Reinhard Hardegan, George Betts and the Sinking of the SS Muskogee

The sinking of the SS Muskogee. On March 22nd 1942, the commander in charge of a German U-boat, twenty eight year old Reinhard Hardegan, spotted an American oil tanker. It was its job to prevent America sending oil to Britain for the war effort. Slowly, he turned his submarine towards the ship. The ship was the SS Muskogee, a merchant ship that had been pressed into service to transport oil to war-stricken England. There were thirty...

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Odette Sansom: WW2 Spy

Odette Sansom Hallowes: Odette was tortured by the Gestapo in the Second World War and sent to a concentration camp where she was sentenced to death. She never gave in and managed to survive – and save others – purely by her wits. In 1942, she had made sure that her three daughters were safe and well-cared for and left England to risk her life helping others. Odette was French by birth.She had married an Englishman and...

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The Adventures of Poon Lim

The amazing survival story of Poon Lim. On 5th April, 1943, the crew of a small Brazilian fishing vessel spotted a life raft off the coast of Brazil. When they approached it, they found that it had a single occupant – a young Chinese man called Poon Lim. He had left his homeland several years before to work on a British merchant ship as a steward. But of course, this was now the Second World War and on 23rd November, 1942 his...

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Lunch with Hitler

Traudl Junge was only twenty two years old when she became one of Adolf Hitler’s private secretaries. This was in 1942. The secretaries had little work to do and one of their duties was to dine with Hitler to keep him amused, keep his mind off the war for a short while and of course, to supply him with an audience. Initially Traudl found her boss to be rather charming and pleasant company. This was to change as the war...

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The Nuremberg Trials and the Jewish interpreter

The Nuremberg Trials and the Jewish interpreter. These trials began in November 1945 and were held to bring Nazi war criminals to justice.  It was a huge undertaking and interpreters were employed to translate – live in court – the testimonies of witnesses and the defence and comments of the most notorious and inhuman war criminals and their persecution of the Jews. Armand Jacoubovitch Imagine that you are a thirty year...

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Diana Barnato Walker

Who was Diana Barnato Walker? Diana was an English pilot who worked extensively during the Second World War transporting aircraft to the Royal Air Force. By the time she reached twenty two years of age, she had delivered  240 planes that were vital to the war effort. She was the first British woman to break the sound barrier. Before the war, few people would have imagined the socialite Diana would have been involved in such dangerous...

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Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel: Naughtier than you might think. What do you know about Coco Chanel? Possibly most people today think of her as a couturier and the person who was responsible for iconic fashion designs – and of course, the famous Chanel N0 5 perfume. But who was she really? Her name instantly conjures up style and sophistication for most of us but she came from humble beginnings. Not only that, she had a string of fascinating...

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Prince George – The Forgotten Royal

Who was Prince George? Prince George was a member of the British royal family but his name is little-known today. He was a good looking prince – he was rather dashing and loved fast airplanes, fast cars and, as you might imagine, fast women too. There are still stories coming to light about his life – we may still find out more about this somewhat mysterious character. His life was a short one and we were left with three...

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Elvis and Hawaii

Two years ago, my mother, sister and I were headed off to Hawaii. It was a dream trip that I never in my whole life expected to make. But it was a time of healing and renewing our shrinking family’s bonds, that made this trip what it was. My brother had passed away earlier that year. During the many site seeing expeditions along the way, I can remember thinking to myself, that these islands truly are paradise on earth. Everything was...

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Reginald Warneford: Reckless Rex

Reginald Warneford: War hero. Known as Reckless Rex because of his devil-may-care attitude, Reginald was a First World War fighter pilot. He was the first pilot for bring down one of the fearsome Zeppelins that the Germans unleashed upon Britain in 1915. And just ten days later, an air crash took Reginald’s life. He had been born in India where his father was a railway engineer. It’s said that he received no formal...

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Christine Granville

The strange story of Krystyna Skarbek. On June 15th, 1952, a woman’s body was found in the Shelbourne Hotel in London.  She had been murdered, stabbed in the heart. The authorities believed her to be a thirty-seven year old married woman who worked as a stewardess on ocean liners. This was only partially true. Christine Granville was forty four year old Krystyna Skarbek, the daughter of a Polish nobleman. Yes she had been...

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Mrs Miniver

Mrs Miniver: The woman who won the war. Well, not literally but Winston Churchill said that her contribution to the war was worth more than six ‘divisions of war effort’ and that she had done more for the war effort than a ‘flotilla of battleships’. So who was she? Even more surprising than Churchill’s praise was the fact that she was a fictional character. But it’s said that she affected the...

