsh mother and French father. An interesting fact about Andre’s parents is when they met and married Andre’s mother, Caroline Hunter, could not speak French while his father, also Andre, could not speak English. Obviously, they communicated through the greatest universal language of all, love.

This picture was taken from Andre’s fake ID card issued by the SOE in June 1944

I managed to get hold of a ‘top secret’ document from 1944 that details the Special Operations Executive’s contribution to Operation Overlord. I will be using these details in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series.

I have a wealth of archive material for this series. However, it’s estimated that 85% of the SOE’s records were destroyed in a suspicious fire and there is speculation that that fire was started deliberately so that the records would be forever hidden from the public’s gaze.

Local views of Sger beach this week

Women of Courage Heroines of SOE 

Yvonne Cormeau, born Beatrice Yvonne Biesterfeld on 18 December 1909, served the SOE as a wireless operator for the Wheelwright network under the code name Annette. She operated in southwestern France from August 1943 until the liberation of France in September 1944. Yvonne was an unusual SOE agent in that she was a mother.

The SOE acclaimed Yvonne for the quality and quantity of her wireless transmissions. Wireless operators were vulnerable to detection and capture, often within weeks of landing. Nevertheless, she performed her duties with great courage and skill for over a year.

Yvonne Cormeau

Educated in Belgium and Scotland, Yvonne was living in London in 1937 when she married Charles Emile Cormeau, a chartered accountant. Charles enlisted in the Rifle Brigade and, in 1940, was wounded in France. Tragically, he was killed shortly after his return to London when the Nazis bombed his home. Yvonne survived the bombing when a bathtub fell over her and protected her head. However, her unborn baby did not survive.

Yvonne sent her two-year-old daughter Yvette into the countryside for her own safety. Then she decided to “take her husband’s place in the Armed Forces”. She joined the WAAF as an administrator in November 1941. From there the SOE recruited her to train as a wireless operator. After much agonising and fearing that she might make her daughter an orphan, she joined the organisation on 15 February 1943. 

With Yvette in a convent, where she remained until she was five, Yvonne parachuted into France, arriving on 23 August 1943. In common with many agents, she declined to take a cyanide pill with her to commit suicide if captured. The SOE issued her with a .22 revolver, but she did not carry the firearm because discovery of a weapon could lead to instant execution.

Wireless operators transmitted an average of twelve words per minute in Morse code. However, Yvonne averaged twenty words per minute. This meant she was a very talented “pianist”, SOE slang for wireless operators.

Yvonne also worked as a courier, cycling 50 kilometres on regular occasions. As a “district nurse” Yvonne travelled the countryside avoiding the Nazis and the dreaded Milice, a radical and brutal branch of the French police.

A “wanted” poster in Yvonne’s neighbourhood offered an accurate description of her appearance, heightening the danger. On one occasion, the Nazis stopped her at gunpoint at a roadblock. Eventually, they accepted her false papers and her story, passing her wireless equipment off as an X-ray machine.

M.R.D. Foot, the official historian of the SOE said of Yvonne, “She was a perfectly unobtrusive and secure craftswoman. She broke one of the strictest rules of wireless security – i.e. always keep on the move – with success: she transmitted for six consecutive months from the same house. She could see for three miles from the window where she worked, which was one safeguard; a more effective one was that there was no running water in the village, so the Germans who knew there was an English wireless operator somewhere close by never thought of looking for her there.”

Bloodstained dress and briefcase of Yvonne Cormeau on permanent display at the Imperial War Museum

Yvonne assisted in the cutting of power and telephone lines, resulting in the isolation of the Wehrmacht Group G garrison near Toulouse. In June 1944, she was shot in the leg while escaping from a Nazi attack on Castelnau, but managed to rescue her wireless. The dress she wore on that occasion and the bloodstained briefcase she carried are on permanent display at the Imperial War Museum in London along with her WAAF officer’s uniform.

After the war, Yvonne worked as a translator in the SOE section at the Foreign Office. She also became a leading organiser of veterans’ reunions. Reunited with her daughter, Yvette, she lived in London.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx