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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

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #50

Dear Reader,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

 

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

Dear Reader #49

Dear Reader,

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

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

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

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

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From the Daily Mirror, 8 May 1944, VE Day

Women in Work

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

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

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

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

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Our local castle at Kenfig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

 

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #48

I’m honoured to have two of my articles featured in the Seaside News this month. You can find them on page sixteen of the magazine.

This is Lilly of the Valley. A French friend informs me that it’s a tradition to share this at the beginning of May to wish friends good luck and happiness throughout the coming year, so I’m happy to share it with you 🙂
 
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We are making good progress with the audiobook version of Digging in the Dirt and hope to publish in early June. Meanwhile, here’s the cover.

The May 2020 issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now available to read and download FREE 🙂

Sam visits the Rhymney Valley in Looking for Rosanna Mee.

Lightly populated for centuries, the valley developed through heavy industry – iron, steel and coal.
 
Local legend states that a giant harassed the fairies. They asked an owl for help and he slew the giant. As the fairies burned the giant’s body the scorched earth revealed the coal.
 
Picture: Wikipedia
 
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This is a letter written by Captain Selwyn Jepson of the SOE recommending Jacqueline Nearne for service in the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. It’s pure fiction. For this letter to be authentic, Jepson should have known Jacqueline for at least two years (he’d known her for two weeks). Prudence Macfie of the FANY wrote a similar letter, even though she‘d known Jacqueline for a shorter period than Jepson.
 
Why the deception? The FANY was used as a cover for female SOE agents and in Jacqueline, Jepson saw someone who could serve the SOE well. His judgement proved correct. Jacqueline served the SOE with distinction and was awarded numerous honours after the war.
 
 
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During the Second World War, thousands of coded messages were sent from Britain to SOE agents in France. Here are four received by Pearl Witherington’s Wrestler network.
 
Quasimodo is a fete = Intensify guerrilla warfare
Don’t play about in the morning = Cut telephone communications
Sherry is a Spanish wine = Block the roads
A badly dressed woman = Sabotage railway lines
 

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Local views this week, from Ogmore, Kenfig and the Goylake River.
 

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Wishing you a Happy 75th VE Day Anniversary.
 
Our ancestors gave so much, including their lives, in the fight against fascism. We owe it to them, ourselves and our children to ensure that the current generation of fascists with their racist views, false smiles and pathological lies do not triumph.
 
Our ancestors gave their lives for a better world. It is up to us, everyone of us, to make their dream a reality.
 
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Women of Courage Heroines of SOE

Odette Victoria Wilen was born on 25 April 1919. She served the SOE in France under the code name Sophie. Odette’s experiences in France read like a romantic adventure novel, with tragic twists and turns, and a fairytale ending.

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Odette Wilen

Born of a French mother and a Czech father, who served as an RAF officer, Odette became a naturalised British citizen in 1931. In June 1940, she married Dennis Wilen, a Finnish RAF pilot instructor. Sadly, he died during a flying accident in 1942.

In April 1943, Odette joined the SOE. At her request, she trained as a wireless operator and was parachuted into France on 11 April 1944 to join the Stationer network in Auvergne.

Odette’s organiser, Maurice Southgate, believed that she had not received sufficient training, which was symptomatic of the SOE’s desperate need to send wireless operators into the field. Subsequently, she was replaced.

Meanwhile, through a network of contacts, which included fellow agents Pearl Witherington and Virginia Hall, Odette transferred to the Labourer network where she worked in Paris as a courier alongside Marcel Leccia, who became her fiancé. Sadly, through betrayal the Gestapo captured Marcel and two of his colleagues. In keeping with their barbaric code, the Gestapo murdered Marcel in September 1944.

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Pearl Witherington

Odette was saved from the Gestapo by Pearl Witherington and by Marcel’s sister, Mimi, who warned her of their impending threat. After trying to secure Marcel’s release, Odette fled Paris by bicycle before following the well-warn escape route over the Pyrenees into Spain, then on to Gibraltar and Britain, arriving in August 1944.

During her exfiltration, Odette met the head of the Spanish escape network, Santiago Strugo Garay. Although they spent only three days together, Odette must have left a strong impression on Santiago because at the end of the war, he left Spain to meet up with her in Britain. The couple married in March 1946 and later settled in Buenos Aires.

Odette and Santiago produced two children. He died in 1997 while she died in 2015, aged 96.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

PS Apologies for any formatting errors, these are a result of WordPress’ increasingly unreliable platform.