Books Reviewed In 2019

The Man Who Was SaturdayThe Extraordinary Life of Airey Neave – by Patrick Bishop

Monopoli Blues – by Tim Clark and Nick Cook

Commando Countryby Stuart Allen

Captive Memories – Starvation – Disease – Survival – by Dr Meg Parkes and Dr Geoff Gill

No Surrender at Arnhem by Robert Peatling

Malayan Spymaster by Boris Hembry

Beneath A Scarlet Skyby Mark Sullivan

One Woman’s Warby Eileen Younghusband

Flee the Captor – The Story of the Dutch-Paris Underground and John Henry Weidner by Herbert Ford

Escaping With His Life by Sir Nicholas Young

Les Parisiennes by Anne Sebba

From One Hell to Another by Liz Cowley & Donough O’Brien

So Close to Freedom by Jean-Luc Carton

The Brave Japaneseby Kenneth Harrison

Secret War by Nigel West

Zero Night by Mark Felton.

Game of Spies by Paddy Ashdown

Escape From the Third Reich by Sune Persson

Never Surrender – Lost voices of a Generation at Warby Robert Kershaw,

The Man Who Was SaturdayThe Extraordinary Life of Airey Neaveby Patrick Bishop

Airey Neave served as a Soldier, Escaper, Intelligence Officer and Politician. He was assassinated in the House of Commons car park in 1979. This book is published to mark the 40th anniversary of his death.

In 1933, Neave made his first trip to Germany, to a school in Berlin to improve his German. It was a turning point in his life, an experience that highlighted the dangers of totalitarianism and indicated that freedom could not be taken for granted. Neave attended a German school but was excused from giving the Hitler salute each day when the teacher entered the room, although he learned quickly not to fall out with, or mock, Germany’s new masters. On his return to England, and with war clouds gathering over Europe, Neave initially signed up with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry [TA], following OTC at Eaton College. He later transferred to the 22nd [Essex] Anti-Aircraft Battalion, Royal Engineers, then to the Royal Artillery with another AA unit which was operating search lights. Top of the Document

In February 1940 Neave moved to France and joined the British Expeditionary Force [BEF] becoming a Troop Commander with the 1st Searchlight Regiment, RA. There is detailed coverage of the fighting in Northern France and Calais. During the fierce fighting in France Neave was wounded in the chest and captured. He attempted an escape from his hospital bed in Calais but was recaptured, and before the opportunity arose again he was moved to Lille. There, with the help of a French nurse, he was again planning an escape when moved on to Oflag 1Xa at Spangenberg, then on to Stalag XXa at Thorn where he continued planning to escape. He escaped but was recaptured after four days and handed to the Gestapo who interrogated him harshly for ten days before returning him to Thorn. In May 41 Neave was moved to the ‘bad boys’ camp at Oflag IVc – Colditz – a fortified castle listed as ‘escape-proof’ by the Germans and kept for persistent escapers.

On the 05 January 42 Neave, with Lt Luteyn of the Dutch Army, escaped, reaching Switzerland on the 9th January. He was the first Brit to escape from Colditz.

From Switzerland Neave’s route took him through France using couriers and safe-house keepers of the Pat Line, eventually arriving at Louis Nouveau’s flat in the Old Port of Marseille. About a week later he was collected and taken by train to Toulouse before meeting a Spanish guide at Port Vendres for the crossing of the Pyrenees. Then onwards to the British Consulate in Barcelona from where forwarding to Gibraltar and England were arranged.

Neave was then head-hunted by MI9, first working in Room 900 at the War Office, before moving to headquarters in Beaconsfield. Given the code name Saturday, his role was to organise the European Escape Lines and the return of escapers and evaders from Europe. He was instrumental in setting up the Freteval Forest Camp for evaders near Vendome, and for evader camps in Brittany and the Ardennes. MI9 operatives also landed on D-Day in security sections to trawl for and locate escapers and evaders hidden in safe-house areas. Neave co-ordinated the rescue of evaders from the Freteval camp with 2SAS and US forces. He then moved north passing through France, Belgium and Holland seeking out evaders and working with Resistance groups. His role at this time was difficult as, working in a small Intelligence Unit, he was reliant on infrastructure and support from other units and formations who were often unwilling to assist, as some traditional staff officers were opposed to small independent units whose focus was other than main battle group objectives. At the end of hostilities Neave, as a lawyer, served on the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials and came face-to-face with many characters who were the architects of the Nazi terror machine. He served indictments on Goering, Hess, Ribbentrop and many others.

