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

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, March 21, 2023

Characters of "Eagle" - Rosa Welkerling

  During the Second World War, it was said that the Germans had a royal army, an imperial navy and a National Socialist (Nazi) air force. This largely captured the character of the leadership in the three armed forces, but in one way the Luftwaffe was not Nazi at all. Nazi ideology called for women to stay in the home not be active in the workforce much less the military. Yet the Luftwaffe pioneered with women auxiliaries and, like the WAAF to the RAF, these German women played an important role in the German air force from 1940 onwards. In "Where Eagles Never Flew," the leading German lady is a Luftwaffe auxiliary -- and so is her best friend

Rosa Welkerling

Excerpt:

Rosa and Klaudia said good night to the other girls and left their little mess, crossing the darkened games room and making for the main stairs. But as they reached the stairs sweeping up beside the reception area, they could hear music and singing coming from the Officer's Bar off to the left.

"Listen!" Rosa said with delight. "That's Veronica, der Lenz ist da! " When Klaudia looked blankly at her, she added, "You know! By the Comedian Harmonists!" Rosa might be a good National Socialist, but nothing could ruin her delight in the songs of the Berlin quintet. She tiptoed towards the stairs that led into the rustic bar with its flagstone floors and beamed ceiling half a floor below. 

Someone was playing a piano very well, and several men were indeed singing in harmony. They could hear men clapping and stamping their feet in time to the music. Rosa tiptoed down four or five steps until, by bending, she could see into the bar itself. In a line with their arms around each other's shoulders, four of the pilots were dancing to the music as they sang.

Rosa Welkerling is a Berliner through-and-through. More specifically, she's the daughter of the industrial working class, fed on Marxism-Leninism from the cradle. But like many teenagers, she's rebellious and so rejects her parents Communism in favor of the exciting, new spirit of National Socialism. 

It is her willingness to embrace the ideology of the ruling elite that helps the ambitious Rosa get ahead. She compensates for her educational deficiencies with enthusiasm and loyalty. In no time at all, she is promoted to leadership positions within the Bund Deutsche Maedel (the girls' equivalent of the Hitler Youth), in her troop at the Reichsarbeits Dienst (the compulsory national service organization in which all youth served for a year) and, eventually, in the Luftwaffe as an auxiliary.

All of which has no real impact on her practical character because Rosa is basically a cynical child of the urban slums who sees through the lies of the Nazis, too. While viewing the new ruling elite as no more admirable than the old ruling elite, Rosa is dispassionately taking advantage of the naivity of the Nazi leadership to pursue her own best interests. They look on her as a "useful idiot" blinding following their orders, while Rosa looks on them as idiots who don't see they are being manipulated by her pretense of fervor. 

But Rosa, like many teenagers, over-estimates just how clever she is. She finds herself in a bind and rather than seeking help, tries to solve things in her own way -- with fatal consequences. 

Excerpt Continued:

 Klaudia hissed nervously from behind her. "Rosa! Come on! We don't want to get caught here!"

"Why not? Who says we can't watch?"

Klaudie nervously crept down and crouched beside her more daring friend ... [but] too soon the song  came to an end. The pianist made a great flourishing finale, and the pilots went down on one knee -- or three of them did. The fat pilot got left standing, to the evident amusement of the clapping audience. Everyone was clapping. Someone was even calling "Encore! Encore!" Feldburg made a gesture of 'enough,' however, and the pilots headed toward the bar.

Rosa reluctantly got to her feet, sorry that the show was already over. "Axel was right," she concluded as the two girls went up to their room together. "It is a lot nicer here."

 



 

 

 

 


 "This is the best book on the life of us fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain that I have ever seen.... I couldn't put it down."-- RAF Battle of Britain ace, Wing Commander Bob Doe.

Winner of a Hemingway Award for 20th Century Wartime Fiction, a Maincrest Media Award for Military Fiction and Silver in the Global Book Awards.

Find out more at: https://crossseaspress.com/where-eagles-never-flew

 

 

 

Riding the icy, moonlit sky,

they took the war to Hitler. 

