Watch: the first trailer for The Imitation Game, with Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing

July 21st, 2014

The first trailer for the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the Second World War code-breaker, has been released. Norwegian director Morten Tyldum’s film, based on Andrew Hodges’s book Alan Turing: The Enigma, has been selected to open this year’s London Film Festival on October 8.

Turing was a pioneer of modern computing whose work at Bletchley Park’s Government Code and Cypher School involved deciphering coded communications sent through the Nazis’ Enigma machine. Winston Churchill credited Turing with helping the Allies to win several significant battles and saving thousands of lives. He was nonetheless prosecuted for homosexuality in 1952 and chemically castrated; he died two years later from cyanide poisoning, aged 41. After a lengthy campaign Turing was given a royal pardon in 2013.

Joining Cumberbatch in the cast are Mark Strong, Charles Dance, Rory Kinnear and Keira Knightley, as Turing’s colleague and former fiancée Joan Clarke. At one point Leonardo DiCaprio was due to play Turing, but he pulled out shortly before production began.

The Imitation Game is released in the UK on November 14, and in the US on November 21


World War Two

Grandson of Hitler assassination plotter in bid to reclaim estate confiscated by Nazis

July 20th, 2014

The prince, 50, says his grandfather was imprisoned, tortured and forced by the Gestapo to sign a legal declaration ultimately handing over control to his land to Heinrich Himmler. Despite the circumstances in which the document was signed its legal standing is accepted by officials today and treated like “a document signed today in a lawyer’s office”.

He said: “They are saying well the wording in this document is okay, he signed it, so what’s the problem?

“If my grandfather hadn’t signed they would have murdered his entire family, so there was no option.”

The July 20 plot involved a series of high ranking Germany army officers, including Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, who was played by Cruise in Valkyrie. Prince Friedrich III hosted meetings of the conspirators on his estates.

On July 20 1944 Stauffenberg planted a bomb in a suitcase under a table in Hitler’s headquarters, known as the “wolf’s lair”, in what is now Poland. The bomb exploded, but Hitler escaped with little more than a burst eardrum.

Stauffenberg and about 5,000 other people were executed in the following days. Prince Friedrich believes his grandfather was kept alive by chance – because he was the uncle of the Swedish crown princess and Himmler was attempting to negotiate a truce with the Allies with the help of Sweden’s royal family.

He says that his father fought for the land and property from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 until his death in 2006. The family bought back Castle Baruth, its seat in the state of Brandenburg in eastern Germany, shortly after the wall came down.

In 2003 the family reached a settlement with German authorities to reclaim a large part of his grandfather’s estate.

Now Prince Friedrich is fighting to win back the remaining properties and land, which he says amounts to up to around 19,000 acres. The estate mainly comprises forestry and includes two manor houses currently under the ownership of local authorities.

The estate falls within the remit of two separate local authorities within Brandenburg – Cottbus and Potsdam, just outside Berlin.

Last month at a hearing at an administrative court in Cottbus, Prince Friedrich was told that evidence about the prince’s grandfather including expert testimony from Antony Beevor, the Second World War historian, would not be admitted because it was for the court to judge the historical circumstances of the case.

Last week the court rejected the claim. The prince said he had expected the result because the court refused to accept “any of the evidence we submitted.”

Separately Prince Friedrich’s claim in Potsdam was rejected by the county’s administrative court, which ruled that his grandfather had handed over control of his estate in a legal transaction and denied that he was a victim of Nazi persecution. Instead it said that the measures taken against his grandfather, including imprisonment, were simply of an “investigative nature”.

He has now lodged an appeal at Germany’s federal constitutional court in Karlsruhe.

Meanwhile, Natascha Engel, a German-born MP who chairs the backbench business committee, has written to Lord Astor, the defence minister, asking if he can aid the prince’s efforts.

Lord Goldsmith also urged the Foreign Office to provide “every assistance possible” to help locate evidence which might satisfy the court and “help settle this case once and for all.”

Prince Friedrich said: “What is being done here flies in the face of the constitution – not [allowing us] to present evidence and disregarding the historical circumstances blatantly. We have protested that we have been denied a fair hearing, which is the minimum we can say.

“We are confident the judges at the constitutional court will have the wisdom to recognise this and correct the mistakes made by the lower courts. If not, Germany will – after 70 years – still not have learnt the lessons from its troubled past.”

