Churchill's Wizards: The British genious for deception 1914-1945
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Churchill's Wizards: The British genious for deception 1914-1945

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  251 ratings  ·  42 reviews
By June 1940, most of Europe had fallen to the Nazis and Britain stood alone. So, with Winston Churchill in charge, the British bluffed their way out of trouble, drawing on the trickery which had helped them win the First World War. They broadcast outrageous British propaganda on pretend German radio stations, broke secret codes, conjured up phantom armies and fake airfiel...more
Paperback, 672 pages
Published May 7th 2009 by faber and faber (first published September 18th 2008)
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Rose
Fascinating and highly-recommended history of military deception in the World Wars.

I found the development of deception during the Great War particularly interesting, because the armed forces were fighting a new kind of warfare in which the old rules didn't necessarily apply. Deception had, of course, been part of military technique for as long as men had been fighting, but by the 20th century there was a distinct sense that it wasn't "playing the game" of war; it wasn't cricket; and it certainl...more
Barry
A reasonable history of British military deception in World War I and II. The scope of the book is very broad, somewhat to the book's detriment. The book covers the earliest use of camouflage, propaganda, deception, spying, code breaking, concealment - pretty much every tactic used to misdirect or misrepresent to the enemy. The problem is that in trying to cover so much ground the subject matter flits about quite a bit and consequently the book lacks focus at times. It's quite hard to read in lo...more
Liz
This had some good stuff in it, but way too much detail. I was a little disappointed after reading reviews and expecting better writing. The content itself was fascinating, but bogged down. I liked Silk and Cyanide way more, even though it was specifically about code breaking.
Liz Polding
Thoroughly enjoyable and a fascinating insight into propaganda and deception as military and political techniques. This area of ops starts with camouflage and the use of artists to both conceal real weapons and personnel and create the illusion of military strength where none existed or to divert attention. Military prestidigitation! As the area become more accepted, techniques moved into more sophisticated propaganda to demoralise enemy forces and undermine morale among enemy civilians as well....more
M.G. Mason
This is a military history book with a difference. So many about the two world wars are concerned with grand events, personalities, battles, how many people died, tales of heroism and tragedy and political analysis. I'm not really into military history for the reason that it is done to death, that and the fact that my interests lay in periods much earlier than the 20th century!

However, this is a book with a difference. It deals entirely with the propaganda wars of both world wars. There are some...more
Joel Arnold
Lots of fun. Walks through WWI and WWII with different anecdotes about how the British used intelligence successfully. A very entertaining and interesting book. Here are some of my highlights from the Kindle edition:

The Archduke Ferdinand was the hated symbol of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that had annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina in October 1908, tearing it away from Greater Serbia. The Black Hand, a Serb nationalist terrorist cell, intended to kill the archduke as he drove in his motorcade throu...more
Zohar - ManOfLaBook.com
A Genius for Decep­tion: How Cun­ning Helped the British Win Two World Wars by Nicholas Rankin is a non-fiction book which tack­les the his­tory of cam­ou­flage, lies, bluffs and tricks which helped the British win World War I and World War II.

A Genius for Decep­tion by Nicholas Rankin is a fun and fas­ci­nat­ing account of British mil­i­tary his­tory in decep­tion. As a fan of trivia, I espe­cially enjoyed this book due to lit­tle known facts which were kept secret out of polit­i­cal or cul­tur...more
Xing
A sprawling and enjoyable casual read, the perfect holiday travel companion (lie back in the sand and think of beach landings, naval warfare, and Channel crossings)! Strongly narrative in style, evocative of a grandfather historian/ war veteran who pulls out incidents from memory and describes them in rambling and engaging detail. The scope is immense (camouflage, decoys, codes and ciphers, spies, propaganda), so provides an overview of military deceptive techniques without delving deeply into t...more
David Campton
A fascinating account of the little known story of British military deception in both World Wars, with Churchill acting as a recurrent, if background narrative device. It is little known for a number of reasons; ongoing political necessity in the wake of World War 2 and throughout the cold war, as well as the culture of deception and secrecy that seem to have soaked into the very bones of those involved in camouflage and counter intelligence. Most didn't talk about what they did, those who did o...more
Frank Roberts
An uneven history--certain segments were absolutely fascinating, but others were mind-numbingly boring. I'd highly recommend finding other books to learn the incredible stories of the British deception campaigns during the run-up to the Sicily and Normandy invasions.

