This book tells the incredible story of the crack team of ordinary men and women, from a range of nations, who revolutionised the efficiency of the Allies' air campaign over mainland Europe and helped to deliver the decisive victory over Nazi Germany.
A secret force of 20,000 servicemen, often teenagers or in their early twenties, the Pathfinders was the corps d’elite of Britain’s air bombing campaign that elevated Bomber Command from an impotent force on the cusp of disintegration in 1942 to one capable of razing whole German cities to the ground in a single night, striking with devastating accuracy, inspiring fear and loathing in Hitler's senior command.
At the very heart of the Pathfinders’ formation, evolution and ongoing survival lay a battle of alpha-male personalities, giant egos and entrenched rivalries. This book reveals the fascinating story of how the Pathfinder force was created and how it became a pawn in a bitter power struggle between senior commanders which threatened to tear Bomber Command apart.
With exclusive interviews with remaining survivors, personal diaries, previously classified records and never-before seen photographs, The Pathfinders brings to life the characters of the young airmen and women who took to the skies in legendary British aircraft such as the Lancaster and the Mosquito, facing almost unimaginable levels of violence from enemy fighter planes to strike at the heart of the Nazi war machine.
The secret of this elite squadron’s success was an unlikely combination of characters, including a humble university chemistry lecturer and fireworks boffin, a clairvoyant Scottish scientist who invented the world’s first bombing device that could see in the dark, and an abrasive Australian cowboy considered to be one of the most talented airmen of the war.
This riveting book also tells the tales of the exceptionally brave effort made by thousands of ordinary young men thrust into extraordinary circumstances as Pathfinders, who didn’t know or really care about the political machinations of their bosses. Their fight was for survival and their job was clear: to fly over enemy territory to locate and ‘mark’ targets in the dark so that the main force of Bomber Command’s aircraft following behind could bomb as accurately as possible.
We meet Ulric Cross, from Trinidad, a Mosquito Navigator flying in the Night Light Striking Force, who became the most decorated West Indian of the Second World War. Dubbed ‘The Black Hornet’, he flew dozens of dangerous missions over enemy territory, avoiding being killed and helping prevent up to 200 bombers being shot down in a daring mission over Berlin in 1943. We are also introduced to one of the last Pathfinders still alive today - Geordie Lancaster pilot Ernie Holmes, who reveals the astonishing story of how he was blown out of his Lancaster bomber at 17,000 feet and spent a month on the run before being betrayed to the Gestapo. And Colin Bell, one of the last surviving Second World War Mosquito pilots, and now aged 100, who flew fifty operations over Nazi Germany and who reveals how he cheated death at the hands of a German Luftwaffe jet fighter almost 80 years ago.
Thanks almost exclusively to the Pathfinders, the numbers of Bomber Command crews reaching their targets rose from as low as 25 per cent in August 1942 to 95 per cent in some operations in April 1945. This increasing accuracy played a critical role in the precision bombing ahead of the Allied D-Day invasion in June 1944 and the advance across Europe.
The huge impact made by the Pathfinders force, and its contribution towards the overall war effort, is perhaps best summed up by a newspaper article published July 1944 in which the journalist wrote:
“The Pathfinders are the aces of Bomber Command. Without them Bomber Command could never be the devastating force it is today. Without them the strategic long‐range hammering of German cities could never have taken place during the last two years. Without them the softening‐up of the enemy’s communication lines, the smashing of railway centres in the occupied countries to produce the chaos that prepared the way for our invasion, could never have happened.”
Intrepid journalist Nellie Bly raced through a ‘man’s world’ — alone and literally with just the clothes on her back — to beat the fictional record set by Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days.
She won the race on 25 January 1890, covering 21,740 miles by ocean liner and train in 72 days, and became a global celebrity. Although best known for
her record-breaking journey, even more importantly Nellie Bly pioneered investigative journalism and paved the way for women in the newsroo
Throughout her career, Bly’s reportage gave voices to vulnerable people and challenged oppression wherever she found it. Her steadfast conviction that ‘nothing is impossible’ makes the world she circled a
Adventurer, journalist and author, Rosemary J Brown, set off 125 years later to retrace Nellie Bly’s footsteps in an expedition registered with the Royal Geographical Society. Through her recreation of that epic global journey, she brings to life Nellie Bly’s remarkable achievements and shines a light on one of the world's greatest female adventurers and a forgotten heroine of history.
