"Royal Navy and Maritime Book Reviews" Provided By - Rob Jerrard

Thorogood Publishing

Thorogood Publishing: Books Reviewed in 2009

Channel to Freedom
Edition: 1st
Format: Paperback
Author: Mike Williams
ISBN: 978 185418689 8
Publishers: Thorogood
Price: £9.99
Publication Date: 2011

Publisher's Title Information

The third part of a fictional trilogy, describing the role and operations of a naval Special Forces unit, based on Tresco in the Isles of Scilly.
It describes the part played in the Second World War, by this ultra-secret unit, from D-Day until the end of the war in Europe. So secret was the real-life flotilla, that news of it was not released, under the Official Secrets Act, until 1995. As the war moves to its climax, the Germans become ever more desperate to regain lost ground.
In operations demanding the highest levels of courage and personal daring, Lieutenant Commander Richard Tremayne's specialist experience is called upon to counter new German threats. Advanced enemy technology, providing them with battlefield advantages over the Allies, becomes one of his major targets, set against impossible timescales and the most terrifying personal threat.
Leading his highly trained team, he fights on land and at sea, ranging around Europe from the Kattegat to the east coast of Ireland and to the Mediterranean islands off Toulon, as well as his familiar battlegrounds of Brittany. Such covert operations, sometimes straying into neutral waters, place intense political pressures on Tremayne, demanding from him the utmost sensitivity - as well as results.


Principal characters
The Isles of Scilly
Crozon Peninsula
Toulon and Les Îles D' Hyères
Sweden: The Skagerrak and the Kattegat
Lorient Enclave
County Cork
One: Paths To Victory
Two: Operation Snatch
Three: The Chateau Keeps A Strange Cellar
Four: Within A Hair's Breadth
Five: Operation Dragoon: The Second
Channel Of Invasion 9
Six: Channel Of Invasion Cleared And Open
Seven: A Political Goulash The Channel To Freedom
Eight: Bryher -The Island Of Hills
Nine: Perhaps A Friend For Life
Ten: Blockade Busters
Eleven: A Shock For Tremayne
Twelve: Mayhem In Parallel
Thirteen: Tremayne's Nightmare
Fourteen: Heart Of Oak
Fifteen: The Final Curtain
Epilogue - 2010
Glossary of naval and Royal Marine terms

The Author

Michael Williams served eight years both full time and as a reservist, first in the Royal Navy [intelligence] as a Russian-speaking intercept operator, then in the Royal Marines [SBS and Commando], ending as a Second-in Command of a combined SBS and Commando RMR unit. He is married to the children's author Brenda Williams. They live in Wiltshire and regularly go hill-walking and canoeing in the Isles of Scilly.

Speak the Culture: Italy
Edition: 1st
Format: Paperback
Author: Andrew Whittaker
ISBN: 978-185418628-7
Publishers: Thorogood
Price: £16.99
Publication Date: 2010

Publisher's Title Information

Italy has a bewildering cultural patrimony. Where do you start? With Giotto? With Caravaggio? In murky Etruscan tombs or the mighty Roman Pantheon? Speak the Culture: Italy sifts through a sprawling 3,000 year saga and makes sense of it; dissecting architecture, music, food, art, literature, cinema and much more.
Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Mussolini: you've heard of them, but how did they live? What were their achievements and failings, and how are they remembered in Italy today? Speak the Culture: Italy explores the place of these and other figures in the national identity, in the story that made the modern nation.
Culture is covered in its broadest sense, extending into the everyday modes of life - the food and drink, religion, politics, sport, character and so on. On one side lies the famous lust for life, expressed in everything from the Carnevale Di Venezia to the family mealtime; on the other lies a darker story of organised crime, corruption and political transience. And while the Italian peninsula has its ancient history, as a state the famous boot, or Lo Stivale, remains young, so the nuances of strong, surviving regional identities are also revealed.


Literature & Philosophy
Art & Architecture
Performing Arts
Cinema, Photography & Fashion
Media & Communications
Food & Drink
Living culture: the state of the nation
The Author
Andrew Whittaker is a successful journalist and writer who has traveled widely, and written extensively on France and the Mediterranean countries. Speak the Culture: Italy, is his fourth book in the series.


