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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

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Dear Reader

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 #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.

 
 
 
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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

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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