About the Author
Journalist Rosemary J Brown writes for publications in the UK, USA and France. In her quest to get female adventurers like Nellie Bly ‘back on the map’, she lectures at the Globetrotters Club, Women of the World festivals and schools, and helped to organise the first Heritage of Women in Exploration conference at the Royal Geographical Society.
About the Author
Michael Wagg is a playwright and actor. As well as writing for theatre he has written for the Guardian, the Observer and for football fanzines in the UK and Germany. As an actor he has regularly toured Germany, playing theatres nightly from Augsburg to Zwickau. He lives in London and supports Dulwich Hamlet FC on whose ground he got married in the centre-circle after a match.
"An engrossing and stylistic docu-series that fully explains the context surrounding his assassination and the reasons why."
The assassination of Detlev Karsten Rohwedder takes centre stage in Netflix’s new series “A Perfect Crime.” Three shots were fired into the first floor window of Rohwedder’s home in 1991. The city of Dusseldorf effectively went into lockdown in an attempt to hunt down the killers yet they have evaded justice for over 29 years. Netflix’s first German Docu-series aims to explain exactly what happened in April 1991 and aims to raise theories as to who the perpetrators were.
The series does an excellent job in providing the context for the assassination following the fall of the Iron Curtain and the dissolution of the GDR. Explaining the repercussions of the GDR eventual economic decline and the situation following the proposed reunification for the East with their free market neighbours. The docu-series highlights the plight faced by those in the East as Rohwedder was placed in charge of the Treuhand whose aim was to privatise businesses previously run by the state in order to prepare them for the free market economy. The result was a disaster for those in the former GDR as unemployment skyrocketed and standards of living declined for many.
For allies of the former East, the blame laid solely on the shoulders of Rohwedder who they saw as public enemy number one. With evidence left at the scene claiming that the Red Army Faction were responsible, many questions were there to be answered. Given his position, Rohwedder should have possibly had bullet proof glass installed to all areas of his house, rather than just the ground floor? Did those in Western Germany truly give him the security that he needed given the tensions that were emerging from the Treuhand?
Other such theories emerge in the series such as whether disgruntled former Stasi members were involved or even that it was a political hit instigated by the West.
An engrossing and stylistic docu-series that fully explains the context surrounding his assassination and the reasons why. The series, whilst answering many questions, also leaves the viewers wanting to know more. Which is what many have been doing for the past 29 years. If “A Perfect Crime” is what we can expect from further German based Netflix series producers then there is plenty more to look forward to.
For viewers in the UK please note that the series is audio dubbed into English
Watch the series via Netflix here: https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/81022994
NEW RELEASES FROM W&N
DEAD DOUBLES: The Extraordinary Worldwide Hunt for One of the Cold War’s Most Notorious Spy Rings
by TREVOR BARNES
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, hardback, 3 September 2020
The Portland Spy Ring was one of the most infamous espionage cases from the Cold War. People all over the world were shocked when its exposure revealed the shadowy underbelly of deep cover KGB 'illegals' - spies operating under false identities stolen from the dead. The CIA's revelation to MI5 in 1960 that a KGB agent was stealing secrets from the world-leading submarine research base at Portland in Dorset looked initially like a dangerous but contained lapse of security by a British man and his mistress. But the couple were tailed by MI5 'watchers' to a covert meeting with a Canadian businessman, Gordon Lonsdale, who in turn led MI5's spycatchers to an innocent-looking couple in suburban Ruislip called the Krogers who were exposed as two of the most important Russian 'illegals' ever, whom the Americans had been hunting for years. And Lonsdale was no Canadian, but a senior KGB controller. This astonishing but true story of MI5’s spy hunt is straight from the world of John le Carré and is told here for the first time using hitherto secret MI5 and FBI files, private family archives and original interviews. Its tentacles stretch around the world - from America, to the USSR, Canada, New Zealand, Europe and the UK. Dead Doubles is a gripping episode of Cold War history, and a case that fully justified the West's paranoia about infiltration and treachery.