I visited Italy during my service with the Royal Navy, see www.rjerrard.co.uk/royalnavy/rnavy/rnavy.htm. HMS LION off Naples The Med Cruise Postcard of Ancona dated 11th August 1961
Postacrd of Trieste dated 6th August 1961

HMS Lion visited Naples, Ancona, a city and a seaport in the Marche, a region of central Italy and Trieste. I remember walking to the border of what is Slovenia. I would love to go back. If I did I would be certain to read some of these chapters again because this is a guide book with a difference. There is no doubt that to understand any Country one needs to understand the culture.

Language is important, as the book points out; in Italy dialects are often grouped into three portions, north, centre and south. Then of course we have the food, who can forget their first real pizza or in my case spilling red wine all over my white uniform.

I hope for you they are more than old memories, and, if you visit consider reading this book cover to cover first.

Rob Jerrard

Speak the Culture France
Edition: 1st
Format: Paperback
Author: Andrew Whittaker Editor in Chief
ISBN: 978 185418493 1
Publishers: Thorogood
Price: £12.99
Publication Date: 2008

Publisher's Title Information
A guidebook can show you where to go, a language guide what to say when you get there. But only Speak the Culture: France will lead you to the nation's soul. This easy to use cultural companion considers how it feels to have grown up with Camus, Cézanne, De Gaulle and Bardot; it captures the spirit of France and delves deep into the Gallic psyche.
Through exploring the people, the movements and the lifestyles that have shaped the French experience, you will come to an intimate understanding of France and the French.
This is not a travel guide or a manual on living in France. It's a superbly designed, informed and engaging insight into French life and culture and who the French really are.

Who is this book suitable for?
Residents in France and those thinking of living there, second home owners, business travellers, holidaymakers, students of French and French culture and Francophiles everywhere. And people like me who wish to understand what their Grandaughters are saying about you.

1 Identity: the foundations of French culture
2 Literature and philosophy
3 Art and architecture
4 Performing arts
5 Arbiters of style: cinema, photography and fashion
6 Media and communications
7 Consuming culture: food and drink
8 Living culture: the state of the nation

The Author
Andrew Whittaker is a successful journalist and writer who has travelled widely, and written extensively on France and the Mediterranean countries.

'This is a comprehensive and erudite cultural guide to France and the French. Beginning with a survey of the geography and major historical events that have shaped France, what follows is a highly informative and entertaining look at all aspects of French life and culture. Areas examined include literature and philosophy, art, architecture and design, the performing arts, cinema, photography and fashion, media and communications, food and drink and the state of the nation. A veritable cultural kaleidoscope of famous, influential and significant activities, events, places and people that add up to France. With a format and written style that allows for easy digestion of facts and information, this is a book that all Francophiles will find hard to put down._'
French Property News

'Speak the culture, France is an absolutely indispensable guide to every aspect of French culture, from the country's great musicians and artists, to the television viewing habits of its population. Everything you could possibly hope to know about French lifestyle - from what the newspapers and magazines on French newsstands are about, to the historic French architecture - is explained in clear detail.'
Complicated subject matter such as France's artistic and philosophical movements is clearly summarised and simple to understand. Practical information about French law, wine, food and politics is also given in the book, to give a complete picture of la vie francaise.
Speak the Culture, France answers any questions you may have had about why there is no Big Brother on French television, or what exactly is in a glass of kir. The book will also help you evade embarrassing faux pas by clarifying social dilemmas such as who should pay if you invite someone out to dinner and how to avoid pouring an impolite amount if wine into somebody's glass.
The book begins with a historical explanation as to how France gained its cultural identity the details France's heroes and villains, explains how language evolved in France and looks at who the French language is protected today. *For anybody living in France, visiting the country on holiday or simply interested in French life, Speak the Culture, France is essential reading, giving its readers access to information normally gained through years of cultural observation.
Living France

'Even as Eurostar relocates to a gloriously refurbished St Pancras station and the journey time between London and Paris is shaved even closer, more and more people on both sides of the Channel are taking advantage of the extra opportunities this highly cherishable link offers us. And for those already in love with France (not to mention the ever-increasing legions of converts), Speak the Culture: France will be an invaluable aid and companion. Actually, no publisher has attempted anything quite like this, and the publishers Thorogood are to be much applauded for their ingenuity and achievement. The subtitle is Be fluent in French Life and Culture, and that facility is just what this remarkable volume offers, cramming an amazing mass of information into its well-designed pages. Everything is here, from French art and literature, architecture, media, sport, fashion and (of course) food and drink. But while not being in the slightest dumbed down, the information here (while often dealing with such weighty subjects as Proust and French existential philosophers) is delivered in a concise and highly accessible style (and aided considerably by the clever graphics which have a nicely self-mocking subtext when was that last seen in a book on a foreign country?). So, you're sitting on Eurostar, and a fresh espresso is to hand. Don't reach for the glossy magazine the train company provides crack open Speak the Culture: France and you'll be thoroughly tooled up for your visit to the City of Light.
Barry Forshaw, Author and travel journalist

