I’m humbled by the Foreword…

I am indebted to my friend Edward Couzens-Lake, writer and broadcaster, who has been kind enough to pen the Foreword to my first novel, Under the Yew Tree.

His words have touched me and I’m pleased to be able to share a few of them here, before my book is available, when of course you can enjoy the Foreword in its entirety!

“In Under the Yew Tree, John Charles Hall envisages how a Nazi controlled Europe would have impacted on the day to day lives of a small rural farming community. Not London, Manchester, Birmingham or Glasgow. And no visions of Nazi motorcades streaming down Pall Mall or vivid descriptions of how the great and the good of our Cities fell.  He looks much, much deeper than that, telling the story of enemy occupation as it affected the lives of ordinary people living everyday lives in a small West Sussex village, one that is more used to living in the benign shadow of the South Downs rather the sound of the jackboot.  People whose lives were utterly turned upside down, and who knew that their lives would never be the same again.

This is a story about how they met their fate, how they coped, how they tried to carry on their day to day lives.  And, slowly but inevitably and against odds that far exceeded the impossible, began to fight back.

The story is compelling because it is about people who had no right to anything other than to accept their fate and to remember England as it once was but which had now changed forever.  Yet fight back they did.  And this is their story.

John would, I am sure, have fought alongside them.  And with great gusto and a sense of what he was doing was the right thing.  Like his characters, John is a countryman. His love and appreciation of the Sussex countryside shines throughout this book.  He’ll take you there; you’ll share the same sights, sounds and smells as his characters; you’ll feel their pain, their fear and their hope.  This is a book you won’t just read, this is a book you will feel.  You’ll walk in Joseph’s footsteps.  Every inch of the way.  And you won’t want to put the book down until you see where, ultimately, they take him.  So, turn the page and start your journey with him now.”

Thank you so much for your support, Edward.

Under the Yew Tree – my inspiration

Having been born and lived all my life in and around the villages of the South Downs and the West Sussex Coastal Plain, I have a great love and understanding of these rural communities, and I have often wondered what might have happened had they been invaded and occupied during the Second World War. 

How would the British have coped, had the Germans invaded? Would we have lived in harmony with our ‘captors’, or fought with a similar resistance to the French? Where would our ‘Vichy Government’ have been located?

Any invasion by the Germans at the time would likely have come directly from France or The Netherlands and I was fascinated to understand how this might have impacted on the landscape of Sussex. Rich in wartime history as training grounds, aviation hubs and research facilities, Sussex is even now nationally vital for agriculture and horticulture, so how would these close-knit farming communities have coped?

Would they have pulled together should the invasion and occupation have happened? Or would they have worked against each other?Would everyone have resisted or would we have succumbed easily to our occupiers?