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

Feb 20, 2017

On this edition of StudioTulsa, we welcome Giles Milton back to our show; he's a British historian and author whose many books include "Nathaniel's Nutmeg" and "When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain." He joins us to discuss his latest book, which is called "Churchill's Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Mavericks Who Plotted Hitler's Defeat." As was noted of this exciting work of history by Kirkus Reviews: "[This is] an elegant presentation of Winston Churchill’s special guerrilla operations force, which consistently met the dirty exigencies of war.... [Milton] manages to offer a fresh take on the undercover work of a small specialty unit of the British War Office, begun as MI(R) before becoming the Special Operations Executive, or known simply as Baker Street. Led by the canny Scotsman and former Indian Army officer Colin Gubbins and the engineering genius Millis Jefferis, this group of 'pirates' was carefully selected for their mental and physical toughness for under-the-radar guerrilla operations to trip up the swiftly advancing Germans in Norway, France, and, potentially, Britain. Using unconventional, powerful new inventions of destruction, such as a 'monstrous hydraulic digger' engineered by Cecil Clarke, the so-called limpet mine, L-Delay fuse, and the anti-U-boat Hedgehog mortar, the unit employed effective sabotage against the German war machine. Milton engagingly re-creates some of these spectacular operations, including the destruction of the Pessac, France, transformer station (Operation Josephine B), the dismantling of the Normandie Dock, where the formidable Tirpitz was moored, and the strike on the Norsk Hydro station in Norway, which eliminated the possibility of Hitler using heavy water for atomic weapons. Although assassination was officially frowned upon in Whitehall, Gubbins’ unit worked with Czech intelligence to execute the ruthless Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich. Milton sets up each of these extraordinary sabotages in skillful fashion, underscoring the training, planning, and personnel involved. Gubbins eventually had highly trained agents all over the continent and, once the Americans were involved, had to compete with the work of William 'Wild Bill' Donovan.... An exciting, suspenseful tale of international intrigue."