'It is an engaging Foible of the French to believe that they are the most cultured race on God's earth. The authors of this mainly excellent handbook seem happy to indulge in them. On page 77, they write “...nearly every strataa of (French) society, from farm labourers to government minisers, enjoys its capacity for abstract thought”. I am not sure that “strata” should be 'stratum”, but the words that really catch the attention here are “farm labourers”. By stroke of luck, I know lots of French farm labourers, and splendid chaps they are, too. But structuralism and the naturalistic fallacy are rarely the mainstraysof our conversation.'
'Then again - and here is the point - if such subjects were raised, I would bet that my farming friends would be interested. For the truth is the French are not more cultured than the rest of us, but are infinitely more respectful of culture and learning, There is no French equivalent of the idiot phrase “too clever by half.'
'The two results of this are (a) an insane admiration for writers, artists and, Gold help us, journalists and (b) an awful lot of bluffing. Middle-class people, especially, cannot admit to ignorance of post-Impressionism or the works of Erik Satie. Which is where this book comes in. If the French are bluffing, then the outsider must bluff along with them - and this is a terrific bluffer's guide to French Culture.'
'In intelligent tabloid style, it gallops through history (from Cro- Magnon to Sarkozy in 14 pages:brilliant), art, literature, music, food, and more besides. Overlooking hardly anything of importance, it's a miracle of compression spiced with good trivia. I didn't know that Verlaine and Rimbaud were lovers or that Charles Worth, who apparently invented Parisian haute couture, was English.'
'The few lapses are, therefore, all the more surprising. Auguste Comte “pedalled (sic) positivism” only if that is what he called his bike. And the generic French term for scandal showbiz magazines is “la presse people” not “la presse public.'
'There is also a certain imbalance: nine (good) pages on opera and ballet, but only two on French television. Perhaps the authors simply couldn;t bring themselves to contemplate a television service so dire. But these are quibbles. Read the book carefully and you will have the skeleton of French culture. It will then be up to you to put the flesh on the bones and really dominate those conversations
Anthony Peregrine, Daily Telegraph

‘All facinating stuff. If you take only one book to france with you in the summer, take this one.’
Dominique’s France Magazine

The Channel of Invasion
Edition: 1st
Format: Paperback
Author: Mike Williams
ISBN: 978-1-85418-638-6
Publishers: Thorogood
Price: £9.99
Publication Date: 1st July 2009
Publisher's Title Information

Part two in the brilliant Tremayne Tresco trilogy - a fictional account of one of Second World War's best kept secrets (1943 -1944)
A hidden and brutal war of subterfuge, stealth and deception is being waged along the English Channel and the Brittany coast. British Intelligence has cracked the Enigma Code and Allied forces have, for a short time, inflicted heavy losses on the U-boat Wolf-packs preying on shipping in the English Channel - until now.
Plans are also well advanced for the invasion of Normandy. Richard Tremayne the Flotilla Commander of a clandestine Special Force Naval unit operating from the rugged coastline of the Scilly Isles is once more in the thick of it.
Author Mike Williams again delivers a soul-stirring tale of heroism, courage and sacrifice from the 'small boat men' and remembers the men and women who remain unsung, but who gave so much in the protection of our coasts and helped liberate France.
This is the second novel to feature Richard Tremayne (described as a modern day Hornblower or Aubrey for the 1940s) in wartime operations set in the Scillies, the English Channel and Northern France.

Praises For the Trilogy
"Mike Williams' own experience with the Special Forces shines through as he skilfully spins an exciting tale around the true story"
Richard Barber, author of 'The Last Piece of England' and Editor of the Tresco Times
"This is a great story -an important one- and is very well told, as it deserves to be."
Geoffrey Till, Professor Maritime Studies, King's College London and Director of the Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies
"I like to think of him (Tremayne - the main character in the book) as a Richard Sharp for the Second World War." Chris Thomas Radio Scilly

The Author
Michael Williams served eight years both full time and as a reservist, first in the Royal Navy [intelligence] as a Russian-speaking intercept operator, then in the Royal Marines [SBS and Commando], ending as a Second-in Command of a combined SBS and Commando RMR unit. He is married to the children's author Brenda Williams. They live in Wiltshire and regularly go hill-walking and canoeing in the Isles of Scilly.

