Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

Dr. Helena P. Schrader is the winner of more than 20 literary accolades. For a complete list of her awards see: http://helenapschrader.com

Helena is represented by Laurie Blum Guest at the Re-Naissance Agency.

For readers tired of clich├ęs and cartoons, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader offers nuanced insight to historical events and figures based on sound research and an understanding of human nature. Her complex and engaging characters bring history back to life as a means to better understand ourselves.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

“What chances do you give the RAF of defeating the Luftwaffe?” -- An Excerpt from "Where Eagles Never Flew"

 



 

(Setting: Operational Training Unit Harwarden: Early August 1940)

As they approached the Spitfire, one of the Americans caught sight of the approaching officers and rushed over. “Flight Lieutenant Priestman? Howard Briggs, Detroit Times. Pleasure to meet you. We’ve been hearing some great things about you.”

“All lies, then, I can assure you.”

The American started and then laughed heartily. “Love your English sense of humour! Wonderful!” He jotted something down, and Kennel raised his eyebrows at Robin. “Tell me about this kill of yours, Mr. Priestman.”

“What kill?”

“Didn’t you shoot down a Do17 the other night?”

“Yes, I shot down a Dornier 17, a twin-engine, monoplane aircraft of German manufacture. Maximum speed 250 mph – or thereabouts – range roughly 1,500 miles. All four crewmen aboard survived.”

“Uh-huh. Would you tell us about it?”

“What?”

“About the dogfight,” Briggs pressed him, a touch exasperated by Priestman’s evident reticence.

“There was no dogfight. The Dornier is not a fighter and had no fighter escort. I intercepted an enemy intruder and, in accordance with standing orders, I did my best to shoot it down. This time I was lucky.”

“How?”

“The Spitfire is equipped with eight Browning machine guns. They are quite effective. I suggest you inspect the wreckage of the Dornier for evidence of their impact.”

“Love to, but your police or Home Guard or whatever it is won’t let us near it. Top Secret. You make it sound very easy, Mr. Priestman – what’s that expression you boys use, ‘piece of cake,’ eh?” How silly it sounded in that American accent, and Robin resented the reporter even more. The reporter was continuing belligerently, “The way we hear it, Nazi planes are flying over here night after night – heard bunches of them myself – and most of them go home unmolested.”

“Have you ever flown at night?”

“Once or twice.”

“Did you find it easy to see other aircraft in the darkness?”

“Uh. I don’t think I tried. But, look, don’t you Brits have some sort of top-secret tracking device for locating aircraft?”

“I’ve heard rumours, but I wouldn’t know.”

“You mean you don’t have any means of tracking the enemy aircraft?” The second reporter, who had not introduced himself, asked with open hostility.

The reporters struck Robin as vultures. Both seemed to be hunching over their pads with their pencils poised, ready to tear him apart. “We have the Observer Corps – extremely efficient and dedicated volunteers, mostly ex-service men and women from the last war. I highly recommend visiting one or more of our observer stations – particularly on a dark night.”

It took them a moment to digest that answer and then Briggs asked, “What chances do you give the RAF of defeating the Luftwaffe?”

“None.” There was a collective gasp – and not just from the reporters. Kennel at once tried to intervene, “Now just a minute, Priestman—”

“In case you haven’t noticed, we are not attacking Germany. We don’t have to defeat the Luftwaffe. All we have to do is convince the German government that it is not worth their while trying to conquer England.”

“And you think you can do that?” the second reporter insisted skeptically.

Priestman looked at the reporter and considered his answer carefully. Then he smiled. “Let me put it this way, gentlemen. I would not want to trade places with a Luftwaffe pilot for anything in the world.”

“Why not? Don’t you think their planes are as good as yours?”

“The Me109 is a very good aircraft. I was shot down twice by 109s.”

“Then why wouldn’t you want to trade places with a Luftwaffe pilot?”

Priestman shrugged and jammed his fists deeper in his pockets. The photographer lifted his heavy camera to his face and with a flash, a photo immortalised the moment. Robin stood in front of his Spitfire staring into the camera, with a plaster over his left eye and his hair falling over the right. “Never fancied getting my arse shot off for a dictator.”

Robin was deadly serious, but for some reason the others all found the answer terribly funny.

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Click here to see a video teaser of Where Eagles Never Flew 


If you would like to pre-order a copy send me an email at: info@CrossSeasPress.com

 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Battle of Britain: Diplomatic Significance

 

The Battle of Britain was more than a military victory. It was a critical psychological and diplomatic victory as well. The psychological impact of defeating the apparently invincible Luftwaffe was enormous at the time. The RAF had proved that the Luftwaffe could be beaten, and by inference that the Wehrmacht could be beaten as well.

This fact alone encouraged anti-Nazi resistance movements and kept hope alive all across occupied Europe. Even more important, however, was the effect on the United States. At the start of the Battle, the United States had largely written off Britain as a military and political power. As a result of British tenacity and defiance in the Battle of Britain, the United States revised its opinion of British strength. Because of the Battle of Britain, the U.S.A. shifted its policy from ‘neutrality’ to ‘non-belligerent’ assistance.

With American help, Britain was able to keep fighting until Hitler over-extended himself in the Soviet Union. If the United Kingdom had lost the Battle of Britain, it is unlikely that it could have provided assistance to the Soviet Union, and even less likely that the United States would have been drawn into the European war. Without American help, it is improbable that Hitler would have been defeated. In short, the Battle of Britain was the necessary pre-requisite for future victory in Europe.

