European studies blog

29 September 2014

A Glider Pilot amongst the Mosquitoes

This year sees not only the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One (in case you missed it), it is also the 60th anniversary of the International Federation of Translators, the organisation that gave us International Translation Day which we celebrate on 30 September.

The IFT’s charter states that:

Translation has established itself as a permanent, universal and necessary activity in the world of today that by making intellectual and material exchanges possible among nations it enriches their life and contributes to a better understanding amongst men.

Curators in European Studies at the British Library know all about the importance of translations. We select original literary works in European languages,  and of course we receive English translations published in the UK under legal deposit law. We also sometimes buy foreign translations of works originally published in English. Cover of 'Arnhem Lift'

An example of this is Arnhem Lift, (London, 1945; British Library 9100.a.80). It is an eyewitness account from the battle of Arnhem by a glider pilot. (There’s another anniversary for you: this month saw the 70th anniversary of Operation Market Garden and the Battle of Arnhem). Initially published anonymously in 1945 it saw three print runs in its first year. The British Library holds three copies from 1945; the copy mentioned above and copies at shelfmarks, X11/5678 [pictured right], and W5/3276.

Cover of 'Ik vocht in Arnhem'Then in 1946 Jules Timmermans translated the book into under the title Ik vocht om Arnhem (Nijmegen. 1946; X.808/41632 [pictured left]). Just before this translation went to press the author’s name was made public.

Sergeant Louis Hagen came from a well-to-do Jewish family in Germany. They moved in high circles and so Hagen met Prince Bernhard, husband of Crown Princess Juliana of the Netherlands. (Hagen was mistaken for the Prince when in Arnhem in 1944.) In 1934 Hagen was arrested for writing a joke about Hitler’s Sturmabteilung on a postcard. He was sent to a concentration camp, but was freed after six weeks, thanks to the intervention of an old schoolfriend. This episode prompted the family to leave Germany. Mr and Mrs Hagen made it to the USA, but Louis ended up in England. Eventually he joined the Glider Pilot Regiment in 1943. Arnhem was his first battle, supporting the Mosquitoes and other planes of the RAF. The Pegasus Archive website gives a detailed account of his experiences during the week the battle raged.

Photograph of Louis HagenLouis Hagen. Image from the Pegasus archive

An illustrated second edition of Arnhem Lift appeared in 1953 (copies at 9102.b.39 and W53/9325). It includes a foreword by Sir Frederick A.M. Browning, one of the commanders of Operation Market Garden. A reprint followed in 1977 (X.809/42364).

Sketch-map showing landing areas near ArnhemMap of landing area from Arnhem Lift. 2nd ed., 1953, page 14. (W53/9325)

In 1993 an edition entitled Arnhem lift : and the German Version  (London, 1993; YK.1996.b.4977) appeared. It gives the German version of the story by a German Arnhem veteran, whom Hagen met at a dinner party in the early 90s. The latest edition is from 2012: Arnhem lift : a German Jew in the Glider Pilot Regiment. (Stroud, 2012  YK.2013.a.1146 [below]).

Cover of 'Arnhem Lift' 1993, with a photograph of the author and an image of planes flying over a windmill

What started off as a typed-up account of a soldier, solely to be distributed among his friends, became a very popular work indeed, or it would not have seen three editions with several reprints, nor would it have been translated into Dutch, German, French and Italian. Hagen not only continued to write four more books, but he also translated four German books about the Second World War into English.

As a translator he would not have received as much attention as an author. Translators are often the glider pilots among the Mosquitoes/authors of the literary world. So, on this International Translation Day let’s hear it for the glider pilots/translators!

Marja Kingma, Curator Dutch and Flemish Collections

References and further reading:

C. Bauer, The battle of Arnhem: the betrayal myth refuted, translated by D.R.Welsh. (S.l., 1966 ) X11/7954

G. Freeman, Escape from Arnhem: a glider pilot's story. (Barnsley, 2010) YC.2011.a.3997

R. Gibson, Nine days  (17th to 25th September 1944): the authentic description of a glider pilot's experience at Arnhem, from take-off to his escape …. (Peterborough, 2012) YK.2013.a.4152

C.B. Mackenzie, It was like this!  = Zó was het! A short factual account of the battle of Arnhem and Oosterbeek … Translation: W. van der Heide … 2nd amplified edition.  (Oosterbeek, 1956) 9102.fff.61

R.J. Kershaw, It never snows in September (Marlborough, 1990) YK.1991.b.2242 

M. Middlebrook, Arnhem 1944 : the airborne battle, 17-26 September (London, 1995) YK.1996.a.6739 and  98/25541

J. Piekalkiewicz, Arnheim 1944: Deutschlands letzter Sieg (Oldenburg, 1976). F10/1896; English translation by H.A. and A.J. Baker, Arnhem, 1944. (London, 1977). X.802/10563

T. Plieviern, Berlin [translated from the German by Louis Hagen]. (London. 1969) H.69/634.

C. Ryan,  A bridge too far (Ware, 1999)  YC.2002.a.5467

W. Schellenberg, Memoirs , edited and translated by Louis Hagen. (S.l., 1956)  W54/3792

R. E. Urquhart, Arnhem. (London, 1958) 9103.d.26.

H. Walburgh Schmidt, Het Dertiende Peloton: levensverhalen rond zweefvliegtuig Horsa 166, Slag bij Arnhem 1944 (Soesterberg, 2004). YF.2005.a.23627 (


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