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Churchill's Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Mavericks Who Plotted Hitler's Defeat

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  1,910 Ratings  ·  283 Reviews
Six gentlemen, one goal: the destruction of Hitler's war machine

In the spring of 1939, a top-secret organization was founded in London: its purpose was to plot the destruction of Hitler's war machine through spectacular acts of sabotage.

The guerrilla campaign that followed was every bit as extraordinary as the six men who directed it. One of them, Cecil Clarke, was a maver
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published February 7th 2017 by Picador
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Joel Blackwell Well this is an interesting question and I cannot find the answer. I sent the email below to Damien Lewis through his web site and will publish the…moreWell this is an interesting question and I cannot find the answer. I sent the email below to Damien Lewis through his web site and will publish the answer if I get one. Both authors seem to have solid credentials.
I landed here as I sat down to write a review of the Giles Milton book, which is first rate.
Titles cannot be copyrighted, but you can't help but wonder, looking at the cover of the two books, if they are not at least dueling versions of the same fascinating story. The answer may be simple, two writers were working on the same material and produced books at the same time. Perhaps because previously classified material was made public. If there has been a story about the coincidence of these two books, I haven't seen it.

Message sent:
I see on Amazon your book on ungentlemanly warfare. It has an almost identical title to the one by Giles Milton. I do not see this book on your site or in your wikipedia bio.
Even the cover is remarkabbly similar.
Both seem to have come out in 2016?
How did this book come to be and why is it not listed?


Community Reviews

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Dec 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If caught this eclectic group of researchers and intelligence spies, a slow painful death was would be their last assignment. There was no book written on the best way to kill, incapacitate, or maim the maximum number of people. Every tactic listed not only had to be practical, but able to implement with minimal materials, knowledge, and time. This fast-paced book highlights people, places, and mission where this super-secret group designed weapons, planned mission, and continued striking at the ...more
K.J. Charles
An extraordinary story: the impact of saboteurs on WW2, and how much the British establishment fought against them. Reads like fiction. People inventing limpet mines and hedgehog anti submarine missiles and training the Jedburghs (three-man saboteur units that helped D-Day succeed by stopping Panzer divisions getting to Normandy before a beachhead was established). Fascinating, hugely readable stuff about a deeply peculiar world of extraordinary people.
May 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is both a chilling book and a fascinating one.

The book depicts the act of sabotage and gorilla warfare as though its an necessity - which at the time it was. However by its very nature (and something that is referred to several times both by the author and in quotes of some of dialogue referred to in this book) as ungentlemanly. The fact you are referring to death and destruction is almost a side effect. The way in which seemingly average people set themselves about the promotion and devel
This is a sort of greatest hits of Britain's clandestine guerilla warfare during WWII. The ministry (once it had some legitimacy in the government, that is; there were plenty of people who were opposed to sabotage and assassination as ways of waging war, and they were vocal) and the people who ran it take a backseat to the missions themselves. This is probably for the best, since internecine government battles don't make the most interesting reading, but blowing up a heavy water plant does.

FAN-F$&@ING-TASTIC. I absolutely love history that reads like a novel, and this was a swashbuckling ride from beginning to end. I had no idea just how little I knew about the massive impact that these brave saboteurs has on the outcome of the war, and ultimately history as we know it. Good gracious, this was loads of fun.
Feb 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
The author provides us with a history of the British group known as MI(D) – Military Intelligence Destruction. This group was authorized by the top echelons of British government in the early days at the beginning of WW II. Its creation involved a lot of soul searching among the members of the cabinet because their purpose was to destroy assets of the German military force in “ungentlemanly ways.” It is what we term guerril
David  Schroeder
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Such an enjoyable read and written in such an informative grouping of short stories of what became of the British MI(R) during World War 2. Most great stories involving clandestine services don't come into light until years later and this goes to prove that there are never enough great stories about World War 2. It is also a sobering reminder that there is no 'clean' war and that the John Wayne portrayals of war are mere fiction. What these stories do reveal though is that there are unsung heroe ...more
Paul  Perry
This history of those who worked tirelessly to build and plan Britain's and indeed the Allies Special Forces and guerrilla operations and some of those who carried them out is thrilling, exhilarating and wonderfully informative.
Daniel Farabaugh
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent book that really gives a great account of a lesser known subject of World War II. It does a great job of putting the guerrilla warfare and sabotage in the context of the larger war. It was briskly paced and easy to keep the people involved straight.
Lee Battersby
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Absolutely fascinating insight into the formation, development, and successes of a typically British endeavour: a disparate collection of professional soldiers, backyard garage boffins, Oxbridge Mafia types and gentlemen of ill-repute who were drawn together to create the definite rule book and arsenal of sabotage, assassination, and guerrilla warfare.

