'This was a secret war whose battles were lost or won unknown to the public.... No such warfare had ever been waged by mortal men.' (Winston Churchill)
Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, a country house called The Firs in Buckinghamshire was requisitioned by the War Office. Sentries were posted at the entrance gates, and barbed wire was strung around the perimeter fence. To local villagers it looked like a prison camp. But the truth was far more sinister. This rambling Edwardian mansion had become home to an eccentric band of scientists, inventors and bluestockings. Their task was to build devastating new weaponry that could be used against the Nazis.
Led by the gung-ho Millis Jefferis, the men and women who worked at Churchill's Toyshop, as it became known, devised many of the key weapons of the Second World War. Their prototype limpet mine made possible the Cockleshell Raid on Bordeaux Harbour. Churchill said that this one raid alone shortened the war by six months. Next they pioneered the water bomb that closed the Rhine to German shipping.
Although the team at Churchill's Toyshop proved extraordinarily adept, they were not working alone. Other country houses were also requisitioned and handed over to the specialists. Some focused on developing new weapons; some planned sabotage missions in occupied Europe; some became training schools for agents. But all were working towards a common goal: the destruction of the Nazi war machine. Collectively they were known as the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.
©2016 Giles Milton (P)2016 John Murray Press
Yes, excellent, no holds barred account of a period we dont hear about. Superb story, well read too.
Yes. Covered 4,000km road trip across Australia. Top Book. Educational and Entertaining at the same time and highly Enjoyable.
Providing a balance to the many books covering regular military operations about WWII, this book delves, in great detail, into the secret world of sabotage in Nazi-occupied Europe. The book strikes a good balance between the various factors, including details of the organizations themselves and how they began and the political jockeying required to see them come to fruition, to the development of impressively cunning sabotage weapons and the men who invented them, with the book moving on to provide details of the men involved in the undercover and sabotage work, and dramatic and detailed sequences of many of the most interesting operations in enemy territory.
This balance provides for a fantastic listen by both those who are interested in the background to such organizations, and those that relish fast-paced yet detailed accounts of daring missions resulting in destruction of impressive scales.
This book is well read and easy to listen to.
"Humbling and enthralling"
I never tire of hearing tales of sacrifice and commitment made by those in WWII that allow us the freedom to lead the lives we lead today. These tales are made all the more fascinating when you learn of how those selfless acts of bravery were supported by a small army of crackpots and geniuses who dared stand by their convictions and in the face of conventional thinking.
This book covers the people and the operations undertaken in perfect detail. The narration is well suited and the book an easy listen. One of the best audible books I've bought.
"A truly incredible story."
Takes a short while to get going but it takes hold and becomes gripping to the end. I knew so many of the stories contained within but never knew how they were linked to so few people. Story superbly written and fabulously narrated. A top notch purchase.
Should be in every school and public library in the country.
Giles Milton has done an outstanding job.
"Overdue recognition of Baker Street Irregulars"
Well written, deeply researched account of an aspect of British support for irregular warfare in WW2, which is long overdue. New perspectives included: evidence that Heydrich's assassination may have involved biological agents; the key role the British invented shaped-charge played in the triggering mechanism of the American plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki; the inspiration and support Colin Gubbins provided to the formation of the OSS and therefore the CIA. The book principally celebrates the work of Colin Gubbins and Millis Jefferis respectively in creating and arming SOE, although it is not in any way a history of SOE. The author has produced a well structured, lively and credible account of a secret world for which primary sources are not abundant. It gives long overdue recognition for British genius for irregular warfare (and ipso facto the infinite capacity of the contemporary British Establishment to disapprove and oppose it). Highly recommended
The literature of SOE includes some classic accounts, official histories and recently published memoires but none compare directly with this book, except perhaps SOE - The Scientific Secrets, by Everett and Boyce, which I haven't yet read.
The narrator has a fine voice and is easy to listen to, when he's speaking normally. He has fallen into the trap however, all too common in audio books, of over-estimating his ability to mimic accents. With the exception of his Churchill voice, which is tolerable, the majority of his attempts are wince-inducingly embarrassing. Since it features so heavily, his faux Scottish accent attributed to Gubbins, resembles someone from the Home Counties trying to imitate a Morningside accent. Likewise his attempts at an American accent, which are execrable. It simply isn't necessary to differentiate voices in a well written narrative and when poorly executed, as here, greatly detracts from the narrative, by diverting the listener's attention from the material presented. Please Audible, discourage amateur theatricals in your audiobooks.
The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare - playing the game without the rule book.
A unique book, which I'm glad to have heard.
"Excellent WW2 book!"
A great book, the narrator is a little annoying at times but the story is excellent. I never knew how much of a role SOE played is destroying the German war machine.
"Utterly compelling and illuminating"
Knew nothing about the subject and was engrossed from first to last. A few clunky phrases, but these don't detract from what is a well written,thrilling and eye opening tale. A few assertions that begged some supporting evidence, but not to the extent that one doubted the credibility of the general narrative. Excellent performance from the narrator.
"THE MINISTRY OF UNGENTLEMANLY WARFARE"
Quite simply superb!
This book provides a clear, concise, but adequately detailed, overview of the origins, nature, opposition to, and deployment of MI(R) / SOE during WWII.
The book also provides an insight into the personalities of many of the key players, and 'behind the scenes' individuals, whose contributions to irregular warfare were at least as important as those of the brave agents 'on the ground'
A gripping, highly informative book, well structured, and well narrated.
Consistently holds the interest, and fills in many 'gaps' in the history of MI(R) / SOE and its generally unrecognised significant contribution to the British and, later, Allied, war effort!
A thoroughly enjoyable read/ listen, and a tribute to many unsung heros!
"Fascinating with warmth"
Takes you right into the lives of some amazingly adept and creative people. Catches you in the throat at times.
Very high. The narrator could probably read a telephone directory and make it sound interesting, add that to a well written book where the characters and exploits seem unrealand you've got an audio well worth listening to.
Going Solo by Roald Dahl - brave, eccentric and colourful characters and a well narrated story.
The part about how aniseed balls and caravan builders helped defeat the Nazi war machine.
Laughed and wondered "how did they think of doing that?"
I'm not one for blood and gore war stories but I'm fascinated by people who go against orthodox thinking to solve problems. The quite "couldn't harm a fly" person who makes a very big bang. Yes, this book has brave, tough war heroes in it but they are backed up by women and men who give them the knowledge, tools and tactics to defeat an evil regime. The narrator's voice also helped emphasise and give colour to the story and also just how badly the post war UK government treated SOE and their associates when peace was won. A very well written and researched book well narrated in a voice just seemed to "fit" the story.
"Excellent and powerful"
An excellent and poignant account of the less than gentlemanly side of warfare that helped win the war. Well worth listening to.
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