At end of the war Neave, through his secondment to the Intelligence Corps, became second in command and later took over as CO IS9 in the rank of Colonel. The role of that unit involved preserving the skills of escape and evasion techniques that had been learned during WW2 and adapting them to the Cold War situation. After the war Neave entered politics, and in 1953 he was elected as the Conservative MP for Abingdon. As an MP his association with the military ceased, although he remained as a reservist with IS9 in the event of hostilities. Neave went on to become Margaret Thatcher’s ‘right hand man’, and was instrumental in her successful bid for Tory Party Leadership in 1975. On 30 March 1979 Neave was gravely injured when an IED planted under his car exploded as he was driving out of the House of Commons car park. He subsequently died in hospital. The murder was claimed by the INLA, a breakaway group of the IRA. This book is ‘a must’ for researchers on MI9, and its activities before and after D-Day, and also comprehensively covers Neave’s political life.

ISBN 978 000 830904 William Collins. Cost £20 Top of the Document

Monopoli Bluesby Tim Clark and Nick Cook

This is a well-researched book that covers a mass of information about Special Forces activities in WW2, particularly in Italy. It is also the story of Robert Clark and his future wife Marjorie Lewis, whose wartime activities became inter-connected. Robert joined the RNVR for his initial Navy training in the summer of 1942. After training he joined HMS Fleetwood for convoy escort duties in the western Mediterranean [Malta]. In early 43 he was sent on an Officer Training Course in Brighton and, following graduation, he was head-hunted by SOE. In April 43 Marjorie Lewis joined the FANY. By May 43 Robert was on the west coast of Scotland attending the Commando Training Centre at Arsiaig training for SOE. In June he was at the Helford River Training Centre for para-naval training using small boats and involved with covert operations to the French coast. September 43 found Robert in Algeria training for small boat operations in the eastern Mediterranean. Later, November 43, he moved to Malta and then to 1 Special Force at Monopoli, near Bari, Italy. Also that November Marjorie sailed from Liverpool to SOE Headquarters in Algeria as a radio operator.

Robert was involved with dedicated covert para-naval operations along the Italian coast inserting and extracting agents when, in January 44, Marjorie arrived in Monopoli, and they met. From January 44 to March 44, Robert was continually involved with agent inserts and extractions and resupply missions to support SOE missions and Partisans in Yugoslavia, and with the extraction of escaping Allied POWs by sea. He was also involved with land based sabotage missions from the area of Porto San Giorgio – his receiving station radio operator [by chance] being Marjorie. In April, all para-naval members of 1 Special Force were re-rolled for land-based Special Forces Operations and Robert changed role to an SOE land-based liaison officer behind enemy lines. In May 44 he was involved in a beach recce operation to enable Popski’s Private Army to be inserted into the Marche area.

As battle-hardened German troops flooded into northern Italy in response to well-co-ordinated Partisan attacks in the area, SOE had 33 separate missions working with Partisans. In September Robert carried out parachute training prior to returning to northern Italy, then was dropped into the Mondovi region on the Clarion mission. He was captured on 12 December 44 and taken to jail at Cuneo, then later moved to Nuove prison in Turin. [On the 24 December he was awarded the DSC [Distinguished Service Cross] for previous operations.] In February 45 Robert was moved to Stalag VlllA at Moorsburg, Bavaria, then on to Milag Nord near Bremen. In May he was forced-marched from Bremen to Oflag XC at Lubeck and finally liberated by the British Second Army May 1945. Marjorie left Italy in April 45.

This is an excellent story, which covers many operational areas in Italy where SOE was deployed and ensures that the Italian theatre of operations is not forgotten. It offers an important view of SOE and Partisan activity in Italy which is often over-shadowed by SOE work in France. The circumstances of the story are unusual in that Robert was an RN Officer who chose to work with SOE, carried out Commando training in Scotland and later trained as a parachutist to be inserted behind enemy lines. I do not think many naval officers can be credited with having a Commando Dagger and Para Wings on their shoulders, or a parachute on their sleeve, or of being an operative in the field whose receiving station operator was his girlfriend – who later became his wife! A good read. ISBN 978191261 8514. Unbound. Cost £12-99. Top of the Document

Commando Country – by Stuart Allen

This is an excellent book that covers an area north of an imaginary line between Inverness and Oban in Scotland – beautiful, often untouched by roads, railways and people and ‘a protected area’ containing all the 20 STCs [Special Training Camps] based east and south of Mallaig. In WW2 all Special Forces Units, British and Allied, trained here, as well as SOE, SIS, OSS and many other smaller covert units and small teams from all Allied nations preparing for specific operations. Men and women destined for SOE were also judged on these tough courses.

