Treason, a femme fatale and air power|
More for your bookshelf, by Patrick Wilson
The Bugatti Queen – In Search of a
Motor-Racing Legend, by Miranda
Seymour (Simon & Schuster, £15.99.
In a motor racing world so dominated by
men, it is somewhat surprising to learn that
70 years ago a young Frenchwoman
dominated many newspapers with her
driving exploits. Helle Nice lived life to the
edge. Born in 1900, her humble provincial
beginnings could scarcely offer any clues as
to the extraordinary life she was to lead in
In stark contrast to her older sister, who
took over their father’s job as postmaster
in the village following his premature death,
Helle yearned the bohemian excitement
Her early career as a risqué dancer won
her considerable fame, but was nothing to
the adulation that would soon follow on
discovering motor racing at the Actors
Championship, a French meeting of the
theatrical world with the racetrack. The
glamour of the sport along with its
prerequisite exhilarating speed and daring
soon won her over.
She was a natural on the racetrack, her
talent and bravery in a motorcar and her
beauty out of it soon caught the attention of
Jean Bugatti. He spotted the potential
coverage she could bring to the family
business. That same year, she set the
women’s speed record and became an
exhibition driver in America in 1929.
Grand Prix followed as did fame and fortune.
The extraordinary risks associated with
the sport at that time, and the descriptions of
the races in which she participated, make for
fascinating reading. So too do her exploits
off the track. Sexually voracious, she had
many lovers and ‘as many as three affairs at a
time during the 1930s’.
Yet tragedy and fame are often
interlinked, and Helle Nice provides such an
example. She was thrown out of her car
following a collision with a hay bale in the
1936 Sao Paulo Grand Prix, killing a
policeman in the process. Then came the
Second World War, and unsubstantiated
accusations of Nazi collaboration followed.
Certainly life after the war was never the
same. She was to die penniless as a result of
her husband squandering her savings before
running off with a younger woman in 1960,
and her embittered sister robbing her of her
Yet Helle Nice will be remembered not
for the sad end to her life, but for the daring
exuberance of her earlier life. As one French
newspaper wrote in 1932, ‘Elle a du cran’ –
‘The girl’s got guts’..
Germany Calling: A Personal
Biography of William Joyce, ‘Lord
Haw-Haw’, by Mary Kenny (New
Island, £16. ISBN 1902602781)
‘Germany calling, Germany calling’ was the
call sign of a Hamburg radio station which
broadcast nightly news bulletins during the
Second World in English to the British
people. The voice of the reader was William
Joyce, who earned his nickname ‘Lord Haw-
Haw’, through his blend of Irish brogue and
cockney, which he tried to disguise as a
"public school" voice. His broadcasts mocked
Churchill, championed anti-Semitism,
attempted to rally anti-Bolsheviks and, most
importantly, were aimed at unnerving the
British public with information which had
been censored at home.
It would be easy to dismiss him, except
that these broadcasts found an audience,
estimated at an average of six million people.
His audience was not merely confined to
changing opinions across the channel.
Indeed one of his tasks was to persuade
British POWs to join the fight against
Bolshevism. However he has only very
limited success in this field. According to
recently released MI5 files, no more than 60
ever did join the so-called ‘Legion of St
George and the British Free Corps’.
Joyce’s life makes for interesting reading,
and Mary Kenny’s account does not
disappoint. Born in New York in 1906, his
parents returned to run a pub in Galway
when he was aged three. At the age of 15, he
attempted to join the British Army. He was
rejected, as he was when he harboured hopes
of becoming a Tory Candidate in Chelsea.
By 1932, his anti-Semitism and
intemperance found an audience with Oswald
Mosley’s fascists, but this too was to fail as a
movement by 1937. Such rejection, combined
with increasing feelings embitterment towards
England, led him to depart for Germany in
1939, where he was to remain until his arrest
by British Military Police in 1945. He was
tried for treason and hanged the following
year. Kenny provides excellent analysis into
what motivated Joyce to become the voice
for Nazi propaganda in Britain.
A Daily Advancement in Masonic
Knowledge by Raymond Hollins
(5 Vols. £20 the set (inc. p&p). R. J.
Hollins, 69 St Bernards Road, Olton,
Solihull, West Midlands B92 7DF.
Also available on ebay.uk.com.)
This is a series of five fascinating booklets,
each with 10 short talks on a variety of Masonic
subjects, each lasting about ten minutes.
Ray Hollins has made an excellent job of
ensuring the talks are short and to the point,
and came out of an initiative by Worcestershire
Masonic Province to improve the education
of its members.
The set of five are an ideal addition to a
Lodge library, as anyone can give the talks,
and will make for much more interesting
The booklets cover a whole range of
subjects about which Masons are always
asking questions. Volume I, for example,
includes talks on The Regius Manuscript,
the Ancients and Moderns Grand Lodges
and Numerology of Freemasonry.
With these booklets, Lodge meetings
need never be boring again. All profits go to
Masonic charities and the full list of talks in
each volume can be viewed at
www.masonicshortalks.com. John Jackson