Today marks the anniversary of D-Day, 6th June 1944, the Allied invasion of German-occupied France. Down here in SW France, the weather is equally damp today, but perhaps not quite as cold and windy as it was on that significant day back in 1944. The decision to go or not to go that Eisenhower had to make must rank as one of the most difficult in history.
Throughout France, resistance groups listened on clandestine radio sets for the coded message from Radio Londres that would signal the imminence of the Allied invasion. That message came shortly before 6th June, when Radio Londres transmitted the first stanza of Paul Verlaine’s poem “Chanson d’automne”. The words “Blessent mon coeur d’une langueur monotone” (wound my heart with a monotonous langour) were the signal to begin intense resistance activity.
Operation Overlord was only the beginning of the end. German troops put up fierce resistance and the Allies were unused to fighting in the often difficult terrain of Northern France. The war in Europe continued for almost a year after D-Day.
America’s direct involvement in World War II had started two and a half years earlier in December 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Hitler subsequently declared war on America and the U.S. entered the war in the European as well as the Pacific theatres.
My short story, “The List”, is loosely based on a true story and set around the time of Pearl Harbour. A high ranking German officer has been shot in a town in Western France. The Germans execute 50 hostages and threaten to shoot a further 50 if the killers are not handed over. A Jewish Communist, Joseph Mazelier, is on the list. Will Countess Ida allow conscience to win out over her personal security and help him to escape?
Those of you who have read “The List” may be interested to know that my work in progress is a three-novel series about the life of Countess Ida. Book 1 starts in the 1890s. Marie-Thérèse Vernhes, born to a poor farming family in Aveyron, overcomes considerable barriers to become an opera singer under the stage name Ida Vernet. Book 2 will take forward Ida’s story in World War II.
You might also like:
The Story Behind ‘The List’: Occupied France 1941-42
Death of a Village: Oradour-sur-Glane [on my French life and history blog]
Copyright © Vanessa Couchman 2018, all rights reserved