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Dear Reader #61

Dear Reader,

Operation Broadsword, book three in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series, is now available to pre-order 🙂

https://books2read.com/u/bxn5e6

🎼🎼🎼 Blue eyes, baby’s got blue eyes…🎼🎼🎼

Packed with shorts stories, articles, puzzles, recipes and so much more, the latest issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads.

Images from my garden this week.

My article about SOE heroine Anne-Marie Walters appears on page 20 of the magazine.

I’m enjoying Paula’s narration of Operation Locksmith, book two in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series. Normally, I don’t like listening to my own words, but it’s great fun to be a part of this production.

Nazi board game from 1941 – Wir fahren gegen England (We go against England).

“Fun for all the family.”

Normandy, 1944. While the battle rages, a Frenchwoman pours a drink for a British soldier.

We have more sheep than people 🙂

Walking through the clouds on Pen-y-Fan this week.

Basically, my approach to writing.

Hannah Arendt on Writing:

Gaus: Do you write easily? Do you formulate ideas easily?

Arendt: Sometimes I do; sometimes I don’t. But in general I can tell you that I never write until I can, so to speak, take dictation from myself…Usually I write it all down only once.

The organisational aspect of D-Day never ceases to amaze me.
2 August 1944. The French 2nd Armored Division arrived in France, landing at Utah Beach, Normandy. The division served under General Patton as part of the US Third Army.

Two weeks later, they helped to liberate Paris.

I’m really getting into my character Eve in my Eve’s War series, so much so that when she met a Maquis leader today and they shared cheese as a peace offering it gave me a strong urge to eat cheese. Tomorrow, Eve blows up a railway line. I hope I don’t get a strong urge to play with dynamite 🤣

On this date, with the First World War ten days old, George Bernard Shaw wrote an article urging both sides to shoot their officers and go home.

An inspiration for Guy Samson in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series, Francis Charles Albert Cammaerts was born in London on 16 June 1916. Under the code name Roger he was an agent of the Special Operations Executive. His parents were Professor Emile Cammaerts, a Belgian poet, and Tita Brand, a successful actress.

Francis Cammaerts

At the beginning of the Second World War, Cammaerts declared himself a conscientious objector. However, in October 1942 he joined the SOE and between March 1943 and September 1944 he led the Jockey network in southeastern France. Considered during training as more intellectual than practical he, nevertheless, completed the course with distinction.

Cammaerts became a pacifist in the 1930s while studying at Cambridge. After university, he established a teaching career where he met fellow teacher and pacifist Harry Rée. After much soul searching, Harry decided to join the SOE. This decision, along with the death of his brother, Pieter, who served in the RAF, convinced Cammaerts that he too should place his pasifist beliefs to one side and join the SOE.

Regarded as one of the finest male agents, Cammaerts recruited locals to the Resistance networks, supplying them with arms and training. He completed two tours as an SOE agent, totalling fifteen months, a period far longer than the average time served by an agent in France. He never stayed in the same house for more than three or four nights. Furthermore, he avoided hotels as their registers were checked by the Gestapo and French police, stayed clear of large railway stations and never told anyone of his plans. 

In the Jockey network, Cammaerts linked up with wireless operator Auguste Fioras. On 27 May 1943, the pair sent their first message to SOE headquarters in London while Fioras went on to transmit 416 wireless messages during 1943 and 1944, a record for an SOE wireless operator.

Cammaerts’ Jockey circuit, which had developed to include over 10,000 people, played a crucial role in the action that followed the D-Day landings. His men and women cut communication and railway lines, which severely hindered the movements of Nazi troops and armaments.

Aware of the risks the locals were taking, Cammaerts always informed them that he was an SOE agent and reminded them of the consequences should anyone talk or be caught. Despite this, he always received a warm welcome. Later, along with many other agents, he gave a great deal of credit to the ordinary French citizens who provided him and his colleagues with safety and support. In the television series Secret Agent, broadcast in 2000, Cammaerts said, “The most important element was the French housewife who fed us, clothed us and kept us cheerful.”

At 193 cm tall and with feet so large his nickname in France was “Big Feet”, Cammaerts feared that he would attract the Gestapo’s attention. Furthermore, he spoke French with a noticeable Belgian accent, which made him vulnerable to informers in the Malice. His security fears were realised on 13 August 1944 when he was arrested at a roadblock by the Gestapo. He was taken to Digne prison where he was beaten and interrogated. During the interrogation, he insisted that he was involved in the black market, a cover story he concocted to account for the large sum of money he carried about his person.