Trevor Barnes studied espionage in 1920s Britain and the CIA as a history student at the University of Cambridge and as a Kennedy Scholar at Harvard. His pioneering research was published in the Historical Journal. Subsequently he worked as a BBC radio and TV senior journalist on programmes including Radio 4's Today and BBC Two's Newsnight, and has written for, among others, The Times, Observer, The Evening Standard and The Boston Globe. He is the author of three crime novels and also researched and wrote Trial at Torun, a BBC radio play about the trial in Poland of a secret-service murder case.
THE LAST ASSASSIN by PETER STOTHARD Weidenfeld & Nicolson, hardback, 1 October 2020
A new history of the fall of the Roman republic, told through the gripping story of Caesar's longest-surviving assassin. Many men killed Julius Caesar. Only one man was determined to kill the killers. From the spring of 44 BC through one of the most dramatic and influential periods in history, Caesar's adopted son, Octavian, the future Emperor Augustus, exacted vengeance on the assassins of the Ides of March, not only on Brutus and Cassius, immortalised by Shakespeare, but all the others too, each with his own individual story. The last assassin left alive was one of the lesser-known, Cassius Parmensis, a poet and sailor who chose every side in the dying republic's civil wars except the winning one, a playwright whose work was said to have been stolen and published by the man sent to kill him. Parmensis was in the back row of the plotters, many of them Caesar's friends, who killed for reasons of the highest political philosophy and lowest personal pique. For fourteen years he was the most successful at evading his hunters but has been barely a historical foot note - until now. The Last Assassin dazzlingly charts an epic turn of history through the eyes of an unheralded man. It is a history of a hunt that an emperor wanted to hide, of torture and terror, politics and poetry, of ideas and their consequences, a gripping story of fear, revenge and survival.
Peter Stothard is an author, journalist and critic. He is a former editor of The Times and of The Times Literary Supplement. His books include Alexandria, The Last Nights of Cleopatra and On the Spartacus Road, A Spectacular Journey through Ancient Italy.
THE GOOD GERMANS: Resisting the Nazis, 1933-1945 by CATRINE CLAY
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, hardback, 20 August
Award-winning historian Catrine Clay tells the gripping stories of six ordinary Germans who witnessed the rise of Nazism in Germany from within and dared to resist it. After 1933, as the brutal terror regime took hold, most of the two-thirds of Germans who had never voted for the Nazis - some 40 million people - tried to keep their heads down and protect their families. They moved to the country, or pretended to support the regime to avoid being denounced by neighbours, and tried to work out what was really happening in the Reich, surrounded as they were by Nazi propaganda and fake news. They lived in fear. Might they lose their jobs? Their homes? Their freedom? What would we have done in their place? Many ordinary Germans found the courage to resist, in the full knowledge that they could be sentenced to indefinite incarceration, torture or outright execution. Catrine Clay argues that it was a much greater number than was ever formally recorded: teachers, lawyers, factory and dock workers, housewives, shopkeepers, church members, trade unionists, army officers, aristocrats, Social Democrats, Socialists and Communists. Catrine Clay's ground-breaking book focuses on six very different characters: each experiencing the momentous events of Nazi history as they unfold in their own small lives.
Catrine Clay worked for the BBC for over twenty years, directing and producing award-winning television documentaries. She is the author of King, Kaiser, Tsar, Trautmann's Journey and Labyrinths. THE GOOD GERMANS will be read on Book of the Week, BBC Radio 4 in the Autumn.
THE CROWN IN CRISIS: Countdown to the Abdication by ALEXANDER LARMAN
Weidenfeld & Nicolson hardback, 9 July 2020
In December 1936, Britain faced a constitutional crisis that was the gravest threat to the institution of the monarchy since the execution of Charles I. The ruling monarch, Edward VIII, wished to marry the American divorcée Wallis Simpson and crown her as his Queen. His actions scandalised the establishment, who were desperate to avoid an international embarrassment at a time when war seemed imminent. That the King was rumoured to have Nazi sympathies only strengthened their determination that he should be forced off the throne, by any means necessary. Using previously unpublished and rare archival material, and new interviews with those who knew Edward and Wallis, THE CROWN IN CRISIS is the conclusive exploration of how an unthinkable and unprecedented event tore the country apart, as its monarch prized his personal happiness above all else. This seismic event has been written about before but never with the ticking-clock suspense and pace of the thriller that it undoubtedly was for all its participants. THE CROWN IN CRISIS by Alex Larman is the definitive book about the events of 1936.
