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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kaiser Bill's Jihad, 25 Mar 2011
This review is from: On Secret Service East of Constantinople: The Plot to Bring Down the British Empire (Paperback)
It must be 16 years since I spotted this in a book club catalogue and, out of idle curiosity, ordered it. Little did I realise that it would ensnare me in a fascination for this part of the world (Central Asia) and this period of history (early twentieth century) which has yet to show any signs of dissipating. This is due in part to Hopkirk's skill as a storyteller, in part to the astonishment of learning there was so much more to World War One than the mechanised butchery of the Western Front - and, if you thought really hard, Peter O'Toole prancing around in shiny white robes.

As mentioned by other reviewers, what we have here is the story of German attempts to stir up a Holy War against Britain amongst the Moslem population of Persia, Afghanistan and India. The principal dramatis personae are German and British secret agents and Indian revolutionaries, and their adventures are often related in their own words. It is Hopkirk's ability to frame these in the political and military context of the times that makes this book so engrossing.

The collapse of the Russian armed forces after the revolution of 1917, at a time when the Allies had all but won this clandestine war, drastically changed the game plan. The British now found themselves providing limited military support and large amounts of cash to anyone prepared to resist the eastwards march of Turkish and German armies - i.e. anyone other than the Bolsheviks. The intervention here, as elsewhere in the Russian Civil War, ultimately benefitted nobody and only prolonged the suffering of the local people.

It is rather poignant to reread this book at a time when the West is once again getting its collective knickers in a twist at the thought of militant Islam. The lessons of history, it seems, remain stubbornly unlearned. On a less maudlin note, when can we expect the next instalment in your Great Game series, Mr Hopkirk - the one covering the 1940s onwards?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great stuff, 2 Jan 2014
By 
M. Baerends - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On Secret Service East of Constantinople: The Plot to Bring Down the British Empire (Paperback)
The first book by Tom Hopkirk I read was his famous 'the Great Game' on English-Russian rivalry in Central Asia. This one focuses on what happened in Turkey, the Caucasus, Persia and to some extent Afghanistan, India and Central Asia from say 1914 to the end of World War One.
Perhaps the main storyline is on the German attempts to incite muslims living under British and Russian rule against their colonial rulers. This involved infiltrations in Persia (trying to get the shah to invade British India or joint the Turks in their fight against Russia, but at the very least to tie down more British troops in the Gulf region), and a diplomatic mission via Persia to Afghanistan to convince the Afhgan king to invade British India. As we know now, all of this was way too ambitious and almost nothing was achieved.
Another even more interesting storyline is on the events in the Caucasus - notably Baku - in the confused time from the November 1917 revolution to the end of WWI. I had never realized that the Turks, having now shed the burden of fighting the Russians, embarked on a final desperate offensive and actually managed to capture Baku just before their own capitulation (reportedly one of the reasons for Allenby's success in Jeruzalem and Damascus was the diversion of Turkey's best troops to the Caucasus). There is also an interesting sideline into Central Asia, where 'Transcaspia' (say Turkmenistan) rose against the Bolsheviks and fought them with limited British assistance.
Hopkirk is a phenomenal writer. I really can't praise this book highly enough. Awesome!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another masterpiece, 29 Sep 2000
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In this book, Hopkirk takes up where 'The Great Game' ended. In it, he examines Axis attempts to divert British resources and effort away from the Western Front during World War One. It is an intriguing story. Who would have known about the battle for Kut? Who could have guessed at the presence of pro-German Swedish officers in the Persian police? No matter how much you think you know about history, you will learn something from Hopkirk.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most gripping reads I've had in ages., 5 Dec 2002
By 
Mr. A.J.Manktelow (Rye, East sussex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
If you have any interest at all in the intrigue of The Great Game or you have read John Buchans "Greenmantle" this is an absolute must. This has to be one of the easiest factual books I've ever read, with all the suspense of a thriller novel in the form of historical accounts. I honestly couldn't put the book down.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Game of Shadows..., 6 May 2012
By 
Mark (London, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: On Secret Service East of Constantinople: The Plot to Bring Down the British Empire (Paperback)
To most British readers, World War One is associated with the trenches on the Western front, the Gallipoli campaign or the Arab revolt in Syria, made famous of characters like T.E. Lawrence and Ibn Saud.

