The History Press has just run this short article of mine about Mrs Pittard, the real heroine of Operation Basalt.
For some reason, this has taken a year to appear, but better late than never:
I did, however, notice that under a photo of some German soldiers relaxing on the island, ITV has captioned this: “The team of British Commandos who captured Nazi soldiers in Sark”. Um, I don’t think so …
Operation Basalt has just gotten a great review in a US newspaper. “Lee’s gripping, well-researched Operation Basalt shines a bright light on a tiny, yet important, corner of World War II,” writes Chris Patsilelis in the Tampa Bay Times. To read the whole review, click here.
Nevertheless, he is remembered by a memorial at the Bradley Baptist Churchyard which was created in 1946.
That memorial has been rediscovered and is being fixed up by local volunteers, but they need our help.
They have made available a book originally published by Appleyard’s father just after the war.
It’s a very moving collection of memories including many letters from Major Appleyard to his family.
They’re selling copies to help raise money to keep the memory of Geoffrey Appleyard alive — and they deserve our support.
The Daily Mail has a fantastic article about the raid and my book, here.
Damien Lewis, the best-selling author of Hunting Hitler’s Nukes, Churchill’s Secret Warriors, and The Nazi Hunters, has just called Operation Basalt “An authentic and compelling read.”
Following up on a very positive review of Operation Basalt in the Wall Street Journal last month, ten days ago the WSJ decided to publish this letter:
I write in reference Martin Rubin’s review of “Operation Basalt” by Eric Lee (Books, Aug. 13). Sybil Hathaway, my great aunt, was a far braver and better person than the pseudohistorian who wrote this book. As her letters to family indicate, her dogs were what got her through the minefield to a shack where her radio was hidden. No one on Sark would ever call this lady, who struggled daily with her occupiers to reduce their stealing of islander food or secured them German medical service, a Quisling. She treated the Germans with the respect necessary to maintain her position and her influence for the benefit of all on Sark. Her working relationship with the enemy might leave room for fools’ comments, but the respect of every person on Sark, including the German commanders, was won by hard service and firm leadership for the sake of others.
This review appeared in yesterday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal. From the review:
It was a minor incident in a long war. In a raid on the night of Oct. 3, 1942, about a dozen British commandos landed on the tiny Channel Island of Sark, capturing one German soldier and shooting others when they tried to raise an alarm or escape. Operation Basalt, as the raid was called, yielded some military intelligence, but its main purpose was to remind local residents, abandoned by British forces two years before, that they were not forgotten in London.
But well after the raid, Operation Basalt resonated with importance, not just for the islanders living under German occupation but for British commandos elsewhere who, less fortunate than their counterparts on Sark, found themselves in German hands. Eric Lee’s riveting account, “Operation Basalt,” conveys the details of the operation as well as its disturbing repercussions.
“I’m usually not a fan of ‘micro-histories’ or local history nor of military history in general, but I had a lovely time with this one. On the local history side it helped that it the events set out in this book are connected to larger, broader developments in WW 2. What happened one night on a tiny island off the coast of France involving less than 20 people did have wider implications and those implications do say something about the Nazi regime and about the German military. Also helping me past my usual prejudices are that Basalt is very well written, an easy but not dumbed-down read. If I have a negative comment to make it’s a pretty positive one: I wish this small book were a fair bit larger and told the story of the occupation of Sark through to the end of the war and perhaps after. There are some tantalizing hints of interesting stories of the island during the later years of the war of of its population’s construction of its wartime history once the war was over. Probably no different than the myth-making seen in France and elsewhere, but more comprehensible and personal given the much smaller scale of Sark.I guess that makes me a convert to ‘micro-histories’. Highly recommended.“