The claims are being defended in court by the Federal Office for Central Services and Unresolved Property Issues. A spokesman declined to comment.


World War Two

War veteran who fled care home to Normandy D Day celebrations honoured

July 17th, 2014

Asked why he travelled across to Normandy, Mr Jordan, a former local borough councillor and mayor of Hove, said: ”My thoughts were with my mates who had been killed.

”I was going across to pay my respects. I was a bit off course but I got there.”

He added: ”Britain is a smashing country and the people are smashing, and if you have to do something a bit special then they are worth every effort.”

Brighton and Hove City Council officials said the honorary alderman title is a mark of respect for the work and commitment given by a former councillor.

Mr Jordan’s honour was to mark his ”exceptional contribution to the work of the newly-formed Brighton and Hove Council and the former Hove Borough Council and to the community”.

Mr Fitch described Mr Jordan – affectionately known as Bernie – as ”a hero and an inspiration to all ages”.

He said: ”It’s grey power. What it shows is that where you have commitment and where you are determined, you can find a way, and that’s what Bernie has done.”

Mr Jordan hit headlines globally when he disappeared from his care home to embark on his cross-Channel trip to the D-Day anniversary events in Normandy wearing his war medals under his grey mac.

His disappearance sparked a police search on June 5 and his whereabouts was only uncovered when a younger veteran phoned later that night to say he had met Mr Jordan and he was safe.

Last month he was inundated with more than 2,500 birthday cards from around the world following his adventure to Normandy.


World War Two

Japan complained over ‘Tenko’ BBC television series

July 16th, 2014

The idea for the programme emerged from research into Evelyn Turner, a British military nurse, for an episode of “This is your Life”. Ms Turner was aboard one of the last transport ships to leave Singapore while it was under attack from Japanese forces in early 1942, but was captured after the vessel was sunk.

She endured regular beatings, malnutrition, disease and the death of many of her friends in a succession of camps in Sumatra.

The initial approach to the Foreign Office stated that while the Japanese Embassy was “not trying to deny the historical fact”, according to Kyodo News, the embassy nevertheless suggest there was “a danger that the association of past Japanese violence, and its gratuitous screening at this moment, with the cultural manifestations of the exhibition, would create a bad impression”.

The embassy also felt it had received a “deliberate brush-off” when it previously contacted the BBC and asked the Foreign Office to intervene.

Louise Jamieson as Blanche Simmons in Tenko (BAND Photo)

An official “expressed anxieties” to the BBC, while another Foreign Office official criticised the BBC’s “complete lack of feeling over timing” in correspondence to a colleague.

He also pointed out that the BBC had broadcast a documentary about Japanese atrocities in Malaya earlier in the year, when Zenko Suzuki, the then-Japanese prime minister, was paying an official visit to Britain.

The files also show that Julian Ridsdale, the chairman of the British-Japanese Parliamentary Group, asked George Howard, the chairman of the BBC, to edit the programme.

Mr Ridsdale allegedly asked the BBC to make “cuts in the future [programmes] to remove some of the more brutal scenes”. It is not clear whether the BBC acted on the request.

Tenko – which translates as “roll call” – regularly attracted 15 million viewers and was largely filmed in Dorset.


World War Two

Girl whose piano playing melted PoW hearts

July 13th, 2014

Mrs Koshida also enlisted the help of The Telegraph, which – following its own investigations – can now reveal what became of the prisoners to whom her music brought such comfort.

The incredible story began in March 1945, after Yoko and her family left their home in Tokyo, where the firestorms unleashed by American bombing raids on the city killed between 80,000 and 130,000 civilians.

The camp (LEE SOMERVILLE)

The family found refuge in the city of Yokohama, in a house overlooking prisoner of war camp 14B. This held around 120 POW’s from Britain, the United States, Australia and the Netherlands captured by the Japanese.

Now a widow, Mrs Koshida, said: “I was very frightened when the prisoners were first brought here because they were all very tall and I had never seen a foreigner before. They were not aggressive at all; they were very quiet”

She recalls that the men, who were forced to work in factories, spent their spare time growing vegetables, though they were not above stealing from her father’s crop of cucumbers, tomatoes and aubergines.