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The Bombing of Buckingham Palace in WW2

The Second World War: The Bombing of Buckingham Palace. Buckingham Palace was hit by bombs seven times during the Second World War. It was just a matter of sheer luck that King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (know to most of us as the Queen Mother) weren’t killed or very badly injured when the third raid took place on September 13th, 1940.. Two German bombs fell in the quadrangle – the centre courtyard – and in...

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The Angels of Mons

The Angels of Mons: Did they save British soldiers in the First World War? Many people believed so at the time. The First World War – and the following years – saw a huge increase in the belief of spiritualism and the supernatural. We can understand this. So many young men were killed in the conflict and it was comforting for their loved ones to believe that they had gone to’a better place’ — and that...

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Joe Kennedy Junior

The love life of Joe Kennedy Jr. This is the story of two members of the Kennedy family who both had tragic love affairs in England. Coincidentally both of them, Joe Junior and Kathleen, were to die at an early age in aircraft. They were the brother and sister of John Fitzgerald Kennedy who became president of the United States. Both Joe and Kathleen had relationships when in the UK with people who their strict Catholic parents...

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Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler: By Trudi Kanter

Holocaust memoir from Vienna. Trudi is an independent young woman – a hat designer – separated from her husband and living in Vienna just before the outbreak of the Second World War. She falls in love with Walter, a charming and intelligent man. Her parents live nearby, Trudi has her wonderful man and her own flourishing business. What could possibly go wrong? Of course, we know the answer to that question now –...

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Crooked Heart: By Lissa Evans

Crooked Heart: A review. A review copy of book recently landed at JAQUO HQ and I was captivated from the very first page. Dinner remained uncooked  (‘can’t you make do with a bowl of cornflakes?’), laundry was ignored and writing took second place to reading as I was instantly drawn into this fascinating story. It’s set in the Second World War – always a great period of history to read about – but...

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Who Was Louis Strange ?

Airman Louis A Strange: Daring exploits. Louis Strange was an exceptionally brave and talented pilot and served in both the First and the Second World Wars. He also is the subject of one one the most bizarre stories in this history of wartime aviation. He took his pilot training before the start of the First World War and soon proved his skills. He joined the Royal Flying Corps and when war was declared in 1914 he developed various...

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Lettice Curtis

Who was Lettice Curtis? During the Second World War the Air Transport Auxiliary was formed to move new, damaged or repaired aircraft to where they were needed by the Royal Air Force. Civilian pilots were used so that the trained fighter pilots could concentrate on winning the war. One hundred and sixty six of the pilots employed by the ATA were women and Lettice Curtis was one of the first to join up. By the time the war was over, she...

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A Failed Assassination Attempt on Adolf Hitler

A bomb planted inside Wolf’s Lair field headquarters exploded killing 4 others, but leaving Hitler alive. A brief case containing a bomb planted by Claus von Stauffenberg a German army officer under a conference room table. The brief case was moved out of the way by a German General, to get a better look at the maps on the table, moving the brief case out of the way spared Hitler. Stauffenberg and others planned the attempt in an...

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Kick Kennedy: By Barbara Leaming

The truth about John Kennedy’s sister. I’ve long been fascinated by the life and tragedies of President Kennedy’s sister, Kathleen. She was nicknamed ‘Kick’ because of her exuberance and vivacity. You may know the basic story of her life. Born the fourth child of Joe Kennedy Sr. and his deeply religious wife Rose, Kick fell in love with a member of the British aristocracy in the late 1930s. Her father was...

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Nicholas Winton: The British Schindler

Nicholas Winton: War hero. In the winter of 1938, Nicholas Winton was a twenty eight year old banker living in London. He heard about the Jewish refugees in  Czechoslovakia so instead of going on his planned skiing holiday, he went to Prague and in the months to follow personally arranged for 669 Jewish children to be transported to the safety of England. And yet at the time, he told no-one about what he was doing.It was only...

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Occupied by the Germans in WW2: The ChanneI Islands

Under Nazi rule: Jersey, Alderney, Sark and Guernsey The scene that you see above is a typical one and shows the British  island of Jersey before the Second World War. What a peaceful scene it is. The castle overlooks the calm, blue sea. Jersey cows are contentedly grazing. There is rolling countryside and a man and boy sit enjoying the scenery and the peace of the island. But this traditional and sleepy, rural way of life was to...