Click here to see a video teaser of Where Eagles Never Flew 


If you would like to pre-order a copy send me an email at: info@CrossSeasPress.com

 

Saturday, September 26, 2020

The Last 300 RAF Fighters - An Excerpt from "Where Eagles Never Flew"

  


(Setting: Jagdgeschwader 53 participates in the Luftwaffe’s Attacks of August 15, 1940)

The Intelligence Officer had said that the steady attrition in RAF Fighter Command over the last month had reduced the number of operable fighters down to less than half their Order of Battle. The remaining 300 or so fighters were naturally concentrated in the southeast, to protect the approaches to London and the narrowest parts of the Channel. Taking advantage of this fact, the Luftwaffe had designed today’s raids to exploit British weakness across the rest of the island. This was the main reason raids had been launched from Norway – to show the English people how vulnerable they were north of the Trent.

According to the Intelligence Officer, the British people had no idea that the Luftwaffe possessed bombers and fighters (this was where the Me110s were truly valuable) with the range to attack the British Isles from Norway. When Edinburgh, York and Durham went up in flames, he told his audience, they would learn. As for this particular late afternoon raid, the Intelligence Officer had explained, it might not be such a surprise to the British that Devon and Cornwall were within range of the Luftwaffe operating from Northern France, but it ought to frighten them to realise they had no defences any more.

Ernst very much hoped that Luftwaffe Intelligence was correct and there were no defences in this region. Then they would go in and out without opposition. Christian would be disappointed if that happened, of course, Ernst thought with a glance towards his leader. Christian was still itching to get a confirmed kill.

The ragged English coast lay ahead of them in the late afternoon sun. Ernst could clearly see a peninsula that hung like a hook into the Channel with a deep harbour behind it. He tried to remember the map they’d been shown, and decided it was Poole.

“Indians to the left.”

“That’s to the west. I thought they didn’t have any fighters in the west anymore?” Christian commented helpfully, and Ernst groaned inwardly. Why couldn’t he just leave it be? They could all see that Intelligence had been wrong – again.

“Shut up, Feldburg. Follow me down.” Hartman knew that Bartels had had his ears blistered for delaying his attack three days ago. He clearly wasn’t going to make the same mistake. Besides, if the RAF was decimated, one could hardly justify waiting for more targets.

Ernst registered that he was tense again – so much for routine. He felt the need to urinate the minute he realised that the English fighters sweeping towards them were Spitfires. Ernst hated Spitfires.

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Click here to see a video teaser of Where Eagles Never Flew 

 If you would like to pre-order a copy, please send me an email at: info@CrossSeasPress.com

 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Battle of Britain: The Military Significance

 

For Hitler, the failure to defeat the Royal Air Force in the summer of 1940 was an annoyance rather than a major strategic set-back. He had long declared his preference to have Great Britain as an ally. He had hoped the British would not ‘interfere’ with his invasion of Poland. He had expected the British government to sue for peace after the fall of France. When the Luftwaffe proved incapable of creating the conditions for an invasion, Hitler turned his attention back to his long-held goal of invading the Soviet Union. The war against the Soviet Union was Hitler’s passion; the war against the British Empire was an irritating complication about which he lost little sleep. To this day, most Germans have never even heard of the Battle of Britain, and if they have, they attribute to it no major significance.

Yet for Britain, the United States, Occupied Europe, and later even the Soviet Union, the significance of the Battle of Britain can hardly be over-stated.

Although Hitler had not expected it would be necessary to invade England, he had been prepared to do so. Likewise, while neither the German Navy nor Army were keen about a cross-channel invasion, they dutifully made the necessary preparations. Their reluctance would not have stopped Hitler from ordering the invasion of England had he chosen to do so. However, it was agreed within the German High Command that the Luftwaffe would pave the way for an invasion by establishing air superiority over Britain. It was hoped — and perhaps assumed — that the air attacks would drive the British government to the negotiating table.

It was only as the costs of the air fighting mounted and the British government remained intransigent that Hitler made the decision to postpone the invasion indefinitely. This decision was taken on September 17, mainly as a result of the air fighting on September 15. The furious and tenacious defense of English airspace on September 15, 1940 proved that the RAF was far from defeated.

The victory was not immediately apparent. The Luftwaffe continued to attack Britain on a smaller scale by day and neither German troops nor barges were withdrawn from the channel ports until the spring of 1941. Furthermore, the night “Blitz” of London continued savagely throughout the winter. The British people did not feel safe from invasion until the Wehrmacht had turned its attention to the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941.

Yet the RAF had failed to discourage Hitler from his plans to invade Britain, the course of the war would inevitably have been different. A German invasion would have been launched. Whether the Royal Navy, seriously weakened by the losses incurred at Dunkirk and dangerously over-stretched trying to protect the Atlantic lifeline, could have stopped it remains questionable. Certainly, the British ground forces lacked tanks and artillery for fighting the heavily mechanized Wehrmacht if it successfully came ashore. Churchill was not only being rhetorical when he spoke about fighting a guerrilla war against the invaders!

Thus, in retrospect, we know that the Battle of Britain is what saved the British Isles from a Nazi invasion and very likely from Nazi occupation.

Click here to see a video teaser of Where Eagles Never Flew 


If you would like to pre-order a copy send me an email at: info@CrossSeasPress.com