VE Day: 70 Years On

This weekend, the UK will commemorate the 70th anniversary of VE Day.

On 8th May 1945 at 3pm (GMT), the end of the war in Europe was marked by Winston Churchill, as he addressed the nation and the Empire from the Treasury Balcony in Whitehall (quoted from The Telegraph):

“The German war is therefore at an end. After years of intense preparation Germany hurled herself on Poland at the beginning of September 1939 and, in pursuance of our guarantee to Poland, and in common action with the French Republic, Great Britain and the British Empire and the Commonwealth of Nations declared war against this foul aggression.

“After gallant France had been struck down we from this island and from our united Empire maintained the struggle single-handed for a whole year until we were joined by the military might of Soviet Russia and later by the overwhelming power and resources of the United States of America.

“Finally almost the whole world was combined against the evildoers, who are now prostrate before us. Our gratitude to our splendid Allies goes forth from all our hearts.

“We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing, but let us not forget for a moment the toils and efforts that lie ahead.”

In celebration, pubs stayed open late, street parties lined once-empty roads and the public received their first weather forecast since the war began.

Though VE Day was the end of the war in Europe – it marked the final defeat of Hitler and the Nazis – it would take another three months before the Japanese surrendered and ended World War II.

Lest we forget. We will remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom we enjoy today.


Re-discover the historic events that led up to VE Day in 1945 with Alexander McKee’s Caen: Anvil of Victory.

Caen-Anvil-of-Victory

Today it is almost forgotten that the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944 did not bring a single, isolated victory. As this masterly book reminds us, that first foothold on enemy shores was won at enormous cost, and for two months afterwards a fierce battle raged for the control of Caen. Using the personal accounts of those who took part in the fighting, both Allied and German, and of the French civilians caught up in the conflict, McKee brilliantly reconstructs the bitter struggle that ravaged Normandy throughout the summer of 1944 before the Allied position in Europe was finally secured.

“A minor classic of Second World War historiography.”
‘New Statesman’

“An excellent series of eye-witness accounts from both sides… an excellent ‘worm’s eye view’ of the fighting.”
‘Daily Telegraph’

To see the schedule of commemoration events, visit The Royal British Legion.

To buy a copy of Alexander McKee’s Caen: Anvil of Victory, click here.

To see other Alexander McKee books, click here.

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The Devil’s Tinderbox: 70 Years Since the Dresden Bombings

It was the 70th anniversary of the Dresden bombings last week.

Controversy still rages about the Allied decision to bomb Dresden, as proven by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Rev Justin Welby, when he was accused of ‘apologising’ for the attacks at the 70th anniversary commemoration last weekend (via Daily Mail).

Allied forces dropped 1,400 loads of explosives on the city, in attacks that lasted over two days. 90% of the city was destroyed and around 25,000 people died in the raids, which began on the eve of Friday 13th February 1945.

These incredible composite images from The Independent show how much work had to be done to re-build the city, by merging pictures of the past and present.

Souvenir Press publishes The Devil’s Tinderbox, the only book to present the personal descriptions of eye-witnesses, not only of the survivors in the city but the air-crews, both British and American, who flew on the bombing mission and observed the appalling impact of their attacks.

Alexander McKee carefully assesses the political and military decisions that led to the raids, drawn from official sources and archive material in the only oral history to be published. The Devil’s Tinderbox also includes contemporary photographs that bear witness to the devastating effect of an attack that reduced Dresden to rubble.

Meticulously researched and skilfully told, The Devil’s Tinderbox is gripping, shocking and deeply moving.

Devil's Tinderbox cover

“McKee has gathered a series of harrowing eyewitness accounts which give us a graphic picture of a wartime hell.”
‘Mail on Sunday’

“Alexander McKee specialises in a distinct and most valuable form of contemporary history…He is less concerned to name names than to reconstruct the mood in which the raid took place, to explain why the destruction and loss of life in Dresden was so heavy and to record the experience of those who survive… likely to linger for good in the memory.”
‘New Statesman’

(eBook only) Get a copy of The Devil’s Tinderbox here.

Code Name Caesar: The Secret Hunt for U-Boat 864 During World War II

Published today by Souvenir Press, CODE NAME CAESAR by Jerome Preisler and Kenneth Sewell reveals one of World War II’s most intriguing untold stories: the hunt by MI6, the British Navy, the Norwegian resistance and the RAF’s 617 Dambusters Squadron for the German U-Boat U-864 towards the end of the Second World War.