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Stephanie Hoffnung

Stephanie Hoffnung: Just one Jew. June 1942: Every evening, German SS officers would hammer on the door of the Hoffnung family’s home in Rue Riffault, Poitiers. This was occupied France and the Hoffnungs were Jewish. Led by Adjutant Wilhelm Hipp, the officers would visit Jewish homes to ensure that they were complying with the various rules and curfews that had been imposed. Any deviation from these rules and regulations could...

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Florida’s German Invasion

In early summer 1942 a German submarine, U-584, lay off the coast of Florida close to Jacksonville. On June 16th it surfaced and a small rubber inflatable dinghy was launched. Four men hastily climbed into the tiny craft. They wore swimming trunks and woollen caps. They each had a suitcase containing a variety of American made clothing. Also, they loaded four wooden crates into the dinghy – these contained explosives. They also...

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The Nightingale: Kristin Hannah. Book review.

The Nightingale: Kristin Hannah. Book review. Some books you can easily forget. You read them, enjoy them, but after  while they slip from your mind. The characters and the events in The Nightingale however will stay with you. We’ve all read or heard stories about the Second World War. We’ve seen television documentaries and fictional movies. But mostly, these have been seen from an American or British perspective and...

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The Liberation of Auschwitz

 The liberation of Auschwitz On 27th January 2015, hundreds of survivors of the Holocaust met at the Auschwitz concentration camp to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of its liberation. There were three hundred in total, mostly in their eighties and nineties. The very fact that there are still three hundred survivors of that terrible experience who are still fit and well enough to travel there shows just how huge the...

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Maida Vale Tube Station

Maida Vale: The tube station with an all-female staff. When the Maida Vale tube station opened in London on June 6th 1915, it was less than a year after the outbreak of the First World War. This meant that because of the lack of available men, who were all either fighting in the forces or working towards the war effort, it was staffed entirely by women. There were 17,000 workers from London Transport who were now overseas fighting in...

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The D-Day Crossword Mystery

WW2: Were coded messages sent to the enemy via crossword puzzles? In the spring of 1944, Allied forces were preparing for the largest ever seaborne invasion in history. This top secret mission, which we now know as D-Day, was vital to the war.  It took months of planning and secrecy was vital. As with all military operations, code words were used for the locations, various equipment and the operation itself. As preparations continued...

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Is Hitler’s son alive and living in England?

Hitler and Unity Mitford. Did Adolf Hitler have a child with an English girl? And could that child still be alive? It sounds far-fetched, doesn’t it? But there are many historians who believe that this is the case and there is some evidence to show that the possibility exists. Unity Mitford was from an aristocratic English family. She and her sisters were the most colourful characters around in the pre-war era. They were fun...

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Zoran Music: Dachau Artist

Who was Zoran Mušic? There are hardly the words to describe what happened at the Nazi concentration camps. But Zoran Music, an artist from Austria, was incarcerated in Dachau and secretly drew the horrors of life there. After graduating after studying art, he decided to travel. He was arrested by the Nazis when he was making sketches of buildings. They assumed he was a spy. Story has it that he was tortured and then interrogated by an...

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Auschwitz: The Monster Within

Auschwitz: The Monster Within. And so, I’ve arrived. Polish bus PK97 gallops off into the distance. The old girl has delivered me to the location on my ticket – a place I’ve wanted to visit for quite a while. Like most people, I’ve got a wishlist: Elvis’ Graceland, The White House, The Grand Canyon, The Pyramids and possibly the Paris tunnel where Diana was killed. Half expectedly, a slow churning in the...

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Marthe Cohn & Jacques Delaunay

Love and tragedy in occupied France. In 1941 Marthe Hoffnung was living with her family in occupied France. Life was hard for them. It wasn’t just the hardships of the German occupation that made life so difficult – the Hoffnung family was Jewish. In April that year, Marthe had her twenty first birthday and her parents, who tried to make life as normal as possible for Marthe and her siblings, allowed her to have a small...

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The Guinea Pig Club

The Guinea Pig Club of the Second World War. This very exclusive club was started in 1941 during WW2. There were exactly six hundred and forty nine members. But there was an incredibly high price to pay for membership. Members were all airmen who had been badly burned and disfigured in action They had all been treated by pioneer surgeon, Archibald McIndoe. He pioneered plastic surgery, hence the name of this elite club. Read on to...

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The First and Last Voyage of the SS Gulfamerica

The sinking of the SS Gulfamerica. In 1942, the Second World War hardly seemed real to the many people who were enjoying their Friday evening in Jacksonville Beach. The restaurants and bars were busy, teenagers were enjoying riding the merry-go-round and sailors from the nearby naval air station were taking advantage of their weekend passes. But that Friday, April 10th, was a night they would remember. The east coast was busy with...

