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.

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.

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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 

 

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 


 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

"Once more onto the breach, dear friends" -- An excerpt from "Where Eagles Never Flew"

 

(Setting: Pilots of an RAF Squadron deployed to France at readiness.)

The squadron commander did a double-take before he recognised Priestman. “I say! What’s happened to you?” 

“What hasn’t happened, sir? – bombed, dive-bombed, strafed, played ambulance to civilian casualties and slept in the open – and I didn’t have a change of clothes or a razor with me.” 

“Right. Well, your batman packed some of your kit for you.” Sharp was looking around, watching the rest of the squadron land, making dispositions in his mind. “Not much here, is there?” 

“No, sir. Who’s missing?” 

“Sergeant Putnam is dead; Ned is still missing. He may be a POW, but we don’t know. At least no one’s found his body yet.” This said, Sharp strode away towards the Lysander, from which the Flight Sergeant was emerging.

...

He sensed it more than anything. Then the sun blinked. “BREAK!” 

They were all over the place. At least 20 of them. They fell out of the sun. One minute they were nothing but a winking of the light, and the next they were blotting it out entirely while their wings lit up with flashes. The smoke of tracer smudged the sky, and then Yellow Three started spewing black smoke. Wasn’t that Roger? Whoever it was, he flipped over on his back and started downwards. More Robin didn’t have a chance to see, because he yanked his own Hurricane instinctively into a tight turn and was temporarily blinded as the blood drained from his head. 

Priestman unhooked his oxygen mask and shoved the hood back before he landed, gulping in the fresh air. When he set down on three points, he thought he had never in his life been so glad to have ground under him. He was aware of a pulsing headache and his eyes felt swollen in their sockets. He taxied absently to the side of the field, too tired to notice if someone was signalling him somewhere else. He cut the engine and pulled off his helmet, and ran his hand through his hair – it was wet and sticky. 

He heard someone pant up beside him. “Robin?” He glanced over; it was Roger Ibbotsholm. So he hadn’t been in Yellow Three after all. 

“Aye, aye.” Robin was having trouble unclipping his straps for some reason. 

Roger was on the wing and bent over to help him. “Are we glad to see you! We thought you’d bought it.” 

“They did rather catch us out again. Is everyone else back?” 

“The CO’s gone for six. Flamed out and went straight in from 10,000. Guy had to hit the silk over Seclin. Driver swears he saw a parachute land just beside the field and so he’s almost certainly a POW. Shakespeare says Spotty didn’t make it either – crate flamed before he could get out.” 

Douglas and Sellers reached Priestman. They too were panting, having run over from the far side of the field. “Are you all right, sir?” 

“I’ve got a terrible headache, actually,” Robin admitted rubbing his forehead. 

“There’s a ruddy great hole in the back of your seat, sir!” 

“Oh, that. Yes. Good thing about the armour plating.” 

“You can say that again, sir!”

...

Shakespeare woke him in the dark. “Time to get up, Robin.” 

“What time is it?” 

“Time to get up.” 

“What time is that?” 

“If you insist on the ugly details: 4.25 am. The lorry will be in the square in 5 minutes.” 

“Dawn Patrol.” 

“Isn’t that the name of a flick?” 

“With David Niven, I think.” 

“I don’t think it had a very good ending.” 

“Not for everyone.” 

....

The telephone was ringing in the ops tent. They turned their heads and stared at it, waiting.

“Maybe it is just someone ringing up to see how the weather is over here.”

“Or someone calling to ask if there is anything we lack?”

“Maybe someone has just signed a surrender.”

No, it didn’t look like that. Yardly was standing in the entry, waving furiously at them.

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,” Shakespeare intoned as he set his mug aside.

“Shut up!” Roger told him irritably – much too irritably. You could tell his nerves were a bit frayed. He’d had an ugly belly landing the other day and hadn’t been the same since, really.

“What’s the matter?” Driver asked innocently.

Yardly was shouting at them to “get cracking,” but they ignored him. After all, he wasn’t flying, and they didn’t presume it would make much difference to the war if they were a minute or two later. It was all a cock-up, anyway.

“It’s the next line,” Priestman explained to Driver, putting his own mug aside carefully.

“What’s that?”

“‘Or close the wall up with our English dead.’”

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

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Battle of Britain - A Retrospective

September 15, Battle of Britain Day

 

It is now 80 years since the Battle of Britain was fought -- and won. It was not, of course, a battle fought on a single day, but rather one that lasted the entire summer of 1940. Only in retrospect did the “Battle of Britain” become a discreet phase of the Second World War. 

Yet in a speech before the House of Commons on June 18, 1940, Sir Winston Churchill correctly noted its significance. Warning that "the Battle of Britain" was about to begin, Churchill soberly predicted that “the whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us."  He presciently predicted: "Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free … but if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States … will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age ….” 

The Battle of Britain did not win or end the war. It would take five more grim and grueling years of conflict before Hitler was finally defeated. The Second World War first spread across the entire northern hemisphere and consumed millions of lives. Yet the Battle of Britain was the imperative first step toward Allied victory. It brought Hitler’s aggression to a halt for the first time since he had come to power in Germany in 1933.

What is often forgotten nowadays is that it was a very near-run thing. The outcome teetered in the balance day after day. It was also a victory won by an extraordinarily limited number of combatants — Winston’s Churchill’s “Few.” Yet they were not entirely alone in this vital struggle. They were supported by ground crews and controllers, by medical, clerical and catering staff -- and by the women they loved.

Where Eagles Never Flew is a tribute to the men and women who were engaged in this crucial conflict. Based on first-hand accounts by pilots and other participants as well as retrospective historical analysis, this novel recreates the tense atmosphere of this dramatic summer. It allows the reader to see unfolding events through the eyes of characters involved both in the air and on the ground and on both sides of the Channel. 

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