More Details on the Thorogood Publishers Website

The Secret Channel

The Scene of Activities, the novel's wartime Tresco, based on imagination and not necessarily on fact.
Edition: 1st
Format: Paperback
Author: Mike Williams
ISBN: 1-85418-612-4
Publishers: Thorogood Publishing, www.thorogoodpublishing.co.uk
Price: £9.99
Publication Date: 2008
Publisher's Title Information

For the whole of the War a great secret was kept from the enemy and nation. An elite force of men and women was gathered on the remote coastline of the Scilly Isles: their task was to keep open secret channels between England and France, at any cost.
Inspired by wartime secret operations, Mike Williams has written a thrilling novel set in the Scillies, the English Channel and Northern France and created in Richard Tremayne a naval hero in the mould of a Hornblower or an Aubrey for the navy of the 1940s.
Mike Williams served in the Royal Marines: his boats are real boats and his sailors real sailors. Lieutenant Richard Tremayne has lost his wife in the Blitz. He sinks his grief in forging a remarkable team capable of facing huge personal risks and builds an effective relationship with his enigmatic Commander. Enever. Against all odds, time and again the bravery and ingenuity of the 'small boatmen defy belief.
Mike Williams is a master story-teller who brilliantly evokes the haunting islands of the Scillies - "this remote and beautiful place" as Tremayne puts it - and the menacing waters in which men and women fought and risked their lives.


"The story of the Scilly Islands flotilla is part of the larger issue of the small boat campaign of the Second World War. Amazingly, this bitter campaign has largely been forgotten, for books and films have tended to focus on the encounters of giants, battleships and aircraft carriers, both in the European and the Pacific theatres, or the major amphibious operations or the endless battle against German U-boats. Perhaps this is because, comparatively, so few people were involved. Or perhaps it because the strategic effects of the Scilly Flotilla in particular on the outcome of the war are harder to gauge since so much of it was shrouded in secrecy, being bound up with the complex and still contentious story of the French resistance. For all these reasons, small boat operations have been a sadly neglected part of our modern naval history. This is a real pity because, as Mike Williams has shown in this factionalised account, the deadly doings of the small boat men were just as dramatic, just as heroic and just as absorbing as accounts of much larger campaigns and battles. We owe Mike Williams a great debt for bring this forgotten story alive, especially as he has done so with such grace and humanity and with a meticulous attention to detail that professional historians would envy. This is a great story, an important one, and is very well told, as it deserves to be."

Geoffrey Till, Professor Maritime Studies, King's College London and Director of the Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies

"Tresco played an extraordinary part in the clandestine war against the Nazis. Mike Williams' own experience with the Special Forces shines through as he skilfully spins an exciting tale around the true story. It is easy to imagine the tension, the bravery and the humour of young men who put their lives on the line to pull off one of the great intelligence coups of the war. A cracking read,"

Richard Barber, author of 'The Last Piece of England' and Editor of the Tresco Times

"Mike William's knowledge of special operations is without question. His love of the beautiful Scilly Isles is without doubt. With a diverse set of characters and intriguing blend of fact and fiction, Mike Williams takes the reader on an exciting journey across the black waters of the English channel.

"The Secret channel is a book that will be appreciated by all those interested in the Second World War and history in general."

Britain at War Magazine

Written in an easy to follow manner, the reader is soon immersed in the book as the characters come alive off the pages. To anyone unfamiliar with the area then this master of written word soon has you in his grip. A great piece of realistic writing.

Sea Breezes Magazine

"This thrilling tale is based on true events - with characters that live on the page and brilliantly evoke the dangerous waters and the desperate times in which they lived."

The Sea Magazine

In 'The Secret Channel', author Mike William, lets you imagine the dangerous waters and desperate times in which the men and women lived - and sometimes lost - their lives in this thrilling fictional account of true events.

HOMEPORT magazine

"Mike Williams tells an exciting tale of wartime adventure and secret mission. His personal experience and understanding of this subject give the book rea authenticity, making for a gripping read."

