Secret Spitfires – The Book – solentaviatrix

We’ve had the Secret Spitfires documentary and DVD, then the stage play (Shadow Factories). Now the book is published.

Secret Spitfires: Britain’s Hidden Civilian Army by Karl Howman, Etham Cetintas, Gavin Clarke.The History Press. Hardcover. ISBN: 9780750991995. Also available on kindle…

Source: Secret Spitfires – The Book – solentaviatrix

The History Girls: The writer, the spies and leaf-mould memories by Deborah Burrows

I first visited the museum at Bletchley Park, near Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, UK in 2014, and went again last month. It is a fascinating museum, in many ways representing the triumph of eccentricity over evil. At Bletchley a group of dedicated men and women – many of them amateurs with a gift for …

Source: The History Girls: The writer, the spies and leaf-mould memories by Deborah Burrows

The History Girls: Dunkirk by Julie Summers

I went to see Dunkirk earlier this week. Not the town but the film of the same title written and directed by Christopher Nolan. It is a remarkable piece of art but is it a good film? And is it historically accurate? And does that in fact matter? I went with a completely open mind and was determined to leave my historian’s hat firmly at the door. Trouble is, I went…

Source: The History Girls: Dunkirk by Julie Summers

A Victorian marvel beneath the streets: Crystal Palace subway – Flickering Lamps

Part of the A212 road runs along one side of Crystal Palace Park, carrying traffic between the suburbs of south-east London.  However, beneath a section of the road – unbeknownst to those pas…

Source: A Victorian marvel beneath the streets: Crystal Palace subway – Flickering Lamps

The History Girls: Standing Alone on the Edge of Europe by Julie Summers

Howick Hall was used as a convalescent hospital for Other Ranks from 1941-1945. Over 11 different nationalities were treated there including Finnish, Greek, Polish, Czech, Dutch and Commonwealth soldiers, sailors and airmen.

I woke up on Friday morning in a strange house in an unfamiliar county with that lovely feeling of being somewhere new and exciting. That was until I went downstairs, passing the magnificent 1828 portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence of the second Early Grey, the prime minister who introduced the Great Reform Act of 1832. In the kitchen a television was blaring and with a sense of growing disbelief I heard that British voters had opted to leave the European Union by 52% to 48%. My city of Oxford had voted…

Source: The History Girls: Standing Alone on the Edge of Europe by Julie Summers

The History Girls: Reconciliation by Julie Summers

I promised last month I was going to tell a story of the most remarkable show of reconciliation I have ever come across. In August 1945 prisoners of the Japanese were released after three and a half years in captivity. The had been used as slaves by their captors, most famously on the Thailand Burma Railway, but also in mines, on roads and in quarries. Of the 60,000 men who were forced to work on the notorious Death Railway, over 12,000 never returned. It is said that the cost was a life for every sleeper laid along its 415 kilometer length. In addition to the Allied soldiers who died, a shocking 83,000 Malay, Burmese and Tamils also perished, mostly of disease as…

Source: The History Girls: Reconciliation by Julie Summers

On this day: the executions of Benito Mussolini and Clara Petacci | In Times Gone By…

Italy’s Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, and Clara Petacci, his mistress, were executed by partisans in the northern Italian village of Giulino di Mezzegra on the 28th of April, 1945. Belie…

Source: On this day: the executions of Benito Mussolini and Clara Petacci | In Times Gone By…

Stalin, Molotov and the Finns – Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog

stalin-beachcombingA brief post to celebrate a WIBT (wish I’d been there) moment from the margins of the Second World War. November 1939 and western Europe has plunged into internecine conflict. However, the non-combatant Soviet Union is enjoying itself. Indeed, it has decided to use this precious period to put the record straight with some of its smaller neighbours. The class bully, in short, has just got out the knuckle dusters and, God help, those little boys with glasses while the teachers are not around.

Part of Poland had already been gobbled up in the September War: the crimes at Katyn have been committed. The Soviets are planning for the ‘incorporation’ of the Baltic Republics: something that will be carried out in the Summer of 1940. And then there is also that annoying little country somewhere up near Sweden – the Soviet planners can never remember its name.

Pity Finland. From Anschluss and with more urgency from the beginning of the Second World War Soviet communiqués were sent threatening and coaxing by turns. The Soviets wanted bases on Finnish territory. They wanted Finnish islands. They wanted the Finnish border to be…

Source:  Stalin, Molotov and the Finns – Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog.

Black History: Charles Alston’s biographical cartoons for the Office of War Information.

Originally posted on The Slate.

Black artist Charles Alston produced these mockups of cartoons for the Office of War Information during World War II. The finished products were sent to black newspapers for publication, and were meant to urge their readerships to support the war effort. Alston’s other nonbiographical cartoons illustrated standard Office of War Information exhortations to conserve needed commodities, enlist, and buy war bonds.

