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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Monday, December 25, 2017

SOE Camo & Midget Receiver

Probably the best SOE equipment book in the world. Yes, the authors are Danish.

The best Christmas present I received this year was SOE EQUIPMENT Air Dropped in Europe 1940 - 1945 by Anders Thygesen and Michael Sode. The word unique is quite appropriate, because it contains several photos and facts you will find nowhere else, like the best photos I have ever seen of the elusive SOE jump suit.

Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents that were parachuted into occupied countries were not seldom issued with a set of protective overalls and a jump helmet, sporting a SOE specific camouflage pattern, or simply white (I reckon basically for Norwegian ops). These items were intended to be used only once and were therefore upon landing usually buried or otherwise disposed of. As you have already figured out, they are extremely rare. Once, in Paris, around 1986, I saw a SOE jump suit for sale for about a 1,000 Francs. That was a lot of money in those days, and I could not afford it. Well, nowadays i understand the price is many times that sum. I suppose I will never have one, but now, thanks to my Christmas present (thanks, my love!), I at least can see exactly what they looked like.

BTW, why does not someone make at least a t-shirt with the SOE pattern?

Another great aspect of SOE EQUIPMENT is that I learnt the official designation of the "Sweetheart" radio receiver. Well, according to the instruction sheet pictured in the book they were called Midget Receiver. I recently helped one from the OSS/SOE Sepals operation in Sweden 1944-45 get included into the collections of the Army Museum in Stockholm. Below is a photo of it I took while it was still owned by ex-Sepals helper Gunnar Isberg in Luleå.

Midget Receiver from the Sepals operation, now repaired and again working.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Rhodes WW2 History Holiday

On my first Rhodes trip I found this presumably Italian bunker while jogging.

Three years in a row we have been spending a week or two on Rhodes. The sun, people, beaches, landscape and food of Rhodes are well known. The island also has an amazing amount of remains of ancient Greece and various European knights. However, one thing is absent in the museums and guide books - the World War Two history of Rhodes.

Being an author with a special interest in 20th century wars I naturally could not miss noticing an old bunker while jogging on Rhodes, see the above photo. Then I had the luck to one day stroll into a cafe/hotel in the Old Town, Avalon. There I noticed a young man working on a very old field radio. I asked if it might be from the war, and it was. Thanks to that chance meeting in Avalon with the archeology student Panos Mprokos I have since been able to see many amazing traces from both the Italian and German occupation periods of Rhodes and it is time I show them here to let other Rhodes visitors know that the island has more World War Two history than you have imagined.

The Old Town then and now, the vehicle is a German assault gun, a StuG III.

About an hours drive from Old Town, an abandoned Italian/German barracks.

With Nietzsche´s words "Gelobt sei, was hart macht", i.e. Praised be what hardens.

These German occupants seem to have been from Danzig, today´s Gdansk.

Then we briefly stopped at Hotel Elaphos, a military hospital during the occupation.

The Italian town of Campochiaro became a German HQ and then Greek Eleousa.

Walking around in the former Italian town/military HQ of Campochiaro (now Eleousa) is a special experience, because for some reason the buildings used by the Italian and German occupiers have been abandoned for many decades, making the occupation seem not that distant.

Back in Rhodes City, an Allied WWII memorial for a Greek officer at El Alamein.

Another chance meeting in Rhodes City, a working BMW R 12 motorcycle.

How to see these places? There are plenty of tours to Rhodes Old Town but I believe there are no organized tours to the Italian/German remains outside it. So, you either do your own research and rent a car, or you find Panos Mprokos via the Avalon cafe/hotel, which is beside the upper part of the Avenue of the Knights in Old Town. Avalon is a really great place both to stay and for a snack or meal. The atmosphere is full of history. Try searching with the words avalon hotel rhodes. Below is a photo of Avalon´s main entrance. Just some words of advice if you choose to travel around the island by car/motorcycle: traffic is not like at home, be very careful and rent a safe car model.

Avalon, my favourite cafe/restaurant/hotel on Rhodes.

P.S. I have written about Rhodes during WWII in two issues of the Swedish journal Militär Historia, in issues 8 and 11 during 2017. Sadly, my articles are neither online nor are they in English, but I can recommend one book in English that has information about British raids against the Axis forces on Rhodes, SBS in World War II by Gavin Mortimer, it is also simply a must for all SBS history buffs.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Last Jedi & Waffen-SS

Skellig Michael, the very real island of the last Jedi. PHOTO: Jerzy Strzelecki

Spoiler alert! Here follow some reflections about the real history (planet Earth history) in the latest episode of Star Wars.

In "The Last Jedi" there is a lot going on, some of it really amazing and fun to watch. Like most scenes on the Irish island of Skellig Michael - what a magnificent filming location - I think it can only be compared to Tunisia or Norway as a Star Wars location.

However, the movie also has some stuff that can disturb fans like me - who basically only really appreciate the original trilogy but cannot abstain from the rest. By disturbing stuff I mean e.g. some of the new characters, several battles and what happens to Princess Leia in space. The joke about General Hux is sort of fun the first time, but then...

Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo i.e. Laura Dern (remember her in "October Sky"?) is nice, but why was she not allowed to act more officer-like and wear something a bit more officer-like? I could bore you with more questions like that, but instead let me end with two planet Earth things in the new Star Wars episode:

Not General Hux but SS-general Sepp Dietrich, wearing a cuff title on his left arm. PHOTO: Bundesarchiv

1. Several of the bad guys are wearing Waffen-SS style cuff titles, but without German Sütterlin script or Latin letters. Instead, they are adorned with words that I could not read. as they are written in what I suppose is the Aurebesh alphabet, the most common script seen throughout Star Wars. Perhaps someone more into Aurebesh could tell me what they say? Cuff titles could be seen already in the previous episode, on General Hux, but for some reason he has zero letters on his double (!) cuff titles. In "The Last Jedi" you get to see the two types of cuff titles many times and quite up close too.

2. Last but not least, the word ´"Godspeed" is uttered, twice. That word is really old English for "May God cause you to succeed". Pretty weird for a galaxy far, far away a long time ago. "May the Force be with you" would be more natural, like? On the other hand, as a Christian, it was rather nice to hear that unexpected non-Force word. Those of you who have really payed attention will also know that already in 1977, in "A New Hope" (Episode IV), there is a reference to Christianity when "Ben" Kenobi talks to Luke while handing over the light sabre. Kenobi utters "crusade", a word that started with the cross of Jesus. Interestingly, in "The Empire Strikes Back" (Episode V), the word hell is mentioned, when Han Solo says "Then I'll see you in hell". So, besides lots of Japanese and Chinese religious ingredients in the Force, the Star Wars movies do contain some grains of the Abrahamic religions.

Interested in what remains in the Tunisian desert and mountains of Norway from Star Wars? Check out my old blog post Lars Wars.