The Islander Magazine

The Author
Mike Williams served eight years both full time and as a reservist, first in the Royal Navy [Intelligence] as a Russian-speaking intercept operator. then in the Royal Marines [SBS and Commando], ending as Second-in-Command of a combined SBS and Commando RMR unit He is married to the children's author Brenda Williams They live in a 400 year-old house in the Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire and regularly go hill-walking and canoeing in the Isles of Scilly.

A fishing boat, capable of 28 knots and of out-running a Hunt Class Destroyer? What other secrets didn't we know? This is an absorbing novel inspired by real-life events, when in WWII men sailed from Tresco in adapted fishing boats to Nazi-occupied Brittany. The real story can be read in 'Secret Flotillas, Volume 1: Clandestine Sea Operations to Brittany 1940-1944', Brooks Richards, Whitehall History Publishing in Association with Frank Cass, 2004 (now available from Routledge Price £80.
The author has woven some of the truth around his story and for the purposes of his novel added a small flotilla, including 'C' Class Fairmile MGBs, two Vosper MTBs and a Camber Nicholson MGB. Add to this, three Breton fishing boats and two British power boats and it would have been very difficult to have kept it 'Secret'. However it relates into a really good yarn and all fits in neatly as the plot develops around the characters, which inevitably includes one very attractive WRNS Third Officer.
Our hero commands a Fairmile 'C' Class MGB. In fact only twenty-four were actually built (MGB 312-335) and were in real life employed in clandestine operations on the enemy coast. In his book 'Dog Boats at War - Royal Navy 'D' Class MTBs and MGBs 1939-1945' the History Press, 2009 the author LC Reynolds does acknowledge that, 'Their low silhouette and slim lines made them very suitable for such duties, but the fact that they were handled by authority other than coastal forces means that the very considerable part the 'C' boats played in the role is largely unrecorded'. He also revealed that MGB 318 operated from 1942-1945 on clandestine work, mainly to the coast of France and ultimately exclusively to Brittany. On 'The Peoples' War' website there is also mention of MGB 326 operating on secret missions and commando raids.
The novel portrays the close bond which existed in the boats, where Officers, Petty Officers and Ratings lived so closely together, the closeness of which was perhaps strongest between Skipper and Coxswain. Highly recommended.
If you would like to read about the real exploits, in addition to the two books already mentioned there is also, 'We fought them in the Gunboats' Lieutenant Commander Robert P Hichens, Michael Joseph, 1944; 'Gunboat Commander - the Biography of Lieutenant Commander Robert Hichens, Anthony Hichens, Pen & Sword, 2007; 'The War of the Gunboats' Bryan Cooper, Pen & Sword, 2007 and 'Night Action, MTB Flotilla at War and Peace' Peter Davies, first published 1974.
Rob Jerrard

Many thanks for the book 'The secret Channel' I thoroughly enjoyed reading it . I never knew that the Isles of Scilly played such a great part during the war.
It was very well written and , I'm sure, of great interest to RN members who served on MTB's , also people who live on the Scillies . I have a friend who always spend her holidays on Tresco so I will show her the book and I am sure she would like to read it as it does have a happy ending..... I won't tell her.
Peter Curtis RN 1948-1958
Budleigh Salterton
More Details on the Thorogood Publishers Website

Speak the Culture Britain
Edition: 1st
Andrew Whittaker Editor-in-chief
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978 185418627 0
Publishers: Thorogood
Price: £12.99
Price: £12.99 More Details on the Publishers website
Publication Date: 3 April 2009
Publisher's Title Information

Few nations rival the rich history, artistic achievement and contemporary verve of Britain. But who are the British? What does it mean to be British and is there such a thing as British culture? There has never been a time when the question has occasioned so much debate.
Speak the Culture: Britain peels back the layers of this rich and complex heritage, exploring the factors - historical, political, cultural, artistic - that make the British tick.
British culture is strewn with names that strike a chord the world over: Shakespeare, Churchill, Dickens, Pinter, Hitchcock, Vivienne Westward, Lennon and McCartney ... Speak the Culture: Britain examines the people, the history and the movements that have shaped Britain as it now is, providing key information in easily digested, entertaining chunks.
It also reveals the culture of everyday life, exploring variations between the English, Scots and Welsh, and dissecting their approach to life: how they eat, socialise, vote, dress and laugh.

Everyone who seriously wants to understand what it really feels like to be British and to explore the concept of Britishness in the 21st century: Britons, new residents, business travellers, tourists, holiday-makers, students, lovers of Britain everywhere.

