Adventure & Insight At Fingertips

Best to all in 2024!

FIRST –

The book is out …

I have republished the book “Missing” by Talbot Baines Bruce.

Click here to read more on Amazon.

It’s a quick read and a book you will not put down!

As mentioned in my previous post titled Soon To Publish An Epic Book, Roundwood Press has now re-published a classic and true story from the First World War titled: “Missing” Three Months In Enemy Territory. The ebook is available from Amazon at this link.

The Library of Congress recently issued to me the new copyright for this expanded book, which now includes a new cover, map, introduction and appendices. I spent years tracking down, obtaining and legally securing the copyright.

I hope you will read the book, as it is a quick-paced read which puts into context some of the the tribulations that individuals from past generations have suffered in order to give many people today the incredible freedoms they now enjoy.

CW from Top Left: New book cover, old book cover, ditch point of plane, author, Belgian winter terrain, River Meuse

Sample portions of Chapter Two from the book “Missing” is below. For Chapter One, see the previous Roundwood Press post.

“Missing” Three Months In Enemy Territory – Chapter Two

CHAPTER II.

AFTER Jean had told his story we took a tram for Liège, distant four miles or thereabout. Nothing of any interest happened on the way, but I was haunted by the feeling that everybody knew who I was, and that it was only a matter of time before someone collared me and marched me into the local gendarmerie.

We found the question of sleeping accommodation difficult to solve, as everyone had to produce his passport before any hotel or rest-house would take him in for the night. I was told that this was a local German rule, but think it applied to all Belgian towns at that time; anyway, we tried two hotels, and at each were told the same thing—we could not be admitted without showing our cards of identification. After an hour’s search, however, we found a house where the owner would receive us without that formality; it was not such a place as we would have chosen, but we could not afford to be exacting, and were glad to find any refuge for the night. Even in this humble retreat they had to know who we were. Before I knew what he was doing the landlord pushed his Visitors’ Book under my nose and told me to register; fortunately he was called away in the act of doing so, leaving us time to rack our brains for suitable names and occupations to enter. Jean would not give his own name, as the people at Havelange might have told the authorities that he was helping me to escape. I forget what he called himself, and it does not much matter. My adopted name was ‘Joseph Rosseau,’ occupation ‘cordonnier,[1]’ which I gave only hoping that I might not by any mischance be called upon to exercise the cordonnier’s craft!

Having registered and completed arrangements with the landlord, we went for a stroll about the town, also to find some cheap café where we could obtain a meal. Liège is a very beautiful old city, but as it was by this time quite dark we could not see much of it. What we did see was that the place seemed to be alive with Germans, officers and men; some, I presume, on leave, others stationed in the town. I bought some Belgian cigarettes, having smoked all my Player’s. When I finished one of the latter I was careful to trample out the end with the name; so small a thing might serve to betray me. Belgian cigarettes are much stronger than English; they made me cough and splutter at first, but I soon got used to them.

We found a grubby-looking café after long search, and ordered some meat and vegetables; having had only a glass of milk and an apple all day I was fairly hungry, and was able to do justice to the unsavoury dish set before us. After dinner we found our way to a small estaminet,[2] where we had a glass of German beer. This was extremely good, in fact almost better than our own; and as it was now eight o’clock, and we were tired after a long and, for me at all events, exciting day, we went back to the café. To reach the office where we had signed the book it was necessary to pass through the public room, and in that room were five or six German soldiers with women; some of them looked up in a curious inquiring fashion, but none addressed us, and we passed on to the office, where we found the proprietor, and asked to be shown our room. The man took us up to a small attic on the third floor, containing a double bed, a washstand, and chest of drawers. It was quite in keeping with the rest of the premises—that is to say, uninviting; but we were well pleased to have a bed at all under the circumstances, and bidding the landlord good night, locked the door and sat down on the bed to discuss our future plans.

Border of Netherlands, Germany and Belgium

Jean had suggested two methods of crossing the frontier; in other words, of surmounting the electrified fence thereon. When the Germans occupied Belgium they found there were no means of preventing the people from crossing into Holland and sending the Allies any information they had been able to glean; and for this reason they erected all along the frontier from Antwerp to near Aix-la-Chapelle a closely meshed wire fence roughly seven feet high, which was charged with electricity; and on either side of this, at a few paces distant, another ordinary wire fence to prevent persons and cattle from accidentally touching the electrified fence, with fatal consequences. This barrier, I gathered, was completed at the beginning of 1916. There was a power-house at every few kilometres with a German electrician in charge, and a sentry was posted at intervals of one kilometre. Thus it will be seen that to cross the frontier would be difficult. Jean had two ideas: one, to secure a ladder eight feet long with which we should creep up to the fence by night and, climbing this, jump down on the Dutch side; the other plan was to use a spade and dig a passage under it by night. Both these ideas seemed practicable at first sight, though I preferred the former, realising that digging must cause noise, which was likely to attract the attention of a sentry and result in capture. However, we kept an open mind on the point, and left it for decision when we should arrive at Visé and ascertained the condition of affairs there. We were now only about fourteen kilometres from the frontier, so the question of crossing had become one of immediate importance; and having debated the matter, folded up the map over which we had been poring and went to bed.