On Secret Service East of Constantinople serves as a near sequel to Hopkirk's over work, The Great Game. During World War One, Constantinople is in alliance with the Central Powers opening up a new front in the Caucasus between the doomed empires of Russia and Turkey. The British, fearing an invasion of India by a joint German-Turkish army sent incredible brave and resourceful officers behind enemy lines through Afghanistan and Persia to gather as much intelligence as they can while avoiding capture and certain death. The German Empire, desperate for colonial possessions of its own is pushing to gather allies of oppressed people in Central Asia and Indian freedom fighters to drive the British into the sea. The extraordinary means by which they mean to accomplish this is through gun boat diplomacy, cynical promises and bare-faced lies is to force the Muslim peoples of Central Asia to rise up in Jihad against the oppressive British while dismantling the dying Ottoman Empire and claiming most of it for themselves. Only a handful of brave men stand in their way...

Hopkirk's books are character driven and it works in a similar way to the best of the classic spy novels like Buchan's Greenmantle. The British officers that went east of Constantinople were undoubtedly brave but there was also fascinating and engaging in their own right, some of whom have only recently died. Men like Captain Edward Noel and Major Ranald MacDonell are crying out for at least a TV series of their exploits, as is the fascinating but ultimately tragic story of Major Reginald Teague-Jones who sacrificed everything for King and Country, even his own identity. The Germans too deserve mention "Wassmuss of Persia" is the German equivalent of Lawrence in Persia and seriously threatened the British presence there, and the journey made by von Hentig and von Niedermayer to Afghanistan with their Indian allies are undoubtedly worthy of note and greater recognition. The changing political scene in Russia features heavily as the Bolsheviks make their steady progress to domination of the former Tsarist Empire.

Though T.E Lawrence's exploits were made into a highly successful film, the stories of the people that Peter Hopkirk writes about so passionately deserve to be better known. The stories of all those men involved revolve around their deep sense of patriotism, duty, and desire for adventure and fame to rival those of their boyhood heroes. The events that took place a hundred years ago still affect the issues of today in the public consciousness of the people who live there. Well worth reading by anyone interested in the era and the geo-politics of the region which we are still seeing today. The players may change but the Great Game goes on...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ripping yarn, 9 May 2014
This review is from: On Secret Service East of Constantinople: The Plot to Bring Down the British Empire (Paperback)
Once again Peter Hopkirk brings to life the history of those intrepid upper-class English men who, for king and country, undertook covert operations beyond the boundaries of the British Empire . Although written with a distinct bias for good old Blightly it is highly entertaining, well researched and a fascinating history with relevance to both modern Middle-East and East-West politics. Although it might not pass muster on a more politically correct university course it is very, very, readable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book covering long forgotten historical events during World War One, 8 Mar 2014
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Informative text covering little known events in the Middle East area in a truly exciting and absorbing manner. National heroes from both sides of the World War One conflict who really should be more recognized today for their efforts. Highly recommended.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten 'Boys Own' story Of 1st WW BUT On The 'Other Side'!, 9 May 2010
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Britain had it's amateur in the Middle east, one Lawrence of Arabia, well find out what the German Secret service were doing at the same time! Okay the German Secret Service were no the 'amateur' status of the 'gentlemanly' British, but this book is a 'ripping' story.
Shows how the German State was interested in taking over their Allies land, Turkish Empire, and use it as a gateway to the then Jewel of the Brotish Empire, India.
Well written, informative and for a change a hard to put down 'history' book. Shows that history books can be interesting and informative.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating history, 15 Jun 2012
By 
Simon Bendle (Edinburgh, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On Secret Service East of Constantinople: The Plot to Bring Down the British Empire (Paperback)
Peter Hopkirk takes a madly complicated subject - a German plot to incite rebellion in British India during the First World War - and produces an exciting and thoroughly readable history. The bulk of the action takes place in an unfamiliar part of Central Asia that is now Turkmenistan. German spies, fierce Turks, brave Brits and warlike Cossacks abound. And towards the end the mad Bolsheviks turn up to complicate things still further. At times, perhaps inevitably, it can all get a little overwhelming. But a cracking read nonetheless; a book to admire and enjoy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thumping good read of a little know aspect of WW I., 16 Sep 2014
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Simply, a thumping good read, and so well written.
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