15 November 2009

First to Fight: Poland's contribution to the Allied Victory in WWII

In recent years, Polish veterans in the UK were shocked to discover young people in Britain asking whether Poland fought with Germany. To ensure that the Polish contribution to Britain's war effort is never forgotten, First to Fight has been published.

First to Fight recounts Poland’s epic six-year struggle—with some historically significant texts being published for the first time, such as the English translation of Stalin’s signed order to execute 14,736 of the Polish officer corps at Katyn Forest in 1940.

The story is brought to life with moving personal stories from Poles who fought in the air, on land and at sea, on many fronts.

For example, the myth of Polish cavalry charging German Panzers is addressed: yes they did charge, but to good effect as recounted by Lieutenant Andrzej Zylinski. Leading the 4th Squadron of the Polish 11th Uhlan Regiment they charged with sabres drawn, breaching the German defences of Kaluszyn. After fierce fighting the town was captured with the almost complete destruction of the German 44th Regiment, whose commander committed suicide.

The book is available on Amazon but at a vastly inflated price - order it directly from the publishers.

Available from:
The Polish Armed Forces Memorial

13 November 2009

In the Prison of His Days: The Memoirs of a Captured World War Two Gunner

When Gunner George Norman Davison returned to his hometown of Sheffield, England, upon the conclusion of the Second World War, he used the diary he had carried with him to write a vivid first-hand account of his experiences.

These included the former insurance clerk's initial training in the UK and posting to North Africa; his immediate separation from Irene, his newlywed wife; his subsequent capture and imprisonment in the desert camps of Libya; the seemingly endless, lonely and hungry minutes dreaming of food and home; his re-transportation to Italy; the cruelty and kindness of his captors there; and - finally - his escape with the aid of the Italian resistance across the border on Lake Como into Switzerland.

Job done, Davison then put his remarkable story to one side before typing it up in manuscript form shortly before his death in 1986, whereupon it was rediscovered in a dusty attic by his only son, John. Alongside it was a battered old suitcase which contained yet more fascinating items, including each and every letter that Norman and Irene Davison had written to one another in those dark days from 1939 to 1946.

Published by Scratching Shed Publishing.

Available from:

11 November 2009

Free extract from "Dear Coach: Letters Home from WWII" by Lois Herr

Lois Herr has kindly provided an extract from her new book “Dear Coach: Letters Home from WWII”. Lois has also written an introduction to the piece, which I hope you will find of interest:

In “Dear Coach: Letters Home from WWII” I’ve compiled together a variety of the letters mom and I stumbled across in the attic written to dad, with pictures, scrapbook clippings, newspaper articles and a wide variety of historical information from the time to paint a picture of what life must have been like for these small-town college men and women as not only their country went into war, but so did their friends and family. I hope you enjoy the following excerpt from Chapter 5 of “Dear Coach: Letters Home from WWII” entitled “Campus Exodus” and featuring the events that occurred with Coach and his Elizabethtown College athletes during the year 1942.

“Dear Coach: Letters Home from WWII” excerpt from Chapter 5 – Campus Exodus

“In 1942, Coach hears from his athlete soldiers in Maryland, California, Alabama, Arakansas, Virginia, New York, Arizona, Louisiana, and North Carolina. Spread around the country, they still follow the fortunes of Elizabethtown College teams and try to keep playing ball themselves, though Gene Shirk confesses he plays more ping-pong than baseball. Having heard about Coach’s new daughter, he starts his first letter of 1942,

Say, how does it feel to be a Pap? Did you pass out cigars yet? I was asked today when I am going to pass out the cigars because I made PFC December 10. I now have a First and fourth with total $51.00 a month. Not bad only I sure wish I could have made Corporal. Maybe I will by the time the war is over.