The mountains of Scotland are rugged, dangerous and, at times, deadly; not only is it tough mountain country, but often plagued by torrential rain and blizzards. In WW2 it was the toughest training area, the scene of many fatalities, and where the Royal Navy also sent their small boat handlers, frogmen and midget submarine submariners to the Scottish lochs to train.

In 2004, in pouring rain, fifty men gathered and marched to the Commando Training Centre at Achnacarry to the sound of pipes from Spean Bridge, as they would have done more than sixty years before. On this occasion veterans from the Commando Association marched to the giant bronze figures of three Commandos, their memorial, for the last time, proudly wearing their hard-earned Green Berets. Behind them, together with their families, was a younger generation of the Commando family, of many nationalities, who would have also trained in Scotland. This book is also an overview of operations taken on by the men and women who trained there. ISBN 978 1905267 149 National Museums Scotland. Cost £12 -99. Top of the Document

Captive Memories – Starvation – Disease – Survivalby Dr Meg Parkes and Dr Geoff Gill

When Far East POWS [FEPOWS] returned to England in the autumn of 1945, most would not, or could not, speak of their captivity. They were very sick men who had been physically and mentally affected by their ordeal. Many could not eat solid foods. Some refused to speak. Following their release most had been treated in hospitals in Singapore and Hong-Kong before being allowed to leave for the long voyage home to England. They travelled by ship and were monitored on voyage in an effort to build up their input of food and put on some weight before arriving as almost unrecognisable skeletons on their home doorsteps. Many were treated at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine [LSTM], the only place where doctors had the expertise to treat them, and where thousands of FEPOWS were treated and monitored over a six decade programme of recording interviews and treatments.

This book examines the perspective of wives and families who supported their menfolk, despite their nightmares and mental problems. It explores the ‘conspiracy of silence’ in this country around the FEPOW experience. This is not a book for the faint-hearted. It details survival in its extreme. Conditions for FEPOWS were hellish. Appalling diseases were rife. The stench indescribable. Food was minimal or non-existent. Medical equipment was non-existent. Men died every day from tropical diseases, starvation and overwork. Many worked long hours on the Burma railway. Resilience, resourcefulness, pride, camaraderie, the Regimental family and self-discipline were the key factors to survival. Captives helped each other, intense bonds were formed, selfless sacrifices made. There were no Red Cross parcels, no medicines, no medical dressings or clean water. Surgical operations were performed in an unhygienic, open bamboo and atap roofed hut using crudely fashioned make-shift instruments.

The records of the ongoing physical effects of torture and Far East captivity, which brought men to the LSTM in 1946, are now available to offer a greater understanding of long-term captivity and have also improved the diagnosis of many diseases. The insight has influenced the way in which servicemen and women are now cared for on return from operational service in modern times. For the military survivalist the book is ‘a must’. For those interested in jungle survival it is also a useful training manual. For the men who served and suffered, who had the mental ability to survive and steadfastly refused to be broken down, it is their testament. ISBN 13:978 1910837 009 Palatine Books. Cost £12-99. Top of the Document

No Surrender at Arnhem – by Robert Peatling

This is one young man’s diary of his part in the battle of Arnhem. Called up in 1942, Peatling was initially trained as a wireless operator for the Royal Tank Regiment. In 1943 he volunteered for parachute duties and after training joined 2 Para. He jumped into Arnhem in September 44 and in the close-quarter fighting he became separated from his unit. He had been escorting German prisoners to a holding area when he found he could not get back to his unit and it became obvious that the main land attack, led by General Horrocks’ XXX Corps, would not now reach Arnhem in the expected 48hours. A Military Police Sgt ordered Peatling to surrender before the location was overrun, but in the confusion of war he slipped away quietly and entered a bombed out house where he hid in an attic which had most of the roof blown away. He had no food or water, was a hunted man who became a predator; the attic was a good vantage point to observe the area. He slipped away at night to forage for food, water, arms and ammunition, and made contact with the Dutch Underground – the kindness and courage of the Dutch people in very difficult circumstances is legendary. A civilian contact arrived at the hide with a suitcase containing civilian clothing. Peatling was then taken to a series of safe-houses ran by the Dutch Resistance and given food and other clothing. He then stayed to work with the Resistance.

