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on 23 October 2013
This is one of a number of books written about the `SBS' as a military entity. In his introduction Mortimer makes some distinction as to nomenclature, and there is no doubt that confusion has reigned since the Royal Marines (RM) cheekily adopted the acronym (used initially to describe `section', thence `squadron', followed by `service'!) in the days of the early RM development of what is now known to the world as the Special Boat Service. It is a clever man who fully unravels the confusion of such wartime groupings, but Mortimer soon makes it clear that his affiliation is to the Special Boat Squadron, formed in March 1943 under Captain G Jellicoe as a sub unit of 1 SAS Regiment.

Earlier books on the same subject-`The Filibusters' and `Raiders from the Sea' (Lodwick), and `SBS in World War Two' (Courtney)- are accounts written by actual veterans of these amazing military adventures, and so much of the Mortimer's content will not be that revealing. However, what soon becomes clear, in all of these writings, is that, despite the seemingly casual and often piratical nature of their subject's approach to war, these were serious minded individuals bent on the execution of incredibly brave, innovative and game changing assignments, and there is no disputing the fact that they were significantly influential in altering the course of the war in and around the Mediterranean.

Mortimer steals the march on his fellow authors on two counts. His research has the benefit of access to archive material relatively recently released into the public domain, and so he is more readily able to pronounce upon such matters as the `Special Treatment' meted out to the victims of the Alimnia Patrol, and associated theories of culpability. However it is the illustrations which make the book and bring to life the swashbuckling nature of a type of warfare which, whilst frequently risky in its execution and lethal in its outcome, would have had very clear appeal to a young, and sometimes not so young man of an adventurous persuasion. The quality of some of his pictures may be wanting, but, for the most part they, along with a flowing, logical and articulate narrative, put faces to names and evoke an atmosphere of strong camaraderie, tenacity, and leathery resolve. It does, of course help that, by and large, the sun was usually in sparkling attendance!

This is a cleverly designed work that will serve equally well as fascinating read and useful reference book. Photographic reproductions have been skilfully and tastefully enhanced and captioned. Any discerning military critic of the cover plate's somewhat relaxed and theatrical impression will be glad to learn from the author that it was `staged'. For the less discerning it will probably reinforce their perception of the buccaneering flavour of this rich and important period in the history of Special Forces!
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on 10 December 2013
Compared to its sister regiment which was reinstated after the war and became the modern SAS, the original SBS occupies less space on the bookshelf due to its creation as a subsidiary unit of Special Forces, its postwar disbandment, and its re-establishment as a secretive company, squadron and later service of the Royal Marines. This book deals with the origins of the service as it split from the SAS after David Sterling's capture, and was then re-roled, not always successfully, to raiding duties in the Aegean sea. What is apparent is the exceptional quality of the photos, and the text makes rattling good history - In many instances the reader is left with the distinct impression that these units existed for the purpose of filling the wartime headlines with positive news of derring-do, and glosses over the fact that the units themselves contained many questionable individuals who made calamitous errors of judgement. While honouring the undoubted bravery of this all-volunteer force and its achievements, this book goes a long way towards exploring the senseless waste of lives that came from poor decision making at company level. Unfortunately, Osprey seem to have fallen into a habit of taking their source text from some very peculiar reminiscences and anecdotes, resulting in a lot of typos, spelling inconsistencies and errors in technical terms (often relating to weapons, names and titles of regiments and units, and place names) that mar the reader's experience, and let down the quality of Osprey's recent publications. Nice book but far more research is needed to do this subject justice.
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on 6 May 2014
It is difficult to rate this book. The topic is compelling and it is certainly well researched and , in terms of contemporary photos, well illustrated (as an 'illustrated history' it may work better as a physical book than on kindle). However, it has only one map, a general one of the Aegean, where maps of other theatres of action (the Adriatic, N Italy) would also have been helpful. It is also not especially well written; not that it is badly written (though the author mis-uses words like 'mitigated' and 'piqued') but there is a certain lack of flow to the narrative; it seemed to me a bit disjointed. I was especially interested in the Alimnia incident, as I have visited the island two or three times and seen the remains of the Italian submarine base, but Mortimer's account didn't have as much detail on this as I was hoping for.
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on 8 November 2013
It was very interesting reading about some of my dads (KEN SMITH) exploits in this wonderful book about the SBS commandos,and as my dad is 91 and his eye sight failing, I had to read it to him, and he would suddenly remember different operations when mentioning some of the heroes in this book.In the photo of 9 SBS commandos with the Swastika, my dad is wrongly named as Henry Smith, and his best mate Albert May also from Portsmouth both survived also with many of their captured 'spoils'of war including the flag and a German ships clock that is still working to this day.
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on 27 July 2014
A good read, especially for anyone who wonders why American policy during WW2 seems to have been to frustrate any British effort to liberate Greece. For the want of fairly minimal resources, the Germans were allowed to score victories in the Aegean sea and islands despite the heroics of the SBS. Given Greece's post war history, a lot of grief might have been avoided by Britain doing precisely what the Americans were trying to prevent, which was influence events in Greece post war. That's a story which is still unfolding to this day, but this book is about British Special Forces in the Aegean at a time when not many other forces were being spared to fight the fascist powers there at all.

The formatting of some of the plates is a bit awkward on Kindle, but it's not a fatal problem.
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on 19 November 2013
Really good book, lots of detailed information on the SBS (Special Boat Service) in World War 2, the lesser known arm of the special forces after the SAS.

Lots of interviews with real veterans who detail their time and missions in the unit. Pictures pretty good throughout, I read it on my Kindle Touch and it looked fine in black in white, but probably would be better in colour. Would make a good Christmas present for anyone interested in WW2.
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on 10 December 2013
A great account of the SBS and their missions with a wealth of photographs and personal stories. A must for anyone interested in the special services of WW2 or just as an interesting read. Gavin Mortimer put a lot of time and research into this book and it has paid off.
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on 1 July 2014
A very interesting read. Much detailed information as to the birth and development of this unit and it ties to the SAS. Exciting stories of action were skilfully intertwined with the training and maintaining of this astonishing group of men , brave, and resourceful ..not only fighting the enemy but the powers above that really didn't see what these "pirates" achieved in very difficult circumstances. A GREAT read for anyone with an interest in WW2 special forces...
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on 22 December 2013
Great to read about the exceptionally courageous men who formed the SBS. Understated bravery and valour oozes from each page. Excellent description of how the Special Boat Section came into being.
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on 7 January 2014
This is an obviously well researched read that doesn't over glamourize. It flows well and I found myself very absorbed even though I bought it on a whim. Very interesting historical account.
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