Many of the athlete soldiers mark time, waiting while Uncle Sam figures out what to do with all the new recruits. There’s even star entertainment while things get organized, according to Rudy Rudisill, who sees a three-hour show at Hamilton Field – Kay Kyser’s orchestra with Lucille Ball, Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth, Phil Reagan, Desi Arnez, and Linda Darnell. Emory Stouffer and Rudisill hold jobs where they work with troop deployments, and both are getting busy; still they make time to stay in touch and both are stationed close to home. Stouffer writes,

Ft. Belvoir, Va.

January 11, 1942

Dear Kathryn, Ira, and the Daughter,

How is everyone? Haven’t heard from you in a long time…

Since Christmas a lot of activity took place in this Training Center. Troops, troops and more troops in and out, all ready for a new experience. We transferred all of last group during the week of Christmas, and during the past week we got another group of 200 or more. This time we will have all available rooms taken up and in fact maybe we’ll start stacking beds. We expect another hundred men in the morning and 6:00 A.M. Our capacity is supposed to be 250 including cadre [staff] but the way it looks we’ll have over 300. Beds were moved closer together and all vacant rooms are being activated. Rooms that normally have two men will have three, etc, so you know the U.S. means business…

How are the basketball teams Coach? Of course, the girls should be winning as usual and make the boys feel a bit blue.

Well folks, it’s getting late and I still have to write my few lines to the “Round Robin” letter. The Round Robin is the roommates of 212 last year – John, Charlie, Perry, and Bob. Just heard from them so I’ll have to pass it on to the next receiver.

Best wishes to all.



The chapter continues on featuring letters from not only Emory but several of his fellow athletes now deployed to various air fields, training centers, etc. Their words to my dad, Coach Ira Herr, paint a picture of what life must have been like for these small-town college men and women as not only their country went into war, but so did their friends and family. I hope you have as enlightening of a time reading “Dear Coach” as I did writing it.

Follow the rest of Lois Herr’s virtual book tour by stopping by her official blog to see where she’s headed next.

6 November 2009

Free extract from Dear Coach: Letters Home from WWII

On the 11th November I will be posting a free extract from a new book by Lois Herr - Dear Coach: Letters Home from WWII.

Dear Coach features letters that were sent to Lois's father, sports coach Ira Herr, during WWII. The letters were written by various students, friends and family members who once played for the coach at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.

The book gives an inside look at not only the impact of the war on a small college community in the US, but also that of multiple heartfelt player and coach relationships.

The book can be purchased via the author's website.

Master of None

An autobiography of a retired Army officer, Master of None follows the complete life story of Major Douglas Goddard, from his early memoirs of childhood days in south east London and Suffolk farms, then focusing on his service as a regular army officer who fought with the 43rd Wessex Division during World War 2 from the Normandy landings through to Bremen.

After the war, he was involved in the repatriation of some 30,000 Russian & Polish displaced people from the area around the Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camps (including attending the trial of the camp guards) and saw post-war service in the Middle East during the Suez Canal crisis.

Available from:
Troubador Publishing

Peace, War and Love

Peace, War and Love by John Smale is the story of two people who came together and married just after WW2 started.

Jack and Sophie had different childhoods in the years between the Wars. Jack grew up on a Dorset farm as the youngest of seven children. Sophie, as the eldest of seven sisters found herself increasingly having to look after her growing number of siblings.

The couple met and then moved apart. There were lots of `near misses' during the War, but they both, luckily, survived. Jack was a soldier who was stationed in London during the Blitz and was later torpedoed on his way to Algiers with the REME. The book includes an account of the last few hours of the Windsor Castle and how the troops were rescued. There are descriptions of his advance through North Africa and his posting in Italy.

Meanwhile Sophie was stationed at RAF Manstone and only escaped death because she, and a friend, had a bad feeling about going into an air-raid shelter one night. She became pregnant by Jack, now her husband, on their last night together before he was posted the ill fated Windsor Castle.

So, fate appeared to be ganging up on them but it was actually conspiring to keep them together. After the War, they remained a happily married couple until Jack died earlier this year (2009). Sophie is still alive and lives in the village where they met.

Available from: