“We all have our time machines, don’t we. Those that take us back are memories…And those that carry us forward, are dreams.” – H.G. Wells, 21 September 1866.
19 September 1944. Dutch residents of Velp welcome British Sherman tanks of 30 Corps as they advance towards Grave and Nijmegen.
From The People’s Collection Wales. A common sight in the Victorian era and first half of the twentieth century, housewives scrubbing their front doorsteps.
A clean doorstep was regarded as a badge of pride.
Pictured, Mrs Blodwen Williams of Ynys-y-bŵl during the 1930s.
This week in 1946, filmmakers from twenty-one nations arrived in Cannes, an already-glamorous resort on the French riviera, and presented their films to their peers, establishing the Cannes Film Festival.
My Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series has entered the top five. We will start promoting the series during the autumn so I’m hoping it will attract more readers. From my point of view, it’s a great series to research and write.
Views from the Bwlch this week.
Health and Safety takes a holiday. Painting the Eiffel Tower in 1932.
Pictured in 1942, the long wave radio transmitter at Criggion Radio Station, mid-Wales. The centre was vital to British communications during the Second World War.
I’m researching songs of the Spanish Civil War. This is A Las Barricadas, To The Barricades, a rousing call to arms based on Whirlwinds of Danger, Warszawianka, a Polish song.
Eileen Nearne who, along with her sister Jacqueline, served in France as an SOE agent. After transmitting over one hundred messages, Eileen was captured by the Gestapo. However, she escaped. Read her remarkable story here https://hannah-howe.com/eves-war/eileen-nearne/
This week, my writing takes me to the Spanish Civil War with Branches, book two in The Olive Tree. This story actually starts in Paris during the International Exposition of 1937. Pictured, The Soviet pavilion and the German pavilion near the Eiffel Tower.
Enjoying dinner aboard a Zeppelin, Berlin to Paris, 1928.
The proof copy of Looking for Rosanna Mee has arrived from the printer. Also, I’m delighted that a Spanish version of this book, my latest Sam Smith Mystery, is now in production.
In Spain, Vice-President Pablo Iglesias announced that descendants of those who fought in the International Brigades will be able to apply for Spanish citizenship. In 2007 a law granted members of the International Brigades citizenship.
Los descendientes de los brigadistas internacionales que combatieron por la libertad y contra el fascismo en España, podrán acceder a la nacionalidad española. Ya era hora de decir desde el Gobierno a estos héroes y heroínas de la democracia: gracias por venir.
Translation: “The descendants of the international brigade members who fought for freedom and against fascism in Spain, will be able to access Spanish nationality. It was time to say from the Government to these heroes and heroines of democracy: thank you for coming.”
Commemorating the Battle of Britain, an international team effort.
A worker at the B.T.H. factory in Neasden Lane, Willesden writing messages on a Covenanter tank of British Guards Armoured Division, 22 September 1942.
A post World War Two silk dress made from ‘escape and evade’ maps. The maps were given to RAF pilots and SOE agents to aid their escape should they be trapped behind enemy lines.
Maps were printed on silk during the war because the material is durable, rustle free, easy to conceal and doesn’t degrade in water. The maps, along with secret messages, were often sewn into an agent’s clothing.
This weekend’s sweet treat in our house is a Teisan Lap, a moist cake that was very popular with coalminers.
The Train, a 1964 Second World War movie, is based on an interesting premise: are great works of art more valuable than human life?
Directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Burt Lancaster, The Train is an ‘industrial’ movie in that sweat and coal dust are never far from the actors’ faces. It’s also a stirring action movie with a number of dramatic, explosive scenes.
It’s August 1944 and with the Allies closing in on Paris, the Nazis decided to transport, by train, the great art treasures of France to Germany. In the movie, the main protagonists are Paul Labiche, a railwayman and Resistance member, played by Burt Lancaster, and art lover Colonel Franz von Waldheim, played by Paul Scofield.
Given that the Allies are approaching, the Resistance only need to delay the train by a few days, while protecting its priceless cargo. Although initially reluctant to participate in the plan, Labiche devises an elaborate plan where, instead of travelling in a straight line to Germany, the train travels in a circle. In all aspects, the movie is gritty and realistic. However, this concept does require a suspension of disbelief because the Nazis never suspect that the train is taking a circuitous route.
One of the most dramatic scenes in the movie is a train crash. This was filmed for real. However, the stuntman pulled the throttle back too far and the train travelled too fast, demolishing a dozen cameras en route. This left just one camera, buried in the ground, to capture the action, which it did to stunning effect, the wrecked train coming to rest above its all-seeing lens.
Due to a number of complex sequences, the movie overran it’s production schedule. Many of the French character actors in the film were committed to other projects. Therefore, director John Frankenheimer came up with a simple solution. As Resistance fighters, they were placed against a wall and shot by the Nazis. Historically correct, this explained their absence from the closing scenes of the film.