Peatling took a great risk in keeping a diary of events from the start of the battle to 31 December 44 – three and a half months. It was too dangerous to carry around so he gave it to a Dutch farmer, Herman van Esvald at Kootwijkerbroek for safe-keeping. When Peatling was liberated by the Canadian Army in April 45 he handed the diary to an Officer. In August 45 he received two letters from MI9 at the War Office informing him that they had his diary and ‘requesting’ he attend an interrogation in London and collect his diary. This story is based on that diary. Peatling had been ‘missing in action’ for over six months after which his wife qualified for a war widow’s pension of ten shillings a week. She refused to draw it and was rewarded by his return home. ISBN 0952299216 CPI UK Cost £12-99 Top of the Document

Malayan Spymaster – by Boris Hembry

This is the story of Boris Hembry who went out to Malaya in 1930 as a manager on rubber planting estates in Malaya and Sumatra. Colonial life is described in great detail together with the trials and tribulations of living in the jungle. Following the Japanese invasion of Malaya in December 1941 Hembry volunteered to work with the covert stay-behind parties in the jungle, with the legendary Spencer Chapman. He became involved in training teams of small groups to harass the Japanese occupation forces and to lead teams of local planters’ labourers on many occasions. It was a difficult start with little support and after a short period Hembry had to escape by sampan across the Malacca Straights to Sumatra. He then returned to Singapore by boat just before its surrender to the Japanese. After a short period of time he escaped to Java and continued on to India, where he joined V Force, a covert intelligence gathering unit operation in Japanese occupied Burma.

In 1943, Hembry was recruited into the Secret Intelligence Service [SIS], working under the cover name of the Inter-Services Liaison Department [ISLD]. He was inserted into Malaya and Sumatra on Intelligence gathering operations and liaison with covert units working in deep jungle cover. On most of these operations he was inserted and extracted by submarine and made his own way through thick jungle to his contacts, choosing different routes out. In 1944 Hembry became the head of the Malayan Country Section of ISLD; he also liaised with SOE’s Force 136 and was responsible for the most successful Intelligence coup of the Malayan War. After WW2, Hembry returned with his family to Sungei Siput, Perak, and his rubber plantation where, in 1948, three of his colleagues were murdered by Communist terrorists – a move that started the Malayan Emergency. Hembry organised the local planter community into a Home Guard Unit, the first in Malaya, and later worked on the Briggs Plan. With his experience gained from wartime patrolling, his ability to speak local languages and his knowledge of the local people and the wartime groups that he had organised [many of whom were now working with the communists] he worked with the Military and Special Police groups and also the SAS on deep jungle patrols, often to the former WW2 camp locations; he survived a number of attempts on his life. An excellent book, dealing with stay behind parties in Malaya and Burma and Hembry’s experiences of jungle living in peace and war. ISBN 9789810854423. Monsoon Books, Singapore. Cost £12. Top of the Document

Beneath A Scarlet Sky – by Mark Sullivan

This is a ‘faction’ book – a novel based on true people and events – the story of Giuseppe ‘Pino Lella. As a teenager in WW2, Pino’s father sent him to Fr. Re at Casa Alpina in the mountains, to escape the bombing in Milan. Fr. Re had Pino training to become fit in order to guide escaping Jews into Switzerland. After a while Pino wished to become more involved in the work of the covert organisations and so returned to Milan to Join the Resistance there. He joined the German Army where he worked on behalf of the Allies while acting as a driver for General Hans Leyers, Hitler’s ‘right-hand-man’ in Italy. A fascinating story. [Kindle Edition – £4.99. Also available in Paperback. ISBN: 1503943372 – Lake Union Publishing. Apparently film rights to the life story of Pino Lella have been acquired.] Top of the Document

One Woman’s War – by Eileen Younghusband

The story begins at the end of Eileen’s school days when she moved to France to teach English to three French children, but this was interrupted by the build-up to WW2, at which point she returned to Britain. At the age of 19, following a spell working in an office, Eileen volunteered for the WAAF and, because of her ability with languages and maths, found herself in top-secret jobs, details of which she was unable to reveal for the next thirty years! Eileen’s work in the filter room involved assessing radar reports in order to provide details of Allied and enemy aircraft movements and give appropriate air-raid warnings. After D-Day, posted to Belgium, Eileen was part of a team of mathematical experts who alerted Allied forces to the location of the V2 rocket launch sites. In addition Eileen offers an insight into life during the war. After the war, at the request of the RAF, she spent some time teaching English to Polish pilots who wished to remain in the UK. Eileen’s life, post-war, is also chronicled, including the achievement of a university degree at the age of 87. A very interesting lady. [ISBN: 978-0-9566826-2-8. £8.99 Paperback. Also available for Kindle £1.74] Top of the Document

Flee The Captor – The Story of the Dutch-Paris Underground and John Henry Weidner by Herbert Ford

John Henry Weidner was a Dutch textile merchant living in occupied France. He and his wife Elisabeth set up the Dutch Escape Line route, later known as the Dutch-Paris Line, when assisting a Jewish couple to escape from a French prison into Switzerland. The line rapidly developed from a ‘two-person/quick border-crossing operation’ into the longest escape line route in occupied Europe, also involved in running a messenger system for the Dutch Government in London by smuggling microfilm and intelligence information. Weidner’s operational areas were initially the Swiss border area with France [although the route later changed to the high Pyrenees because, although Switzerland was neutral, escapers were usually interned] and later Belgium, Holland, France, Spain and the Pyrenees. During its wartime period the line was credited with the rescue of over 150 Allied air crew evaders and over 1000 Jews. The aircrew lists are recorded, but not the Jewish fugitives in case the documentation should fall into enemy hands. It was only later, when many of the fugitives reached safety in the USA and formed groupings for friendship, that the vast numbers became apparent.

It is an excellent book detailing: the organisation and infrastructure of the line; methods of operation; acquisition of black-market food; forged documents; Weidner’s connections and routes; difficulties with documentation; acquisition of multi-national currency for crossing boundaries; rebuilding ‘blown’ lines; the safe-house holding areas which were his textile mills throughout France, as being the owner and director he had travel permits and passes throughout occupied Europe allowing free roaming. The ‘military-minded’ will appreciate the planning and operational details of running the escape lines.

Weidner’s handling of resistance to interrogation on capture are of note, and the descriptions of his three periods of capture, make harrowing reading – the torture and brutal treatment by the French Vichy Milice, his brutal handling by the Gestapo, and his methods of escape on three occasions. He refused to be cowed, and suffered imprisonment and torture for his actions giving nothing away. As a Seventh – day Adventist he believed that his religion pulled him through. At the end of the war, when asked about his activities he replied, ‘They were God’s children; they were human beings’. Weidner was decorated by many countries at the end of the war, including Israel. A good read. ISBN08280 08825 Southern Publishing Association. Cost Can$19-99. Top of the Document

Escaping With His Life by Sir Nicholas Young

This is the wartime story of Leslie Young, the author’s father. Young was a Territorial Army Officer when war clouds gathered over Europe. He transferred to a regular army commission and headed to France with the 2 Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment as part of the BEF. The information on the Battalion’s actions has been taken from the Regiment’s war diaries and veterans’ interviews and provides an often horrific description of the fighting in France and Belgium in 1940. Digging-in, then on-the-move, plugging gaps left by the French and Belgian troops, particularly in the area where the Maginot Line was incomplete through Belgium to the sea. Young’s Battalion was one of the last units to reach the Dunkirk perimeter, carrying out a fighting withdrawal just as the last ships were leaving.

Back in England, and bored with defensive soldiering, Young volunteered for the Commandos; he trained in Scotland then ‘took the war to the enemy’. His first raid was to Norway and the Lofoten Islands. Later in March ‘43 he was back with his Regiment and fighting in North Africa where, after heavy fighting in Tunisia against Rommel’s Afrika Corps, he was captured on Hill 583. After a succession of prison camp locations Young eventually ended up at PG 49 in Fontanellato in Italy where, with others, escape-planning was a major occupation.

The Italian Armistice was signed on the 8th September 1943. The Senior British Officer [SBO] briefed the POWs on the situation, the ‘stay-put’ order and his views about it. Then an Italian sentry raced into the camp on his bicycle to inform the SBO that the Germans were about two miles away. Within minutes a bugler sounded three ‘G’s [the alarm call], the men formed up in companies and marched smartly out of the camp. Once in wild country the companies dispersed into small groupings and the men began their evasions – south to the Allied Lines, or over the Alps to Switzerland. Young spent six months heading south through the Apennines assisted by the contadini and the Italian Resistance before reaching the Allied lines. Much of his success was due to the mountain people, the contadini, who assisted him with food, clothing, water, accommodation, and guidance along the route. Sadly two of his young helpers were killed when leading him through a minefield to the Allied lines.

On the 9th June, after his return to England, Young joined the Queen’s Royal Regiment, part of the 7 Armoured Division, in Normandy. His story resumed: through France, Belgium and Holland to within sight of the German border; at which point the Battalion was withdrawn from the battle. Having fought non-stop from Normandy and suffered so many battle casualties they were no longer viable as a fighting unit. Young, himself, had been fighting since 1939 and was lucky to still be alive. This book has captured the military attitude to continued fighting against the odds.

I am aware of the vast research that the author has carried out during the writing of this book. Apart from the academic research there have been interviews with many veterans and Nick Young has also, with members of his family, visited every location his father fought in or travelled through, including France, Belgium, Dunkirk, Norway, Tunisia, Hill 353 and Italy. Normandy, and again, France, Belgium, Holland and the German border areas on the return trip. The project has taken many years to complete, a labour of love and an excellent read from start to finish. IBSN1526746638. Pen & Sword. Cost £25. Top of the Document

Les Parisiennes by Anne Sebba

This is a meticulously researched book about the women of Paris and how they reacted and interacted during the occupation. Resistance, defiance, indifference, collaboration – we cannot judge, cannot put ourselves in their shoes – the name of the game was survival. The book covers the Resistance groups; the escape lines; the every-day dilemmas of how to obtain food; the black market; the Holocaust victims; Nazi spies and mistresses; the aristocrats; professional classes; working mothers and more. This is a fascinating overview of occupied Paris in WW2, ranging from the glamour of well-known couture and jewellery houses with their vast webs of family, social and business connections, and where initially, Paris was a German ‘social playground’, to the many tough choices and compromises made by others in order to ‘just survive’ – bearing in mind the possible outcomes to the war. The author has interviewed dozens of native and temporary residents of the city and has been very even-handed in her presentation and observations, offering no judgement. A fascinating read.

ISBN 9781 78022 6613. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Cost SB £9-99. Top of the Document

From One Hell to Another by Liz Cowley & Donough O’Brien

Although factually based on St Hippolyte du Fort and SE France, involving real characters, places and events, some characters are fictional. A Spanish family’s escape over the snow covered Pyrenees, to peace and freedom from the Spanish Civil War, is short-lived when, a rapid defeat for France provides a new enemy. Under the control of the German puppet Vichy regime the French people are plagued by starvation, rationing, fuel shortages, movement restrictions, atrocities and a dreaded secret police called the Milice who, although French, are worse than the Gestapo. On German orders, the Jews are made accountable to Vichy. So, together with other Spanish refugees the family align with Resistance forces in the foot-hills of the Pyrenees. Against the odds, the enemy are engaged and, with the help of SOE from London, they win spectacular victories. The authors have based the story on fact and largely untold events regarding Resistance activity in the area during WW2, although some will be aware of the contacts and activities. It is a story based on factual underground warfare, horror,

collaboration, betrayal and romance. A compulsive read, backed up by excellent research in the authors’ home location. ISBN 97817890 18813. Matador. Cost £11-99. Top of the Document

So Close to Freedom by Jean-Luc Carton

In 1943/44, as the Germans improved their intelligence-gathering in southern France and, in particular, south western France, assisted by collaborators and infiltrators, the risks to evaders was greater than ever. Larger groups of Allied evaders, particularly USAAF evaders, were on the move. Most were heading for Toulouse and the François Line (previously the Pat O’Leary Line which had been blown), which now controlled many of the Passeurs who led the men into Spain. The line organiser was Francois Dissard; her evaders had been passed from many other escape lines and there could be over thirty men crossing in one group. At this stage of the war the enemy employed many Austrian ski troops to patrol the mountain routes and passes; armed and deadly, they were often controlled by radio from spotter planes sweeping the high mountain routes, resulting in some routes being undertaken at night. The author has chosen to research these routes, in particular, one that was betrayed.

This riveting story tells of the crossing of 19-22 April 1944 when 35 Allied Evaders, Escapers, Resistance fighters, civilians and Engelandvaarders, were led by the legendary French Passeur Jean–Louis Bazerque (‘Charbonnier’), who tried to guide them into Spain and freedom. Charbonnier led many of the routes but the author gives the first detailed account of what happened on the 19-22 April 1944, where the evaders came from, their routes, how the group was betrayed and who was responsible. This mission was Charbonnier’s only failure. The group had been intercepted by German mountain ski troops near to the Spanish border – they had been betrayed!

The author has carried out exhaustive research into the François Line, the Dutch-Paris crossings and the routes from Toulouse after the Pat O’Leary Line was blown. The background of the men in the group is covered, plus their reasons for escaping. How the Germans found out about the route is also uncovered. The guides and helpers are described in detail together with the routes. Many of the characters in this book will be familiar to ELMS members, especially those who have crossed the high level route and will recognise the complex problems, the dangers faced, and the difficult terrain. The high central Pyrenees is not for the faint-hearted. A must for those members who research the high Pyrenees routes. IBSN978164012 1027. Potomac Books. Cost US$29-95. Top of the Document

The Brave Japaneseby Kenneth Harrison

Ken, an Australian, wrote of his experiences approximately twenty years after the end of the war. His book records various battles with the Japanese before he, and a small group of evaders, decided to make their way to the Malayan coast to find a small boat and head for Sumatra, from where they hoped to head home to Australia. As they slowly made their way through the jungle Ken sustained an ankle injury. Realising that he could not continue with the plan, he decided to surrender, however, solidarity amongst his comrades resulted in them all surrendering and being sent to Pudu Camp near Kuala Lumpur, and then the infamous Changi – which they considered ‘kinder’ than Pudu! The ‘fit’ inmates were set to work on the Burma Railway and, when completed, transported by train and Long Boat to camps in Japan. At the end of the war, before repatriation, Ken was able to bear witness to the destruction that had occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He reminisces about his friends, his enemies and his horrific experiences, observing keenly but with respect for both sides. A book to spark much thought and discussion amongst younger generations. Kindle edition €0.99 – Digital release of original 1966 edition. Pub. Guy Harrison. Top of the Document

Secret War by Nigel West

The SOE (Special Operations Executive) was closed down in 1946. Documents were mysteriously destroyed in fires and after WW2 many of its operatives went to ground or died without revealing any secrets. This is a highly provocative book questioning, as many have behind closed doors, the achievements of SOE. Why did so many young men and women die at the hands of the Germans? Why were they sent into the field when they could not get through the training? Why were so many agents dropped into enemy hands in the Netherlands? The firm, or the racket as it was called, has been accused of political naivety, operational incompetence and ruthless manipulation of its agents and operatives. What did it achieve? Were SOE agents sacrificed to take the heat off SIS who were listening in to their radio traffic! There were conflicts between the regular service-men and the mobilised civilians, as many of latter had transformed from business managers to army Colonels overnight, their credentials often being membership of the London Clubs Circuit, but with no experience or knowledge of matters pertaining to the military or warfare! Only when Col Gubbins became involved did the organisation improve. SOE suffered problems in all areas: it was not just in France but also in the Balkans and the Far East that the operatives suffered badly. There is mention of the work of the 3-man Jedburgh teams [Comprising a Frenchman, an American and a Brit] who worked with Resistance groups and carried out 93 missions in 100 teams, and how, working with paramilitary Allied teams, the SAS and Resistance groups, the Jedburgh teams helped save the day for SOE before D Day. IBSN1526755661 Pen & Sword Books. Cost £25 Top of the Document

Zero Night by Mark Felton

This is the story of a mass escape from Oflag V1-B, Warburg, Germany on 30 August 1942. Yet another mass escape that few people have heard of, in fact a ‘Great’ escape. The book is a tribute to the forty army officers from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa who spent their time in a POW camp planning and digging, then eventually decided to go for the fastest option, over the fence instead of under it using wooden ladder systems cleverly hidden until the last moment. The escape took three minutes! It is a story of ingenuity, determination and resourcefulness, covering mental attitudes, the build-up to the escape, the escape itself and the escape routes. Not everyone got back to England. Three reached Holland and then Belgium and were collected in by the Comète Line, reaching Spain via the St Jean de Luz passage. After crossing the Bidassoa River Andree de Jongh welcomed her group to Spain; they remained in touch with Comète for the rest of their lives. Others were recaptured, with some sent to Colditz; many escaped again. ISBN 978 1 84831 847 2. Faber and Faber Ltd. Cost £18-00 Top of the Document

Game of Spies by Paddy Ashdown

This is a story of the war in the shadows in France, involving SOE, the Escape Lines and the Gestapo. The Resistance fought in an atmosphere of collaboration, betrayal, and assassination and there were constant arguments between the Free French under de Gaulle and the French Resistance. Frenchmen betrayed Frenchmen; SOE was constantly competing with everyone else for aircraft, boats, stores and equipment, whilst also skirmishing with SIS and the War Office. People ‘sold’ other patriots, agents and evading aircrew to the Germans. No one was safe anywhere. The narrative covers three key players, an Englishman, a Frenchman and a German – a lethal triangle – the battles they fought, and the major problems of liberation and retribution. The action is based in SW France, and Bordeaux in particular. The book also covers the liberation period when De Gaulle ordered SOE operatives out of their positions within two hours and out of France in twenty-four, refusing to speak with them despite many of them laying their life on the line for France. Ashdown has built up a detailed picture of events via access to many of the ‘hidden’ archives and discussion with people who were there. A well-researched book revealing new information. ISBN978 0-00814084 7. William Collins. Paperback £9-99. Top of the Document

Escape From the Third Reich by Sune Persson

This is an unusual, humanitarian story set in the closing stages of the war. The Germans were desperate for survival and had offered to barter concentration camp prisoners in exchange for vehicles and arms. The Allies would not play the game and, while chaos reigned in Europe, Himmler conducted further negotiations with Count Folke Bernadotte, the Danish Government and the Swedish Red Cross to transfer concentration camp prisoners to Sweden before they died or were annihilated. An agreement was reached. Convoys, which became known as ‘The White Buses’, bearing Red Cross emblems and Swedish flags of neutrality headed across Germany to the camps, the red crosses on the white roofs, fronts and sides of the vehicles their only protection from being attacked as military targets. Germany was wild, discipline had broken down and there were bands of SS troops shooting up anything which was not German, so the journeys were supervised by the SS and the Gestapo every step of the way. On arrival at the camps the sights were unimaginable. Many had died, there was no food or water and the guards were dangerous. It is thought the White Buses rescued between 17000 – 20000 prisoners, many were women from Ravensbruck. This is the story of their rescue, arguments with the Gestapo and guards, and their journey to freedom and medical aid. ISBN 1526760711.Pen and Sword. Cost £6-99. Top of the Document

Never Surrender – Lost voices of a Generation at War – by Robert Kershaw

This book was written following interviews with remaining veterans. Through his interviews, the author, an officer in the Parachute Regiment, hints at our unpreparedness for war, beginning with first-hand accounts of reactions to Chamberlain’s declaration. The author uses illuminating vignettes to illustrate the experiences of war. He takes us through raids on Norway, where troops landed in their ‘usual’ uniforms as they were not issued with appropriate kit and possessed no ability to ski; to the chaos of Dunkirk, standing for hours, semi-submerged in the water waiting to embark, and the welcome tea, sandwiches and clothing when they reached England. There are stories of the Home Guard, their ‘Dad’s Army’ facade demystified – some really did have no uniforms, no training and few weapons; then there was the RAF station where it was decided to arm the WAAFs – with hockey sticks! We learn of Churchill’s backing for the Commandos and of their exploits at Vlaagso and St Nazaire. The Merchant Navy is given mention, although their personnel remain aggrieved that insufficient credit was ever given to their unglamorous, but heroic, efforts to maintain food and supplies. There are veterans’ stories from the deserts of North Africa, the Jungles of the Far East, from the Battle of Britain pilots and the Bomber crews; then on to D-Day. The engaging eye-witness accounts bring it all to life; a salutary book for the older generation to reflect upon and the younger generation to learn from.

Google Play Books £0.99; Hodder and Stoughton, ISBN-10: 0340962038, ISBN-13: 978-0340962039, Published 2009, Prices vary, available on-line. Top of the Document