Showing posts with label British history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label British history. Show all posts

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Code name: Lise - A True Spy Story

 



Code Name: Lise: 

The True Story of the Spy Who Became WWII's Most Highly Decorated Woman

By Larry Loftis

Reviewed by

Geoffrey W. Sutton

Lise was the code name for Odette Samson. She's living in Somerset England with her children at the outset of World War II. Her husband is off at war. Because she was raised in France, her language and experience make her a potential candidate to help the resistance organised by Britain's War Office referred to as SOE (Special Operations Executive).

The story moves quickly from training to deployment. Relying on a trove of records that include interviews and official communications, Loftis creates a vivid thriller of a determined young woman focused on carrying out her risky responsibilities as a courier under threat of the Nazi boot. As the story progresses, she falls in love with her commanding officer, Peter Churchill.

Despite many thrilling escapes, she and Peter are eventually captured by Hugo, Germany's master spy catcher. Disgusting accounts of excruciating torture challenge us as we sink into the depths of Nazi prison cells. Will she and Peter survive? 

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Code Name: Lise is a well-written spy story that reads like a thriller as the heroes face near death experiences bolstered by loyalty and love. After the World War II story ends, Loftis fills us in on what happened to the legacy of this woman who eventually appeared on a UK postage stamp. I recommend the book to anyone who enjoys reading true stories about courageous women in times of war.

What's missing? As a psychologist, I wonder if all the interviews and reports would offer us insights into the character of this woman who survived so much before, during, and after World War II. She was in her sixth year when her father died. She survived some serious health challenges during childhood. Like many in Britain, she was alone with her children when her husband headed to war. Then there's was the separation from her children during her war service and horrific torture along with exposure to the multiple severe traumatic events of others. She was a witness after the war. And there were two divorces plus postwar public battles.

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About Odette

Odette Marie Léonie Céline Brailly was born in Amiens France 28 April 1912. Her father died at the battle of Verdun in 1918. She married Roy Sansom in 1931. They had three daughters. Her World War II service was recognised by the British awards of the George Cross and an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire). France awarded her the Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur. Odette and Roy divorced. She married and divorced Peter Churchill and later married Geoffrey Hallowed. (Wikipedia)

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Monday, January 2, 2023

Citizens of London- A Book Review



 Citizens of London

The Americans Who Stood With Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour

 

By Lynne Olson

 

Reviewed by

Geoffrey W. Sutton

 

Lynne Olson tells the exciting story of three Americans in Britain's wore torn capitol whose passionate embrace of the British solitary stand against the Nazis served as a catalyst that would eventually link America and Britain in an incredibly close fighting force against the enemy. Olson’s masterful presentation reveals how three different men— George Winant, Edward Murrow, and Averell Harriman—interacted with Churchill, Roosevelt, and a cast of other Anglo-American leaders on the world stage between 1939 and 1945. As she describes these relationships following the course of the war, we learn the crucial role of close connections and trust in the arduous melding of an international allied force to defeat the axis powers.

The three men are different. Winant is a respected diplomat with an amazing ability to empathize with, and gain the respect of, British leaders as well as the exhausted working class who were the backbone of survival whilst younger Brits were flung into battles around the world. Murrow is the authoritative American voice who brought the London Blitz to the living rooms of America. Later he became the trusted voice of America’s entry into the global conflict and the ultimate path to victory. Harriman was a businessman who inserted himself into key leadership positions in London, Moscow, and elsewhere.

As a psychologist, I appreciate Olson’s exploration of interpersonal relationships and romantic attachments that bind people together in ways only possible for people willing to immerse themselves in another culture. Each man had a sense of purpose and an awareness of what needed to be done if democracy was to survive the onslaught of the dictators. But Olson isn’t just focused on the external tensions of their assigned work and personal relationships. She looks at the toll of war on their minds and bodies where snubs hurt, stress saps intrapersonal resources, depression mixes with exhaustion, and adjusting to postwar life is far from an easy task.

 

Reference

Olson, L. (2011). Citizens of London:  The Americans who stood with Britain in its darkest, finest hour. New York: Random House.


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Geoffrey W. Sutton is a retired psychologist and Emeritus Professor of Psychology. website   www.suttong.com

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Monday, April 6, 2020

A Woman of No Importance Review by Sutton


A Woman of No    

Importance

By

    Sonia Purnell

Reviewed by

    Geoffrey W. Sutton

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II

A woman of no importance is more than just another spy story. Virginia Hall was a true hero who battled men’s prejudice against female warriors as she simultaneously took on the Nazi occupiers of France by organizing resistance fighters and sending vital intelligence to British and American intelligence planners in London during World a War II. Her contributions were recognized much later than were her male peers as cultures in the UK and USA gradually changed to appreciate women. 

Fortunately the book not only gives Virginia a voice but it educates us about the horrors of war and the importance of small hidden  acts of courage that support the more visible efforts of armed forces. 

Virginia Hall's contribution to America does not end with World War II. She joined the newly formed CIA and was assigned to a variety of tasks--many below her level of expertise.

The book is well written and the author clearly appreciates her hero. She shares some of the leaders weak points but even these are often viewed from a generous perspective. 