An agile performer, Burt Lancaster performed his own stunts. These included jumping on to a fast moving train and, later, being pushed off a fast moving train. He escaped without injury. However, on a rest day he played golf and badly damaged his knee. John Frankenheimer needed a reason to explain Lancaster’s limp, so he included a new scene in which the Nazis shoot Lancaster in the knee as he makes his escape thus allowing the production to continue without further delay.
With filming complete, John Frankenheimer showed The Train to the production company, United Artists. They realised that the movie required another action scene. Therefore, Frankenheimer reassembled the cast for a dramatic Spitfire attack scene, a highlight of the movie.
At Lancaster’s suggestion, Frankenheimer also added a philosophical/romantic scene, which Lancaster largely wrote. This scene featured Lancaster and Jeanne Moreau, and is another highlight of the movie.
Throughout the film, John Frankenheimer juxtaposed the value of art with the value of human life. A brief montage at the close of the movie intercuts the crates full of paintings with the bloodied bodies of the hostages, shot by the Nazis, before a final scene shows Lancaster as Labiche limping away.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison
This is how I started writing and why I write.
My latest translation, the Spanish version of Snow in August, available soon 🙂
My latest audiobook. We hope to complete production next week 🙂
“In books we never find anything but ourselves. Strangely enough, that always gives us great pleasure, and we say the author is a genius.” – Thomas Mann
You mean, I’m not a genius?! 🤣
“Some cry with tears, others with thoughts.” – Octavio Paz
Picture: On the Green Bank, Sanary, 1911 – Henri Lebasque
A statue problem, solved. From 1949.
This week is refugee week. My country, Wales, has a proud history of welcoming refugees. This picture shows the children at Cambria House, Caerleon, Basque refugees from the Spanish Civil War.
Sandra Puhl translated my Ann’s War series into German and I’m delighted that she has agreed to translate my Eve’s War series. One of the joys of writing is working with creative people.
Art as therapy.
A crochet panel produced by George Preece following a life-changing accident at Abercynon Colliery in 1909.
George was involved in a transport accident which resulted in the loss of both legs. Unable to work again, he spent his time making the crochet panel, and other items from old food tins.
I enjoyed this film this week. During the first half, I thought the hero and heroine were too flippant for the subject matter. However, a tragic incident at the halfway mark changed the mood and the various strands came together to produce a suspenseful conclusion. Not a classic, but a good variation on the POW theme.
Brittany, 16 August 1944. Members of the FFI (French Forces of the Interior). Their uniforms show the French flag with the Free French emblem, the Cross of Lorraine.
By mid-August 1944 the Nazis were in full retreat and these women were contemplating the liberation of Paris, which arrived after a week-long battle, 19 August to 25 August.
Approximately twenty percent of the FFI were women. Many fought alongside their husbands, including Cécile Rol-Tanguy, Lucie Aubrac, Paulette Kriegel-Valrimont, Hélène Viannay, Cletta Mayer and Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux. They organised acts of sabotage, wrote and distributed newspapers, and freed many from Nazi concentration camps. Indeed, Marie-Hélène Postel-Vinay rescued Pierre Lefaucheux from a Gestapo prison camp. The couple subsequently married.
An iconic photograph from the Spanish Civil War. This is Marina Ginestà i Coloma, born in Toulouse on 29 January 1919 after her family had emigrated to France from Spain.
Aged eleven, Marina returned to Spain, to Barcelona, with her parents, who were tailors. When the Spanish Civil War broke out she served as a translator and reporter.
This picture was taken by Juan Guzman on 21 July 1936 when Marina was seventeen years old. The location is the rooftop of the Hotel Colón in Barcelona.
In 1952, Marina married a Belgian diplomat. She moved to Paris in 1978 and died there on 6th January 2014.
It’s an amazing fact that the vast majority of the female Resistance fighters I have researched lived well into their nineties.
My article about SOE heroine Jacqueline Nearne is on page 16 of the Seaside News. Lots of other interesting features included too.
The Longest Day contains many remarkable pieces of filmmaking, but from a technical point of view this scene is the highlight.
Sara Ginaite-Rubinson was born in Kaunas on 17 March 1924. She was a schoolgirl in 1941 when the Nazis invaded Lithuania, killing three of her uncles and imprisoning her and the surviving members of her family.
While imprisioned in the Kovno Ghetto, Sara met Misha Rubinson, whom she later married. During the winter of 1943-44 the couple escaped and established a Resistance group. Twice, she returned to the ghetto to help others escape.
In 1944, Sara and Misha participated in the liberation of the Vilnius and Kaunas ghettos, freeing Sara’s sister and niece among many others.
After the war, Sara became a professor of political economics at Vilnius University. She also wrote an award-winning book, Resistance and Survival: The Jewish Community in Kaunas, 1941–1944.
Sara died on 2 April 2018, yet another remarkable Resistance fighter who lived well into her nineties.
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Every year in France the locals collect sand from Omaha Beach, where the Americans lost 2,400 lives on D-Day, and use it to fill in the letters on the tombstones of the fallen.
“In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.” – Pico Iyer