'... I enjoyed every page ...'

The following is a particularly gratifying review of Wingwatch, coming as it does from Paul Woodadge, a well-known Normandy battlefields tour guide. Here is what he wrote on the novel's amazon.co.uk page:
'I read very few fiction titles, and received this book as a present. Because I have a huge interest in the Normandy Invasion - indeed I make my living as a tour guide, I thought I would prefer the chapters of the book set in 1944 and initially that was the case. But, within a few pages it was the modern story that began to reel me in. I found myself intrigued by the whole sequence of events and coincidences and how the back story of the wristwatch came alive. I cannot fault the WWII detail in any way and I praise the easy to follow writing style of this first time novelist. I enjoyed every page and finished the book in just two sittings'.


A paratrooper's letter

'By the time this letter reaches you, you will be aware that my postal address has changed ...'

This letter is on display at the exhibition The 100 Objects of the Battle of Normandy, hosted until 31 December by the Caen Memorial. Alec Ellis Flexer, Lance Corporal of 'C' Company, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, wrote it to his family on what he thought was the eve of his jump into Normandy. As a matter of fact, D-Day was postponed for 24 hours ... 
Read more.


Yesterday at Merville - Hier à Merville

'They did not know it was impossible, so they did it'. The official ceremony on the big screen. Reenacting the drop.

« Ils ne savaient pas que c'était impossible, alors ils l'ont fait ». La cérémonie officielle sur grand écran. La reconstitution du largage.


Ouistreham today / Ouistreham aujourd'hui

Ouistreham today. On 6 June it will be the capital of the world. The Queen, Obama, Putin, Hollande, Merkel ...

Ouistreham aujourd'hui. Le 6 juin la capitale du monde sera ici. La reine Elizabeth, Obama, Putin, Hollande, Merkel...


La montre ailée

La version française de Wingwatch est maintenant disponible. Son titre est La Montre Ailée.

Pour en savoir plus sur le roman, allez à la présentation. Vous pouvez également lire les trois premiers chapitres sur la page aperçu de ce site.
Cliquez ici pour commander la version papier. Cliquez ici pour la version numérique.


Two lesser-known Commonwealth war cemeteries

What follows does not concern D-Day or the Normandy campaign, but the visitors of this page might find it interesting anyway.
I grew up in Faenza, an Italian town of 55,000 inhabitants that has the unusual privilege of hosting two Commonwealth War Cemeteries. Last Saturday, while there for a short visit, I visited them once more and took some pictures.

The smaller site is the resting place of 54 WWI servicemen (41 Britons) who died there when Faenza was the HQ of a Lines of Communications area, the site of a supply depot and of military general hospitals. The plot is part of the Communal cemetery.

The other Faenza site is one of the ten biggest WWII Commonwealth War cemeteries in Italy and the resting place of 1,152 servicemen, most of them from Britain (856) and New Zealand (224).

As the Allied advance stalled during the 1944-1945 winter, static fighting took place in the region and required the formation of this cemetery.

As the map on the metal plaque shows, Faenza was just above the Gothic Line. The red and green line refer to the 8th and 5th Army advance.

During my visit I was lucky enough to meet up with a gentleman from Bristol, who was paying a visit to the grave of his brother. Isaac Williams was a 32 year old Trooper in the Royal Tank Regiment, killed in action on 11 April 1945. He left a widow and four children to mourn him.

His brother Douglas, 18 at the time, had Isaac's picture tattoed on his chest. It is the same picture you see at the foot of the headstone. The same picture that hung from a wall at their parents' home and suddenly fell on the ground the day before Isaac's death.



... Denison smock with silk map sewn into the lining ... (from Chapter 2 of Wingwatch)

A map of France printed on a silk handkerchief and distributed to British paratroopers, who generally sewed it into their uniform. It was part of the ‘escape kit’, along with the mini-compasses hidden inside spare trouser buttons and the files for sawing through prison cell bars. This map is held at the Pegasus Memorial in Ranville. It belonged to Major John Howard, who led the raid on the moveable bridge at Benouville while the 9th Battalion was preparing to unleash the assault at Merville.

Want to know more about Wingwatch? Go to the presentation page.


'It’s almost as if the Veterans bring the place and those days to life.'

A chat with Neil Barber, author of The Day The Devils Dropped In.

I have the privilege to welcome the blog's first special guest : Neil Barber, author of The Day The Devils Dropped In, an unmissable read for anyone interested in the assault on the Merville Battery in the first hours of D-Day and a precious source of information for the historical part of Wingwatch. He talks about how he became one of the most respected historians of WWII, his books, his visits to Normandy, the Veterans, the significance of the D-Day 70th anniversary celebrations, and much more. In other words : one more unmissable read.

Please go to the guest page.



... three Panzers headed for Vaucelles, on the right bank of the Orne ... (from chapter 30 of Wingwatch)

The River Orne separates the centre of Caen from Vaucelles, the neighbourhood on the right bank. The bridges were the Allied bombers’ first targets as of 6 June 1944; only one was left intact. The longest chapter of Wingwatch is dedicated to the Battle of Caen, a key part of the Normandy Campaign. 

Want to know more about Wingwatch? Go to the presentation page.