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Forgotten Voices of the Secret War: An Inside History of Special Operations in the Second World War [Kindle Edition]

Roderick Bailey
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

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Book Description

'The Gestapo kept me three days in this interrogation house. They especially wanted to know what I did after my escape, and precise things on the organisation of the SOE. And just for fun I suspect, because I had really not much to tell them, they pulled one of my toenails out...' - Robert Sheppard, SOE agent

The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was a secret British organisation created early in World War 2 to encourage resistance and carry out sabotage behind enemy lines: in Winston Churchill's famous phrase, to 'set Europe ablaze'.

Drawing on the vast resources of the Imperial War Museum Sound Archive and featuring a mass of previously unpublished personal testimonies, Forgotten Voices of the Secret War tells the stories of SOE agents, HQ staff, diplomats, aircrew and naval personnel in their own words. As the war unfolds, we learn of parachute drops into enemy territory, torture by the Gestapo and nerve-wracking sabotage missions in far-flung climes.

Forgotten Voices of the Secret War is both an incredible account of espionage during World War 2 and a fitting testament to the efforts and sacrifices of a dedicated group of courageous men and women.

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"Roderick Bailey's assembly of tales deserves a warm welcome, both for readability - there is not a dull page - and for surprise: a great deal of it is unknown to [the] general public" (MRD Foot, official historian of SOE Literary Review)

"Roderick Bailey has skilfully braided their stories into a coherent narrative, and the quality of their egregious courage catches at the heart" (Spectator)

"a fascinating and at times gruesome and moving read, and is an ideal introduction to the whole subject of the SOE...thoroughly recommended" (BBC Who Do You Think You Are Magazine)


`Assembles with great skill a picture of the Special Operations Executive at work behind several fighting fronts... A valuable addition to the history of war.'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2750 KB
  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Digital (4 Sept. 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0031SGOWQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #105,680 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Dr Roderick Bailey is a historian of the Second World War and a specialist in the study of Britain's Special Operations Executive. His books include the acclaimed official history of SOE's war on Fascist Italy, 'Target: Italy - The Secret War Against Mussolini,' and, based on his PhD, 'The Wildest Province,' about SOE operations in the Balkans. A graduate of Cambridge and Edinburgh Universities, he is a former Alistair Horne Fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford, and has also served in Afghanistan with the British Army. He is currently a Wellcome Trust research fellow in the history of medicine at Oxford University.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An appreciation from the son of an SOE agent 23 Jun. 2008
My father was an SOE agent in the Second World War. I never knew him and had virtually no knowledge of his wartime exploits. This fascinating and carefully constructed book by Roderick Bailey, based as it is on recorded conversations held with SOE agents themselves, brings to life the experiences (from the terrifying to the hilarious) that they, and my father among them, went through. The Forgotten Voices Of The Secret War has enabled me to appreciate his bravery, and be proud of him. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in the extraordinairy courage of the men and women who put themselves forward for SOE operations.
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding. Highly recommended. 22 Jun. 2008
This superb book of secret agents' recollections is the latest in the Imperial War Museum's magnificent `Forgotten Voices' series, which draws on the museum's vast archive of original interviews with veterans. This edition tells the story of Britain's Special Operations Executive, the secret army set up in 1940 to help resistance and carry out sabotage behind enemy lines. It is an absolute must-read for anyone interested in the Second World War.

The book gripped me from start to finish. With skill and balance, Roderick Bailey has selected and structured a powerful collection of eyewitness accounts of extraordinary deeds to take your breath away. Here are stories of hand-to-hand fights with Gestapo agents in French apartments, of guerrilla fighting in the Balkans, of ambushes in the Burmese jungle. Time and again I was astonished at the courage of the young men and women who volunteered for this dangerous duty. And no one could fail to be moved by the testimonies of agents who fell into enemy hands and were sent to concentration camps.

SOE is famous for its agents in France, and `Forgotten Voices of the Secret War' contains plenty of tales from men and women who had worked with resistance there. But as the book also shows, there was much more to SOE than that. Norwegian SOE agents disrupted Hitler's atomic bomb plans. Czech agents assassinated Himmler's deputy. Dozens of Polish agents parachuted back into Poland. Other agents parachuted into the Low Countries, Denmark, Austria, Albania, Yugoslavia, Greece and Italy and fought the Japanese across the Far East. Their stories are told too.

Roderick Bailey has also done SOE a great service by raising the `voices' of instructors and staff officers at headquarters and of RAF aircrew who dropped agents behind the lines.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
"Forgotten Voices" is a great series of compilations of first-hand accounts from those who were directly involved in various wars and this title on the SOE by Roderick Bailey is one of the best. I found it gripping reading, and at times very moving. Learning about the experiences, thoughts, concerns etc of the very brave men and women who took part - in their own words - is fascinating and I think Bailey has done a great job in selecting the content to create a real tribute to the SOE. If you have an interest in the SOE, 2nd World War, or like me just working your way through the series it's definitely worth a read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not to expectations! 5 July 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The many 'Forgotten Voices' books are based upon recorded interviews held within the Imperial War Museum.

I had not purchased or seen any other of its titles although their existence was known and was quite unsure what to expect. In this instance, Forgotten Voices of the Secret War is a mini-encyclopaedia listing in no immediately obvious order a number of names of individuals operating within the various country or regional Sections of SOE. Individually, an entry might comprise a few brief lines or a full page summarising that person's wartime activities within or on behalf of SOE.

For various reasons, a substantial proportion of SOE's records were destroyed immediately post-War and details of its Agents' activities were effectively lost, other than those who latter chose to write their biographies - very few did. Not only are there few remaining available records, there was never a reliable list of its personnel and this book attempts to fill some of those gaps. However, as most agents were otherwise unrecorded elsewhere, a listing as that contained here may be valuable for researchers. As many readers might expect a series of stories such as those of agents such as Peter Churchill, Odette Sansom or Violette Szabo, which are among the few that are well documented, it fails rather miserably and completely.

It isn't what I had expected and it is to be returned. There is too little individual data to hold interest and too many names that are too obscure to remember.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I am not a huge fan of the sort of military history books that concentrate on strategy and campaigns without showing what war is really like on a human level. It's the stories people tell that catch the imagination and help us to remember what war was really like for those involved in the fighting. Rod Bailey has searched the Imperial War Museum's archives to uncover and weave together some fascinating narratives from people who operated behind enemy lines all over the world during the Second World War. If you enjoy reading first-hand accounts of adventure and bravery and want to understand the thoughts and feelings, hopes and fears of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in wartime then I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Bailey has committed to print some of the most fascinating accounts of SOE activity during the Second World War. I am sure that those who contributed to the book, all who were associated with SOE then and now, their children and families will be proud to see their stories told and added to our history of the war. I look forward to reading more in the series.
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