Even though Cammaerts was the most important SOE agent in southeastern France, the Gestapo didn’t realise that they had captured him. Nevertheless, they suspected that he belonged to the Resistance and arranged his execution.

Christine Granville

However, on 17 August 1944, two days before the Allied invasion of southern France, fellow agent and courier Christine Granville (aka Krystyna Skarbek) helped him to escape. Christine confronted two collaborators, Albert Schenck, a French liaison officer to the Gestapo, and Max Waem, a Belgian interpreter for the Gestapo. She told them that the Allied troops would arrive within hours and that if they did not cooperate they would be condemned as Nazi collaborators. Under threat from the avenging locals, Schenck and Waem secured Cammaerts’ release.

Maquisards with Christine Granville, second from right

In March 1945, Cammaerts joined the Special Allied Airborne Reconnaissance Force. The SAARF’s main objective was to assist in the reconstruction work in Germany after the fall of Hitler. For Cammaerts this meant dealing with the aftermath of the newly liberated concentration camps. Understandably, he was appalled by what he saw and later said, “The SAARF period was blank and grey and one of those certain areas in my life when I didn’t know what I was doing.”

During his pacifist period, Cammaerts met Nancy Findlay (Nan), and they married on 15 March 1941. Over the following decades, the couple had four children, three girls and a boy.

In 1948, Cammaerts became the first Director of the Central Bureau for Educational Visits and Exchanges, a UNESCO agency. Four years later, he returned to teaching. He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1958 and in 1959 appeared for the defence in the notorious Lady Chatterley’s Lover trial, a case won by the publisher, Penguin Books, and the author, D.H. Lawrence.

Further teaching posts in Britain and Africa followed. Throughout his career, Cammaerts won high praise as an innovative educator. He finally retired in 1987 to live in the south of France. He died there in 2006.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #58

Dear Reader,

During the Second World War, with coffee in short supply, many people in France turned to roasted barley as a substitute. The drink originated in Italy and because it’s caffeine free it became popular in Europe as a beverage for children. Chicory was another popular drink which stayed with the wartime generation for decades. I remember seeing chicory drinks in my ancestors’ pantries.

In occupied France the Nazis controlled the distribution of petrol, gasoline and diesel so the locals adapted their cars and trucks adding wood-gas generators. In this picture note the secondary radiator, which cooled the gas before its introduction into the engine.

Because of curfews only Nazi vehicles travelled at night. If an SOE agent heard a vehicle at night he or she knew it belonged to the Nazis. Therefore, their main hope was that the car continued on its way and didn’t stop outside the agent’s apartment.

My latest translation, the Spanish version of The Olive Tree: Roots, A Spanish Civil War Saga. Available soon 🙂

The road sweeper who keeps our street and field clean told me yesterday that he had the perfect job. He works at his own pace, in the sunshine, with no stress. Not everyone wants to be a banker.

This is London. In Wales we have zebra crossings 😂

Delighted that an Italian translation of The Olive Tree: Roots, A Spanish Civil War Saga, is now in production to join the Spanish version of this book.

More translation news. Eve’s War, Operation Zigzag will soon be translated into Spanish. A German version of this book will also be published soon.

A fact from the Second World War. Less than five percent of British pilots shot down five or more enemy planes.

British pilots shot down 2,698 enemy aircraft between 10 July and 31 October 1940, the Battle of Britain, so it was a great team effort.

Local views this week, the Glamorgan coast.

Love is…

Marie-Madeleine Fourcade

Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was born on 11 August 1909 in Marseille. Under the code name ‘Hérisson’ (‘Hedgehog’) she had the distinction of being the only female leader of a French Resistance network, ‘Alliance’, later named ‘Noah’s Ark’.

Marie-Madeleine Fourcade

Marie-Madeleine married Edouard Meric, a future colonel, when she was twenty. The couple had two children, but later became estranged.

Aged thirty, Marie-Madeleine worked on a magazine, L’ordre national, and became involved in espionage. During her first mission she created Resistance sections in occupied France and assigned agents to these sections. This network developed into Noah’s Ark.

