In October 1941 Dennis Wheatley decided to
“…………give Gregory Sallust another turn - so I made a start on V for Vengeance.
In it I sent Gregory and his friend the ex-Bolshevik General, Stefan Kuporovitch, to Paris.
The book was not so good as its predecessors, although it sold very well.”
Drink and Ink – 1979
It was June 17th 1940 when we left Gregory Sallust at the end of ‘The Black Baroness’ escaping from France after the French collapse.
‘V for Vengeance’ opens on the 14th June 1940 with Madeleine Lavalierre, who nursed Gregory through his illness in Paris, at the moment that he is leaving for Bordeaux, and she is waving him good-bye. At that moment, too, the Germans are actually entering Paris.
Madeleine shares a seventh floor apartment in the fashionable Rue St. Honore.
She is the Fiancée of Georges (A member of the Deuxieme Bureau – The French Secret Police). Georges is betrayed by his uncle Luc Ferriere and in the ensuing raid on Madeleine’s apartment Georges is killed by one of the four visiting SS officers. Madeleine is distraught and demands, “Vengeance, Vengeance, Vengeance.”
Some time later after Georges death Madeleine is asked to nurse Stefan Kuporovitch back to health in her apartment following his recent serious car accident in which it was thought he would die. A successful “trepanning operation” (the medical procedure of drilling a hole in the head) had to be carried out in the hospital .
This saved his life.
When Kuporovitch became a little fitter, he and Madeleine ventured out together. They are approached by the French underground movement. The movement is headed by General Lacroix – Head of the Deuxieme Bureau. He is an old friend of Gregory’s and he would like to get GS, SK and M working to cause as much damage to the Germans as possible.
Stefan’s first job is to get to England and arrange for Gregory to assist Lacroix. This is the first of much too-ing and fro-ing over the English Channel.
GS and SK return to a small island off the French coast by Naval launch. They are captured by the Germans and beaten up before being shipped to the mainland for interrogation by the Gestapo. On this trip they are saved by the intervention of “French Fishermen” They recover from their injuries in an out of the way barn in the Brittany countryside.
They eventually get to Paris and meet up with Madeleine who is running a nursing home as cover for Lacroix.
GS then has to return to England………. by paddling a canoe across the channel (Chapter 14).
All in a days work for British spies!!!
While GS is away Stefan and Madeline have many adventures and near misses until GS returns again to Paris where the three of the organise an audacious method of bring the war to an early conclusion.
GS informs Stefan that Herr Gruppenfuhrer Grauber, whom Gregory had captured in the south of France the preceding June had escaped from a concentration camp in England.!!!
Did we ‘civilised Brits’ have such things as concentration camps in England??
The intrepid trio eventually escape from France in a very unusual way… with the assistance of two squadrons of British fighter planes and six naval destroyers.
DW certainly doesn’t do anything by halves!!!!
Page - 31 ….Hitler & Mussolini met together with the French plenipotentiaries to agree the terms of the armistice.. The terms were presented to them at Compiegne. With his usual love of the dramatic and as a shrewd move to enable the German people fully to savour their revenge, Hitler had decreed that the French should accept the terms in the same railway coach in which Marshall Foch, Haig, Wemyss & the other allied plenipotentiaries had sat on that grey morning of November 11th 1918. General Huntziger and the other Frenchmen appointed by Bordeaux took the seats which had been occupied by the defeated Germans. (I never knew this).
Page - 32 ……On the 4th July the ‘Petain Government’ broke off diplomatic
Relationships with Britain. They believed that the British had never cared a rap about France and were using them only as a ‘Catspaw’. (A person used by another as a dupe or tool).
The French were further aggravated when the news came through that their latest battleship, The Richelieu, the pride of the French Navy had been torpedoed and put out of action.
Page - 36 Like most people, Madeline quite wrongly credited Goering with a greater respect than his fellow gangsters….
A dramatic turnaround for DW, He was one of Goerings biggest admirer’s at the start of the War.
Page - 40 A Paris restaurant is mentioned. It is called L’Abbe Teleme; which also happens to be the name of Aleister Crowley’s refuge in Sicily.
DW was an acquaintance of Aleister Crowley. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbey_of_Thelema
Page 66 – 68 There is a lot of information used from ‘Total War’ in ‘V for Vengeance’.
1) Why were the underground stations closed at night when the public could use them for shelter. (The decision to re-open them was not long in coming).
2) Whenever buildings are bombed , masonry blocks the road. The roads are then just roped off to the public. DW promotes the idea that we should get the unemployed to get the roads cleared of debris. We also have numerous troops which are doing very little at present. They could also help.
3) The bombing has caused the domestic gas pressure to become very low, due to the gas leaks.
The water is even worse. If only the Government were to call out the engineer units from the Army we could rectify a lot of the problems.
4) The Post Office is a Government controlled business. The staff within it should be told that they shouldn’t close every time there is an air raid warning. Private employers have been told to carry on with their business’s.
You’ll see queues of angry people left on the pavements who can’t phone or send telegrams, cash cheques at the Banks or make applications at the Labour Exchange or even do their household shopping.
Literally millions of hours of the nations vital time are being wasted through this criminally wicked funk and apathy in our civil authorities.
Page - 69 Josef Vecchi is mentioned as the maitre d’hotel of the Hungaria restaurant. One of DW’s favourite haunt’s. Josef was previously the maitre d of the Astoria Hotel in St Petersburg, before the revolution.
On leaving the Hungaria by Taxi, Gregory and Stefan passed Hyde Park Corner, “a spent shell-splinter thudded on to its roof, but they reached Gregory’s flat in safety”
This one line really highlighted the casual acceptance of people living in the cities at the time. It was almost like a natural everyday occurrence, but it really brought home to me the reality of people living through the war.
Page - 99 The term Quisling is frequently used.
Page - 134 Sir Pellinore informs GS of the stunning performance that the RAF have managed to perform in repelling the German Luftwaffe. “Between August 6th and October 31st 375 RAF pilots were killed and 358 wounded. As against that, 2,534 German aircraft were totally destroyed and another 1,996 severely damaged. To put 733 British pilots out of action cost the Nazi’s over 4,500 of their first-line planes.”
“God! What a victory!” Gregory exclaimed. “It should rank in history as another Thermopylae*,
where the six hundred Spartans held the whole of the Persian hosts”
*Thermopylae (lit. "hot gates") was a pass that the Greeks tried unsuccessfully to defend in battle against the Persians led by Xerxes, in 480 B.C. Although the Spartans who led the defence were all killed, and may have known in advance that they would be, their courage provided inspiration to the Greeks, many of whom otherwise might have willingly medized* (become Persian sympathizers), or so the Spartans feared. Although the Spartans lost at Thermopylae, the following year the Greeks did win battles they fought against the Persians.
Page - 166 ….One of the great strangleholds which the Germans possessed over the French was the fact that they still held over a million French soldiers who had been captured in the battle for France, as prisoners in concentration camps. It was therefore unwise to antagonise the Germans too openly.
Page - 182 Another reference/gripe from ‘Total War’
“Why doesn’t the Pope denounce Hitler? This would set the whole Catholic community against the Nazi’s. He would be seized by Italian soldiers who were still siding with the Germans but plenty of Popes have suffered for their faith….so why should he not be prepared to go now”
Page - 193 “Imperial forces advancing from Basra succeeded in nipping the Iraqi revolt in the bud and the situation was restored there”