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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 #69

Dear Reader,

Where do you get your ideas from? Is a common question asked of authors. My answer is, my ideas always stem from my characters. Where do my characters come from? The answer to that question is various sources, including old photographs. Here’s an example of a nurse in the Spanish Civil War. I don’t know her name or background, but her strong features immediately spoke to me and just by studying the picture a fictional character, Lise Lazard, took shape. You can read about Lise in Branches, book two in The Olive Tree, A Spanish Civil War Saga. Available soon 🙂

I write, therefore I am…

In September 1953, sugar rationing in Britain finally came to an end. The wartime government introduced it in January 1940. A weekly sugar ration ranged from 8oz to 16oz per week.

Where to collect your ration if you lived in Birmingham. Maybe we’ll see similar Brexit inspired posters in the new year.

Station IX, which developed weapons and gadgets for SOE agents, created a small motorcycle called the Welbike. Although 3,641 bikes were produced they were rarely employed by the SOE. Instead they were issued to the 1st and 6th Airborne Divisions who used them during the Anzio and Normandy landings. The Welbike also featured at Arnhem during Operation Market Garden.

Bulgarian joke. Red Bull gives you wings. Vodka gives you 4×4 🤣

One for the album. Operation Zigzag has entered the Brazilian chart alongside John le Carre, Tom Clancy and Stieg Larsson 🙂

Eve at #1 for the first time 🙂

Philosophy humour.

I’m reading A Moment of War, Laurie Lee’s lyrical account of his time in the Spanish Civil War.

“Eulalia turned and smiled at me brilliantly, showing her tongue, her face cracking open like a brown snake’s egg hatching.”

Vertigo, what vertigo?! Acrobats do their thing on top of the Empire State Building, 1934.

A lovely weekend for my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series, #1 in America and Britain, and now in Australia 🙂

Fat Banished!

No exercise!

No diets!

No baths!

No ill effects!

No danger!

Easy to swallow!

The solution you’ve been waiting for, sanitised tape worms!

October 1944, the Allies cross the Belgium-Germany border and prepare to write the closing chapters of World War II with the defeat of Hitler’s brand of fascism.

My article about SOE agent Odette Sansom is on page 24 of this month’s Seaside News 🙂

Met a friend on the dunes 🙂

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #65

Dear Reader,

My latest audiobook, available soon 🙂

The Rance in Dinan. Eve was in Dinan this week, in Operation Broadsword, book three in my Eve’s War series. She is trying to get rid of a million francs, which is proving surprisingly difficult.

The print copies of Operation Locksmith have arrived 🙂

Café Society, Paris 1925.

I’m eclectic. Which one are you?

My latest translation, the German version of Operation Zigzag, book one in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series. Great to see that readers in Germany are also downloading the English version.

The streets of London, 1930. The car on the right is a Burney, made by Streamline Cars Ltd and designed by Dennis Burney in 1927.

A walk through the woods this week, Craig yr Aber, Glamorgan.

First Officer Maureen Dunlop was a ferry pilot for the Air Transport Auxiliary. The women of the ATA transported newly manufactured aircraft from factories to aerodromes throughout Britain. She was trained to fly 38 types of aircraft, including Spitfires, Mustangs, Typhoons and bombers.

Four ‘It Girls’ dressed for an evening out, 1927.

I’m a Surrealist. How about you?

Excited to see that Operation Broadsword, book three in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series, is ranked #32 as a hot new release. The book will be published in November 🙂

Heroines of the SOE

Anne-Marie Walters 

On 21 June 1944, 2,000 Nazi soldiers attacked a pocket of the French Resistance. During the battle, Anne-Marie distributed hand-grenades and buried incriminating documents in a cave under a church. She also collected SOE money and took it with her as the Resistance withdrew from the village. 

Read Anne-Marie’s remarkable story here 👇

https://hannah-howe.com/eves-war/anne-marie-walters/

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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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

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #62

Dear Reader,

I’m writing chapter one of Operation Broadsword, book three in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series. Eve is preparing to parachute into France. The SOE give her French-tailored clothes, with jackets ten inches longer than British and American fashions, plus a gun, a .32 pistol made in Czechoslovakia. Blank pages are daunting, but the sight of a completed page is still very exciting.

Operation Zigzag has entered the top ten of Amazon’s war chart 🙂

Spitfire pilots, 1940, who helped to win the Battle of Britain.

Read this from the top to the bottom, then from the bottom to the top.

I’m Greek 😱

Palace Chateaubriand in October 1944 during the siege of St Malo. Vogue carried an eight page report on the siege, filed by Lee Miller, a model and fashion photographer. The only journalist in the city during the siege, she wrote, “My heel sank into a disembodied hand, and I cursed the Germans for the horrible destruction that they had inflicted on this once-splendid city.”

Money does not make you immortal. The quest for unlimited wealth is a desperate attempt to fill a hollow soul, to attain happiness when the simple things in life are deemed ‘inadequate’. It is a Midas shadow that condemns the seeker to a life of darkness.

On 8 August 1944, British, Canadian and Polish forces launched Operation Totalize, the first phase of the Falaise Pocket, which pushed the Nazis out of Normandy. Picture: a Cromwell tank and Willys jeep passing an abandoned German 88 mm anti-tank gun.

Army trucks, cars and motorcycles for sale in Britain, 1946.

An early example of a ‘zebra crossing’ 😉

The Battle of Saint-Lô took place between 7 – 19 July 1944. Located at a strategic crossroads, the Americans bombarded the city destroying ninety-five percent of it before driving the Nazis out. In his report, Samuel Beckett dubbed the martyr city “The Capital of Ruins”.