Identity: the foundations of British culture 2 Literature and philosophy 3 Art and architecture 4 Music, theatre, dance and comedy 5 Cinema, photography and fashion 6 Media and communications 7 Food and drink 8 Living culture: the state of modern Britain

Reviews to date
Visitors and locals alike will enjoy these key facts, insights and anecdotes about Britain and what makes it tick. Britain Magazine

1. Identity: the foundations of British culture
2. Literature and philosophy
3. Art and architecture
4. Music, theatre, dance and comedy
5. Cinema, photography and fashion
6. Media and communications
7. Food and drink
8. Living culture: the state of modern Britain
Speak the Culture: Britain
About the author
'Andrew Whittaker is a successful journalist and writer who has travelled widely and written extensively on culture and the arts'.

Can a book really define what it means to be British? Should I say when asked, 'I am British', or should I say 'I am English'. I think the answer has changed in my lifetime, because of all the talk of breaking up the United Kingdom. 'I am English' - and why not? The Irish, Scots and Welsh have been shouting their mouths off for decades to be blunt.
So what is Great Britain? Answer England, Wales and Scotland. If you throw in Northern Ireland it becomes the United Kingdom, which is what I hope it continues to be. Whatever happened to Great Britain?
This is a very informative well-constructed book and within its covers you can learn an awful lot about yourself and your neighbours - your fellow Brits and so much more. Just open a page and the facts jump out at you, eg Page 256, the Macintosh, the Burberry Gabardine Coat, the Barbour jacket, the Cardigan and Wellington Boots are all defined, albeit I would add something to the facts as stated. During my service in the Royal Navy we were all issued with a Burberry as our standard raincoat and the Barbour jacket was for many years 'trendy' in the 1980s amongst many groups. What about the Gannex? These were standard issue for City of London Police Officers and worn by a Prime Minister!
The term 'Make do and Mend' (Page 253) does not mention its maritime origins 'Make and Mend' also Page 213 'Larking About'. What about 'Hands to dance and skylark'?
There is one fact I would like to correct on Page 345 where it states 'aside from regular Bobbies on the beat Britain has' - it then lists, inter alia, CID. The CID (Criminal Investigation Department) are not a separate entity, each force has its own Department. Likewise each force has its own Special Constabulary.
My comments aside, this is an excellent book and very amusing in places. It is packed with facts and could stand alongside your English dictionary to provide a starting point for any research on Brits. I still think I have a lot to learn.
Rob Jerrard

More Details on the Thorogood Publishers Website

A Taste of Wartime Britain
Edition: 1st
Format: Paperback
Author: Nicholas Webley
ISBN: 978 185418213 5
Publishers: Thorogood Publishing
Publication Date: 2003
Publisher's Title Information

A vivid and evocative collection of eyewitness accounts, diaries, reportage and scraps of memory from men, women and children who lived through the dark days of World War II. Lavishly illustrated with newspaper pictures and personal photos, the book shows what life was like for millions of ordinary people throughout the war - men and women in the services, those who stayed at home, children billeted with strangers in the country and of course the spirit and suffering of the Blitz. It brilliantly captures the sights, smells, sounds and voices of the country at war sixty years ago.
The book ends with a rich collection of recipes drawn from advertisements, scrap-books and magazines of the time, providing a very literal taste of wartime Britain.

