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Publisher's Summary

Six gentlemen, one goal: the destruction of Hitler's war machine

In the spring of 1939, a top-secret organization was founded in London: Its purpose was to plot the destruction of Hitler's war machine through spectacular acts of sabotage.

The guerrilla campaign that followed was every bit as extraordinary as the six men who directed it. One of them, Cecil Clarke, was a maverick engineer who had spent the 1930s inventing futuristic caravans. Now his talents were put to more devious use: He built the dirty bomb used to assassinate Hitler's favorite, Reinhard Heydrich. Another, William Fairbairn, was a portly pensioner with an unusual passion: He was the world's leading expert in silent killing, hired to train the guerrillas being parachuted behind enemy lines. Led by dapper Scotsman Colin Gubbins, these men - along with three others - formed a secret inner circle that, aided by a group of formidable ladies, single-handedly changed the course of the Second World War: a cohort handpicked by Winston Churchill whom he called his Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.

Churchill's Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is a gripping and vivid narrative of adventure and derring-do that is also, perhaps, the last great untold story of the Second World War.

©2016 Giles Milton (P)2016 Macmillan Audio

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Gillian
  • Austin, TX, United States
  • 02-08-17

Rip-Roarin' Tale of Devoted 'Cads'!

"Churchill's Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare" was such burst-out-laughing fun that I had to stop a minute and wonder about whether it was true or not. How delighted I was to Google the mainstays and find them there, along with their exploits.
Okay, while you might read about exploits there, you'll be missing a whoooole lot if you don't listen to them here.
It starts with Joan thinking she's just applying for a run of the mill office job where she'll be making tea, and goes to where the interview swings into, well, ya think ya can handle being tortured?
There are wild personalities galore, exciting sabotage swings, Churchill being a flat-out: Let's Blow Something Up kinda guy.
Giles Milton's writing is served well by his sweeping narration, his breathless excitement, his obvious delight in what he's relaying. I can't tell you how many times I snorted with laughter.
I'm a history buff, particularly military history, so I'm used to the rather, well... "dryer" versions of what went on at a particular time. This, my friend, is anything BUT dry.
It's a rollicking rollercoaster of a ride.
And God Bless the makers of Sticky Bombs, Castrators, and the like. No matter how much Alka Seltzer, how many pieces of candy, how many condoms were used in the ingenious makings...!

20 of 23 people found this review helpful

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Outstanding tale of daring-do & brilliant mindsI

I loved this book. I'm a WW2 history buff. This story of secret weapons, guerilla warfare, sabotage and brilliant weapons, tactics people kept my attention (and much, much more).

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • AndyVee
  • Bay Area, CA United States
  • 03-11-17

Great book. A must-listen for US readers.

great book. origins of the OSS and uncharacteristic British skullduggery. worth writing fifteen words about.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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vary the pitch now and again!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. The story is very good. Great characters, circumstances, events, and outcomes. WWII in a light one may not have considered.

What other book might you compare Churchill's Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare to and why?

Covers some of the same historical ground as Churchill's Secret Warriors: The Explosive True Story of the Special Forces Desperadoes of WWII.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Giles Milton?

Authors don't always seem to be the best narrators of their own work, it seems. I would have loved to hear Simon Prebble or Simon Vance or John Lee or several others read this book. I just found the narrator pitched it high and at the top all the way through. It was relentless! I can appreciate the enthusiasm and the awareness, but reading at this high pitch and intensity without break or nuance diminishes the information and actually at times made it annoying and occasionally hard to follow. Variation in pitch, prosody, tone is the key. It really sounded like he was shouting all the way through.

Any additional comments?

I think the book is worth a listen for its content, but not necessarily the performance by the author as reader.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Great story, crippled by mediocre narration.

Most of the time, I'm enthused when an author reads her or his own work. There's a certain authenticity I enjoy from being read to by the author.

It doesn't always work out though, and a professional voice over actor is the best move - like in this case. The publisher should have scouted out any number of professional voice people to do the narration rather than letting the author tackle his own work. I feel that the storytelling (for some of the historical accounts read like an Ian Fleming novel) could have benefited from a professional who could bring life and drama to the text, rather than sounding like someone's enthusiastic grandfather getting caught up in a bedtime story.

And then there's the French. Oh, the French. The pronunciation is insanely hard to listen to. The poor chap mangles the French place names, proper names of people and even the French dialog that he wrote. It's not merely grating on the ears, it's at times practically unintelligible to listen to, which can greatly interfere with the understanding of the story he's trying to tell.

It's an enjoyable enough book, I guess - an easy read that collapses into its own tone, which can feel a little methodical or plodding by the end. I found myself continually wanting to know more, but by the end I had decided I would have preferred to read a similar account by an author with a more dynamic and varied tone.

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating wartime history.

This is well written book. The reading by the author made it very entertaining. I didn't want stop listening each time I started.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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The secret WWII British rebels that slowed Hitler’s rampage that you’ve likely never heard of

Question: How do you halt the relentless onslaught of the Germans when conventional warfare isn’t making the dent it needs to?

Answer: Form an off-the-grid team, fund their experiments, and have them wage a dirty war, the likes of which Britain has never seen before (and many in the British military scoffed at).

Churchill’s secret cabal was an innovation hub for weapons and warfare, bringing together a motley crew of experts, engineers, warriors, and more. This group that remained largely off the radar from the general public were responsible for developing guerrila-style weapons that took out German factories, warships, and trains, cutting off supply lines, and ensuring major victories (up to and including the infamous Normandy landing) without so much as a hint of public recognition.

This is a fascinating book, with each chapter outlining a new and ever more dangerous expedition for the team. As the stakes got higher, so did the creativity, but like all forms of modern innovation, the internal strife caused by these rebels mounted even further, threatening the group’s mission despite its approval and full endorsement from Churchill himself.

Really interesting story of the wars behind the War, and about the modern parallels of corporate reaction to internal innovation centers. Perhaps I’m just more sensitive to that last angle since I’m involved in an incubator group focused on innovation for a much larger enterprise, but there’s definitely some parallels today with human behavior and reaction to change (especially if it’s coming from within and challenges the way things have been traditionally done).

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Great behind the lines look of the European Theater during WWII.

Great behind the lines look of the European Theater during WWII. Without the British Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, the war might have had a very different conclusion. From the attack on the Norwegian heavy water plant, to the sabotage of the Peugeot plant, to the delay of the 2nd SS Panzer Division in Normandy, it shows what a few well trained and equipped people can do against a strong, overwhelming foe. Special operations have always been looked down upon by the regular military establishment, but without them, the fight would have been much more difficult. The story of the Ministry developing superior anti tank, anti submarine weapons and other explosives shows what can be done outside of an established and bloated bureaucracy.

Even if you understand the politics, strategy, tactics, battles and logistics of the war, the book is a must read to fully understand how Germany was defeated in WWII.

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  • Evert
  • Burtonsville, MD, United States
  • 04-08-18

A Stand Out

Really enjoyed this book. It was both interesting and informative. Some have complained about the narration, but while it wasn't professional, I didn't find that it distracted. There have been "professional" narrations that have done much worse!

The book provides insight and detail that I have not heard in other histories, for example in regard Rommel's panzer division that was delayed in being called up. I'll not give it away here but this was a fascinating account.

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Terrific account!

Exciting as a suspense novel, but all true. Great detail on the people who designed armament and those who fought behind enemy lines. Stories I’ve never heard and was fascinated by. Well worth the listen! Bravo!