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The Bethnal Green Tube Disaster

A wartime disaster in London. In 2013, two seventy year old women met for the first time. Although they were strangers, it was a highly emotional meeting. They had a common bond which involved tragedy and immense bravery. That same year, another women who was all of ninety seven years old, was interviewed about the same event – a disaster that had been covered up by the authorities for many years. March 3rd, 1943 It was the...

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Eva Braun: Mrs Hitler

Eva Braun: The woman who married Adolf Hitler. Who was the woman who married the fuhrer? Of course, it was probably one of the shortest marriages ever, ending with the couple’s death on April 30th 1945, but at that time, she had known Hitler for sixteen years. She was born to what was then known as a lower-middle class couple in 1912,one of three sisters. She was educated at the local catholic school and then at a convent. She...

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Idina Sackville: A WW1 marriage

Idina Sackville & Euan Wallace. A First World War marriage. Although Idina and Euan were definitely from the top drawer of society, the sad story of their marriage must have happened to so many couples during the First World War. They were both quite young when they married. Idina was twenty and Euan less than a year older. They both enjoyed parties, dancing and having fun. They were madly in love. She was a sparkling socialite...

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Mukhabarat Baby! By Eric Burkhart

Eric Burkhart: My Life as a Wartime Spy for the CIA. I loved every minute of this autobiographical book. It’s truly fascinating.  The author tells us about the action-packed period of time he spent in the CIA, starting in 1999. There are some events in the book, as you can imagine, that involve incredible danger but it’s spiced throughout with the author’s humour and sense of fun. Even Mr Burkhart’s telling of...

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Alberta Vickridge – forgotten poet and printer

The Forgotten Bard. Alberta Vickridge? You’ve probably never heard of her. Which is a pity – because in her lifetime she was a poet of considerable talent, including poetry that won her a Bardic Crown and Bardic Chair at an Eisteddfod in 1924. She also ran her own printing press from her home in Yorkshire at a time when women in printing were uncommon. Her poetry was admired and praised by writers, such as Agatha Christie,...

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Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill. I don’t really remember Winston Churchill, apart from old wartime newsreels that I saw on TV when I was a kid. But there’s no doubt that he was an important part of British – and maybe the world’s – history. He was an eccentric chap,that’s for sure. He was born into wealth and was a wonderful combination of British aristocracy (his father) and American frivolous society (his...

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London at War: Black Americans

Black American soldiers in London in the Second World War. During WW2, many American soldiers were stationed in London and there’s one curious aspect of this that is very rarely mentioned in history books – the treatment of black American soldiers. In the 1940s racial segregation was a fact of life in the USA but not in Britain. This caused various problems. These had been anticipated by Britain’s foreign secretary,...

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Clara’s War: The Story of Second World War Survival

One Girl’s Story of Survival: Clara Kramer. When you read this book, it’s hard to imagine what Clara’s life was like in her early teens. For almost two years in the nineteen forties, she and seventeen other people lived together in a tiny underground bunker. For some of that time, Nazi soldiers were living in the room right above them, not knowing that the Jews in the bunker could even hear them turning on a light...

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In the Garden of Beasts: Book Review

A True Story of the Lives of an American Family in Berlin Before World War II. “In The Garden Of Beasts” is a dramatic historical novel, beginning in the early 1930s and covering the era of World War II. Our United States Ambassador to Germany, William E. Dodd, in the years between 1933 and 1937, repeatedly warns both German and American authorities about the widespread brutality, hate and corruption throughout Germany....

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Favourite Movies – Woody Allen’s Radio Days

“Like Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder before him, Woody Allen is a writer-director with a distinctive voice and a satirical thrust. I appreciate his tone, which is bitter-sweet and self-conscious. At their best his films reflect on the process of cinematic storytelling” David Evanier : PBS Interview  Woody Allen emerged into moviemaking just after American Jews – who had pretty much build the American movie industry...

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Don’t Underestimate the Power of One

Don’t Underestimate the Power of One So often these days we feel helpless to change things that are happening around us. Whether a law, the government, or our community. We will tell ourselves we are just one person after all. What can we do? Here is a book that may change your mind about that. It isn’t a self help book. It’s a true story of a man and his wife who saved 50 children at the time Hitler was overtaking their...

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The Windsor Faction: If Edward VIII hadn’t Abdicated

What would have happened if Edward VIII hadn’t abdicated for Wallis Simpson? When King Edward VIII renounced the throne of England to marry his twice-divorced American mistress it undoubtedly had a bearing on world history. This is particularly true in the case of the early stages of the Second World War. This novel explores that very possibility. Ever since he abdicated in 1935, historians have been wondering just how  –...