Their chances of survival were less than fifty percent. 

Their average age was 21.

This is the story of just one bomber pilot, his crew and the woman he loved. 

It is intended as a tribute to them all.  

Buy now on amazon

or Barnes and Noble

 

Disfiguring injuries, class prejudice and PTSD are the focus of three heart-wrenching tales set in WWII by award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader. Find out more at: https://crossseaspress.com/grounded-eagles


 

 

 

 

For more information about all my books visit: https://www.helenapschrader.com




 

 

 

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Characters of Eagles - The "Erks"

  It was not the pilots alone who won the Battle of Britain. The finest pilots in the world are useless if their aircraft are not serviceable when needed. The RAF worked hard to ensure that its pilots were supported by some of the best trained ground crews in the world and when the test came in the summer of 1940, the men on the ground did not fail. RAF ground crews serviced and repaired British fighters -- often under adverse conditions, sometimes while under attack -- day after day from dawn to dusk until the battle had been won.

"Where Eagles Never Flew" gives several "erks" a voice -- the fitters Appleby, Sanders, and Tufnel, the riggers Ripley and Fowley, and the batman Thatcher -- are all individuals who make a contribution to the novel.


Excerpt 1:

Ripley was just about to climb into the cockpit when Priestman came up alongside. He stopped. "Good morning, sir."

"Morning. Tell me, do you know LAC Tufnel well?"

Ripley and Appleby exchanged a glance before Ripley answered cautiously. "Well enough, sir."

"Any idea why he would want to desert?"

 "No, sir. Tufnel's a first-class man. One of Trenchard's brats," Ripley said firmly, his expression one of earnestness.

"Problems at home, maybe?" Priestman pressed him. 

"No, sir... But he hasn't been himself since Sanders broke his back."

"Who?"

"Sanders, sir," Appleby took over from his taciturn colleague, coming nearer. "He and Tufnel were at Halton together and posted here together. Sanders had an accident before you took over the squadron. He fell backwards off a Hurricane wing and broke his back. He's up in Southampton in hospital now. I heard he won't ever walk again. You might want to talk to Fowley, sir. He's Sanders' replacement."

Throughout the inter-war years, the RAF had attracted technically minded young men with an ‘apprentice’ program that provided them with extensive training at a specially established technical college. Many of these young men from humble backgrounds latter learned to fly and became "Sergeant Pilots" -- the backbone of Fighter Command in the Battle of Britain. But those that remained in their jobs as mechanics, armorers and other technicians were valued and absolutely essential to success.

The erks in "Where Eagles Never Flew" are many and varied. Appleby is ambitious, cheeky and anxious to learn to fly. Ripley in steady, taciturn and thankful he isn't in the line of fire like the pilots are. Sanders is engaged to be married. Fowley's very young and straight out of training; he's conscious of having just scraped through his exams to get his qualifications -- and is now horrified to think that he might make a mistake that could cost a man his life. 

Yet in the Battle of Britain the airfields were the front line. The Luftwaffe made a determined attempt to wipe out Fighter Command by targeting fighter stations. That meant that the erks weren't safe at all. 


Excerpt 2:

The mess had taken what appeared to be several direct hits. Between craters, the rubble, dirt and debris were thrown up in heaps. Bits and pieces of clothing, furniture, cutler and masonry were scattered about as if a giant child had thrown a tantrum. Bizarrely, some things were whole while others were in pieces. A silver trophy recording someone's success at sports lay next to a toilet seat; a framed photograph had landed atop a heap of kitchenware. Water was gushing from a broken pipe and flooding the surrounding area. A lone shoe bobbed on the water as it spread. 

When they reached the slit trench, they found that it had collapsed in on itself. That wasn't supposed to happen Appleby registered. Men with shovels were already at work, and the grey-clad legs of a WAAF were exposed -- all twisted around unnaturally. There were no shovels left, so Appleby went to work with a metal bucket. The earth wasn't packed hard -- just heavy with moisture, suffocating.