After the Gestapo arrested a number of leading Resistance figures it fell to Marie-Madeleine to lead the movement. She achieved a notable success when her agent Jeannie Rousseau convinced a Wehrmacht officer to draw a rocket and a testing station revealing details of Peenemünde and the V2 rocket programme. These details were forwarded to the Allies.

The British military authorities were so impressed with the quality of Marie-Madeleine’s reports that they sent her a wireless operator. Unfortunately, the wireless operator became a double agent and a number of her colleagues were arrested and murdered by the Gestapo.

After sending her children to live in the safe haven of Switzerland, Marie-Madeleine spent months on the run, moving from city to city to avoid detection. While on the run she gave birth to her third child, a son, whom she hid in a safe-house.

One of Marie-Madeleine’s identity cards

In July 1943, with the Gestapo closing in, Marie-Madeleine left France for Britain where she worked for British intelligence. Although eager to return to France, she had to wait until July 1944 when she rejoined her Noah’s Ark agents.

In Noah’s Ark all the agents were assigned animal names as code names. Their assignments involved gathering information about Nazi troop movements and transmit this intelligence to Britain using a network of couriers and clandestine wireless transmitters. 

The Nazis were able to track down wireless signals, which meant that wireless transmission was perilous work. In total, the Noah’s Ark network lost 438 agents, but still others stepped forward to continue the fight against fascism.

The Gestapo captured Marie-Madeleine on two occasions. Arrested with her staff on 10 November 1942 she escaped and was transported by aeroplane to Britain where she continued to direct the network. 

On her return to France, Marie-Madeleine was captured for a second time. Once again, she escaped this time by stripping naked and squeezing her petite body between the bars of her cell window.

After the war, Marie-Madeleine wrote L’Arche de Noé, a memoir of her wartime experiences. The book was published in 1968 and later abridged and translated into English as Noah’s Ark

My battered second-hand copy of Noah’s Ark

Active in her community, Marie-Madeleine’s social works included the care of 3,000 Resistance agents and survivors, and the publication of Mémorial de l’Alliance, which was dedicated to the 438 Resistance fighters lost during the war.

Marie-Madeleine remarried and in total had five children. She remained active on many committees, often chairing them, throughout her life. One of her last battles involved the Klaus Barbie lawsuit in Lyon in 1987, which resulted in his conviction for war crimes.

Marie-Madeleine Fourcade died on 20 July 1989, aged eighty, at the military hospital of Val-de-Grace. She was buried with honours and is remembered as one of the true heroines of France.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #55

Dear Reader,

“The heart has its reasons which reason knows not.” – Blaise Pascal

In 1942 a Lockheed P38 Lightning crashed during training on the beach at Harlech, Wales. It is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Picture: RC Survey

Listening to and loving Paula’s interpretation of Eve’s War: Operation Zigzag, which is currently in production.

‘It wasn’t only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding; above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you.’ – Ian McEwan, in Atonement.

This is a Welrod Mk 1, the gun of choice for SOE agents during the Second World War.

In Operation Locksmith, book two in my Eve’s War series, Eve uses a Welrod for the first time.

The Welrod is an extremely quiet gun, producing a sound of around 73 dB when fired, and thus is ideal for clandestine operations.

“There was a definite process by which one made people into friends, and it involved talking to them and listening to them for hours at a time.” – Rebecca West

This week, I enjoyed a documentary about the Spitfire. With its elliptical wing design it must be the most graceful aeroplane ever built.

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world do this, it would change the earth.“ – William Faulkner

Local pictures this week, Kenfig coast.

A new series, Resistance Couples

Cécile Rol-Tanguy, born 10 April 1919, was a leading member of the French Resistance during the Second World War. She participated in the liberation of Paris, conducted clandestine operations and relayed confidential messages.

In 1936, Cécile met Henri Tanguy, a political activist who volunteered for the International Brigades and fought against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. The couple married in 1939 and their first child, Françoise, was born in November. Sadly, Françoise fell ill and died on 12 June 1940, two days before the Nazis entered Paris.

In an interview in 2014, Cécile recalled that painful episode: “I can still remember the terrible pall of burning smoke over Paris and wondering if that was what had made my baby ill. I left her in the hospital overnight, and when I went back the next day, there was another baby in her bed.”

Cécile and Henri Rol-Tanguy

During the Nazi occupation, Henri joined the French Forces of the Interior while Cécile supported the FFI as a liaison officer. 

