30 June 2016

Lucie Aubrac: The French Resistance Heroine Who Outwitted the Gestapo

In May 1943, a young Frenchwoman called Lucie Aubrac engineered the escape of her husband, Raymond, from the clutches of Klaus Barbie, the feared Gestapo chief later known as the "Butcher of Lyon."  When Raymond was arrested again that June, Lucie mounted a second astonishing rescue, ambushing the prison van that was transporting him. As a founding member and leader of the important French Resistance group Liberation-Sud, Lucie served as a courier, arms carrier, and saboteur who engineered these and other escape plans on behalf of her husband and other Resistance fighters.

Spirited out of France with Raymond by the RAF, Lucie arrived in London a heroine. For the postwar generation the couple embodied the spirit of "the real France": the one that resisted, and eventually expelled the Nazis. However, in 1983, Klaus Barbie made the bombshell claim that the Aubracs had become informers in 1943, betraying their comrades. The French press and the couple themselves furiously denounced this as slander, but as worrying inconsistencies were spotted in Lucie's story, doubts emerged that have never quite gone away. Who was Lucie Aubrac? What did she really do in 1943? And was she truly the spirit of la vraie France, or a woman who could not resist casting herself as a heroine? Si├ón Rees' penetrating, even-handed account draws from letters, newspaper articles, and other archival materials, as well as several interviews, to decipher the truth behind Lucie and her husband's wartime endeavors and near fall from grace. It offers a portrait of a brave, resourceful woman who went to extraordinary lengths for love and country. 

Read The Guardian Obituary of Lucie Aubrac (1912 - 2007)

Available from:
Chicago Review Press

28 June 2016

The Faustball Tunnel: German POWs in America and Their Great Escape

On December 23, 1944, twenty-five German prisoners of war broke out of an Arizona prison camp not far from the Mexican border by crawling along a 178-foot tunnel. By Christmas day, they were looking for ways to reach Mexico and Axis sympathizers who would help them. Drawing on extensive interviews with the escapees and formerly classified documents, John Hammond Moore tells their incredible story―one of the few untold dramas of the war.

Many of the men imprisoned at the Papago Park camp were among the Nazis' toughest and smartest U-boat commanders and their crews. Expecting trouble, their American guards marveled at how well the men adjusted to camp life. Spirits were high and the compound neatly raked several times each day. But the guards failed to realize the men were digging a tunnel right under their eyes. They hid their activity by building a volleyball (faustball) field. Twenty-five escapees used makeshift tools and coal shovels issued them by the camp to hack through the rocky soil. Once free, they disguised themselves as merchant seamen, consular officials, and workers armed with false identification papers. The men lasted six weeks on the outside before being recaptured. Their breakout, told here is breathtaking detail, remains the most sensational mass escape ever to take place from a POW camp on American soil.

Available from:
Amazon

6 June 2016

The Second World War Through Soldiers' Eyes - British Army Life 1939-1945

What was it really like to serve in the British Army during the Second World War?
Discover a soldier's view of life in the British Army – from recruitment and training to the brutal realities of combat. Using first-hand sources, James Goulty reconstructs the experiences of the men and women who made up the 'citizen's army'. Find out about the weapons and equipment they used; the uniforms they wore; how they adjusted to army discipline and faced the challenges of active service overseas.

What happened when things went wrong? What were your chances of survival if you were injured in combat or taken prisoner? While they didn't go into combat, thousands of women also served in the British Army with the ATS or as nurses. What were their wartime lives like? And, when the war had finally ended, how did newly demobilised soldiers and servicewomen cope with returning home?

The British Army that emerged victorious in 1945 was vastly different from the poorly funded force of 865,000 men who heard Neville Chamberlain declare war in 1939. With an influx of civilian volunteers and conscripts, the army became a ‘citizen’s force’ and its character and size were transformed. By D-Day Britain had a well-equipped, disciplined army of over three million men and women and during the war they served in a diverse range of places across the world. This book uncovers some of their stories and gives a fascinating insight into the realities of army life in wartime.

James Goulty has utilised personal testimonies from the Imperial War Museum, Northumberland Archives and interviews he has carried out himself, combined with memoirs, diaries and written accounts from numerous archives including Durham County Records Office, Lincolnshire Archives, Tyne & Wear Archives to ensure first hand testimony in central to The Second World War Through Soldiers' Eyes.

Table of Contents
  • Call Up and Training
  • Life on Active Service
  • Enduring Active Service
  • Prisoner of War Experiences
  • Casualties and Medical Matters
  • The Aftermath c. 1945-46
  • Bibliography
Available from:
Pen & Sword