Female spies book “ripe for film adaptation”

Shadow Warriors of World War II: The Daring Woman of the OSS and SOE by Gordon Thomas and Greg Lewis

A Foreword Review by Michelle Anne Schingler

This is an invaluable historical account, shedding light on the heroism and bravery of the women spies who helped usher the Allied forces toward a victory.

Move over, James Bond—these real life stories of secret agents belong to the ladies. Shadow Warriors of World War II, from Gordon Thomas and Greg Lewis, is a thrilling, revelatory history of the women who contributed to the war efforts behind enemy lines as spies on behalf of Britain and America.

William Donovan, inspired by the burgeoning espionage efforts of the United Kingdom, persuaded President Roosevelt to initiate an agency on American soil, dedicated to gathering information and fighting the Nazis covertly. That organization would eventually feed into the CIA—but first, it would employ women for its actions, and to ends that defied expectations.

The stories here are ripe for film adaptation, but first require honor, as America and Britain’s first women spies are shown to have been both invaluable and at risk. Many ended up in concentration camps or at the receiving end of Nazi bullets.

Nancy Wake, who led an attack on a Gestapo HQ in France.

Their ranks included Nancy Wake—brazen, fiery, and skilled with weapons, she was the sort to dodge bullets and retrieve packages from vehicles before they exploded. Betty Pack used her considerable appeal to extract information from men during liaisons, and Virginia Hall posed as a journalist and became one of the agents the Nazis most resented. She escaped, on one leg, over the Pyrenees. These women jumped from planes, blew their covers to help others, and accepted the dangers they faced without blinking.

Thomas and Lewis unfold their stories carefully, preserving their efforts—their successes, their near escapes, and occasionally their betrayals—with detail, resulting in a history that is both thorough and exciting. Distressing conclusions are given their space, and fallen spies are honored, with their extraordinary efforts always taking center stage. While better known personalities also make appearances—even Ian Fleming is here—they are dwarfed by these “shadow warriors” and their daring exploits.

Virginia Hall, the one-legged spy who became the Gestapo’s “Most Wanted”.

This is an invaluable historical account, shedding light on the heroism and bravery of the women spies who helped usher the Allied forces toward a victory.

Advertisements

Shadow Warriors: Daring Missions by Women of the OSS & SOE

shadow-warriors-uk-editionWorld War Two was the war in which old gender rules changed, as intelligence agencies created specific training and roles for women.

SHADOW WARRIORS is the story of women as undercover combatants: armed with Sten guns and grenades; cutting telecommunication wires, laying mines in roadways; organizing bombing raids; preparing the way for the D-Day invasion and harassing enemy forces as the Allies moved inland.

It begins by telling the story of how US and British intelligence agencies decided to use women as spies in a way they never had before; and of how they then recruited and trained them, as couriers, wireless operators, saboteurs and even resistance leaders.

These agents ranged from girls barely out of high school to mature mothers, from working class women to the daughters of aristocrats, from the prim and proper to wild high-livers.

They were taught how to send coded messages; how to lay explosive charges; and how to kill with knives, guns and their bare hands.

Sometimes they faced sexism and even derision from their trainers. Yolande Beekman, an efficient and courageous agent who was executed by the Germans, had been dismissed by one SOE instructor as, “A nice girl, darned the men’s socks, would make an excellent wife for an unimaginative man, but not much more than that.”

Their actions behind enemy lines were to change for ever the views of the US and UK intelligence communities on using women as agents.

Some, such as New Zealander Nancy Wake and Polish-born Christine Granville led men in battle. Granville masterminded the escape of a fellow SOE agent. Nancy led a gun and grenade attack on a Gestapo headquarters in France. American Virginia Hall became the Gestapo’s most wanted agent.

Others, such as the American Betty Pack, used their beauty and sexual allure to capture enemy secrets which would change the course of the war.

All these agents knew that torture and death were the price of failure. Some had to leave babies and children at home. Many paid the ultimate price for their bravery.

As Nancy Wake said: “I hate wars and violence but if they come then I don’t see why we women should just wave a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas.”

The clandestine war, and therefore the war itself, would not have been won without the courage and contribution of these Shadow Warriors.

UK edition now available; US edition to be published by Chicago Review Press in January 2017.

 

 

“The best WW2 book I’ve read to date”

Farewell-Leicester-Square1 - Copy

Lovely new message from reader, Phil Dumbelton:

“Hi Jon, I’ve just finished reading Farewell Leicester Square and what a great book it was – the best WW2 book I’ve read to date. Actually it is one of the best books I’ve read to date. I’m so pleased that I found it.

“I really enjoyed the plots around the resistance fighters and found the ending very moving indeed. Please can we have some more? Best wishes, Phil Dumbelton”

Reader feedback means so much to authors. Thanks, Phil! 

Write What You’d Like To Read

14d442ba8a93d405bd04a8167b41b9ffIf you have had a chance to read my wartime thriller ‘Farewell Leicester Square’ I hope you enjoyed it.

It was written because I love what I call “old-style” World War Two thrillers: action books in which a hero battles against the odds.

I grew up on Jack Higgins and Alistair MacLean, on ‘Warlord’ comics and the fantastic ‘Commando’ book series, and wanted to write the sort of book I loved to read.

During my research I travelled to Belgium, Luxembourg and Jersey; read prodigiously on SOE and the Resistance; and interviewed many veterans themselves.

As well as soldiers in uniform I have always been interested in those who risked their lives in their occupied homelands: members of the Maquis and Armée Secrète in France and of the Comet evasion line which helped downed airmen in Belgium, smuggling them through France to neutral Spain.

The courage of these people, who had no uniform to protect them and so faced a concentration camp or execution if they were captured, was immense.

In ‘Farewell Leicester Square’ I tried to capture some of that spirit of Resistance inside a thrilling plot line.

This was my first novel. I tried hard to craft the book I had envisaged when I wrote the first words on the first page.

It gave me great pleasure to write and I hope it gave you some pleasure to read too.

Please consider taking a few seconds to rate it and perhaps write one or two lines by way of review.

It helps so much to know there are other readers out there who love these kinds of books just as much as I do.

Farewell Leicester Square (E-edition)
Farewell Leicester Square
(E-edition)

 

 

A small object from history poses questions about a bravery medal

DSC_0178What stories could simple objects tell? What have they seen? What hands have held them?

Among my collection I have this RAF mug from the years before World War 2.

It features an engraved message: “Presented to Officers Mess, Calshot, by Squadron Leader The Rev. R.N Shapley, March 1936”.

In truth, when I first bought it I knew nothing about Ronald Norman Calshot or Shapley. I’ve done a little research, but am always meaning to do a lot more. I’m quite sure there will be people reading this article who know more about them than me.

Inscription: to the Officers' Mess at RAF Calshot
Inscription: to the Officers’ Mess at RAF Calshot

Calshot, which is situated near Southampton, in England, was initially established as a Royal Flying Corps base in 1913. It was taken over by the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) during the First World War and became an RAF station on the formation of the service in 1918.

It was a seaplane and flying boat station, and was officially renamed as RAF Calshot in February 1922.

Calshot was home to the High Speed Flight as it prepared for the Schneider Trophy competitions in 1927, 1929 and finally 1931. Wikipedia states that Aircraftsman Shaw, also known as T.E. Lawrence, or Lawrence of Arabia, was detached to Calshot to help with the 1929 Schneider races.

During the 1930s, Calshot continued its development and training role. It featured a Navigation School (until January 1936). Squadrons based there included 201, which flew Supermarine Southampton flying boats and later Saro Londons. 201 Sq would have been there when the RAF mug was presented.

But what of Shapley? I found the following references in Flight Magazine:

December 15, 1927: Rev. R. N. Shapley is granted short service commn. as Chaplain, with relative rank of Sqdn.-Ldr. (November 11). To RAF depot Uxbridge.

April 24, 1931: The Rev. R. N.Shapley, M.C., A.K.C., is granted a permanent comm. (March 19).

December 25, 1931: Revd. R. N. Shapley, M.C. A.K.C., to No. 5 Flying Training School, Sealand ; 6.12.31.

October 19, 1933: vice Rev. R. N. Shapley, M.C. Rev. R. N. Shapley, M.C., to Station H.Q., Boscombe Down, 9.10.33, for duty as Chaplain (C. of E.) at Boscombe Down and Netheravon.

May 24, 1934: Rev. R. N. Shapley, M.C. Rev. R. N. Shapley, M.C., to R.A.F. Base, Calshot,9.5.34 for duty as Chaplain (C. of E.)

January 13, 1938: N. Shapley, M.C., to Headquarters, R.A.F., Palestine and Transjordan, Jerusalem, 22.11.37.

The mug is dated March 1936, a couple of months before Shapley took up his role as chaplain to Calshot. And he was gone from Calshot at the end of 1937. What then?

The website of the Gordonians, an association for former pupils of The Gordon Boys’ Home, The Gordon Boys’ School and Gordon’s School, in Surrey, lists Shapley as being twice chaplain to the school: between 1923 and 1927 and between 1947 and 1949. It says he was later Bishop of Windward Islands. That sounds like another interesting posting!

I am, of course, intrigued by the reference to the Military Cross in the Flight Magazine listings.

What did he get this for? And when?

Wikipedia gives some biographical information but not about the medal. Its link to The Times says Shapley died on St Lucia and left £13,743. He died in December 1964.

But, again, nothing about the medal.

Wikipedia says he served with the London Regiment during the First World War. I am certain this when he won his Military Cross. But was he a chaplain then? He was not ordained until 1920.

It’s just a mug, I know. An inanimate object which, although it cannot speak, poses so many questions.

What is the story behind Shapley's Military Cross?
What is the story behind Shapley’s Military Cross?