Milton draws on multiple sources to provide a comprehensive and seamless narrative, including the campaign of obstruction that was waged against t
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“The whole art of guerilla warfare lies in striking the enemy where he least expects it and yet where he is most vulnerable.” Colin Gubbins

The best World War Two history I’ve read in years. One blurb claims, “The last untold story of World War Two.” And a critical story it is. An unlikely collection of English men and women, working outside normal channels but with cover by the Prime Minister, develop and field weapons which solve many problems critical to England’s survival and eventual victory
Pamela Shropshire
Informative, entertaining and inspiring! A sensational account of the SOE from its beginnings in a tiny office “with an old table and two chairs” to its immeasurable impact on the Allied victory in WW2. They say truth is stranger than fiction; indeed, the courage and bravery of the many agents and saboteurs across Europe seems more like a Hollywood propaganda film than deeds of real people facing capture, torture, imprisonment or certain death - or all the above.

If you have any interest in WW2,
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
To me this read like an incredible spy novel. However, this was real life. During World War II, British prime minister Winston Churchill organized a top secret spy organization to wreck havoc on Hitler's war machine. Six men directed the guerrilla warfare against the Germans. Cecil Clarke, was an engineer and an explosives expert who was responsible for the assassination of SA leader Reinhard Heydrich. Another was William Fairburn, who was the world's leading expert in silent killing and hand to ...more
I was excited to buy this book because I have always had an interest in World War II and this seemed to offer new information. It did.

The book tells the story of a small group of mavericks who disdained the grinding bureaucracy, mindless discipline and conventional thinking of both the British Army and government ministries, leading up to and during World War II. They knew that in 1940 Britain was facing its darkest hour, an expression we associate with Winston Churchill, of course, who coined i
Mar 01, 2018 added it
This is not so much a book about Churchill as it is about the people he surrounded himself in an attempt to stymie Hitler's war effort. The damage they caused at Norsk Hydro prevented Hitler from being able to develop the bomb. Their hit and run raids caused the Germans an extra 2 weeks to reach Normandy, by which time Allied forces had already established a beachhead.
Sadly, no evidence exists of their exploits. The facilities that were utilized have either been destroyed or turned back to the
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant new information about the eccentricities and creative power of the British during the war. These actual secret departments of the government directly reflected Churchill's encouragement and support. Wonderfully written with authenticity,
Humor and grit.
Sep 26, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways
Authors of books that reveal secrets from past wars have to be careful. Their aim might be to recognise the work and efforts of a forgotten group of people but they then open up the whole issue of why such work has been kept secret for so long.

Here we have a group of people, starting out small in a single office in an anonymous building in London but later being able to to commandeer huge estates almost at will and having access to resources denied other parts of the military. This was the group
John Findlay
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
After the first few chapters of this book, I was ready to slog through it and give it a mediocre rating. But the final 75% was well worth it. The stories were amazing, all the more because they were true and because they helped the Allies win WWII. The history of British Special Forces is told in scintillating form. Initially a group of about six gentlemen were recruited to find ways to harass the Germans by fighting a guerilla war. At the time, this was viewed as crude and illegal, even though ...more
Mary Alice
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, reviewed, wwii
I read this book because it came in the mail, a sort of book-of-the-month club book; and I tend to favor books about the second World War anyway. What I usually don't read is books about weapons and explosives, and this book talks a lot about bombs.

This is the story of the British saboteurs, the British bombs, and the British bombmakers of World War II, and how they played a major role in winning the war for the Allies. Giles Milton teaches us about different kind of bombs -- he makes the mortar
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fantastic book! Never was so much owed by so many to so few. This small unit of geniuses had an incredible impact on World War II. They were opposed in general by the regular army because of their methods of sabotage. Churchill supported them because he knew that England on her own would not be able to defeat Nazi Germany.
Some of those involved had a good philosophy. Destroy critical infrastructure with minimal loss of life. Bombers of the day destroyed everything in their path: military target
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is about an interesting group of people who are determined to defeat Hitler and the Nazis using unorthodox methods, hence the title "ungentlemanly".

It is a good read, and tells us something about the second world war. A few people (two hundred men and women) can help win a war. The story is about two groups, the Special Operations Executive led by Colin Gubbins and Military Intelligence (Research) led by Millis Jefferis.