After the birth of her second child, Hélène, Cécile used her baby’s pushchair to conceal guns, grenades and clandestine newspapers. At this time, 1942, the Nazis arrested Cécile’s father and deported him to Auschwitz, where he died.

Despite this setback, Cécile and Henri fought on. In May 1944, Henri was appointed regional leader of the FFI. With Cécile’s help he established an underground command post at Place Denfert-Rochereau, and from there the couple distributed messages to the Resistance.

25 August 1944, the 2nd Armored (Leclerc) Division destroy a Nazi tank in front of the Palais Garnier.

On 19 August 1944, Cécile and Henri published a pamphlet, a call to arms for the citizens of Paris. The people responded and on 25 August they liberated Paris, sweeping the hated Nazi occupiers aside.

Recalling that momentous day, Cécile said, “When they told us, (of the victory) we didn’t hear the bells ringing, but we had a pillow fight with the girls who were with me.”

Parisians line the Champs Élysée for a parade conducted by the French 2nd Armoured Division, 26 August 1944.

After the liberation, Henri became an officer in the French army while Cécile joined the Union des Femmes Françaises, an organisation that maintained the memory of Resistance and anti-fascist fighters. 

The couple had four surviving children: Hélène and Jean, who were born during the war, and Claire and Francis, who were born after the war. Later, the family left Paris to live near the Loire.

After 63 years of marriage, Henri died on 8 September 2002. Cécile passed away at her home at midday on 8 May 2020, the 75th anniversary of VE Day, aged 101. 

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #52

Dear Reader,

Hard to believe that I’ve been posting these weekly ‘letters’ for a year. I don’t publish a newsletter so the idea of these posts is to keep my readers up to date with my writing and publishing, and introduce new readers to my work. I hope you enjoy the content as much as I enjoy putting these posts together.

Published this week, the June 2020 issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads 🙂

Download or read the magazine online FREE

In this issue…

Lockdown for Teenagers

Modern Movie Classics

Photography

Articles

Poems

Humour

Puzzles

Young Writers

And an insight into the Month of June

Countdown to the D-Day anniversary, 6th June. From a Second World War edition of the Daily Mirror, a recipe for omelettes made from dried eggs.

Local views this week…Coney Beach, , my footprints, Porthcawl Harbour, Sger House, roses in our garden

In Looking for Rosanna Mee, Sam Smith Mystery Series book seventeen, Sam visits Cardiff Museum where she admires Renoir’s La Parisienne.

Henriette Henriot, sixteen at the time, posed for La Parisienne. One of Renoir’s favourite models, she enjoyed a distinguished acting career, appearing on stage from 1875 until the outbreak of the First World War.

Countdown to the D-Day anniversary, 6th June.

4th June 1944, Rommel left Normandy and returned to Germany to attend his wife’s birthday. As a gift, he’d bought her a pair of suede shoes.

Two days later, the Allies paved the way for our freedom from fascism by landing on the Normandy beaches. Many bloody battles followed, but for the Nazis this was the beginning of the end.

PS: The shoes didn’t fit.

5th June 1944, General Eisenhower wrote this note, taking full responsibility, success or failure, for the D-Day landings.

Our ancestors had it tough, but at least they had real leaders.

This is Resistance fighter Simone Segouin at the liberation of Paris, 25 August 1944. Wearing her distinctive shorts, she was just eighteen years old at the time.

Simone began her Resistance career by stealing a bicycle from a Nazi messenger, which she used to deliver Resistance messages. After that, she captured Nazi troops, blew up bridges and derailed trains. 

On 23 August 1944, Simone participated in the liberation of Chartres and two days later in the liberation of Paris. After the war, she became a nurse.

Aged ninety-four, Simone still lives in France.

June 6th, the 76th anniversary of D-Day

During the evening of 5th June 1944, the BBC broadcast the following message, informing SOE agents and the French Resistance of the imminent invasion. 

The long sobs

Of violins

Of autumn

Wound my heart

With a monotone

Languor.

The words were written by Paul Verlaine in his poem Chanson d’automne – Autumn Song. 

The SOE agents and Resistance members acted instantly, securing many villages and small towns, sabotaging roads, bridges and railways in actions that delayed the Nazis for a fortnight, vital time that allowed the Allies to gain a vital foothold in Normandy before driving the fascists out of France.

Pearl Witherington’s story will continue next week.

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