Michael Ridpath > Fire and Ice Series > Spy Novels > Financial Thrillers >
Shadows of War - Michael Ridpath

Sources for Shadows of War

The subject matter of Shadows of War sprawls over several discreet historical areas of study, and so I had plenty of books to read. In the Author's Note I have highlighted some of the most useful of these. This is a fuller list, divided by topic.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor
Charles Bedaux
The British Intelligence Services
The German Intelligence Services
The Venlo Incident
The Fall of France
The Phoney War in Britain
British Pro-Nazis
Holland
The People
Intriguing Connections

   
rule
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor The Duke ans Duchess of Windsor meeting Adolf HitlerThe idea for this novel first came to me after reading Martin Allen's stimulating book Hidden Agenda, which makes the forceful case that the Duke of Windsor willingly passed secrets about the French defences to the Germans in the hope of securing a role as King or President of a pro-German Britain. The problem is that some of Mr Allen's sources are suspect, such as a letter purporting to be from the duke delivered to Hitler in November 1939 by Charles Bedaux. A fascinating article by Ben Fenton in the Financial Times in 2008 points out that twenty-nine forged documents have been inserted into the Public Record Office at Kew, and that these have all been used as source material in three books by Mr Allen. Five of them were cited in Hidden Agenda. It is the only known case of documents being inserted rather than removed from the PRO. At the time of the writing of the article they had only been accessed by Mr and Mrs Allen and by the Foreign Office and MI6. There was a police investigation, but it was dropped. Martin Allen denied any knowledge that these papers were forgeries. Despite this mystery, much of Martin Allen's argument is supported by more reliable sources quoted elsewhere, and in my mind, many of his points still stand.

There are a number of biographies of the duke. King Edward VIII by Philip Ziegler (2001) is probably the most comprehensive, following on from the earlier work Edward VIII by Frances Donaldson (1974). Neither takes the suggestion that the duke assisted the Germans seriously, although to my mind Philip Ziegler's biography gives the reader an idea of the duke's weaknesses of character which might have led him to stray unwittingly.

Map of EuropeThere are biographies of the duchess by Charles Higham and Anne Sebba. Wallis by Higham (1988) was updated to Mrs Simpson (in 2005). It raises some of the suspicions about Wallis's pro-German attitude, in particular her friendship with Ribbentrop. That Woman by Anne Sebba (2012) argues that Wallis's interest in Germans and Germany was purely social.

A nice portrait of the duke and duchess's daily life while in Paris is given in Working for The Windsors by Diana Hood, the duke's secretary 1938-39.

There was a television series made in the 1970s and available on DVD called Edward and Mrs Simpson. As far as I could tell, it was accurate historically. Watching it helped me picture the duke and duchess as I was writing. Unforgivably, the series missed out Fruity Metcalfe!

Top
   
rule
Charles Bedaux A fascinating man. A very good biography is provided by Sol Bloomenkranz in an e-book entitled Charles Bedaux. Mr Bloomenkranz is honest about the gaps in our knowledge about Bedaux: someone really should fill them in.
   
rule
The British Intelligence Services MI6There are plenty of books about the British secret service at the start of the war, but they all feel frustratingly incomplete. There are loose ends, ragged laces that won't tie up. Spies are professional liars, and the first thing they lie about is their own activities. This is given official sanction; evidence is destroyed or buried in the documentary graveyard in Kew for decades. The books I found most useful and referred to most often were: C, The Secret life of Sir Stewart Menzies by Anthony Cave Brown, The Spying Game by Michael Smith, Foley by Michael Smith, and Six, A History of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service also by Michael Smith.
   
rule
The German Intelligence Services Luger P08 Parabellum handgunFor some reason, books on the German intelligence services are more illuminating than books on their British counterparts. Ironically, I suspect this is because the Germans lost the war, and so documents escaped the sustained bureaucratic cover up implemented by the British. The Schellenberg Memoirs by Walter Schellenberg are entertaining and informative, especially when combined with Nazi Secret Service by André Brissaud which was based on interviews with Schellenberg after the war. Other useful overviews of German intelligence are Hitler's Spies by David Kahn, which is a little over-comprehensive, and Hitler's Spy Chief: the Wilhelm Canaris Mystery by Richard Bassett. The Topography of Terror, a guide to the Gestapo Headquarters in Berlin, told me most of what I needed to know about the Gestapo.
   
