Secret Agent's Pocket Manual 1939-45
Most wars have had some element of espionage and subterfuge, but few have included as much as the Second World War, where the all-embracing nature of the conflict, new technology, and the battle of ideologies conspired to make almost everywhere a war zone. The occupation of much of Europe in particular left huge areas that could be exploited. Partisans, spies and saboteurs risked everything in a limbo where the normal rules of war were usually suspended.
Concealment of oneself, one's weapons and equipment, was vital, and so were the new methods and hardware which were constantly evolving in a bid to stay ahead of the Gestapo and security services. Silent killing, disguise, covert communications and the arts of guerrilla warfare were all advanced as the war progressed. With the embodiment and expansion of organisations such as the British SOE and the American OSS, and the supply of special forces units which operated behind enemy lines, clandestine warfare became a permanent part of the modern military and political scene.
Perhaps surprisingly many of these hitherto secret techniques and pieces of equipment were put into print at the time and many examples are now becoming available. This manual brings together a selection of these dark arts and extraordinary objects and techniques in their original form, under one cover to build up an authentic picture of the Allied spy.
Staff Reviews In the halcyon days of my youth it was all climbing trees, den building and war, and this was the sort of tome I would have cherished. Although kids today often seem to resemble a different breed, I'm sure there are still plenty of budding Dick Bartons and Bulldog Drummonds out there who will find this book thrilling, as well as fascinating, and for whom it will make a great stocking filler at Christmas. Dads will also be secretly fascinated.
A nicely produced pocket-sized hardback, the chapters are culled from both British and US Military Intelligence sources produced during World War II for operatives in the field and illustrated throughout with diagrams and photographs outlining sabotage techniques, hand-to-hand combat, methods of disguise, as well as cunning contraptions such as incendiary cigarettes and the uses of itching powder. They never stood a chance!
As well as being entertaining, it does have a serious historical side. Compiled from research carried out by Dr Stephen Bull into the activities of agents and operatives, it includes an informative introduction covering the evolution and development of the several Allied organisations. Amongst the surprises for me was the fact that the creation of Britain's Special Operations Executive was originally recommended by the decidedly-decent Neville Chamberlain. And we should not forget that these documents were produced in earnest times, when the life of the country and all Europe was threatened. Many brave men and women would have studied and used the information contain herein - endured great suffering, and paid with their lives.
Stephen Cable, Records Specialist