“My father said they were starving, just like us, so he didn’t make a fuss,” she said.

Mrs Koshida, who hoped to go to music college, would practice every day, the pieces she played drifting through her open windows and down over the prison blocks. “One day, I noticed from the window that there were three men sitting on the roof of the barracks,” she said “The next day, there were a few more people with them – and the day after that there were dozens of them.”

Forbidden to communicate with the prisoners, Mrs Koshida did not wave or make eye contact with the men, but after a while she began to recognise a few of her regular listeners.

Former British prisoner of war Harry Hines before his capture (JULIAN SIMMONDS)

Within days of Emperor Hirohito announcing Japan’s surrender on August 15, Allied aircraft began dropping food and medicine onto the camps, and one evening the men brought round tins of food as gifts for her family. Mrs Koshida said: “The bell rang and my father went down to the door. He came back with some cans of food. The prisoners wanted to give them to me because of my piano playing and they told my father that we were all friends now.”

When Allied forces arrived on August 30 to take away their men, the men made a point of returning to her home with more gifts, handing over sugar, soap and more tins of food. “They were excited,” Seized by a sudden impulse she grabbed her autograph book and asked the men to write their names and addresses.

The yellowing pages of her notebook still clearly show the names of Harry Hines, of Luton; a T. Taylor, of Ponders End in Middlesex, and Leonard Patrick Sheaf, of Enfield, Middlesex; along with that of an American from Georgia and an Australian POW from Tasmania. Mr Sheaf and Mr Taylor penned brief messages for the teenager.

“Thank you for a very nice evening. I hope to see you again. Hope England and Japan [can] be friends,” wrote Mr Sheaf. Beneath Mr Taylor’s name was written August 30, the date of their departure, and the message: “This war was a very bad thing for everyone. I would very much like them to come back and to see them again.”

Mrs Koshida said. “The war was over, they had survived and they were going home now.” Sitting at the same Mason & Hamlin grand piano she played all those years ago – still positioned by a window overlooking the site of the camp – Mrs Koshida added. “I hope they have survived all these years and, after the terrible time they had, that they are all well now. I still think I could play them some Chopin if they were able to return.”

Inspired by her wish, the Sunday Telegraph set out to discover what became of the three British PoWs who signed that autograph book and their story of capture, imprisonment and liberation is as inspiring as her own.

Records show that Mr Hines, who was born in 1917, served in the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, having joined as a reservist before enlisting as a Sargeant in 1939, on the outbreak of war. The regiment has been expecting to be posted to the Middle East, but when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour in December 1941, Mr Hines and his comrades were redirected to the defence of Singapore.

It was here, in February 1942, in what was one of the worst defeats inflicted on the British Army, that Mr Hines was captured by the invading Japanese.

Mr Hines’s daughter Janice recalls: “He had become separated from his regiment and at first my mother believed he was killed when Singapore fell.”

In fact Mr Hines had been taken to Omari POW camp, near Tokyo, before being transferred to Yokohama’s camp 14B. The ordeal left its scars. He was frequently beaten by guards and the poor prison diet, consisting mainly of rice, left him with lifelong stomach problems.

But Mr Hines managed to rebuild his life after the war, marrying his childhood sweetheart Irene Seabrook on his return and returning to his job as a lathe operator for an engineering firm in Dunstable, eventually rising to the position of company buyer.

In 1946 Harry and Irene had Janice, but for several years Mr Hines was haunted by his wartime experiences.

Former British prisoner of war ‘Joe’ Taylor aboard a ship after the war (JULIAN SIMMONDS)

Janice Schaub, now married and living in Minnesota, said: “My mother said that when he first came back he was an entirely different man. When the first jet planes started to fly overhead he would dive under the table. To him they sounded like the bombers.”

But for all his suffering Mr Hines bore no ill will towards Japan and its people.

“My father lived a life without hatred,” said Mrs Schaub, 68. “He always judged people by their character rather than their nationality. He remembered Japan as a beautiful country and in later years had even planned to go back, because he wanted to see Mount Fuji.”

Unfortunately Mr Hines died at the age of 67, in April 1985, before being able to fulfil his ambition.

His comrade ‘T. Taylor’ was, we discovered, Thomas ‘Joe’ Taylor, who was captured with his regiment, the Royal Engineers, when the Japanese invaded the British colony of Hong Kong, in December 1941.

