As a final offering for this year I offer a duo of paperbacks recounting true stories of courage, endurance and daring during World War II.
Freedom the Spur by Gordon Instone. 1956. A revised edition Paperback. Originally published in 1953. Good condition. $10.00.
‘A book that any man with guts would like to have written’, says General Sir Frederick Pile in the introduction. ‘An escape story with a difference, no barbed wire, tunnels, dummies, or the ingenious contrivances of leisured imprisonment, but a story of one man’s war against Nazi Germany’. Young British soldier, Gordon Instone (1916–1989?) was captured near Calais in May 1940, and this is the tale of his 900-mile journey by foot across France and his repeated escapes from both German and Vichy French captors. Of his capture he writes: A German sergeant came over and addressed us in excellent English… “The war is over for you my gallant friends. The victorious German army will be in Paris and a fortnight later will be marching through the streets of London. Meanwhile you are all going to Germany! But do not worry, in a couple of months the war will be over and you will all be sent back to England.’’
I like the photograph taken of Gordon Instone in 1940, looking very dapper and confident, hiding with a French family in German occupied Paris—under the name ‘Pierre’. He looks like he can cope with any eventuality. However, a surprise encounter in the Jardin de Luxembourg proves that his Englishness is unmistakable—despite any attempted disguise. As he sits in the garden, smoking a pipe & pondering his options: a middle-aged woman glanced at me curiously…She came up to me and said quietly, in perfect English, “You’re English, aren’t you?” I looked at her in astonishment. “As a matter of fact I am—but how on earth did you know?” “It wasn’t very difficult. You see only an Englishman holds his pipe that way you’re holding it!” “Good lord’, I exclaimed “and I thought I was the complete Frenchman!” Having studied up on correct pipe handling, Gordon Instone eventually reached Spain and was interned. British authorities secured his release and he reached Gibraltar in May 1941.
The Tartan Pimpernel by Donald Caskie. 1960. Paperback. Originally published in 1957. Good condition.$10.00.
‘He exchanged his cassock for the cloak of the Resistance.’ In 1940, Dr Donald Caskie (1902–1983), born on the Isle of Islay, was Minister of the Scottish Kirk—the congregation of the Church of Scotland—in Paris. Having denounced the Nazis from the pulpit, Caskie was forced to flee the city. He turned down the opportunity to leave France, due to a sense of calling, and his sense of responsibility for suffering humanity. A French policeman told him: “We know you are the only member of your calling now at liberty in France. We can arrange for you to go home if you wish”. Caskie replied: “There’s nothing I’d like better, but that is impossible. I cannot desert my own people in such a dreadful hour of need. I am a minister. How could I leave them?”
Caskie eventually arrived in Marseilles—under Vichy French control—and established a ‘congregation’ for Allied servicemen, which also served as a refuge for those fleeing the Nazis. He helped many British civilians to leave France, largely via Spain and often working closely with British intelligence services. Caskie also took a position as a university lecturer, using the university church as a hiding place for Allied military personnel and resistance fighters. He eventually aided over 2,000 Allied servicemen to escape from occupied France. Stephen