They dragged the first girl out, her hair trailing behind her, her face covered with dirt. Beneath it she was ghastly white and strangely peaceful. The next body was also a WAAF, a plump little thing, not particularly pretty, but Appleby remembered she'd worked in the kitchen and had a penetrating, high-pitched laugh that carried into the dining room. Now silenced forever, he thought swallowing, as he helped straighten out her limbs and pull her skirt down decently. One of the others took off his tunic to lay over her.

After that came almost a dozen airmen. Appleby knew them all. They worked as assistant cooks in the airman's mess and served out the meals. They were ordinary blokes. Many of them came from the same kind of background as he did -- but without the benefit of mothers who'd made them stay in school. Growing up in the slums of London, Liverpool or mining towns in the North, they were stunted and all but illiterate. At mustering, they were given the lowest skilled trades: cooks, orderlies, waiters and batmen.

Thatcher is just such a man. The product of the slums, he was undernourished as a child and he has bad teeth and bad eyes. He also dropped out of school too soon to apply for a Halton apprenticeship, and has done menial work all his life -- when he wasn't unemployed. Yet when the war comes, he doesn't wait to be called up. He has been fascinated by airplanes and now is his chance to get near them. He volunteers for the RAF. Because he not qualified for anything particular and doesn't do well on any of the aptitude tests, he is mustered for 'catering' duties, but rather than feeling insulted or demotivated, he sets out to do the absolute best he can -- and in so doing help win the war. 

Excerpt 3:

When they weren't flying, they generally stretched out in the shade of their Hurricanes and tried to sleep. Priestman had done just that when an airman crawled under the wing beside him. He opened one eye, and honestly didn't recognize the ugly little man who was shaking his arm. 

"You've got to eat something, sir," the AC1 urged.

Priestman sat up, forcing himself to focus. It was a cook from the mess. He was in his forties, with crooked yellow teeth, and he was thrusting a sandwich at him. "You 'aven't eaten all day, sir. You can't keep going on an empty stomach."

"How did you know I haven't eaten?" Priestman asked, taking the thick sandwich from the airman.

"Do you think I can't keep track of my pilots?" The AC1 asked indignantly. "You 'aven't been eating proper for two days, sir. It ain't good." The little airman was genuinely upset.  

 


 "This is the best book on the life of us fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain that I have ever seen.... I couldn't put it down."-- RAF Battle of Britain ace, Wing Commander Bob Doe.

Winner of a Hemingway Award for 20th Century Wartime Fiction, a Maincrest Media Award for Military Fiction and Silver in the Global Book Awards.

Find out more at: https://crossseaspress.com/where-eagles-never-flew

 

 

 

Riding the icy, moonlit sky,

they took the war to Hitler. 

Their chances of survival were less than fifty percent. 

Their average age was 21.

This is the story of just one bomber pilot, his crew and the woman he loved. 

It is intended as a tribute to them all.  

Buy now on amazon

or Barnes and Noble

 

Disfiguring injuries, class prejudice and PTSD are the focus of three heart-wrenching tales set in WWII by award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader. Find out more at: https://crossseaspress.com/grounded-eagles


 

 

 

 

For more information about all my books visit: https://www.helenapschrader.com




 

 

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Characters from "Eagles" -- the "Adj"

 The pilots and other aircrew tended to be arrogantly contemptuous of "penguins" and "wingless wonders" -- those nine-tenths of air force personnel doing various jobs that didn't entail flying. That contempt was not consistently distributed. Pilots generally had a high regard for their ground crews, who kept their aircraft serviceable, and other "technical trades," but "paper pushers generally enjoyed low regard.

And yet! No organization can, in fact, get along without them. We need people who order supplies, do the book-keeping and manage personnel files. Every RAF squadron had an adjutant -- because they needed one.

Today I introduce Ft./Lt. "Mickey" Michaels -- the Adjutant (2nd left)

Excerpt:

The squadron leader had gone off, leaving the Adjutant struggling with the paperwork that was piling up. "I can't even hold him down long enough to sign off on the the things I've prepared for him. Poor LAC Sanders has been trying to get leave to get married, and --" Mickey realized he was complaining, and at once regretted it. It never looked good for an adjutant to complain about his CO. Distressed, Mickey was unconsciously wiping his balding head with his handkerchief. 