Introduction 1
Part One
Phoney wartime 7
The city that would not die 9
The second great fire of London 13
London shelter census 16
Rationing and what it meant… 17
Evacuation 18
Forces of light 19
The legend that is the 'Home Guard' 23
Vengeance weapons 29
A new role for women 30
Women's Land Army (WLA)
- 'The Forgotten Army…' 32
Christmas on the home front 35
Part Two
A mother's story 40
Unwelcome guests drop in 46
Edgar's story 46
Running a piggery 49
Battle of Britain 49
The saga of 'my buddy' 60
School days - 1939 to 1948 66
Yorkie's story 72
Arthur's story 78
Don's account 80
Dot's story 81
Christmas courtesy of Uncle Sam 85
Instant siblings 88
First class service 89
The deadliest railway 91
Courage under fire 94
'Exciting' times 94
Sweet things 96
A lesson learned 96
We had no bananas for years 97
Traders in the dark market 98
Arnhem: not a memory too far 101
Never glorify war 101
Bombed out in the London Blitz 103
Fate: the hand of the gods 106
Lets hear it for Harry 107
Caring for children around England 114
London under the bombs 118
Monkhouse in the doghouse 120
Oranges and rumours of oranges 122
In the trenches 125
100 baths a day 125
Old memories die very hard 126
Memories of an evacuee 127
Stolen fruit - a London childhood 131
Memories of Kennith 135
Lucky at lunch 135
Friendly fireworks 136
Shades of war 137
War changes everything 137
The disaster of Freckleton 144
War is declared 148
Tempered for peace 150
Part three
Beef loaf 152
Aunt Catherine's shepherd's pie 153
Christmas pie 155
Dumplings 156
Eggs on straw potatoes 157
Griddle cakes 158
Macaroni and tomato 159
Maggie Walshe's bacon pie 160
Magic treacle tart 161
Nightfighter stew 162
Onion soup (Home Guard Soup) 163
Betty's Saturday scones 164
Sausages tucked up in bed 165
Samuel Johnson's steak and
kidney pudding 166
Toad in the hole 167
Tomato and bean soup 169
Vegetable hob pot 170
Further study 174

About the Author
Nicholas Webley is a journalist and historian with a special interest in World War II. He is the
editor of the best-selling Betty's Wartime Diaries, also published by Thorogood.

From the Forward
"The wonderful stories in A Taste of Wartime Britain bring all the memories flooding back. Nicholas Webley has compiled a fine book. Read it - and don't let it happen again."

David Croft OBE, co-writer and producer of BBC's comedy hit series 'Dad's Army'

From the Introduction
Writing the introduction to this book has turned out to be the most difficult job I could have tackled, after reading the sheer quality of the contributions from those who have given so generously of their time to this project. Therefore the best thing I can do is to write what
I feel will be the closest I can get to living up to them. Many books have been written about the Second World War, in any one year close on a thousand books are published, a mere fraction
of those actually written, on the subject. My aim with A Taste of Wartime Britain is to tell the stories of those who would not normally get their words into print and give some background information on life at that time. In sleeve notes for my last book, to which I refer on occasions, Betty's Wartime Diary 1939 - 1945, David Croft OBE - co-creator of the BBC classic comedy series 'Dad's Army' - said that ordinary people seldom write books as they are usually too busy
'doing' for others. In this I have in a small way set out to redress the balance about a period I find one of the most fascinating, and pivotal, in the history of the British Isles and Western Europe.
I have included some stories that do not necessarily relate to Britain; this is simply because they are of such interest and value that I could not leave them out - that of George Parnell being one.
I am most appreciative of all those who have been so helpful on this project. Set down in this one volume is an attempt to communicate some idea of what it was like to live day-to-day under the appalling shadow of war.
Social history can be studied in many ways. One can read learned works by the shakers and movers in government and the military, but for the fine weave of life I advocate scrutiny of popular culture contemporary with the times and talking to those who were there
and, if possible, recording what they have to tell you. It would have been impossible to include stories that parallel everyone's experiences of WW2, but I hope that those I have will give a new slant to already held ideas.


This book is about the 'Home Front' in Britain during the Second World War (1939-1945).

It is in three parts. The first giving brief information on various matters including the Phoney War, evacuation, the Home Guard, the Women's Land Army, rationing and the Blitz. The second and largest part is in the main made up of peoples' recollections. All aspects, many amusing are covered. Where necessary, the author has led the reader into the subject - this is done in bold print to differentiate his words from the contributor. The final part is entitled 'Recipes from the Home Front'. These recipes are from a lady called Betty Armitage, the 'Betty' in another book by Nicholas Webley's entitled 'Betty's Wartime Diary 1939-1945'. I have tried some of the recipes and found them very good. In the current Recession, these recipes with cheap and plentiful ingredients are well worth using.
The book is well illustrated with photographs and propaganda posters of the time all printed in black and white giving it more authenticity.
This would make an excellent book for children studying World War II in school. It is informative, covers many aspects and is not at all 'heavy going', even though it a serious and thought-provoking subject, which is after all not so very long ago.

