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The Meinertzhagen Mystery: The English Spy Who Didn't Kill Hitler: The Life and Legend of a Colossal Fraud Hardcover – 1 Mar 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 386 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books Inc; annotated edition edition (1 Mar 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597970417
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597970419
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 16 x 23 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 201,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J Wheeler on 22 Feb 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book as a Biologist & a keen birdwatcher. From time to time I had come across his name, but it was a reference in another book casting doubt on Meinertzhagen as the perpetrator of the 1917 "haversack ruse" that made me want to know more.
This is a book that needed to be written. It is very well researched with eighty pages of notes & six pages of acknowledgements. Richard Meinertzhagen, a man born into a well-off family which was part of the Establishment, indeed among its movers & shakers, obviously was a striking physical presence who could be charming, & who had the attitudes of his class - supreme self-confidence, chums who could support & advance, rules bent if necessary - plus a degree of bravery. Link these with a lack of financial problems & one would expect a fulfilled life.
Not fulfilled enough. A man who continually made great claims of his prowess, & who in later life rewrote his diaries so that he is always number one. What emerges is a man who enjoyed nature which, by the lights of the times, meant he shot it in abundance; a man who followed a normal path of boarding school (with sadistic masters), public school & a commission in the army - Queen Victoria's imperial army. He puts himself over as the great spymaster though what can be ascertained points to limited success. One of the people to shine in this book is General Lettow commander of the German forces in East Africa. For all of Meinertzhagen's intelligence skills Lettow led the British a merry dance throughout WW1, remaining undefeated in 1918. Certainly a man I would like to know more about. After the war Lettow & Meinertzhagen met & became friends. When the Nazis came into power Lettow, a war hero, would have nothing to do with them, & fell upon hard times.
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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Charles M. Corbett on 22 Jan 2010
Format: Hardcover
In his time Richard Meinertzhagen was probable regarded as being a real hero, but who's heard of him now? The book disects him page by page so his reputation seems rather pathetic in the end. I was interested because his sister Bobo was a friend of my grandmother and they had a reputation of being a remarkable family. The book is very well written but who would bother reading it unless they had a particular need to?
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 12 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A Man who Life wasn't Big Enough to Hold 19 July 2007
By Grey Wolffe - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Richard Meinertzhagen was a military hero, explorer, spy, friend of Israel, diarist, world renown Ornithologist and prevaricator. Unlike most people, he reveled in the lies that he told and the reactions of those he told them to. He left an 82 volume library of his 'life', much of which was wishful thinking or down right false, but like Dr.Goebbels he believed that if you tell "The Big Lie" forceful enough and long enough, people will begin to believe.

Why would a man who was respected as a world class ornithologist, get himself barred from the British Museum for stealing? Was it for the notoriety? Having re-written his diaries (in some cases many times) and destroying all the previous versions, did he want to be caught after his death? Like publicity, being remembered, whether for good or bad, is still being remembered.

Garfield, who admits the man was one of his heroes as a child, spends a lot of time trying to find back-up information to prove RMs tales. But the more his digs, the more his finds that it like digging a hole in the dessert, it buries you. When RM writes that he did so-and-so, Garfield is able to find that not only wasn't he involved, but that RM might not have even been anywhere in the area (much less on the same continent) when the event occurred.

Ian Fleming had written that RM was the archetype for "James Bond". He could not have known how right he was in basing his fictional spy on a real-life falsified spy. The sad part is, had RM just written about his real accomplishments, his story would still be one of an outstanding personality; it just wasn't outstanding enough for him.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A history lesson and a thriller all rolled in to one. 28 Mar 2007
By M. Silverglade - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Col. Richard Meinertzhagen's exploits are those of either the greatest and most daring man ever to wear a British Military Uniform, or that of the most whopping fraud to walk the earth. Excellent research and a great read.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
An unfair account 30 Oct 2007
By Seth J. Frantzman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is not so much a biography of Richard Meinertzhagen as it is an attempt to destroy his reputation. Meinertzhagen was a warrior, a famous collector of rare bird specimens, supporter of Zionism, African hunter and war hero from the First World War. Most of all he was an adventurer. He had a keen sense for history and felt sympathy for the Jews and deep hatred for Hitler.

But all this has been stolen from him because of a number of allegations of impropriety. There are the stuffed birds that he is alleged to have stolen and re-labeled. There is the fact that no one recalls him being in Haifa in 1948 (although who would have?). Most of all there is the controversy over his diary and his meetings with T.E Lawrence. Meinertzhagen was sure that people would 'find out' about Lawrence and his having made things up and it seems that Meinertzhagen may have fabricated a number of diary entries including meetings with Lawrence.

This book attacks Meinertzhagen even for the exploits that are widely known to have been his most brave and audacious. He once dropped fake plans behind Turkish lines in order to deceive them in the battles for Beersheba and Gaza in 1917. He is attacked here for having not come up with the original idea. But the proof for this is that other people claimed to have had the same idea. But why believe their claims and not Meinertzhagen's?

Most of the rumors and stories about Meinertzhagen cannot be proved and neither can most of the allegations. For those such as T.E Lawrence the legend has remained, why there is so much interest in dismantling the reputation of a minor player such as Meinertzhagen is not clear, if anything he deserves more mention in history books on the Middle East, not less. The best place to start is to read his diary, Middle East Diary, 1917-1956 and then Warrior: The Legend Of Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen.

Seth J. Frantzman
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
More evidence of fraud 5 Sep 2008
By Paul Sullivan - Published on
Format: Paperback
In Kenya Diary, Meinertzhagen lists game counts throughout the book to the nearest animal, an impossible achievement when animals and observer are in motion. I've tried. Some years ago I asked the University of Nairobi's Mathematics Department to confirm that the game count totals are random. They are not. Meinertzhagen had "favourite" numbers that recur in a non random fashion. Perhaps this is a small matter, but it is yet another small matter.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A Unbelievable Mess 16 Mar 2007
By John Matlock - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Brian Garfield is a supurb writer. It doesn't matter if he is writing fiction (Death Wish, the book behind the Charles Bronson movie), military history (The Thousand-Mile War about the part of World War II in the Aleutians), or a non-fiction book like The Meinertzhagen Mystery. His writing style is captivating and even otherwise dull subjects come alive. Any book is highly recommended.

Col. Richard Meinertzhagen left a history of heroic deeds so dramatic that he was used as the model for Ian Fleming's 'James Bond.' Or at least it is so rumored. His diaries are full of stories so outrageous that you'd think they have to be made up.

It turns out that most of them now appear to have been made up indeed. The difficulty is to split out what is true from what is false. And then we need look at what historians have reported as fact based on what is now seen to be false. It's enough to make you wonder about all of history.
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