Alexander Larman is a historian and journalist. He is the author of three previous acclaimed books of historical and literary biography. He writes for the Times, Observer and Telegraph, as well as The Spectator and The Critic.
Inside History writer, Anthony Ruggiero has released his debut book focusing on the reign of Mary Tudor.
Anthony told Inside History a little more about his debut historical book.
“The Tudor Dynasty of England, spanning from the late fifteenth century into the early seventeenth century, was filled with colourful monarchs that impacted the country politically, economically, and socially. One of those monarchs was Mary Tudor, the daughter of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Mary ruled over England from July 1553 to her death in November 1558. Despite its initial promise and success, Mary Tudor’s reign was unsuccessful due to the increased influence of foreign power. Mary’s early life and struggle to the throne reflected her determination to rule, her strong religious conviction to Catholicism, and her reliance on Spain.”
Ruggiero’s new book is an excellent introduction to those wishing to explore the life of Mary Tudor further. The daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon’s turbulent reign is a long and often complicated story but Anthony has managed to create a concise narrative ideal for those discovering the fourth Tudor Monarch.
Mary Tudor: A Story of Triumph, Sorrow and Fire is available on Amazon now on both Paperback and Kindle.
Media and the Murderer: Jack the Ripper, Steven Avery and an Enduring Formula for Notoriety by Rebecca Frost
Kindle: Out Now
Paperback: Pre-Order 30th October (UK)
Readers of Inside History will be familiar with the work of Rebecca Frost with her article about H.H Holmes in our Crime and The Underworld issue. Now she focuses her attention on the Media and its point of views of Murder and those that commit these terrible crimes. Whilst our American friends can get there hands on a physical copy right now, our British readers will have to wait a little bit longer. However, for kindle readers it is available right now.
Some criminals become household names, while others—even those who seek recognition through their crimes—are forgotten. The criminal’s actions are only a part of every famous true crime story. Other factors, such as the setting and circumstances of the crimes and the ways in which others take control of the narrative, ultimately drive their notoriety. Through a comparison of the tellings and retellings of two famous cases more than a century apart—the Jack the Ripper killings in 1888, and the murder trials of Steven Avery as documented in Making a Murderer—this book examines the complicated dynamics of criminal celebrity.
Rebecca Frost is an independent scholar and freelancer. She lives in L’Anse, Michigan.
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on 3 September 2020 in
hardback at £20, eBook £10.99, audio £19.99
Award-winning historian Catrine Clay tells the gripping stories of six ordinary Germans who witnessed the rise of Nazism in Germany from within and dared to resist it.
After 1933, as the brutal terror regime took hold in Germany, most of the two-thirds of Germans who had never voted for the Nazis - some 40 million people - tried to keep their heads down and protect their families. They moved to the country, or pretended to support the regime to avoid being denounced by neighbours, and tried to work out what was really happening in the Reich, surrounded as they were by Nazi propaganda and fake news. They lived in fear. Might they lose their jobs? Their homes? Their freedom? What would we have done in their place?
Many ordinary Germans found the courage to resist, in the full knowledge that they could be sentenced to indefinite incarceration, torture or outright execution. Catrine Clay argues that it was a much greater number than was ever formally recorded: teachers, lawyers, factory and dock workers, housewives, shopkeepers, church members, trade unionists, army officers, aristocrats, Social Democrats, Socialists and Communists.
Catrine Clay's ground-breaking book focuses on six very different characters: Irma, the young daughter of Ernst Thalmann, leader of the German Communists; Fritzi von der Schulenburg, a Prussian aristocrat; Rudolf Ditzen, the already famous author Hans Fallada, best known for his novel Alone in Berlin; Bernt Engelmann, a schoolboy living in the suburbs of Dusseldorf; Julius Leber, a charismatic leader of the Social Democrats in the Reichstag; and Fabian von Schlabrendorff, a law student in Berlin. The six are not seen in isolation but as part of their families: a brother and sister;
a wife; a father with three children; an only son; the parents of a Communist pioneer daughter. Each experiences the momentous events of Nazi history as they unfold in their own small lives -Good Germans all.
