It was so often the case that the pilots of Fighter Command were the ones who received all the glory during the Second World War and that the role of the support teams was somewhat overlooked. This has possibly been the fault of the media, always looking for dramatic tales to relate, for it was never the case amongst the pilots themselves who were only too well aware how much they depended upon the ground crews for their very survival.
Of the many ‘what ifs’ in history, the German invasion of Britain in 1940 is one that has been replayed many times. The reality was that the Germans were entirely unprepared for a cross-Channel invasion and lacked the means to transport a large force across the Channel and would have, had they tried, been blown out of the water by the Royal Navy. Nevertheless, impracticable though it was, the prospect of the enemy landing on Britain’s shores was regarded as a distinct possibility in the ‘invasion summer’ and every measure that could be taken was considered. The Auxiliary Units of the Home Guard were one of the most intriguing of those measures.
Maria Krystyna Janina Skarbek was born into a wealthy Polish Jewish family in Warsaw. The economic collapse of the 1920s and 1930s saw the family fortunes decline and Krystyna, not wishing to be a financial burden, took a job with a local Fiat dealership. There she met her first husband but before she was 21 years old, Krystyna was on her second marriage and, with her new husband, sailed to Britain in 1939.
It is wonderful that documents from the First World War are still being uncovered. Often though, the letters and journals that are presented for publication in recent times give us just a brief insight into the lives and experiences of the authors. They may only produce a book after the addition of a considerable amount of background material. Not so this book. Apart from a brief introduction, I Survived the Somme is entirely the authentic words of an Artillery officer recorded eloquently in his diary.