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Under The Covers – Shipbuilding

Andy Royston revisits the Falklands crisis and one of the most poignant songs about war ever recorded. I’ve always been skeptical about protest songs. What is this thing, a song for the barricades or a sermon from the pulpit? Is that a broadside, a bulletin, a lecture? Can a mere song change people’s minds? I doubt that it is so, but a song can infiltrate your heart and the heart may change your mind. Elvis Costello...

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We Had a Job to Do: By Theresa Anzaldua

A fascinating selection of eyewitness stories from the Second World War. Anyone who was twenty years old when the Second World War ended in 1945 would be ninety nowadays. This means that we are gradually losing our WW2 veterans and with them, the stories about their wartime experiences. To compensate to some extent for this, author Theresa Anzaldua has collected reminiscences and stories from a variety of people who served in the US...

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Sometimes We Forget to Say Thank You

Here is a great true story of one man’s way of saying thank you. It happened every Friday evening, almost without fail, when the sun resembled a giant orange and was starting to dip into the blue ocean. Old Ed came strolling along the beach to his favorite pier. Clutched in his bony hand was a bucket of shrimp. Ed walks out to the end of the pier, where it seems he almost has the world to himself. The glow of the sun is a golden...

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The Race for Paris: Review

The Race for Paris: A novel by Meg Waite Clayton. We’ve all seen photographs taken during the Second World War but have you ever stopped to wonder about the people who took them? I have to admit that this had never crossed my mind until I read this based-on-the-facts novel. Some of the photographers were assigned by newspapers; others were official military personnel. But another fact I was unaware of until I read this book is...

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Mitford Weddings: Diana Guinness & Oswald Mosley

Diana Mitford & Sir Oswald Mosley. Of the six somewhat scandalous Mitford sisters, possibly the most controversial wedding was that of Diana to Oswald Mosley. It took place in Germany in October 1936 – less than three years before the outbreak of the Second World War. The marriage service was conducted in the home of the Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels and the guest of honour was Adolf Hitler. Both Diana and her...

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V.E Day: Victory in Europe

The end of the Second World War In May 1945, Winston Churchill announced that the Second World War was over. He made this announcement in a speech on the radio. After he had done so, he went to Buckingham Palace to be with the royal family. The crowds clamoured “we want the king, we want the king” and the royals and the prime minister appeared on the famous balcony to the cheers of thousands of people. In total, the family...

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Saving Private Ryan – A Movie Review

Saving Private Ryan – A Movie Review Saving Private Ryan hit the big screen in 1998. Directed by the master Stephen Spielberg, and staring Tom Hanks. We saw this movie when it was released; the theater was full there wasn’t one empty seat to be had. The first 25 minutes of Saving Private Ryan was the assault on Omaha Beach, the invasion of Normandy known as D-Day June 6, 1944. I sat there in absolute AWE!! As I’m sure...

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The Boer War: Presented by Bovril

The Boer War: Presented by Bovril Advertising in Victorian times was in its heyday. It was more or less unregulated too,offering manufacturers, business and the unscrupulous many opportunities. Much of this was what we’d call guerilla marketing today. The population was growing tired of the advertising hoardings that bombarded them. Because advertising was so often misleading, if not downright fraudulent, then they looked at...

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War Brides by Helen Bryan: Review

War Brides by Helen Bryan: Review Four quite elderly ladies held a reunion in an English country village. One was American, two are English and the other, an Austrian Jew. They had met when they were all staying in the tiny, sleepy village as young women during the Second World War – fifty years previously. Originally there had been five of them. What had happened to the missing girl? Even though the wartime village had been...

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Planet-friendly tips from wartime Britain

Planet-friendly tips we can learn today from wartime Britain It seems strange but it’s true that there are lots of planet-friendly tips that were common practice in the UK during the Second World War. Everything,particularly food, was in short supply.Clothes were severely rationed. The motto of the time was: Make Do And Mend An entire generation was brought up to make the most of what they had. Clothes were repaired rather than...

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What Might Britain Have Been Like Under Nazi Rule?

What might Britain have been like under Nazis rule? What might Britain have been like under Nazis rule if they had surrendered to Germany in 1942? This is the central point of the thriller, ‘Dominion’ set in the early 1950s. The author, C.J. Sansom, author of the ‘Shardlake’ Medieval detective series, imagines a post-war nation divided against itself, with many accepting or turning blind eyes to the excesses of Nazi rule...

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