on 17 August 2013
This makes a fascinating read. Aparently GB had units of "ordinary" (!) soldiers who were sent to pinpoint and arrest scientists engaged on secret research - including weapons of mass destruction and poison gas being readied for use against the UK - even getting ahead of our normal forces. "T (for technical) Force" often by passed regular units, ignoring the Allies' official "cease movements" order prior to Germany's surrender, so that the enemy was still heavily armed and highly dangerous, some nazis not even having heard of the Armistice. In one case, a Brit with a leg in plaster so he could not climb the steps of a centre of interest, faced down a German officer threatening him with a pistol and forced their surrender.
Vast secret reserves - the latest subs, aircraft and chemical weapon shells coloured for desert use - were uncovered and crates of research papers, documenting experiments on slave labour were found. Certanly, there is some repetition in the telling of this story as other reviewers have complained. But the miracle of our survival in the face of such advanced terror weapons is driven home by the heroism of this unit and others. The race to capture and occupy German ports before Soviet forces is revealing.
Buy it; it's educational!
on 4 January 2010
The British T-Force has been mentioned before (The Paperclip Conspiracy, Tom Bower) but never in such detail. All of the Allies had similar forces and the race was on to get what they could of documents, equipment and scientists before the official carving up of Germany and Austria into zones of occupation which would 'officially' prevent plunder by the other occupiers. As this book tells the story, such smuggling did occur. In fact, there are a few reports of persons unknown making off with a lorry of captured documents, perhaps to bypass the publication of such knowledge to the later economic benefit of their sponsors.
Only the most casual reading would give the impression of vagueness. The authority given to T-Force was broad and explicit: "The holder of this card is entitled on my authority [Major General Freddie de Guingand - Field Marshal Montgomery's Chief of Staff], to deny any member of the forces entry or access to the building or area which he is guarding." A list of some of the items discovered includes:
"...a submarine 'Schnorkel' with a radar unit attached, the first of its type to be uncovered."
"... a new type of anti-aircraft predictor, only two examples of which were believed to be in existence. Assessors described the find as of the 'utmmost importance.'"
"Beneath the factory were three cellars full of ball bearings... were urgently required for evacuation, since a British ball-bearing manufacturer had recently been bombed, halting production: 'We flew out three Dakotas full of ball bearings, from Rheine airfield to the UK.'"
Not all targets were on the 'black-lists' carried by T-Force. Targets of opportunity were sometimes stumbled upon. (A look at the titles of some B.I.O.S. Reports will find such designations on the cover.) "The factory was producing equipment for use in guided rocket systems, jet- and rocket-propelled aircraft, and chemical fuels. ... Just ten days after the operation the Admiralty produced a 300-page book of translations of the seized documents."
There was also the discovery of a hidden laboratory and some scientists who were working on a 'de-atomisation bomb.' The laboratory was dismantled, crated and sent to England. Some Americans were involved, including some in uniform that appeared to be scientists under cover.
I won't spoil the rest. Suffice it to say that history, as currently written, is off the mark in some significant areas. And let's not forget the post-war operations like PAPERCLIP and LUSTY. Even the Australians had a program titled ESTEA.
on 18 November 2009
I am amazed that after more than 60 years it has been possible for Mr Longden to find a new story on World War 2! So many books have re-told the stories of so-called 'elite units' that it is refreshing to find a specialist unit I have never previously heard of. More to the point, how come I had never even heard of the unit which (it appears) made the British Army's final advance of the war in north-west Europe? As a result, I did a bit of 'digging around' on the internet but there is virtually nothing on this subject. Even 'deep web' resources do not reveal anything about 'T Force'. I did find the unit mentioned in a piece on post-war economics but even that was inaccurate and failed to mention T Force's wartime actions. I enjoyed the balance between the memories of the individuals involved and the documentary evidence of the unit's activities. In particular, I was fascinated by the stories of how the British Army extracted German scientists from the Soviet zone. It was like something out of a spy novel. The traditional history we are normally fed, of how the Russians exploited Germany post-war, is shown to be unfair: the British extraced vast amounts of industrial material from germany and exploited the country's top military and scientific researchers. this has completely changed my understanding of the end of WW2 and the origins of the Cold War.
P.S. I was shocked to read the 'casahistoria' rview on this page. The writer was surprised that the book read like a history of a British army unit! Of course of reads like that: it is a history of a British Army unit!!!
on 19 November 2009
I was surprised to see another reviewer complaining that this was merely the history of a unit. Like most of Sean Longden's books it is a very personal story - via new eye witness accounts of what it was like to be in this unique unit, who were given the task of getting Nazi scientific knowhow before the Japanese and the Russians could. It's this personal perspective and focus on the unit, similar to the approach in Band of Brothers which gives the book its strength. James Bond style antics, planned by Ian Fleming but carried out by a group of individuals (raw recruits and recently injured men previously deemed unfit for front line duty) who each have their own story.
That's not to say however that T-Force fails to contribute to the wider debate. As someone who specialised in German/Russian history of this period at University, reading the last chapters I was suprised to see much of what I'd learnt about the Russian impact on the German postwar economy - was equally true - thanks to unit's like T-Force - of the British impact. And what I would have given to have had access to this book back then when I was doing my studies.
I am glad that I bought and read this book, but I can not rate it five stars for reasons explained more in detail below.
This book tells the story of a small specialized - and rather discreet - unit of British Army charged during World War II with gathering intelligence about enemy technology. It was first created in 1941 as Special Intelligence Unit, at the initiative of a certain Commander Ian Fleming (who would later write James Bond books), in this time an officer in Directorate of Naval Intelligence of British Admiralty. In 1942 it was renamed 30 RN Commando, before becoming 30 Assault Unit in 1943.
In 1944, after the success of Normandy landings, this unit was greatly increased in numbers and renamed once again, becoming the T-Force. Its task was to "identify, secure, guard and exploit valuable and special information, including documents, equipment and persons of value to the Allied armies". Once the allies broke the Rhine barrier in 1945, T-Force units became suddenly a very important part of allied war effort, as they were charged not only with gathering intelligence but also PREVENTING valuable German technology, documentation and personel from being seized by Soviets. Therefore, from April 1945 until well into 1946, those soldiers were waging in the same time the last battle of World War II and the first fight of Cold War...
Sean Longden book is VERY well researched and full of valuable information, some of it published for the first time. I learned a lot from it and I am glad that I bought and read it. Sadly, I must say that the writing and organisation of this book are NOT AS EXCELLENT as author's research. It is not a very long book, but still I had to struggle a lot to read it all and it took me forever to finally munch through it. This is the reason why I take away one star from it. If you want to read this book, attack it when you have some extended free time available, because it is not an easy read and it REALLY takes a moment to arrive to the end.
But still, it is a valuable thing, about a topic left almost completely untreated until now. Recommended to all those interest by World War II, Cold War and intelligence services in general.
on 9 May 2012
The author has certainly done exhaustive research into a fantastically interesting topic, about which I was wholly ignorant. He deserved a lot of credit for that. He bemoans the loss of the archive material (130 tonnes of papers, almost all of which were destroyed), and clearly wants to preserve in maximum detail all the information that he has turned up.
This makes the book a bit of a compromise: is it a popular history book, or a piece of scholarly research? It veers more towards the latter, so readers need to be prepared for that. I skimmed over large tracts of the material, especially the minute detail of the frequent reconfigurations of the task force, and its command chain. I can't see that appealing to many "lay" readers. If it were edited for a more popular audience, I think it could easily halve its length.
Less understandably, it is in need of a good editor simply to remove the frequent repetition of material. Sometimes the same passage will be repeated more than twice, and generally the same details will crop up over and again. So again, you need to be prepared to skim.
It's a shame, because the story is fascinating, and it's still definitely worth reading, but it could be so much more readable. What could have been a gripping book at half its length ended up as a bit of a trudge. Like other reviewers, I would be more interested in more technical detail, but then that might put off others.
I give it 4 stars because of the intrinsic value of the material and the service done by the author to history.
on 30 March 2012
Having read the other reviews, I find myself in broad agreement with the majority of the good ones, with no time at all for those who found it 'boring'; an adjective which this book in no way merits.
I was, however, somewhat concerned when I started it, as the editing mentioned by other reviewers is a bit suspect (especially as regards repetition of whole passages) as is the proof reading (the Me 163 rocket fighter described as a KORNET!). I was also a bit worried about the slow start and the difficulties of getting 'T-Force' up and running. I soon realised that this was simply an accurate reflection of the true story. With the war in Europe fast approaching an end, I thought that by the time this lot had got their act together, the war will be over. It nearly was, but I had not counted on how good they were virtually from the word go and the extraordinary work carried out by the force in the immediate post-war period. I was familiar with the amazing story of 30 Assault Unit, or 30 Commando, and certainly considered that they were running rings around 'T-Force'. It became apparent that the circumstances in which they operated changed as time and locations changed. No potential reader should be put off by considering 'T-Force' inferior to 30AU. They weren't; but they were different. The clear rivalry that existed between 'T-Force' and 30AU is well explained and the criticism of the force made by at least one of the more flamboyant and senior people in 30AU is clearly shown to be unjustified.
I have to say that after a rather frustrating start, this book really gets into is stride. This is not some dry unit history; it comes alive with the recollections of the people who were there. As an 'elite' unit, 'T-Force' was made up of the most unlikely warriors. In stark contrast to the Commandos of 30AU, 'T-Force' was made up of very different men, many of whom were considered medically unfit for combat roles, although this does not describe them all. They were a very diverse collection of troops, some of whom were highly specialised. The other half of the story is the investigators sent to work with them.
As concerns the people and characters described, I was very happy to read about Major Brian Urquhart finding a valuable niche in the Force after he was treated so shabbily just prior to the Arnhem operation (he warned about the presence of two SS Divisions but was not only ignored, but sent on sick leave). In many ways, he should be considered as one of the heroes of Arnhem. The stories of the less well-known or unknown soldiers is equally worthy of reading and highlights the amazing diversity of this unit and its staff.
One other character that has to be mentioned is, of course, Commander Ian Fleming, who takes the credit for setting up 30AU; the idea that inspired the creation of 'T-Force'. Commander Fleming does not take centre stage here, which is as it should be. The aftermath chapter does go into more detail about the Bond books and where Fleming appears to have drawn his inspiration from. The points are not laboured though, and there is a great deal more to the aftermath than this.
To sum up, a very surprising, readable story WHICH IS NOT BORING AT ALL! The book has a few minor flaws as described, which is the only reason it didn't get 5*. I fancy myself as being pretty well-read as concerns WW2, but this was a whole new story for me and one that I feel very privileged to have read.
on 15 August 2011
Beginning with the swift formation of the elite unit toward the end of WWII, 'T-Force' details the evolution of this force and some related units as they attempt to rapidly and safely secure German industrial and military secrets, locations and people (everyone from workers to cutting-edge research scientists).
Well researched and packed with wondrous stories, I learnt a lot about what it meant to be involved in the military toward the end of the war. This is definitely a history book, but in many places it reads like a novel.
To hear what's great about this book, read the 5-star reviews: they are correct and I will not repeat them. Here's what I thought could have been improved...
The personal stories make this a great read, but the technical information is slightly limited and I would have loved it if Longden had gone into greater detail when describing what became of a number of the findings and what technologies they helped bring to existence in the post-war world.
Overall the book could have done with some tighter editing, too: a number of points were often repeated, almost verbatim. It was slightly confusing at times when an entire paragraph was almost identical to one I had read the previous day. Not a showstopper in terms of reading and enjoying this book, but it would have been nice if my 'flow' hadn't been disturbed by these anomalies.
on 15 August 2013
Having read the published stories on Operations Alsos and Paperclip this is a book that fills in the British side of the story. Excellently researched and referenced. An absolutely great read for anyone interested in this period of history
on 8 November 2012
I have just finished reading this. It had me absorbed on many train journeys. The facts revealed gave me a new understanding of how we looted Germany after the Second World War; quick reparations. One piece of information that shocked me was the revelation of how our chemical warfare people abused animals. The Germans did too, but also used humans.The author has done an enormous amount of work, and I'm grateful to him for it.
The only criticism of the book is that the style is sometimes ponderous, reading like an official report. The use of inverted commas for words which are in everyday use is irritating. Nevertheless, a fine book.