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In July 1940, a desperately weakened Britain licks her wounds after the humiliating retreat from Dunkirk. How can the fight be taken to the enemy? New Prime Minister Winston Churchill orders the creation of the Special Operations Executive, to ‘set Europe ablaze’ through subversion and sabotage. But this most secret of agencies must be kept secure.
Guardians of Churchill’s Secret Army tells the mostly unknown human stories of the men who were brought into SOE, straight from Intelligence Corps training, to do just that. They were junior in rank, but far from ordinary people. They were Australian, Anglo-French, Canadian, Scandinavian, East European and British. They had been schoolteachers, journalists, artists, ship brokers, racehorse trainers and international businessmen. Each spoke several languages.
These men stood alongside courageous agents in training: encouraged them, assessed their character, and tried to teach them the caution and suspicion that might just keep them alive, deep in enemy territory. But they did much more. Many became agents themselves and displayed great bravery.
All played a crucial role in the global effort to undermine the enemy. We find them not only in the Baker Street Headquarters of SOE, but also in night parachute drops, in paramilitary training in the remotest depths of Scotland and in undercover agent training in isolated English country houses. We follow them to occupied France, to Malaya and Thailand under threat of Japanese invasion, to Italy and Germany as they play their part in the collapse of the Axis regimes. As we do so, we find a world of heroism and commitment so different from our own experience that it is scarcely believable.
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