“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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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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Bletchley park was a British top secret codebreaking establishment during WWII.
The British government code and cipher school was housed here with it’s main objective being to intercept axis forces communications with priority given to Enigma and Lorenz ciphers.
Alastair Denniston commander of operations for GC&CS 1919 – 1942 was told by Winston Churchill to leave no stone un-turned in recruiting the best minds in Britain. With this in mind he firstly turned to the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, then in 1941 he had the Daily Telegraph run a crossword competition, those that completed the crossword where then discretely approached and asked about entering the war effort.
However, at this stage they were not told what they would be doing or in fact where they would be working.
The main body of personnel where made up of mathematicians, physicists, engineers, crypt-analysts, linguistic, later thinkers, chess champions.
Some of the main personnel at Bletchley Park were, Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman, Hugh Alexander and Stuart Milner-Barry and many more. They were all top people in their respective fields.
By the end of 1945 there was 10,000 personnel working at Bletchley and its sub stations. 75% of these were female, of middle class backgrounds, all held a degree in one field or another, civilian and uniformed personnel all worked a long aide each other.
After their initial basic training they all under went special training at the “Special Intelligence School” which was set by John Tiltman and located at RAF Buckingham and later Bedford. The locals used to call this place the “Spy School”.
Some of Bletchley achievements
Bletchley personnel achieved success on land, sea and air campaigns and shortened the war by at least two years,
Tommy Flowers – The worlds first programmable electronic computer “Colossus” 1943.
Jane Fawett – credited for the decoding of a message that led to the sinking of the battleship “Bismark”.
Harry Fensom – creator of the “Tunny Machine”, for decoding Lorenz ciphers.
Joan Joslin – work led to the sinking of the “Schamhorst”.
Dilly Knox – cracked the code of the commercial enigma machines.
Alan Turing – designer of the “Bombe” electro – mechanical device.
Personnel also provided the Royal Navy with vital intelligence to cut of Rommel’s supply chain.
Within British intelligence the highest classification during WWII was “Most Secret”, Bletchley and the work done there was even higher than that.
All personnel had to sign the official secrets act, however, some of the security warnings went even further, “DO NOT”, talk in billits, by your own fireside, talk at meals, talk in transit, in other words “NO TALKING”!! anytime anywhere, to anyone, not even those you work with.
There was breaches in security though with the most serious one been that of John Cairncross, a soviet mole/spy who infiltrated Bletchley, he was a member of the Cambridge spy ring. He was sending intelligence and material back to Moscow.
The Soviet Union were never officially told about Bletchley and its activities due to the fact that Churchill never really trusted them, even though we were fighting on the same side.
In contrast, after America joined the war the co-operation between the US and British intelligence was cemented by a number of American cryptographers joining the team.
Attacks on Bletchley
There was only ever one axis forces attack on Bletchley, November 20 – 21st 1040, bombs reportedly ment for Bletchley railway station fell within the Bletchley estate. Hut 4 was hit and so much so it shifted off it’s foundation by two feet (2ft). The interesting thing is though, they winched it back onto it’s foundation whilst the personnel continued to work, no health and safety back then hey!! eeek….no thats trust!
So the drive down took two hours, pleased I wasn’t driving… thanks son..
There is a guy at the gate, he may or may not stop you, the vehicle in front of us was stopped, I hope the gate guy was embracing his position and asking for your clearance to enter!!! we didn’t find out, but it would be kind of cool hey..
admission fee Adult £18.50, Souvenir Guidebook £6.00, once you have bought your ticket you can use it for one year to return as many times as you like for free.
Once through the payment area, you have to follow a certain path in which you have a couple of projectors giving you some WWII background. There is also some interactive tables here, well worth having a go on… by the way, watch out for these throughout, they are everywhere and a most..
also in this area you will find some glass cabinets full of authentic books, as I looked at these I couldn’t help but imagine these on someones desk or constantly in their hand..
it’s worth looking out for these on the walls too, they have some great information on them…see below
as your leaving this first hall you can’t help but notice this war time motorcycle, shown below
just before you leave this area to enter the park you can pick up a free handheld audio guide, just remember to return prior to leaving…
I our point of call was the radio communications hall, see map, this is full of all manner of old radio communication equipment, some of it interactive
Onto block 8, down some stairs into the exhibits, there is everything in here, as I had firstly written about the Lorenz and Enigma machines in the first part of this blog, here is where you find out all about them…hope you like reading folks…. I found this fascinating,
more picture from here in the photo gallery folk’s
on to hut 3, this hut has be be one the best we all thought, from the point of view of authenticity, the could see and spell its age. It was the most important hut in the park.
Next huts 11 and 11a, hut 11 has 4 mock up Bombe machines, its quite cold in there too, but with four of those machines in this small hut I bet it was loud…
Hut 11a shows how there work impacted some parts of the war and again has many interactive things to do,
there is also a working Bombe machine in this hut pictured below
there are many interactive exhibits in this hut
We next walked up to the garage area, there are 4 exhibits here,
On to the main mansion now and wow what a building, the interior alone is breathtaking not forgetting of course the important part it played in park, but its ceilings alone are some of the nicest I have seen.
enter through the main door, the very same door that Churchill and all the top people had used, following in the footsteps of these soldiers, civilians and politicians felt unbelievable.