One group would pioneer weapons that would change the outcome of
Max Nemtsov
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Прекрасное путешествие по миру Пинчона опять, только на сей раз — закулисью «Радуги тяготения».
Кстати, не то, чтоб мы сомневались, но нашлось подтверждение тому, что Луи де Берньер в «Мандолине капитана Корелли» не придумал своего английского диверсанта, говорящего по-древнегречески. В жизни все было гораздо смешнее (как и многое в этой книжке).
Англичане действительно заслали одного чувака (правда, не на острова, а на континент), который с отличием изучал в Кембридже классический греческий. Они
Patrick SG
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, very readable account of the various unconventional warfare types who came together under Churchill's sponsorship. They came from walks of life as unlikely as caravan (RV) makers and others to fashion unique and very effective weapons out of equally unlikely materials like candy and condoms.

They were largely opposed by the established military but became accepted after their guerrilla tactics and effective weapons were quickly realized as being effective force multipliers.

The book is
Stephanie G
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was terribly interesting. It's the untold history of underhanded tactics taken on by true gentlemen. I have a basic knowledge of WWII, thanks to sporadic history instruction, John Wayne movies, and a grandpa who fought in the Pacific. Like 'Code Talker,' this book follows a select group and their contribution to the war effort. It involves tinkerers, masterminds, geniuses, and everyday men and women who stood up against an awful foe, who all shook their fists at evil, rolled up their sleeve ...more
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Mind blown. Living here in the U.S., we rarely hear WWII history from the point of view of our allies, (unless we're talking the Russian military). The British fought an astounding guerrilla war in Europe that resulted in incredible losses to both Germany, and Italy, in lost industries, railways, bridges, ships, and so on. The story of how this army of sabateurs came to be, and their exploits both before, and during, Great Britain's involvement in the war, is an incredible story.

I highly recomm
Aug 16, 2017 rated it liked it
A rollicking good book with writing that makes for a quick and jaunty read. Having recently finished Lynne Olson's wonderful book Troublesome Young Men, I found this book lacked a level of pathos that Olson masters so well. I also wish the author had spent time raising awareness of the women saboteurs' contribution to the war effort. For that, I will need to need to reread A Life in Secrets. All told, I learned about many daring operations successfully executed by Colin Gubbins' motley crew.
John Fulcoly
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Awesome! Great tale of individual talent, ingenuity, and perseverance rallying to the cause! So many successes - some in recognized - and all impactful. Destroying 90 factories, delaying panzers, disabling heavy water plant, hedgehogs among the successes. Enjoyed learning about the mathematicians and physicists applying their trades!
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fun historical nonfiction that falls just barely short of a real page-turner. The stories told are interesting and the characters described are done so with a theatric flourish while staying within the bounds of realistic.

I'm sure there are a ton of gripping stories surrounding WWII. Throw this one alongside the others with a "would recommend" if you've got a hankering.
CMOUW details some of Britain's sabotage, assassination, and guerrilla warfare efforts during WWII. The book provides a fairly comprehensive account of the individuals who planned these missions and designed some of the specialty weapons employed. It is also covers a select number of field operations. Milton's narrative is interesting and very well written. However, it never quite rises to the level of a true page-turner.
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio-books, 2017
Audio version.

A super interesting, surprisingly funny look at the dirty warfare created by some very ingenious English citizens. There was definitely a large amount of information I had never heard about World War II. This goes hand in hand with The Heavy Water War, a fascinating mini series about the sabotage of Norsk Hydro.
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British writer and journalist Giles Milton was born in Buckinghamshire in 1966. He has contributed articles for most of the British national newspapers as well as many foreign publications, and specializes in the history of travel and exploration. In the course of his researches, he has traveled extensively in Europe, the Middle East, Japan and the Far East, and the Americas.

Knowledgeable, insati
“His system is a combination of ferocious blows, holds and throws, adapted from Japanese bayonet tactics, ju-jitsu, Chinese boxing, Sikh wrestling, French wrestling and Cornish collar-and-elbow wrestling, plus expert knowledge of hip-shooting, knife fighting and use of the Tommy gun and hand grenade.” 1 likes
“The Duchessa d’Aosta had been placed under the command of Geoffrey Appleyard and a skeleton crew, who were so delighted with their prize ship – and their Italian prisoners now locked below decks – that they hoisted a skull and crossbones from the mainmast. March-Phillipps exploded when he saw it fluttering in the dawn breeze. ‘We all got a rocket and we were told we weren’t to fly the Jolly Roger,’ recalled Leonard Guise. ‘He was a great stickler for etiquette, old Gus.” 1 likes
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