Mr Taylor later told his family how he suffered terribly from the cold at camp 14B, having been issued with just one blanket. After the war he stayed in the Army until 1957, when he went on to work for the Foreign Office, coordinating security at embassies. This saw him posted around the world, including Cuba, China and Nigeria, with his wife Hazel, who he married in 1953.

But his favourite posting was, surprisingly perhaps, to Japan, where he served at the British embassy from 1976 to 1979. Mrs Taylor, now 92 and living in Hampshire in a house filled with Japanese prints and decorative dolls, said: “He was very fond of Japan in the end. He got on very well with the people. In fact we made more friends there than anywhere else.”

Mr Taylor never told the Japanese he met that he had once been their POW. His widow, who remains in contact with several of the Japanese friends she taught English during their stay in Tokyo, said: “He didn’t hold any resentment against the ordinary Japanese.”

The story of Mr Sheaf, the third Briton in the group, remains more of a mystery. In the autograph book Leonard Patrick Sheaf gives his address as one in Enfield which records show a man with the same name shared with his father Leonard, mother Alice and brother Patrick before the war.

But Mr Sheaf’s son John, 41, said he knew nothing about his father being a Japanese POW. “I’m sure its something he would have said. We always thought he’d been evacuated to Northern Ireland as a teenager and joined the merchant navy after the war. We don’t know anything about him being in Japan” he said, adding however: “Funnily enough he was a great fan of Japanese culture. He liked how respectful and honourable they were.”

The question remains whether any of the men told their loved ones, on their return to Britain, of the girl who played the piano? It seems not. But their families can easily imagine the comfort her playing brought. “It must have been something for them to really look forward to each day,” said Mrs Schaub. “Something as nice as that.”


World War Two

Swimming in Auschwitz, PBS America, review: ‘harrowing’

July 9th, 2014

The antithesis of any notion of care was explored in Swimming in Auschwitz (PBS America) in which six women, all teenagers at the time, spoke of their experiences there. I am glad to say it was more harrowing than the suspiciously jaunty title suggested. (It referred to a hot summer day when one of the women in the camp on the way to her labour jumped into a deserted outdoor pool used by the Nazi guards, without being caught.) I don’t mean that Jon Kean’s film belonged to the horror-voyeuristic genre of concentration camp documentaries. It is simply that there should be no understating the black evil behind the picture built up by the mosaic of the six women’s testimonies. After watching it, my night was broken by a nightmare. It is a film anyone who can should see, but no one should be forced to.

I won’t heap up details – the three-day journey during which children died in a cattle truck with no food, water or lavatories, the lice, the shaven heads, the nakedness, the starvation, the cruelty, the experimentation, the constant fear. With what could these young women resist? Something human was all they could seek, some “purpose”. “To live for my mother,” one said. “That I will tell after,” said another.

Dehumanisation was a word used several times: they had been left numb and friendless. It is hard to be good in a hellish place. “I’m not saying we were angels,” one of the women, Erika Jakoby, said, “but I wouldn’t steal anybody’s food.” This plain statement actually reflects a degree of goodness that I couldn’t imagine emulating.

When another of the survivors spoke briefly of a man who secretly gave her three raw potatoes, I shed tears. Those are the kind of tears that some feel-good film could invite. But other tears welled up too, I found: tears of anguish at the things done there. They were definitely feel-bad. Perhaps it is human to feel very bad about our fellow humans too, sometimes.


World War Two

World War Two’s legendary aircraft take to the skies again

July 8th, 2014

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire thrilled the crowds at the show at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, Cambridgeshire last year. The display group is back this weekend (Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 July) as part of the annual Flying Legends show which features classic and historic aircraft.

