Category Archives: Imperial War Museum Classics
Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle
Autumn 1943. Realising that his feelings for his sweetheart are not reciprocated, Major John Overton accepts a posting behind enemy lines in Nazi-Occupied Albania. Arriving to find the situation in disarray, he attempts to overcome geographical challenges and political intrigues to set up a new camp in the mountains overlooking the Adriatic.
As he struggles to complete his mission amidst a chaotic backdrop, Overton is left to ruminate on loyalty, comradeship and his own future.
Based on Anthony Quayle s own wartime experience with the Special Operations Executive (SOE), this new edition of a 1945 classic includes a contextual introduction from IWM which sheds new light on the fascinating true events that inspired its author.
Many will know of Anthony Quayle the actor nominated for many awards for his roles in Lawrence of Arabia, Ice Cold in Alex and The Guns of Navarone to name just a few. But I had no idea of Anthony Quayle the author. In WWII Quayle was a British Army Officer and later served in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and served in Albania. The experiences so affected him that he found it hard to talk about. In Eight Hours from England first published in 1945 the story became a fictionalised account of his time in the SOE.
The story follows Major John Overton who is putting his personal life behind him and now has agreed to go behind enemy lines in Albania which is under the thumb of Nazi occupation.
When Overton arrives he is confronted by the task ahead of him, he has to organise the resistance and fight the German forces but there is plenty of in-fighting within Albania and too much focus on their own civil war. What our man Overton has to overcome is the terrain and the weather conditions and despite the promise of supplies these do not arrive.
What I found from Quayle’s words was that he was relieved to get out as he did in early April 1944. The situation was deteriorating with too many factions within the country and Partisans fearing not only certain death but total destruction of their villages. For Overton the need to get out of this situation and also Albania at the same time was real.
This is a compelling account of real life SOE agent although fictionalised it really becomes clear to the reader just what agents had to face when they were sent to the Balkans.
Anthony Quayle went on to continue to serve with the armed forces until the war ended and then went on to star in many films and also many stage productions and was Knighted in the New Year’s Honours in 1985. Sir Anthony Quayle died at his home in October 1989.
Thank you to the Imperial War Museum and also Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy of Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle.
Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle was published by Imperial War Museum and was published on 5th September 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
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Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt
London, 1942. Flight-Lieutenant David Heron, home on convalescent leave, awakes to the news that a murder victim has been discovered in the garden of his boarding house. With a week until his service resumes, David sets out to solve the murder. Drawn into a world of mystery and double-dealing, he soon realises that there is more to the inhabitants of the boarding house than meets the eye, and that wartime London is a place where opportunism and the black market are able to thrive. Can he solve the mystery before his return to the skies?
Inspired by Kathleen Hewitt s own experience of wartime London, this new edition of a 1943 classic includes a contextual introduction from IWM which sheds light on the fascinating true events that so influenced its author
There is something about an old wartime classic murder mystery unlike any other similar murder mystery of any other time period. Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt was originally written at the height of WWII and is now re-released by The Imperial War Museum for a new generation to discover.
London during the blitz and FL David Heron is resting at one of the many boarding houses after rescued from the channel. A body has been discovered in the back garden of a man and it is murder.
What does David Heron do, does he let the police investigate or does focus on his health and get back to fighting the Germans in the skies above London. The city is in the mist of the blitz and London at night is a dark and sinister place. Ideal for criminals and crime is rife especially in the black market. So now David decides to take on the investigation for himself and the owner of the boarding house Mrs Meake is convinced the house was all locked up and secure and David slept through. There are a few red herrings in the story to keep you guessing as well as a host of great characters who each play their part in this crime caper. This is wonderful crime story of the time and our intrepid investigator really does play the part very well.
The storyline keeps the reader entertained all the way through. Kathleen Hewitt (1893 – 1980) wrote 23 books and many were of the crime genre. With the release of four Wartime Classics by the Imperial War Museum to commemorate the outbreak of World War Two. A chance for a new generation of readers to read novels from writers who came through the war years either in the forces or living through the blitz.
Thank you to the Imperial War Museum and also Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy of Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt.
Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt was published by Imperial War Museum and was published on 5th September 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
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From the City, From the Plough – Alexander Baron
Spring 1944, the south coast of England. The Fifth Battalion, Wessex Regiment, wait patiently and nervously for the order to embark. There is boredom and fear, comedy and pathos as the men all drawn from different walks of life await the order to move.
With an economy of language that belies its emotional impact, From the City, From the Plough is a vivid and moving account of the fate of these men as they embark for the beaches of Normandy and advance into France, where the battalion suffers devastating casualties.
Based on Alexander Baron s own wartime experience, From the City, From the Plough was originally published to wide acclaim and reportedly sold over one million copies. This new edition of the 1948 classic includes a contextual introduction from IWM which sheds new light on the dramatic true events that so inspired its author.
The Imperial War Museum has just released four wartime classics as part of the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of Second Wold War and I delighted to be reviewing all four of these classic wartime stories. The first is From the City, From the Plough (IWM Wartime Classics) by Alexander Baron.
First released in 1948 and went on to sell over a million copies. War stories tell of bravery but also the shock and horror of war. And here Alexander Baron tells the story of the Fifth Battalion, Wessex Regiment as they prepared in the run-up to D-Day and the storming of the beaches.
Like any wartime story or film we come to know the leading characters and you know instantly some are not going to make it. This is the horror of war. A generation of young men ready to take on the Nazi war machine on the coast of Normandy. This is a powerful story told in under 200 pages. You come to know each of the men and how they interact with each other. These are ordinary men who were leading a normal working class life now they have left their families and their homes to fight. This novel is based on Baron’s own experiences of the battle for Normandy so he not only writes with incredible prose but from experience. Some of the storyline is meant to shock, but tells the story as it should be told. It is no surprise that Baron went on to be a successful writer and screenwriter. The men become a band of brothers as they stand side by side and storm the beaches and the horrors that wait as the beach comes closer.
Make no mistake this is no ordinary war story but one that is told as it was. A country at a time when it was still rebuilding and lives rebuilding now they could read a novel based on what it was really like. What must it have been like as they started to board the landing craft seeing the beaches ahead and shells exploding on the beaches. It is here in the story.
I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity of reviewing all four of these wartime classics that the Imperial War Museum have now released to a new generation of readers in a year when we have commemorated the 75th anniversary of D-Day back in June. Over the next few weeks look out the three other titles in the IWM Wartime Classics Series. Highly Recommended.
Thank you to the Imperial War Museum and also Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy of From the City, From the Plough by Alexander Baron.
From the City, From the Plough by Alexander Baron was published by Imperial War Museum and was published on 5th September 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Follow the Blog Tour