Rosemary Jerrard

More Details on the Thorogood Publishers Website

Betty's Wartime Diary - 1939-1945
Edition: 2008 reprint
Format: Paperback
Author: Nicholas Webley
ISBN: 978 185418221 0
Publishers: Thorogood Publishing
Publication Date: 2002
Publisher's Title Information

Some years ago, journalist Nicholas Webley stumbled across a remarkable find during a routine investigation in a small house in Norfolk, a diary.
The diary was kept during the war years and scribbled for the most part in school exercise books and on scraps of decomposing paper. It was written by a seamstress born in the 1880. Betty Armitage, the seamstress, was a theatrical dresser during the first part of the century and moved to Norfolk before the war. Her diary is unusual, as it views the events of the war through the eyes of someone born around the time of Queen Victoria's Jubilee. So many accounts of the war are based on military experience or life in cities during the Blitz; here the great events of those years are viewed from the country: privation relieved by the occasional poached pheasant, upheaval as thousands of bright young US servicemen invaded east Anglia, quiet heroes and small-time rural villains. A time which seems familiar to us today through film, but which was really another age, springs to life in the pages of Betty's Diary; funny, touching and unaffectedly vivid.

About the Author
Nicholas Webley is a journalist and historian with a special interest in World War II. He is the editor of the best-selling A Taste of Wartime Britain, also published by Thorogood.

Some Reviews
Betty's day by day struggle through an ordinary small-town wartime life makes unique reading. I lived through the era and can vouch for the truth of it all fascinating. David Croft, writer and producer of the BBC hit Dad's Army
"Moving and credible."
East Anglian Daily Times

A small extract
Betty's Wartime Diary 1 9 3 9 - 1 9 4 5 · Part Two
June 1942
In the Pacific the Battle of Midway was to be fought, in North Africa the Eighth Army were forced back to Mersa Matruh and later General Auchinlech took charge. As the month drew to a close Rommel neared El Alamein.
In Norfolk Jack had a mishap and Betty lent a hand. TUESDAY 2nd Jack cut his hand badly today and I told him he should get along to the doctor for a stitch or two. Not him though, so I cleaned it and bandaged it. I hope it is all right. I can hardly believe that it is June already and
nearly mid-summer's day again.
The ducks are laying well again and Doris is selling some for me in the shop. Fred has finished digging them a much bigger pond in time or the hot weather and they really are a sight when they start splashing about. They line up like little soldiers waiting their turn. Had several of the boys from Coltishall in the pub tonight. They seem in very good spirits and were talking about the big raid on Essen a few days ago. I can't even begin to imagine what a thousand bomber raid must be like.
It must be terrible to be on the wrong end of one. I don't suppose the raids I saw in Clapham were anything like that but were bad enough. When I think back it is a wonder anything can live with so many bombs coming down. Poor old Norwich looks bad enough and that was small
by comparison but no worse for the people though. Still, it does not do to dwell on such things, much better to get on with doing what we can to see that we keep everyone's spirits up and win in the end. The odd set-back, however bad it is, is no reason to start feeling miserable.

More Details on the Thorogood Publishers Website

I have read a number of wartime diaries by women on the Home-front and this book compares favourably. I would have liked to have been told the identity of 'Betty', but understand the author's reasons for giving her anonymity.
I particularly liked the important battles and events of the war listed in date order, from the outbreak of war on 3 September 1939 to VJ Day 2 September 1945 at the front of the book, followed by a brief description of the main characters, including a cat, a dog and a pig!
Although 58 when war broke out, Betty amazed me with her energy and the amount of work and activities she managed to fit into each day. She paints a picture of a small community really pulling together and helping each other. She bakes for a local shop, helps out at the 'Big House' and local pub, attends women's meetings (WI?) and church on Sundays. Airmen at bases nearby are welcomed, particularly Americans so far from home. Despite rationing, it is quite obvious that people living in the countryside fared much better than folk living in large towns and cities. With the addition of rabbits, hares, wood pigeons and pheasants, plus adequate supplies of whisky courtesy of a Black-Marketeer friend, they don't seem to suffer from shortages. This last point is a bit of a contradiction, as Betty comes across as having a very strong sense of what was right. I can't believe she didn't wonder where some of the items came from, particularly when asked to hide things temporarily.
A very enjoyable book and being in diary form easy to read with lots of photographs and pictures of wartime posters.
One criticism - the quote “a day that will live in infamy” on Page 154 said to be by Winston Churchill is incorrect. It should read “a date which will live in infamy” said by President Franklin D Roosevelt. A minor detail but an important one nonetheless.
Rosemary A Jerrard

"Royal Navy & Maritime Book Reviews" Copyright Rob Jerrard 2010