By the look of things, Allars guessed that Mickey had moved all sorts of files into his own office from the adjoining squadron leader's office. Wooden boxes were lined up not only on his desk, but on two chairs which he had placed beside it. Everything was well ordered but overflowing.

Flight Lieutenant "Mickey" Michaels didn't choose to be a penguin. He joined the RAF with every hope of learning to fly -- he simply couldn't get the hang of it and "washed out" of flying training. He could have taken a "bowler hat" and sought his fortune in the civilian world, but his love of aircraft and flying made him want to stay as close to it as he could. So he had worked his way through various jobs that did not entail flying until, with the outbreak of the war, he found himself in the most exciting and demanding job of his fifteen year career: adjutant in a fighter squadron. 

Mickey has no illusions about his place in the pecking order, and his job is not made easier by being posted to one of the Auxiliary Squadrons, one of those elite squadrons composed of young men who could afford to learn to fly at their own expense. No. 606 Squadron is one of the most snobbish of them all and in the interwar years had required applicants to have an independent income of at least GBP 1,000 a year -- a sum Mickey doesn't expect to earn annually any time in his life. But the amateurs are particularly disdainful of "paper work" and tend to look on Kings Regulations as suggestions rather than requirements. Mickey doesn't stand a chance of reforming their ways, all he can do is try to patch things up behind their backs. 

When the fighting and dying starts, Mickey finds himself at the front line of trying to keep the replacements in aircraft, ground crew and pilots flowing. His loyalty to the squadron is not diminished by the fact that he is unappreciated. He accepts that is his lot, and then one day things change.

Excerpt 2:  

They were down to 15 operational pilots and 12 aircraft at the moment. And still no flight lieutenants. Mickey had been nagging the Group Personnel people about flight lieutenants ever since Priestman chopped Thompson, but they weren't very sympathetic. The attitude was pretty much that no squadron leader in 11 Group was going to recommend promotion for a capable flying officer at a time like this, since they would thereby risk having him posted away. If they had anyone they could trust, they were guarding him jealously.

In short, Personnel implied, 606 would just have to make do with what it had. Ringwood seemed to be working out quite well, actually. As for new pilots, Peronnel complained that they "couldn't produce pilots out of thin air" -- always with an undertone of accusation, as if the front-line squadrons were careless with the pilots they did send. But there was no way they could keep up this pace with the pilots they had. Each engagement brought the risk of fresh casualties. Mickey thought they were bloody lucky not to have lost both Priestman and Kiwi two days ago. What the hell did Priestman think he was doing, firing at a loaded bomber from less than a hundred yards? You could almost think he was suicidal -- if you didn't know the bloke. 

Mickey had warmed to Priestman. Yesterday he had come to the office with a bottle of champagne and insisted they celebrate his DFC together. Mickey had been touched beyond words. Most squadron leaders would have gone to a pub or celebrated in the Mess with their pilots, not even noticing that a paper-pushing ground-hog was not among them. Instead, Priestman dragged both Mickey and Allars out of their respective dens and made them join him for a bottle of bubbly. 


 "This is the best book on the life of us fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain that I have ever seen.... I couldn't put it down."-- RAF Battle of Britain ace, Wing Commander Bob Doe.

Winner of a Hemingway Award for 20th Century Wartime Fiction, a Maincrest Media Award for Military Fiction and Silver in the Global Book Awards.

Find out more at: https://crossseaspress.com/where-eagles-never-flew

 

 

 

Riding the icy, moonlit sky,

they took the war to Hitler. 

Their chances of survival were less than fifty percent. 

Their average age was 21.

This is the story of just one bomber pilot, his crew and the woman he loved. 

It is intended as a tribute to them all.  

Buy now on amazon

or Barnes and Noble

 

Disfiguring injuries, class prejudice and PTSD are the focus of three heart-wrenching tales set in WWII by award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader. Find out more at: https://crossseaspress.com/grounded-eagles


 

 

 

 

For more information about all my books visit: https://www.helenapschrader.com