Robin Quinn is an author and radio producer based in South-East England. His new book, The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo explores the life of Charles Deville Wells, fraudster and gambler, and spans the second half of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. Published 2016 by The History Press Ltd.
THE MAN WHO BROKE THE BANK AT MONTE CARLO
The incredible true story of Charles Deville Wells, gambler and fraudster extraordinaire.
Charles Wells has two loves in his life: a beautiful, headstrong, French mistress, Jeannette, and his sumptuous yacht, the Palais Royal. At the risk of losing them both, Wells stakes everything he owns at the roulette tables in Monte Carlo’s world-famous Casino – and in the space of a few days he breaks the bank, not once but ten times, winning the equivalent of millions in today’s money.
Is he phenomenally lucky? Has he really invented an “infallible” gambling system, as he claims? Or is he just an exceptionally clever fraudster?
Based on painstaking research on both sides of the Channel and beyond, this biography reveals the incredible true story of the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo – an individual who went on to become Europe’s most wanted criminal, hunted by British and French police, and known in the press as “Monte Carlo Wells – the man with 36 aliases”.
HITLER'S LAST ARMY
After the Second World War 400,000 German servicemen were imprisoned on British soil – some remaining until 1948. These defeated men in their tattered uniforms were, in every sense, Hitler's Last Army.
Reviews of Hitler's Last Army
“Probably the best book on the subject in the last 20 years”
“I recommend this book as a must to read.”
[★★★★★ Amazon review by “a German ex-POW”]
“Well written, interesting, informative, and heart-warming in equal measure … I would recommend this even to those not especially interested in WW2, as a fascinating slice of Anglo-German social history of 70 years ago. Buy it."
[★★★★★ Amazon review by J.B.]
Blog: All Posts
- Countdown to VE-Day May 8, 2015
In the diary he kept during his time as a soldier in the German army and as a prisoner of war in Britain, Eberhard Wendler wrote the following in the period up to and including VE-Day.
22 April 1945: We had a film show in the dining hall – a film about Friedrich Schiller*.[*NOTE: for the British authorities, finding suitable films to show to the German prisoners was a constant problem, as the German cinema industry had been controlled by the Nazi propaganda ministry for the duration of the war. Films with cultural themes – such as this one about the German poet, philosopher and playwright Friedrich Schiller were among the few which were considered appropriate – RQ].
24 April 1945: My birthday. At midnight I was woken by three comrades – Koch, Böhme and Kuse – and they congratulated me. They had prepared a beautiful display of flowers on a little table, together with the picture of my family home that I’d had painted [by another prisoner]. At 16.00 hours that day we returned to the camp and were individually searched, and taken out on to the sports ground. When we went back into our hut everything had been turned upside down [by the guards].
6 May 1945: (Sunday): we had a film show. In the afternoon we had to hand in our vests and underpants, gloves and one blanket. In return we were issued with two pairs of short underpants.
7 May 1945: the war was over. On 8 May and 9 May we didn’t have to work.[Eberhard’s account of the war ending is exceedingly brief. Perhaps it was difficult to express his thoughts in words at the time. Recently he told me: ‘When the war was over, we thanked God that it was finished and we were happy to be alive, but we wondered what was going to happen now. Germany had lost and they could do whatever they liked with us. And we thought they’d take it out on us.’]
TO BE CONTINUED …
- The Independent : ‘For them the war was over …’ May 1, 2015
Today The Independent printed my piece about German POWs in Britain at the time of VE-Day (on pages 41, 42 and 43). The feature includes some previously unseen snippets from Eberhard Wendler’s diary. I’ve added some of the more thought-provoking stories about how friendships between the prisoners and the British gradually began to flourish after the war.
- Countdown to VE-Day: the countdown continues April 16, 2015
Seventy years ago, Eberhard Wendler wrote in his diary:
15 April 1945: bought myself a book – Der Polarwind und die Obrigkeit (The Polar Wind and the Majesty)* from my work-party leader for 20 large cigarettes, and bought a brush from the camp shop for 3s 6d [about 17p.] In the evening there was a raffle organised by the Red Cross, and I got a cigar. Ordered a text-book for learning English. [*by Norwegian writer Lars Hansen]
17 April 1945: According to the camp newspaper, Werdau has been captured [his home town in Saxony, Germany].
- Countdown to V-E Day : 70 years on April 7, 2015
Eberhard Wendler’s diary records some of the events which broke up the monotony in the POW camp where he was held prisoner during the last weeks of WW2.
8 March 1945: visited the camp dentist in the morning and walked in the afternoon.
15 March 1945: at the dentist’s again (he extracted one of my teeth, left upper). I bought myself the book, ‘English in a few days’ – both volumes – for four shillings.
16 March 1945: had my watch cleaned for one shilling and had my two pictures framed. [Note: many of the POWs had skills which they could barter in this way].
18 March 1945: we received our second uniform. I got just one coat, and exchanged a pair of socks. Since 11 March I’ve been attending English classes, Saturdays and Mondays.
26 March 1945: a rainy day – we were all back in camp by 4.00 p.m. I received two packets from home.
29 March 1945: I bought myself a large mirror for “1.8 Schilling” [1s 8d – about 8p in decimal money] and two brushes for one shilling [5p].
30 March 1945: (Good Friday). We worked till evening. On 31 March and 2 April there was no work – Easter.
Note from Robin: the above are actual diary entries from 70 years ago, recording the events in one soldier’s life. In Hitler’s Last Army you can read about the Big Picture, with events and decisions which affected tens of thousands of German prisoners in the UK!
- German POWs save lives of women and children March 5, 2015
While researching Hitler’s Last Army I stumbled on an extraordinary story. On 12 September 1947, a group of about 25 civilians – mainly women and children – climbed into the back of a truck which was to take them to their camp after a day spent picking hops near the Sussex village of Bodiam.
The vehicle was crossing the narrow bridge in the village when it crashed through temporary railings and plunged into the river, turning on to its side. Most of the passengers were stunned: some were injured. The canvas cover over the back of the truck prevented most of them from getting out, and they were at risk of drowning.
A fifteen-year-old boy who had managed to struggle free ran for help. The only people he saw were four German prisoners of war from the nearby POW camp, who were working not far from the bridge. Between them the Germans rescued all of the hop-pickers. As one survivor told me in a 2012 interview, ‘One moment we were going along, all singing in the back – then suddenly we were in the water. They [the Germans] were brilliant. They pulled us out and wrapped us in blankets. If it hadn’t been for them, people would definitely have died.’
I still think it’s a great story! It’s certainly thought-provoking. I decided to include it as an illustration of what many people would consider to be unexpected qualities in German servicemen just after the Second World War, and used it as the Prologue to Hitler’s Last Army. (Some readers may be suprised to know that German POWs were still being kept in Britain as late as September 1947. In fact, there were about 200,000 at that time, many of whom were not repatriated until the following year).
I’m grateful to Keith Ennis, whose website, Bygone Bodiam, has been extremely helpful in my research. I recommend it as an extremely interesting read!