Catrine Clay worked for the BBC for over twenty years, directing and producing award-winning television documentaries. She won the International Documentary Award and the Golden Spire for Best History Documentary, and was nominated for a BAFTA. She is the author of King, Kaiser, Tsar, Trautmann's Journey and Labyrinths, an account of Emma Jung's complex marriage to Carl Jung. She is married with three children and lives in London.
The Channel: The remarkable men and women who made it the most fascinating waterway in the world by Charlie Connelly
A bulwark against invasion, a conduit for exchange and a challenge to be conquered, the English Channel has always been many things to many people. Today it's the busiest shipping lane in the world and hosts more than 30 million passenger crossings every year but this sliver of choppy brine, just 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, represents much more than a conductor of goods and people.
Criss-crossing the Channel - not to mention regularly throwing himself into it for a bracing swim - Charlie Connelly collects its stories and brings them vividly to life, from tailing Oscar Wilde's shadow through the dark streets of Dieppe to unearthing Britain's first beauty pageant at the end of Folkestone pier (it was won by a bloke called Wally). We learn that Louis Bleriot was actually a terrible pilot, the tragic fate of the first successful Channel swimmer, and that if a man with a buttered head and pigs' bladders attached to his trousers hadn't fought off an attack by dogfish we might never have had a Channel Tunnel.
In THE CHANNEL, Charlie Connelly introduces us to a cast of extraordinary characters - geniuses, cheats, dreamers, charlatans, visionaries, eccentrics and at least one pair of naked, cuddling balloonists - whose stories are all united by the English Channel to ensure the sea that makes us an island will never be the same again.
Charlie Connelly is a bestselling writer and award-winning broadcaster. His books include Attention All Shipping: A Journey round the Shipping Forecast, And Did Those Feet: Walking through 2000 Years of British and Irish History and Our Man In Hibernia: Ireland, the Irish and Me. He has presented the BBC Holiday programme and co-hosted the first three series of BBC Radio 4's Traveller's Tree with Fi Glover.
He has written for a number of publications including the Guardian, The Times, the New Statesman, Arena, the IrishTimes, the SundayTimes, the Glasgow Herald and the Financial Times. He lives in Deal, by the English Channel.
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on 25 June 2020 in hardback at £16.99, eBook £8.99 audio £19.99
In December 1936, Britain faced a constitutional crisis that was the gravest threat to the institution of the monarchy since the execution of Charles I. The ruling monarch, Edward VIII, wished to marry the American divorcée Wallis Simpson and crown her as his Queen. His actions scandalised the establishment, who were desperate to avoid an international embarrassment at a time when war seemed imminent. That the King was rumoured to have Nazi sympathies only strengthened their determination that he should be forced off the throne, by any means necessary.
An influential coalition formed against him, including the Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin; his private secretary Alec Hardinge; the Archbishop of Canterbury; and the editor of the Times. Betrayal and paranoia were everywhere, as MI5 bugged his telephone and his courtiers turned against him. Edward seemed fated to give up Wallis and remain a reluctant ruler, or to abdicate his throne. Yet he had his own supporters, too, including Winston Churchill, the Machiavellian newspaper proprietor Lord Beaverbrook and his brilliant adviser Walter Monckton. They offered him the chance to remain on the throne and keep Wallis. But was the price they asked too high? And what really lay behind the assassination attempt on Edward earlier that year?
Using previously unpublished and rare archival material, and new interviews with those who knew Edward and Wallis, THE CROWN IN CRISIS is the conclusive exploration of how an unthinkable and unprecedented event tore the country apart, as its monarch prized his personal happiness above all else. This seismic event has been written about before but never with the ticking-clock suspense and pace of the thriller that it undoubtedly was for all its participants. THE CROWN IN CRISIS by Alex Larman is the definitive book about the events of 1936.
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on 9 July 2020 in hardback at £20, eBook £10.99, audio £19.99
About the author:
Alexander Larman is a historian and journalist. He is the author of three previous acclaimed books of historical and literary biography. He writes for the Times, Observer and Telegraph, as well as The Spectator and The Critic. He lives in Oxford.