Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle
Autumn 1943. Realising that his feelings for his sweetheart are not reciprocated, Major John Overton accepts a posting behind enemy lines in Nazi-Occupied Albania. Arriving to find the situation in disarray, he attempts to overcome geographical challenges and political intrigues to set up a new camp in the mountains overlooking the Adriatic.
As he struggles to complete his mission amidst a chaotic backdrop, Overton is left to ruminate on loyalty, comradeship and his own future.
Based on Anthony Quayle s own wartime experience with the Special Operations Executive (SOE), this new edition of a 1945 classic includes a contextual introduction from IWM which sheds new light on the fascinating true events that inspired its author.
Many will know of Anthony Quayle the actor nominated for many awards for his roles in Lawrence of Arabia, Ice Cold in Alex and The Guns of Navarone to name just a few. But I had no idea of Anthony Quayle the author. In WWII Quayle was a British Army Officer and later served in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and served in Albania. The experiences so affected him that he found it hard to talk about. In Eight Hours from England first published in 1945 the story became a fictionalised account of his time in the SOE.
The story follows Major John Overton who is putting his personal life behind him and now has agreed to go behind enemy lines in Albania which is under the thumb of Nazi occupation.
When Overton arrives he is confronted by the task ahead of him, he has to organise the resistance and fight the German forces but there is plenty of in-fighting within Albania and too much focus on their own civil war. What our man Overton has to overcome is the terrain and the weather conditions and despite the promise of supplies these do not arrive.
What I found from Quayle’s words was that he was relieved to get out as he did in early April 1944. The situation was deteriorating with too many factions within the country and Partisans fearing not only certain death but total destruction of their villages. For Overton the need to get out of this situation and also Albania at the same time was real.
This is a compelling account of real life SOE agent although fictionalised it really becomes clear to the reader just what agents had to face when they were sent to the Balkans.
Anthony Quayle went on to continue to serve with the armed forces until the war ended and then went on to star in many films and also many stage productions and was Knighted in the New Year’s Honours in 1985. Sir Anthony Quayle died at his home in October 1989.
Thank you to the Imperial War Museum and also Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy of Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle.
Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle was published by Imperial War Museum and was published on 5th September 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
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