What made U-864 such an important target was what was on board: with German forces suffering huge losses at the hands of the Allies, Hitler made one last attempt to prolong the war and land a decisive blow against the Allied forces. He prepared to send plans and parts for Germany’s weapon technology – jet aircraft, rockets, mini-submarines – along with scientists to develop the technology, to his Japanese allies. U-864 was ordered to transport this most valuable cargo, carrying on board the opportunity to lengthen the war.

With German technology and expertise, the Japanese would divert more Allied troops to the war in the Pacific, giving Germany time to regroup.

British codebreakers based at Bletchley Park discovered Hitler’s plan and, working with the Norwegian resistance movement, the RAF sent its Dambuster Squadron on bombing raids against German naval installations in an attempt to destroy U-864… and its deadly cargo. But the submarine escaped, and slipped out to sea.

Now the British Navy had only one chance to destroy the U-Boat.

CODE NAME CAESAR is the thrilling true story of the hunt for U-864, an event that changed the course of the war, and the course of history. As gripping as a thriller, it brings to life the tense, action-packed underwater battle, recreating one of the least-known but most crucial victories of World War II.

If you want to try a sample of CODE NAME CAESAR, you can read the introduction and beginning of part one on Amazon using the ‘Look Inside’ feature.

CODE NAME CAESAR is available now in hardback and as an e-book.

Code Name Caesar

Introducing: Code Name Caesar

Code Name Caesar: The Secret Hunt for U-Boat 864 During World War II by Jerome Priesler and Kenneth Sewell is published later this month, so if you love your naval history, read on!

In 2003 the Royal Norwegian Navy discovered the wreck of a German U-boat that was potentially leaking mercury into the Atlantic Ocean. It turned out to be U-boat U-864, destroyed by the British submarine HMS Venturer in February 1945. U-864 is the only recorded instance of a submarine destroyed during an underwater battle with another submarine.

As World War II was drawing to a close Hitler made one last attempt to survive. He prepared to send plans and parts for Germany’s new weapon technology – jet aircraft, rockets and mini-submarines – along with scientists to develop the technology to his Japanese allies. Hitler was gambling that if the war in the Pacific could be escalated, diverting Allied troops from Europe, it could give Germany an opportunity to regroup. U-Boat U-864 was ordered to transport the technology that could prolong the war but codebreakers at Bletchley Park intercepted the plan and the British Navy had one chance to destroy the U-Boat. Working with MI6 and the Norwegian Resistance, along with the RAF’s 617 Dambusters Squadron, HMS Venturer tracked the German U-Boat and launched an attack.

Code Name Caesar reveals the full history, for the first time, of an extraordinary event that changed the course of history and the course of the war. Drawing on contemporary documents and letters, as well as interviews with the surviving families of German sailors who died on board U-864, Code Name Caesar brings to life the tense, action-packed underwater battle with all the suspense of a thriller.

So if naval history is your thing, you’ll love Code Name Caesar.

New Spring titles now available from Souvenir Press:

code-name-caesar

Peace Day 2012 and Souvenir Press

In celebration of Peace Day 2012, a memorial to the thousands of  Prisoners of War who suffered and lost their lives in the Far East during World War Two was unveiled in Mornington Crescent.

Friday 21st September 2012 saw the unveiling of this new memorial, featuring the a reproduction of a drawing by Souvenir Press author Ronald Searle (who sadly passed away at the end of 2011, aged 91). Searle himself was a Prisoner of War who worked on the Burma Railway, and was eventually liberated in 1945 after the defeat of the Japanese. Throughout his captivity, Searle drew in secret on scraps of paper, keeping them hidden from the guards.

Taken from Searle’s book TO THE KWAI – AND BACK: WAR DRAWINGS 1939-1945, the illustration featured on the memorial is accompanied by the words: They ask for nothing but remembrance of their lives and a promise of peace for future generations.

The memorial was unveiled by Viscount Slim, President of the Burma Star Association, in the presence of veterans and their families. Souvenir Press managing director Ernest Hecht attended the unveiling of the memorial as Ronald Searle’s representative.

The memorial’s architect, Chris Roche, wrote in the programme to accompany the unveiling that he was inspired in equal parts by Searle’s TO THE KWAI – AND BACK and by the 1957 movie A BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. Of the memorial, he wrote: “I hope in viewing this memorial, the people of Camden will […] come to appreciate that despite the suffering, the prisoners were able to build something of immense value which outlived the war, and which continues to inspire and uplift in times of peace”.

HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh unfortunately could not be present on the day, but sent a wonderful letter which began: “I am very pleased to know that a memorial to all those who served in the Far East during the war, and particularly to those who were imprisoned, is being erected in Camden.” You can read the full letter from the Duke of Edinburgh on the Camden New Journal website.