Tag Archive: World War II

Hitler’s Canary

This book was first discovered in the school library and I have since been able to read a copy from our local public library (yes, there are still some left in this county).

Set in the 1940’s during the Nazi occupation of Denmark during the second World War, we read about Bamse (‘Teddy’), his family and friends as they come to terms with the dramatic and dangerous times they find themselves in. It is fiction based on fact: a small nation overwhelmed by a large modern army; persecution of Jews; acts of resistance both large and small. We learn that blanket distinctions, e.g. Germans=bad, Danes=good, simply were not true. In fact, many people simply acted more out of fear than of malice – though there was plenty of malice to go round. We also learn how the vast majority of Jews were saved from the concentration camps and sent to neutral Sweden with the help of bravery shown by Danish citizens and sympathetic German soldiers. All this as experienced and seen through the eyes of a young boy whose childhood comes to be characterised by some tough lessons.

As a children’s book it took me less than a day to read, even with other duties to do. The author is probably better known as a comedian and as a radio presenter. Here, we learn through fiction and the end notes, something of her Danish family’s history and, for me at least, some of a largely forgotten or ignored part of the history of World War II. I would recommend this book for anyone 9 years, or so, and up; particularly to broaden their historical knowledge, but it is a good story as well.

Overall, I think I would give it fours stars or 7 and a half out of ten.

“Hitler’s Canary” by Sandi Toksvig


Ian Fleming’s Secret War

by Craig Cabell

If we hadn’t been to the museum in Littlehampton, I might not have given this library book a second glance. I am not an avid fan of James Bond and as for the movies I’m generally impressed more by the music than the plot. However, this book gives an insight into the intelligence work Ian Fleming was part of during World War II before he took up the writing that included the James Bond novels.

Two things this book is not. It is not a biography of Ian Fleming. The author has done his research but concentrates on one period of Ian Fleming’s life particularly concerning his involvement with Naval Intelligence in general and 30 Assault Unit. “It is not the remit of this book to give an in-depth study of 30 AU but to simply explain what they did and how Ian Fleming interacted with them in the field” p 83

The book is also not chiefly concerned with identifying the “real” James Bond. Naturally some aspects of Fleming’s work appear to resonate with the plots and characters of his fiction but Cabell asserts that this is more due to the tendency of authors to drawn on their own experiences rather than a deliberate ploy.

Generally the book is an easy read but on several occasions it would appear that the sub-editor did not do their job properly. I did not spot any spelling mistakes but some sentences lacked a main verb or needed a pronoun to make proper sense. For example, p 104 “In reality 100 scientists who opted to work for Britain who used to work on the V rockets.” That sentence as it stands has two dependent clauses but no main verb – a comma after scientists and also in place of the second ‘who’ is one solution.  There were not too many of these but enough of them to spoil the flow of reading.

If you are interested in the history of military intelligence (and there is an interesting aside about the formation of the CIA) then you may wish to read this book. For myself, I am glad that this was a library book and that I can take it back.

As a library book, three stars, otherwise two; 5/10.

Bletchley Park and Museum

Bletchley Park is the site of the World War II forerunner of GCHQ (where spies listen in to radio and other messages). At the heart of the operation was the British need to crack the codes of the German armed forces. The Germans used a device nick-named an enigma machine which had been available on the open market a few years before war broke out. With ground-breaking computing hardware and a team of mathematicians and others, the codes could be cracked – and had to be cracked again and again because the machine could be reset with a new complex code every day.

The most famous wartime resident was probably Alan Turing and there is a special statue of him in the museum. It is worth noting as well that the hall of fame in Bletchley House has at least two dozen other men and women in it. We also discovered that the House and Park had their own history before and since the war and we were also given a glimpse of a another world from decades and centuries past.

If you want to find out more I suggest you try their website:  http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/.

encoding machine

A replica of the “bombe” used in decoding

Colossus rebuild project

Hut 1

Alan Turing statue

Bletchley House

Aerial view in Bletchley Park

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