Like the hero herself, the author does not draw much attention to Virginia’s prosthetic leg. We learn enough to realize this was one extra challenge to overcome especially since the progress in prostheses over the last 75 years. 

Adding to the burden of prejudice and war are the heavy gear and limited functionality of low tech communication equipment of the 1940s. It’s truly a story of courage, determination, accomplishment, and dedication that would make anyone proud to have been part of her winning team.

Virginia Hall born 6 April 1906 in Baltimore Maryland, died 8 July 1982, Rockville, Maryland USA. You may also like the CIA story.

Reference

Purnell, S. (2019). A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II. New York: Viking.

Monday, January 20, 2020

1917 The Movie


I liked the movie 1917 because the focus is on what look like ordinary young English lads tasked with an extraordinary mission at a crucial time in the history of the Great War. Lance Corporals Schofield and Blake must cross several miles of dangerous terrain to warn others not to attack a faux German retreat. If successful, they could save over 1,000 soldiers, including Blake's older brother.



1917 is a Homeric odyssey for our time. And the historical context is rich with meaning. The story begins on 6 April 1917--the day when the United States enters the war. Of course it will take some time before Americans arrive. Meanwhile, the Germans feign retreat, but it's a trap to draw British troops into the open.

The plot is simple and familiar. But the movie engages us in a realism that could only be enhanced by giving us uncomfortable cold wet muddy seats and a whiff of the overwhelming stench confronting the two messengers. As with any such terror plot, there is a race against time and the challenge of overcoming human, animal, and natural barriers while dodging enemy fire.

At times it seems our men are learning to adapt to the carnage, but we are artistically introduced to the notion that there can be a deep sense of compassion for the vulnerable. All is not lost even though a look above the trenches proclaims otherwise.

So, I'd see 1917 again, despite the negativity of some expert reviewers.

Besides, both my grandfathers survived the war in France along with some of my cousins. And, for what it's worth, the scenes make my visit along the Western Front all the more meaningful.

I wouldn't glorify war. But I do appreciate the capacity of ordinary men to recover from horrific experiences and return to civilian life as fathers and workers. But I can also appreciate the fact that many return with gaping mental wounds as deep as any crater often accompanied by missing limbs.

And of course, I won't forget the sacrifices of those who did not return.

Related Posts

They Shall Not Grow Old (a review)


The Western Front in France

The Western Front in Belgium


Connections

   My Page    www.suttong.com
   My Books   AMAZON     GOOGLE PLAY STORE
   FACEBOOK   Geoff W. Sutton
   TWITTER  @Geoff.W.Sutton

Publications (many free downloads)
  Academia   Geoff W Sutton   (PhD)     
  ResearchGate   Geoffrey W Sutton   (PhD)










Wednesday, February 6, 2019

They Shall Not Grow Old A Review by Sutton




They Shall Not Grow Old is a profoundly moving tribute to the soldiers of World War I. Peter Jackson (Director; coproducer with Clare Olssen) and his team combine enhanced archival films, photos, audio recordings, and artwork to bring us face to face with the adolescents and young men living and dying along the Western Front.

On the brief skeleton of the sequence of the war years, this documentary tells an extraordinary tale of ordinairy men from the farms, factories, and shops of Great Britain to the muddy graves of the ragged pattern of muddy trenches along the Western Front. Humour and games offer parenthetical relief from the abysmal struggle.

The colourisation and 3D conversion along with other technological modifications help us glimpse the soldier's world of 100 years ago. Many of us have read about the war and seen the old black and white clips bounce by at unnatural speeds. The marvel of technology helps us get closer to real people living and dying on orders from above. We wonder with the story tellers what it's like to live unwashed for days, smell the unberable stench of death, and cope with the raging thunder of artillery.

Whatever one thinks of war, the film is worth seeing to better understand this troubling period when millions died. Jackson worked with the extensive materials in the archives of the Imperial War Museum. Thus, the focus is on the British soldier. Although the film mentions other allies, it is worth remembering that millions of men and women from many nations were in combat zones in Europe and other places around the globe. Perhaps we can get a glimpse of what it might have been like for others from this in-depth look at these young British lads.

In the epilogue, Jackson mentions his grandfather and other connections to the war. That's what brings it home for me as both my grandfathers were in France. Considering the millions who died and survived with or without impairments, there are likely many millions currently alive who have grandparents who can pass along stories of their fathers, mothers, and uncles. Now is the time to remember the men and women of 1914-1918 and to keep a vigilant watch over the decisions our politicians make when it comes to starting or entering a war.




CAUTION: This film contains graphic and disturbing content and may not be suitable for all viewers.


Movie site They Shall Not Grow Old 2018.

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Related posts

1917 The Movie

The Western Front in France

The Western Front in Belgium

Connections

   My Page    www.suttong.com
   My Books   AMAZON     GOOGLE PLAY STORE
   FACEBOOK   Geoff W. Sutton
   TWITTER  @Geoff.W.Sutton

Publications (many free downloads)
  Academia   Geoff W Sutton   (PhD)     
  ResearchGate   Geoffrey W Sutton   (PhD)