I could not sleep that night; I was too anxious and unhappy. I did doze off about five o’clock in the morning, and dreamed that I was back with the squadron and all was well. It was a painful shock to wake to the realities at half-past seven.

We got up, cleaned our boots with rags found in the room, and went downstairs to breakfast, which consisted of bread and jam and black coffee. We had only begun our meal when two German soldiers came in and took their seats at the next table; whereupon Jean whispered that these men had slept in the room next to ours; which provoked wonder whether they might not have heard us discussing plans of escape. We had talked French, but so many Germans know the language that it was impossible to feel sure we had not been overheard and understood. Our fears proved groundless, however, and we finished breakfast with nothing to disturb us but a few inquisitive glances. Having settled with the landlord we went into the town, where I bought something I had missed—a toothbrush. We had the whole day before us, so there was no need of haste; in fact, I proposed that we stay the day at Liège and walk to Visé that night. Jean did not agree; he assured me that the country through which we should travel was as safe for us by day as by night, being very quiet and sparsely inhabited. He knew the region and I did not, so his views carried the day; and we took a tram from the centre of the city to the suburbs, where we alighted and set out on our walk.

The country was thinly inhabited, as Jean said, but by no means so ‘quiet’ in our sense of the word as I could have wished: but I may as well describe our day’s adventures. From the tram, which ran along the bank of the Meuse, we saw a large bridge which had been wrecked in the middle. Jean said this had been done a few weeks before by some French airmen. One bomb must have been dropped fairly on the bridge—one of the most perfect shots that could be made; the man who did it had reason to be proud of himself. A number of workmen were engaged on the task of repair, and it was evident that in a very short time the bridge would be fit for traffic again. Nothing happened during our tram ride. When we got out we walked along the main road, using the signals and precautions employed the day before, and had not gone far when a patrol of four Germans going in the same direction as ourselves attracted attention. Each of these patrols, it appeared, had its own area, and Jean thought the area in charge of the four men in front extended for another three or four kilometres; it would, therefore, be quite safe to walk behind them, as in all probability they would not turn back till they reached the next village, where they would meet the patrol of the adjoining area. We were following about 200 yards in their rear when another patrol, emerging from a side road between ourselves and the four, stopped and looked about them. Luckily we happened to be passing a café at the moment, so went in, ordered coffee, and waited to see what might happen. The two whistled to the four, who waited till they came up, when there was a long discussion. I would have given much to know the subject of their conversation; we were barely twenty-five miles from Havelange, and all the patrols for miles round must have had orders to keep a look-out for us. After their consultation the two patrols separated, the four pursuing their way, the two coming back past our café; they had a good look through the window, but we were well hidden behind a curtain and were not seen; and having watched them out of sight we took the road again.

These patrols when on duty wore spiked helmets and carried their rifles slung over the shoulder; they were sometimes accompanied by a dog, always an Alsatian, which I think the local people must have detested quite as much as they did the Germans themselves. The dog would sniff at any parcel or basket carried by a peasant, and if his interest in it betrayed the likelihood that meat, butter, or cheese was contained therein, the patrol at once stopped the bearer and obliged him or her to show the contents. Whatever food was found they invariably confiscated and took to an office or depot, where it was packed for despatch to Germany; food was growing scarce in the Fatherland, thanks to our blockade. One did not see these dogs with a town patrol; they were often used in the rural districts.


[1] Shoemaker

[2] Small café selling alcoholic drinks

SECOND –

Years ago I published online a paperback copy without illustrations of my book Vino Voices – Wine, Work, Life. I forgot about it and did little to promote the book. I am now revising the book so that it will be available WITH ILLUSTRATIONS in ebook and paperback form.

The book includes interviews with 50 different persons from a dozen countries about why they love working in the world of wine, and what makes that world unique.

Thanks to Russ Keaten-Reed for reminding me of this book. Russ is a professional involved in the wine business who lives in both France and Florida in the U.S. We both met recently in southern France. Russ recently wrote me to say:

“I’m loving your book Vino Voices. It makes me want to get back into the craft. Their stories all feel easy to relate to. Bravo.”

Places and faces of those interiewed in Vino Voices in New Zealand, Australia, Spain, USA, Slovenia … and more

Thanks for tuning in. The 20th anniversary edition of Rivers of Change – Currents of Thought will be available online later this year.