This short memoir gives the verbatim account by Hugh Dormer of his two missions for the Special Operations Executive into occupied France to blow up factories supplying the Germans during 1942-43. They provide a stark and matter-of-fact record of a straightforward, idealistic attitude to war-duty. The young writer, an aristocratic, Catholic and patriotic Englishman, wrote with utter certainty in the rightness of all three identities, but also with a humble and cultured intelligence. Oblivious of fulfilling late twentieth century cliches, he read Henry V a number of times before embarking upon his missions, and had a deep love of classical music.
He became more reflective after his first mission - which had to be aborted in France at the last minute - notably with regard to his fear and increasing certainty of dying a 'sordid' death at the hands of the Gestapo. He avoided this fate (but nevertheless did not survive the war), while staying unflinching in his resolve. The tales of his escapes from occupied France, through Spain and Portugal, give a dramatic sense of the nerve-wracking exhaustion and constant fear of being lost, betrayed or surprised by the enemy. In his hands, other personalities do not really come alive, which is a pity because he met a number of quite exceptional individuals, notably the eclectic mix of people with whom he crossed the Pyranees. Eventually, Dormer opted to return to his regiment, the Irish Guards, which decision he explains with interesting depth. He took part in D-Day and was later killed in a tank battle in 1944.