Picture: IWM


World War Two

Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France by Caroline Moorehead, review: ‘riven with complexity’

July 7th, 2014

Before the war, the area had grown as a hikers’ resort in summer months; in the winter, snow made it almost inaccessible. This meant there were lots of guesthouses, hotels, schools and spare rooms. Pastor Andre Trocme, Eduoard Theis, an Englishwoman called Gladys Maber and many others began taking in Jewish children. There is the story of the Bloch family, who arrived later in the war, having been forced to leave an increasingly oppressive and menacing Lyon. The two Bloch boys loved the adventure of this new landscape. They were sometimes challenged by German soldiers, who demanded to know if they were Jewish. They replied that they were Protestant. Almost 50 years later, Pierre Bloch thanked the village “for my happy childhood as a little Jew during the Holocaust”. But it was still a nerve-shredding existence. All families on this high plateau – Protestant, Catholic, Jewish – were subject to aggressive police visits; children would frequently have to be hidden in barns, in cupboards, out in the snowy woods. And there were many heart-in-mouth efforts to get groups of refugees across the heavily guarded border to Switzerland. The daily suspense grew more intense with the opening of a convalescent home for wounded German soldiers. Then there were the arrests and interrogations of community leaders.

Moorehead analyses the web of relations between villagers and local Vichy officials and even Wehrmacht officers who seemed intriguingly ambiguous. But she widens this investigation across the region, drawing in stories of astoundingly brave resistance, contrasted with the SS’s steadily more psychopathic behaviour as the Allies closed in.

Her book is also about ownership of history. Moorehead analyses how, in recent years, the story of Chambon-sur-Lignon has been fluffed up as a sort of national comfort blanket – a beacon of redemptive light in Vichy darkness – at the expense of other people and communities who defended Jewish fugitives. And at the expense of difficult truths. Some farmers who took in Jewish children, for instance, didn’t always treat them kindly. Equally, one German officer who wanted to hold a Jewish child on his lap at the circus was – that boy realised later – actually desperately missing his own boy.

If anything, Moorehead’s pacy, headlong narrative, zigzagging across the war years and different territories with so many piercing vignettes and close detail, packs too much in and the structure suffers. A longer book would have given more room for reflection, especially on the years that came after the war, the aftershocks of trauma for so many.

Having said that, stories of this weight could occupy several volumes and would still disorientate with all the possibilities – both altruistic and malevolent – of human nature.

Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France by Caroline Moorehead

356pp, Chatto & Windus, Telegraph offer price: £18 (PLUS £1.95 p&p) (RRP £20, ebook £11.99). Call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk

READ: Best books of 2014


World War Two

In pictures: World War II fighter aircraft rot in abandoned plane graveyard

July 1st, 2014

These eerie pictures show all that remains of a fleet of World War II fighter planes. The rotting planes lie derelict at an abandoned aeroplane graveyard in Ohio, amongst overgrown foliage and scrap metal. The haunting images were captured by 24-year-old photographer, Jonny Joo, who has made a name for himself by venturing into long-abandoned places.Picture: Johnny Joo / Barcroft Media


World War Two

One in five Britons thinks the country fought Hitler in World War I

June 27th, 2014

More than half (57%) knew that Britain became involved in the First World War because of a treaty with Belgium to defend it in the event of an invasion.

Knowledge of the country’s leadership was sketchy, with one in ten believing Winston Churchill was Prime Minister at the start of the conflict.

Only 36% correctly answered that the prime minister was Herbert Henry Asquith, while 34% guessed it was David Lloyd George, whose premiership started during the war.

Areas in which respondents were most knowledgeable were when the First World War took place (90%), what the term The Allies refers to (92%), and the fact that British and German soldiers once marked Christmas Day by playing a game of football (85%).

However, 1% of those polled believed the troops gave each other tours of their trenches, while eight people surveyed believed they gathered to watch a screening of the Great Escape.

People in the East Midlands are the most knowledgeable about the war, according to the research, getting an overall 70% of correct answers. Londoners were found to know the least, with only 63% of right responses.

Those from Scotland (68%) were slightly more successful than respondents from England (66%) and Wales (64%).

People aged 55 and over were the most knowledgeable, with 72% of correct answers, while more men than women answered correctly to each of the nine factual questions they were asked

The research also found that only one in 10 people believed the First World War is the most important British history subject for children to learn about at school, ranking behind topics such as the Second World War, the history of the monarchy and the Magna Carta.

The Times WWI Centenary Facsimile research also revealed a gender divide in First World War knowledge, as more men than women knew the correct answer for each of the nine factual questions they were asked (72% of correct answers compared to 60%).

Rose Wild, archive editor of The Times, said: ”These results demonstrate that although many people are aware of some basic facts about WWI, there is much more to be learnt.”


World War Two