rule
The Venlo Incident Binoculars and mapThere are two sources on this: Captain Payne Best's book of the same name, and Schellenberg's memoirs mentioned above, subtly modified by André Brissaud's interviews with him. Nowhere is it clearer how flaky our evidence is when it is provided by spies. Both are unreliable. I suspect in many instances it is a question not of 'which one of them is correct?' but rather 'they both must be wrong.' I think this is particularly true in the case of Schellenberg's claims as to why Heydrich suddenly decided to send a detachment of SS to watch him – claims that made no sense in a novel, let alone in history. Interestingly, Schellenberg repeats many times that Payne Best drove a Buick, a car that the SS officer admired. Payne Best says once towards the end of his book that he drove a Zephyr. Historians have voted with Schellenberg, but I think Payne Best is right: after all it was his car! They do look similar, though.
   
rule
The Fall of France Eiffel Tower, ParisIt turns out that the idea I have always held, along with many other people I am sure, that the Allies were outnumbered and outgunned by the Germans in May 1940 is completely wrong. The French had more tanks than the Germans and they were of better quality. German leadership, strategy and also soldiers were superior, and that is what counted. The two best overviews of the Battle of France I found were The Fall of France by Julian Jackson which looks at things mostly from the French point of view, and Strange Victory by Ernest May, which focuses more on the Germans. Both books rightly spend time discussing the plans and preparations for the campaigns. General Heinz Guderian's autobiography Panzer Leader gives an excellent and very readable day-by-day account of the campaign itself. Life in Paris at this time, and the flight of its citizens, are described in Americans in Paris by Charles Glass, Priscilla by Nicholas Shakespeare, Looking for Trouble by Virginia Cowles and the novel Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky.
   
rule
The Phoney War in Britain This period of the war is described entertainingly and in detail in two of Evelyn Waugh's novels: Men At Arms and Put Out More Flags as well as his diaries and his biography by Selina Hastings. Wartime Britain by Juliet Gardiner and London At War tell us more of the experiences of more ordinary people.

As for the politics, and the precarious British government during this time, Five Days in London by John Lukacs does an excellent job in describing in detail the period 23-28 May when Halifax was urging Churchill to seek terms with Hitler, as does The Holy Fox, a biography of Lord Halifax by Andrew Roberts. The day-to-day machinery of the upper reaches of government is vividly described in Alexander Cadogan's Diaries.

Top
   
rule
British Pro-Nazis These are a shameful bunch, but I made an effort to understand them. Patriotism Perverted by Richard Griffiths was the best book on this, although Letting the Side Down by Sean Murphy was also useful. Biographies and autobiographies helped with this effort, in particular Diana Moseley by Anne de Courcy, and True Account by Ernest Tennant, a banker who was an admirer of Nazis. Conspirator: The Untold Story of Tyler Kent by Ray Bearse and Anthony Reade, tells us about the American spy and friend of Captain Ramsay and Anna Wolkoff of the Russian Tea Rooms.
   
rule
Holland LeidenThe London Library has a wonderful selection of old guidebooks published by Baedeker and others, which were clearly used decades ago by members visiting Scheveningen and the Hague. And by me in 2013.
   
rule
The People It is hard, sometimes, to understand the way people thought before the war, that cataclysm which changed the way we all think forever. Novels help. I tried to only read contemporary novels while I was doing this research and those by such great writers as Evelyn Waugh, Nancy Mitford, Anthony Powell, and Graham Greene introduce you to a certain class of Englishman. And Englishwoman. The Viceroy's Daughters , a wonderful biography By Anne De Courcy of Lord Curzon's three daughters, including Mrs Fruity Metcalfe, is well worth reading to understand how some, at least, of the English upper classes thought at the time.
   
rule
Intriguing Connections Cocktail glass and cocktail shakerThe Second World War is a massive subject, and Shadows of War encompassed topics that are often treated very separately by different historians who don't read each other's books. I made some fascinating connections among the details. Two stand out, which I would have loved to have used in the novel.

At one point, I was trying to link Lord Halifax, Oswald Mosley and the Duke of Windsor, when it occurred to me that Lady Alexandra Curzon had slept with Mosley, conducted an affair with the Foreign Secretary and was married to Fruity Metcalfe, the duke's equerry! Unfortunately, it was too complicated to give her a central role in the novel, although I was tempted.

There was another extraordinary link. Anna Wolkoff, the daughter of the owner of the pro-Nazi Russian Tea Rooms in Kensington, worked for Schiaparelli, the Duchess of Windsor's dressmaker. The Duchess of Windsor conducted an affair with William Bullitt in the changing rooms of Schiaparelli's in Paris (Bullitt was the bisexual US Ambassador to Paris). Bullitt's secretary at the US Embassy in Moscow was the bisexual Tyler Kent; Bullitt moved on to Paris and Kent to London. Tyler Kent had an affair with Wolkoff in London. Was this all a coincidence? Disappointingly, I think it might be. Frustratingly, I am not sure. That's the trouble with the subject matter of Shadows of War: however many books you read, you can never be sure what the hell was really going on.

Top
   

rule

Facebook Visit my page on Facebook
spacer rule