“Gripping novel, the historical aspect of the novel really interested me. I love historical fiction generally, so this was a great read.” South Africa
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“This is truly such an interesting and unique story and I think it would make a great series.” Slovenia
Berlin 1939 – 1943 From the smoking ruins of a bombed Berlin brothel, three shocked and injured female survivors are taken to a secluded training facility by Nazi officer, Gruppenführer Watler Schellenberg. They’re not there for official business but for medical treatment. Trained by the SS officer in all aspects of espionage, the women are desperate to survive. They turn the tables on their armed captors and kill them. After covering their tracks, the women return to ply the only trade they know… with an added twist. Somehow these ‘sisters in arms’ escape the attention of the Nazis, despite the high rank of their victim, and their lucrative business thrives. They haven’t escaped everyone’s notice though. British Intelligence were monitoring Schellenberg’s operations for some time, and their attention has zeroed in on the three women. They dispatch one of their top male agents to make contact…
As soon as Germany invaded Poland in September 1939 Switzerland began mobilising for a possible invasion and was fully mobilised within three days with a total of 430,000 combat troops, 210,000 support service personnel of which 10,000 were female.
I can only speculated here as I couldn’t find any original pictures but I am guess they only had a small building as barracks which could have looked something like this below:
Operation Tannenbaum also known as (Operation Green) was in fact a planned invasion of the country by Germany & Italy but it was never executed due to more pressing engagements on other fronts. Although I can’t help but also think it might have had something to do with the terrain.
Switzerland was able to stay neutral throughout the course of the second world war through a combination of military deterrence and economic concessions to Germany. There was however an attempted but failed Anschluss by the Swiss Nazi party during the early stages of the war, its failure attributed to Switzerland’s sense of national identity and tradition of democracy and civil liberties.
The country became a hive of espionage activity during the war and often brokered communications between the Axis and Allied forces.
However Switzerland wasn’t totally neutral, Germany violated Swiss air space a total of 197 times during the war which resulted in 11 Luffwaffe planes being shot down in 1940. This is even more mind blowing when you consider that the equipment used was in fact German!
As a result Hitler and Goring sent saboteurs to destroy equipment and airfields, they were all caught by the Swiss before they could inflict any kind of real damage though. Small isolated skirmishes continued throughout the war between Swiss and German soldiers on the northern borders of Switzerland.
This wasn’t however limited to Germany, from 1943 the Swiss had also shot down allied pilots violating its air space with a total of 36 airmen losing their life’s. In total over 6,000 allied aircraft violated Swiss air space during WWII.
on the 4th March 1945 Basel and Zurich were accidentally bombed by allied aircraft resulting in a couple of buildings being destroyed and 5 civilian deaths, the bombing crews thought they were bombing Frieburg, Germany.
As Switzerland was neutral and surrounded by the axis powers it was very easy for refugees to reach it seeking asylum, however the Swiss laws regarding refugees were strict and even more so for fleeing Jews. Only those who were is direct threat of death were granted asylum which did not include those under threat due to race, religion or ethnicity.
In total the Swiss interned 300,000 refugees, of which 104,000 were foreign troops under the rights and duties of a neutral power outlined in the Hague convention and the rest were foreign civilians granted tolerance or residence permits. None of which were allowed to part take of any kind of work.
Throughout the war both axis and allied powers exerted pressure on the Swiss not to trade with the other, this pressure came in the form of blocking trade, the country relied on trade for crucial items such as some food products and more importantly fuel like coal and oil.
However both sides continued trading with the Swiss regardless with large amounts of gold being traded from Germany.
During 1940 – 1945 Germany traded over 1 billion Swiss Francs worth of gold alone which was used to help finance their war effort, mainly used for the purchase of important raw materials such as Tungsten and Oil from other neutral countries.
This gold was mostly plundered from occupied countries and over half a billion Swiss francs worth came from Holocaust victims. this trade however was only 0.5% contribution towards the entire German war effort.
This figure is only a mere drop in the ocean and it only serves to invoke thoughts of the vast sums of money that the axis and allied forces were in fact injecting in to the war, it also conjures up the thoughts that maybe a country surround by war can stay truly neutral!
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Whilst on a visit to Thailand 2006, I decided to visit the Bridge On the River Kwai. The Thailand to Burma railway also know as (The Death Railway). Built in 1943, 218 miles (415 km) long between Ban Pong, Thailand and Thanbyulanyat, Burma under the control of the Japanese during WW II. The primary objective was to improve communication and support to the Japanese forces in Burma.
The Labour force consisted of between 180,000 – 250,000 Asian civilians and 61,000 allied prisoners of war. Approximately 13,000 POW’s and 100,00 civilians lost their lives during construction, following in the footsteps of these soldiers and civilians I arrive at the Bridge on the river Kwai.
When you consider the length and size of the railway it is little wonder that so many lost their lives during its construction, not only was they worked hard, they had to do so under extreme condition, little food and constant ill-treatment from the Japanese.
The actual bridge is constructed of steel as you can see here, unlike the epic war movie (The Bridge On the River Kwai) 1957 staring Alec Guinness in which the bridge is of wooden construction, but still a great movie. (See end of post for links)
Cost and other sites in the area
Following in the footsteps of these soldiers I took a mini bus from Bangkok to the site for a cost of £20.00, this did include a very unstable looking raft ride on the river as well as the elephant sanctuary and lunch.
You can go for a ride on the elephants if you wish, I did, it was ok once you realised that you will not fall off…..lasted about 25 minutes and its included. Anyway, back to the bridge, below you will find a map of its location, click on map to view in google maps.
If you take the mini bus from Bangkok as I did you will be dropped off just around the corner from the bridge, here you will also find a WWII museum which will cost you £1.00 entry fee and worth the time taking a look, see picture below.
As you come out of the museum you turn left to the bridge, only a few minutes walk but you will pass a covered market on the left where you will find a very friendly Leopard. I spent about 30 minutes with him, you can buy food for him from the owner at £1.50 bag.
So once you have had a good look around the bridge, either take your mini bus to the Thai – Burma cemetery, if your walking you head straight off the bridge westerly until you come to a main road. Turn right and the cemetery is about 10 minutes walk, you will also find the Thai – Burma centre which is worth a visit, its dedicated to the railway, see map below.
I used Bangkok as my base for this trip, it took about 2.5 hours to drive here from the city. It’s not for everyone but there is plenty of hotels up in the northern provinces of Thailand which will make it closer if you don’t fancy the bus ride, oh they do have air/con so it’s quite pleasant on the ride to and from Bangkok.
Just a few safety tips, in Thailand you will find hundreds of people with the hard luck story… be aware they are generally scamming you. I never travel with any kind of jewellery and I wear a low-cost watch. I also use a top up credit card when travelling, easy to get and if you do lose it or its stolen, you have only lost the money that is on it. You can top these up from your main bank account online or get a family member to do it for you back home whenever you need more cash.