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Three very special books

The Secret WW2 Learning Network is proud to have instigated the publication by Unicorn of three books to coincide with the honouring in November 2016 of four Brighton-born secret agents. A portion of the sales income from each will benefit the Charity.

Winston Churchill authorised the creation of a new wartime secret service, the Special Operations Executive (SOE), with the order “And now set Europe ablaze”. On behalf of The Secret WW2 Learning Network, an educational charity dedicated to revealing hitherto-secret operations to the current generation, Paul McCue tells a main story of four Brighton and Hove-born agents - which include Capt Ronald Taylor - being honoured with blue plaques.

He details the organisation’s creation and post-war demise, its training methods and the missions of the four chief subjects. He also covers three other agents, a special duties RAF pilot and the inspiration for ‘Q’, the inspired ‘boffin’ from the James Bond films – all of whom had links with the city.

Some enjoyed great success, others were doomed to failure and death, but all displayed the volunteer spirit and courage that saw Britain through the darkest days of the Second World War. Their stories, largely little-known, deserve to be told.

Paul McCue has been a part-time military historian and author for over 25 years. He has authored four books to date and regularly gives talks and presentations in England and France. He currently specialises in the French Section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and is working on a three-volume roll of honour for this Second World War secret service.

A good versus evil children’s morality tale, illustrating the importance of honesty, reliability and trustworthiness against the backdrop of war-time resistance in occupied France.

Set in a rural town in south west France during 1940 to 1944, the story examines the impact of the occupation by foreign invaders on the community, as seen through the eyes of a 9-year-old child. Living with a teenage brother, papa and mama, who own the cafe in market square, the  child regularly escapes to a secret world in the forests to play with friends. The atmosphere in the town progressively darkens. The fall of Paris and the establishment of the Vichy government lead to occupation of the town by the German army. The cafe becomes central to the operation of the local black market and the growing resistance movement.

The child’s curiosity is aroused by the arrival of a mysterious female guest who takes a room above the cafe. When the child decides to follow the mystery guest into the woods and is discovered, the adult world of a secret agent and the child’s world of secret hideouts become inextricably entangled. The child’s ability to keep a secret is repeatedly tested by a shadowy cast of characters from resistance fighters to fugitive airmen whilst delivering secret messages, following escape routes and hiding weapons drops.

Anne de Cintra was Head of English at one of the country’s largest middle schools. She was driven by a passion for children’s literature, recognising the power of the written word to ignite the young imagination. She held a life-long fascination for Churchill’s S.O.E. and when she took early retirement for health reasons, she applied her enthusiasm to combine her twin interests in children’s literature and the S.O.E. This novel is the result.

A compelling wartime adventure story following one of the Second World War’s truly forgotten heroes, Squadron Leader Arnold John Mott MBE as told by his niece.

A very personal and evocative tale of one man’s journey to war, and his work – first as a bomber pilot completing nineteen missions before being shot down, and then evading capture across the Pyrenees to return to duty flying Lysanders with the Special Duties squadron out of RAF Tangmere, including missions for the Special Operations Executive (SOE).

In 1942 his Lysander got bogged down and John was captured, but following the Italian armistice he managed to escape into the Alps through Yugoslavia to rejoin service, this time with No. 1 Special Force due to his unique knowledge of a specific partisan group.

The Twisted Florin details the incredible wartime bravery, amazing ingenuity and coincidences with daring and courage long associated with WW2 escape and evasion. It also offers fresh perspectives on the devastating personal effect of the war on servicemen and civilians, on both the home front and in occupied Europe.

An unsung hero with no sense of his own achievements just an innate sense of duty in a time of crisis – one of only a handful who came back twice. With a foreword by Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier KCB CBE DFC ADC MA RAF, Chief of the Air Staff.

Stella Clare Marsh was born in Wallington in 1943, but was totally unaware of the war until she later realised that her lovely playroom was an Anderson Shelter put together for an entirely different purpose.

She has also lived in Ireland and South Africa; worked for Mary Quant Cosmetics, Lancôme, Aer Lingus and South African Airways; and has two grown up children. Since she retired, Stella’s research for this book about her late uncle has been a major project which was only possible thanks to such generous support from a network of new contacts in France, Italy, Belgium and Britain, plus her publisher Unicorn's enormous encouragement and assistance. She now hopes the result of what became an unexpectedly challenging and revealing journey will become the very best of her lifetime’s achievements.

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