Pictured, two French boys watch from a hilltop as Allied vehicles pass through the city in July 1944.

The great thing about writing and publishing is there are always new stories to write and new pastures to explore. Delighted to announce that my Ann’s War series will be translated into Afrikaans 🙂

A muggy morning on Margam Mountain.

Apologies for the formatting errors. These are supplied by WordPress.

Odette Sansom, also known as Odette Churchill and Odette Hallowes, was born on 28 April 1912 in Amiens, France. Her father, Florentin Désiré Eugène ‘Gaston’ Brailly, was killed at Verdun shortly before the Armistice in 1918.

Odette Sansom

As a child, Odette contracted serious illnesses which blinded her for three and a half years. She also contracted polio, which left her bedridden for a number of months.

As an adult, Odette met an Englishman, Roy Patrick Sansom (1911–1957), in Boulogne and married him on 27 October 1931. The couple moved to Britain where they produced three daughters. Roy Sansom joined the army at the beginning of the Second World War. Two and a half years later, in the spring of 1942, Odette responded to an Admiritaty appeal for photographs of the French coast. Those photographs brought her to the SOE’s attention and the secretive organisation promptly recruited her into their service.

With her three daughters in a convent school, Odette trained as an SOE agent. At first, Odette’s instructors regarded her as too temperamental and stubborn for the SOE. One report stated, “She is impulsive and hasty in her judgments and has not quite the clarity of mind which is desirable in subversive activity. She seems to have little experience of the outside world. She is excitable and temperamental, although she has a certain determination. However, she is patriotic and keen to do something for France.”

George Starr, a successful agent who clashed with many of the female agents, particularly the attractive ones, described Odette as “a dreadful lady.” In particular, he deplored her “seductive behaviour.”

Odette landed on a beach near Cassis on the night of 2 November 1942. There, she made contact with Captain Peter Churchill. Her initial objective was to contact the French Resistance on the French Riviera and establish safe houses for other agents in Burgundy. 

In January 1943, to evade arrest, Churchill and Odette moved their operations to Annecy in the French Alps. The couple resided at the Hotel de la Poste in the village of Saint-Jorioz. The hotel became a meeting place for agents, which aroused suspicion.

Spy-catcher Hugo Bleicher proceeded to Saint-Jorioz where he introduced himself to Odette as “Colonel Henri.” He suggested that they should travel to London to “discuss a means of ending the war.” Odette reported this meeting to her superiors and they warned her to sever all contact with Bleicher.

At the time of Bleicher’s meeting with Odette, Peter Churchill was in London consulting with the SOE. They warned him to avoid contact with Odette and “Colonel Henri” on his return to France. However, when he parachuted into Annecy during the night of 14 April 1943, he met Odette and they proceeded to the hotel in Saint-Jorioz. At 2 am on the 16 April, Bleicher, no longer in the guise of “Colonel Henri,” appeared in the hotel and arrested Odette and Churchill.

At Fresnes Prison, near Paris, Odette was interrogated by the Gestapo

fourteen times. Despite brutal torture, she stuck to her cover story and insisted that Peter Churchill was the nephew of Prime Minister Winston Churchill and that he knew nothing of her activities. The idea was, as a relative of Winston Churchill, the Gestapo would keep Peter Churchill, and Odette, alive as bargaining chips.

Nevertheless, in June 1943, the Gestapo condemned Odette to death on two counts to which she responded, “Then you will have to make up your mind on what count I am to be executed, because I can only die once.” Infuriated, Bleicher sent her to Ravensbrück Concentration Camp.

Ravensbruck Concentration Camp

In Ravensbrück, the Nazis kept Odette in a punishment cell on a starvation diet. However, her earlier blindness and paralysis, and the example set by her grandfather, who “did not accept weakness very easily”, aided her survival. Furthermore, she accepted in advance that the Gestapo might capture her and that she might die.

Odette adopted an attitude of defiance and found that this attitude earned a degree of respect from her captors and strengthened her mind.

Later, Odette insisted that she was not brave or courageous, but that she just made up her mind about “certain things.” She recalled in a post-war interview that while everyone has a breaking point, her feeling was that if she could “survive the next minute without breaking up, that was another minute of life.” 

Because of her past illnesses, Odette knew that she could accept her situation and survive it. By accepting death, she felt that, “They would not win anything. They’ll have a dead body, useless to them. They won’t have me. I won’t let them have me.”

In general, the Gestapo found people of the prisoners’ own nationality to carry out their torture, so that the prisoners could not say they were tortured by the Nazis. Odette’s torture was carried out by a “very good-looking young Frenchman” who she believed was mentally ill.

In August 1944, with the Allies advancing on Ravensbrück, the camp commandant, Fritz Suhren, took Odette and drove her to an American base to surrender. He hoped that her supposed connections to Winston Churchill would allow him to negotiate his way out of execution. 

In 1946, at the Hamburg ‘Ravensbrück Trials’, Odette testified against the prison guards charged with war crimes and this resulted in Suhren’s execution in 1950.

Odette receiving her George Cross

Odette’s wartime experiences led to a complex personal life. She divorced Roy Sansom in 1946 and married Peter Churchill in 1947, only to divorce him in 1956. That year, she married Geoffrey Hallowes, a former SOE officer.

Odette’s SOE experiences were chronicled in a movie, Odette, which was released in 1950. Anna Neagle played Odette while Trevor Howard played Peter Churchill. Odette insisted that the film should not be made in Hollywood for fear that her story would be fictionalised. The movie, a great success, ensured that Odette became a celebrated member of the SOE.

Odette died on 13 March 1995 in Surrey, aged 82. 

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx