19 October 2016

Sheldrake - Memories of a WWII Gunner

Richard Hughes was an artillery officer with the British Army in World War II. He was sent to Europe twice. The first assignment in 1940 was short lived, as he joined the hopelessly ill equipped and overwhelmed Allied forces in France. The superior German army pushed them back to the English Channel at Dunkirk, and Hughes was one of some 300,000 troops miraculously rescued from the beach by a flotilla of small boats.

In 1944 he returned to France as apart of the Allied invasion, this time as a Major commanding a battery of field guns with 497 Battery, 133 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. The contrast is apparent. Now they were a well equipped, superbly trained and coldly efficient force. Supporting the Monmouthshire Regiment as they advanced across North West Europe, Hughes was involved in numerous battles right through Europe to reach Hamburg, at the final surrender of Germany in May 1945.

He received a Military Cross and was Mentioned in Despatches during his service. The title 'Sheldrake' comes from the code word used by artillery officers when communicating via wireless.

Table of contents:

Part 1 - A Fortnight in France
Chapter 1 - The Beginning
Chapter 2 - A Fortnight in France
Chapter 3 - England - 1940-44

Part 2 - The Second Front
Chapter 4 - The Landings
Chapter 5 - Hill 112
Chapter 6 - Battle for Le Logis
Chapter 7 - The Incident on Hill 210
Chapter 8 - The Battle for Leffard
Chapter 9 - Necy - Tiger Corner
Chapter 10 - Sweep Through France
Chapter 11 - Belgium
Chapter 12 - Voorheide
Chapter 13 - The Battle for s'Hertogenbosch
Chapter 14 - Assault Crossing of the Wessem Canal
Chapter 15 - On the Maas
Chapter 16 - The Ardennes
Chapter 17 - 'Operation Vertiable' Reichswald Forest; Weeze
Chapter 18 - Crossing the Rhine
Chapter 19 - 'Operation Eclipse' Final Push Through Germany
Chapter 20 - Postscript

Appendix 1 - Military Cross and the King's Letter
Appendix 2 - Mention in Despatches
Appendix 3 -  497 Field Battery, Royal Artillery
Appendix 4 - 25 Pounder Field Gun

Available from:
Pen and Sword

Les Parisiennes - How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved, and Died Under Nazi Occupation

Paris in the 1940s was a place of fear, power, aggression, courage, deprivation, and secrets. During the occupation, the swastika flew from the Eiffel Tower and danger lurked on every corner. While Parisian men were either fighting at the front or captured and forced to work in German factories, the women of Paris were left behind where they would come face to face with the German conquerors on a daily basis, as waitresses, shop assistants, or wives and mothers, increasingly desperate to find food to feed their families as hunger became part of everyday life. 

By looking at collaborators to resisters, actresses and prostitutes, as well as teachers and writers, including American women and Nazi wives, spies, mothers, mistresses, fashion and jewellery designers – Anne Sebba shows that women made life-and-death decisions every day, and, in an atmosphere where sex became currency, often did whatever they needed to survive. She considers the experiences of both native Parisian women and those living in Paris temporarily: American women and Nazi wives, spies, mothers, mistresses, and fashion and jewellery designers. Some like the heiress Béatrice Camondo or novelist Irène Némirovsky, converted to Catholicism; others like lesbian racing driver Violette Morris embraced the Nazi philosophy; only a handful, like Coco Chanel, retreated to the Ritz with a German lover.

Sebba also explores the aftershock of the Second World War in the postwar period. How did women who survived to see the Liberation of Paris come to terms with their actions and those of others? Les Parisiennes is the first in-depth account of the everyday lives of women and young girls in Paris  during the period of enemy occupation.

Read more about Anne Sebba.

Available from:
St Martin's Press

4 October 2016

The Liberation of Europe 1944-1945 - The Photographers who Captured History from D-Day to Berlin

The Second World War presented a huge range of challenges to press photography both in terms of its execution and getting the results in print. Life on the home front was the main subject until the invasion of France changed everything in 1944.

Photographers from The Times were part of a talented group who were there to capture the momentous events taking place from the moment the troops stepped ashore, as the Allies fought their way from the D-Day beaches all the way to Berlin. They captured thousands of images of the fighting and its aftermath: bombed-out towns, tanks and the inevitable human death toll, but also troops moving through a scarred landscape, the civilian population in joy and fear, and the daily activities of the soldiers themselves. They were on hand to witness the surrender of German commanders and some of their subsequent suicides, and also when King George VI made history as the first monarch since Henry V to confer knighthoods on the battlefield.

It is an extraordinary archive, yet very few of the images were published, either at the time or since. Mark Barnes, a librarian at The Times, has painstakingly reconstructed the archive over a period of many years, piecing together the journeys these pioneering photographers, masters of their craft, made across Europe.

The Liberation of Europe is a considerable volume, containing 400 images, many of which have been rarely seen, but the key strength is the work Mark Barnes has put in to ensure the captions are intelligent, accurate, and interesting - not an easy task when often the information was scant. This is an excellent addition to the photographic history of the Second World War, and if you have an interest in the NW Europe campaign of 1944-45, I would strongly recommend it.

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