This group of cartoons about high achievers carried a message aimed specifically at the black community, developing an argument that black people should be proud of their heritage, and should therefore feel invested in the project of defending the country. At a time when black activists were pursuing the Double V campaign, demanding civil rights advances at home alongside victories abroad, Alston’s work for the government was more blandly celebratory, noting past achievements of individuals rather than asking for change in the future.

Alston, born in 1907, was a New Yorker who lived and worked in Harlem. As a graduate student at Columbia, he designed a cover for a Duke Ellington album and book jackets for Langston Hughes and Eudora Welty. He taught and mentored young artists, and his students included the painter Jacob Lawrence. During the Depression, he directed a team of artists who painted murals in…

via Black History: Charles Alston’s biographical cartoons for the Office of War Information.

Hitler and Marigolds by Julie Summers

There is nothing more delicious than discovering a private diary, written moons ago, that was never intended for publication. It has been my great good fortune to find several in the course of my work on the Second World War but the jewel in the crown for me were the diaries of Edith Jones, which form the golden thread through my book about the Women’s Institute, Jambusters. When I tell people I have worked on the WI for over six years I get mixed reactions. Some pity, some incredulity that a women’s organisation with a reputation for jam and Jerusalem would be of any interest to an author and sometimes, just sometimes, a nod of acknowledgement that this is a great topic. Well, let me reassure you that those in the third category are right.

As this is my first blog for the History Girls I thought I would kick off with the WI. This year is the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Institute of England and Wales. Scotland has its own Scottish Rural WI. Born in Llanfairpwll on Anglesey in 1915, it was founded in part to help with food production during the First World War. However, its main aim was, and remains, to educate…

Source: Hitler and Marigolds by Julie Summers

Do Bunny Down: when shared war stories can help to heal, by Clare Mulley

The crew of the Do Bunny, Charles ‘Chuck’ Blaney is standing, back right. (Courtesy of Chuck Blaney)

When researching biographies I am privileged to meet and exchange letters with many people whose observations, perspectives and actions present new insights into the past, and sometimes into the present. My current work, on two remarkable female pilots from the Second World War, has led to interviews with veterans and other witnesses from several sides of that terrible conflict. As always, many tales have emerged that have no bearing on the story I am telling – but which I cannot bear to let go unrecorded. This is the story of some USAAF servicemen who crashed into an enemy field, and the young German boy who was desperate to find them…

Source: Do Bunny Down: when shared war stories can help to heal, by Clare Mulley

From Holland to Bavaria: The quest starts at Dachau

Dachau is a place that can not really be described, and I’m not going to try. But seeing the vast roll-call space, let alone the registration building, execution area, gas chamber and ovens is enough to set your hair on end. Yes, it is real. It really happened. And what happened is beyond my imagination. And that hits home as I walk through the gate with the well-known horrific slogan ‘Arbeit macht frei’. That first impact, and the feeling of walking amongst ghosts will stay with me. And then to think my uncle might have been there.

Roll call area, Dachau
Roll call area, Dachau

Initially I went to Dachau as a gesture of respect to my uncle, who died when he was 22 years old at the hands of the Nazis in Germany. And I left Dachau with an incredible urge to…

Source: From Holland to Bavaria: The quest starts at Dachau

A block of flats in south west London with its own Second World War air raid shelter

I had to reblog this post, not least because we were living in East Sheen until recently and I had no idea of the air raid shelter’s existence. I’ve just discovered, however, that my other half knows all about it and many years ago he was able to go down there. Fascinating and I’m so relieved the structure has been restored and listed.

Flickering Lamps

The period between the two World Wars was one of massive expansion for London.  The city’s population grew and grew, peaking at 8.6 million in 1939 (a total not surpassed until very recently), and new housing was built at a rate never seen before to accommodate this growth. These new homes, council houses and private houses alike, contained modern facilities such as indoor toilets, making them attractive to those living in older, less well-equipped homes.  But a new housing development in East Sheen, in south west London, had yet another desirable feature for potential buyers: as the fear of war grew in the 1930s, St Leonard’s Court came with its own purpose-built air raid shelter.


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On this day: the Treznea Massacre

In Times Gone By...

Iuliu Maniu Square in Zalău on September 8, 1940 few days after the Second Vienna Award, Hungarian Army troops entering in Zalău. The Assumption Cathedral can be seen in background.

Hungarian troops nearby the day before the massacre

On the 9th of September, 1940, at least 93 (and up to 263, depending on which country is reporting) Romanians were massacred by Hungarian troops in the village of Treznea during the handing over of Northern Transylvania.

Amongst the dead were the local priest, the schoolteacher and his wife. The Orthodox church was partially burnt down.

This is a controversial event in the history of the Second World War, and historians in Hungary present a very different version of events to historians in Romania.

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