The large windows to the left is the office of the park commander, office shown below
We moved onto the library which was used some subsections, please read below
Thats about it from our visit to Bletchley park, check out all the pictures in the gallery.
Just before we left we felt hungry so we decided to find somewhere to eat, and oh boy did we, its about 10 minutes away, food is great and priced well, check out the pictures below
thats beef in yorkshire pudding wrap, its bloody great I can tell you £4.99
I am not an aviation expert and even less of a military aviation expert, far from it. But that is what makes the Spitfire so special. Despite my ignorance in all matters aviation I do know what a Spitfire is, and like me anyone who doesn’t have a clue about airplanes they still will recognize a Spitfire.
Although there have been many other majestic fighters during WWII like for example the Mustang.
It is the Spitfire which is most recognizable of all of them. As I said earlier everyone knows how a Spitfire looks like.
The Spitfire was designed by Reginald Mitchell of Supermarine Ltd., in response to a 1934 Air Ministry specification calling for a high-performance fighter with an armament of eight wing-mounted 0.303-inch (7.7-mm) machine guns.
One of the Spitfire’s most important contributions to Allied victory was as a photo-reconnaissance aircraft from early 1941. Superior high-altitude performance rendered it all but…
The area once known as Yugoslavia entered WWII on 6th April 1941.
on the 24th March 1941, Prince Paul of Yugoslavia fearing an invasion from the axis powers signed the Tripartite Pact, pledging cooperation with the axis forces. However, on 27th March 1941 he was overthrown by a military coup d’etat with support from the British.
Peter II, then only 17 years old was deemed old enough to rule and was placed in power. As a direct result of this Yugoslavia withdrew it’s support of the axis powers and as a consequence on 6th April 1941 Germany and the axis forces invaded Yugoslavia.
The area was broken up with Bulgarian forces controlling central and eastern areas, western areas were occupied and controlled by Italian forces.
On 11th October 1941 the People’s Liberation Army along with the Yugoslavian Partisan movement started a political and military campaign, their main objective was to resist the occupation of Macedonia by Bulgarian, German, Italian and Albanian forces.
Following in the footsteps of all those involved in this campaign this is my visit to Ohrid, the town today is a beautiful place to visit, full of great architecture with inviting people and cafe’s to sit and watch the world go by.
for all the pictures from Ohrid see the picture gallery. here . Like all the other towns, cities I have visited it’s hard to imagine how it was back during WWII.
As part of my visit to this wonderful country I had to go to Bitola, it is the oldest city in the country. In the ancient world it was known as (Heraclea Lyncestis) founded by Phillip II ( father of Alexander the great).
With this in mind it is a must for all those travelling to Macedonia…
Heraclea ruins 1
Heraclea ruins 2
See all the pictures from Bitola in the picture gallery. here
Skopje was seized by the German army on the 8th April 1941 and they left he Bulgarian army in control of the region. The city was liberated by partisans on 13th November 1944 by Yugoslav, National Liberation Army and the newly allied Bulgarian people’s army.. The Bulgarian army having switched sides in September 1944…
Macedonia and the surrounding regions were not left out of the German’s final solution, many jew’s and other’s were transported out to concentration camps.
Today the city is thriving, there is so many things to see and do there. However my visit was really about going to see the holocaust museum.
This museum is a must, open Tuesday to Friday 09.00 – 19.00 and Saturday and Sunday 09.00 – 15.00. entrance is free but there is a charge for guided tours.
sorry for the delay in bringing this last blog on my China visit.
Beijing in a great city, packed with great places to eat and can cater for most pallets.
Hotels are a plenty and again for every budget, I generally use trivago.com for hotels whilst travelling, I have found them the best for all pockets. see the link on the right side of blog.
Following in the footsteps of those soldiers and civilians from China who gave their all during WWII, I find myself in this totally wonderful square in Beijing. So much here to see and do, you could take a full day just wondering around here, visiting the People’s Heroes Monument, pictured below,
This monument is dedicated to all those who lost their lives during WWII and other conflicts, there is also the workers statue below,
There is also the Chairmen Mao memorial to be found in the square, pictured below,
And of course behind that you will find the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall which is also a must to visit.
In the northern part of the square you will find the totally dominating and all inspiring Forbidden City, I mean, history, this really is and has to be on everyone’s visit list.
The main entrance and below the interior
I get that this isn’t anything to do with WWII but it just has to be mentioned regardless of that just for history sake.
From Beijing the next day is yet another none related but has to be mentioned Chinese landmark, The Great Wall, I actually rang my family whilst standing on the wall, it was early in the morning but it just had to be done. I really don’t think they got it, I did wake them up though..lol
Totally breathtaking… all my pictures, well not all but a selection, can be found here