Also: the very beginning and the very end had very discordant notes: at the very beginning, the author mentions Mohammed and then promptly adds "peace be upon him." Is the author a muslim? If not, what is that about?

And at the end,...more
Rosemary Farnsworth
This is a fascinating topic for a book. I was amazed at the ingenious deceptions perpetrated by the British such as cardboard boats and tanks, imaginary airfields, etc.
The only problem with the book was that it did have a few too many details. It gets bogged down at times with names and dates which are hard to keep straight but it is worth the effort.
Andy
A super, fast-paced history of the art of deception practised by the British in the First and Second World Wars. This story, on such a vast scale yet so intricate, can only be told in a book. Wonderful and thought-provoking.
Karsten
Thrilled by the creativity, problem-solving, & technological innovation. Bored by the tales of bureaucracy behind them...

By the time I finished, I wished this was two books, one about WW1 and the other about WW2. The sheer roster of names to keep up with would have been divided in half then, and there would have been room for more storytelling.

And portion of the epilogue in which Rankin sorts out the different sorts of deceptions human beings practice on each other and which are defensible...more
Greg Smith
Endlessly fascinating book that goes well beyond the promise of the title. Just the tale of Juan Pujol's exploits -- one of many in this book -- is worth the price of admission, and even if the subject of this book doesn't appeal to you, I'd urge you to look him up in the Wikipedia. (It's worth noting, though, that Pujol's reasons for leaving his first wife out of his own later recollections are much better justified here than in the Wikipedia article.)

The book's postscript is a nice surprise.
Lisa
The first half of this book was a little dull, mostly because it dealt with WWI and deception during that war was basically unheard of. There wasn't a word for camouflage until WWI, so that should sum up a lot of the problems there. The second half was more interesting, but also less directed. The author had too much of a wealth of information for WWII, and spent a lot of time bouncing between espionage, propaganda, and camouflage. It would have been nice to have it more directed.
Dave Koch
The book seems a little tedious at times with many references to people and places that are not familiar, but for that reason it is very educational. It provides a much broader view of the world wars beyond what happend in Germany, France, England, and the rest of western Europe. Many aspects of the wars in Africa and the Middle East are described. The focus, however, is primarily on the role of deception in posturing many of the key events of both wars.
Stan Bebbington
The objective of this book, stated in the title, is to inform us about the Service Staff who were variously in charge of deception in two world wars.The connecting thread is Winston Churchill. Because most of the topics covered, in what is an overview, have been extensively published and read in detail, it is difficult to see for whom it is intended. Maybe in time there will be readers who would benefit from a broad review, but not yet.
James
Fascinating read on a subject that is usually in the background. The title is a little deceiving as it has very little to do with Churchill and the bulk of the book focuses on deception and camouflage development during WW1. However the author manages to keep the reader enthralled throughout and does justice to the unsung heroes. I would recommend that anyone interested in the two world wars delve into this book.
Gill
Although the use of Churchill's name is more a marketing ploy than historical fact, this is a fascinating history of 20th-century military deception including double agents, the planting of false intelligence, and the development of the art of camouflage.

It's written in an engaging narrative style that only occasionally strays into dull recitation. Educational and entertaining.
Antony
The British genius for deception 1914-1945. A most readable and informative history charting the rise of the arts of camouflage and deception from the simple to the elaborate, how they came about and their application in the theatres of war. Heroes and villains,stories and 'myths',and much which has remained hush hush and in the shadows for a long time.
John
An engaging and comprehensive look at British innovations in camouflage and military deception in WW1 and WW2. Some of it will be familiar ground to the WW2 buff (Operation Mincemeat, the decoys at El Alamein), but there's something new for everyone. The author writes with a dry British wit that makes the whole sordid affair seem bloody civilized.
Barbara
Interesting exploration of the methods used by the British in WWI and WWII to confound and confuse the enemy on the battlefield. I learned that camouflage was an unknown term in English prior to WWI and that many of the techniques of camouflage were developed by artists and were directly related to modernist art schools, such as cubism.
Peter Fortune
This was retitled "A Genius for Deception" when I read it. Rankin's books are about wartime efforts by the British to deceive and disinform the Germans. See "Ian Fleming's Commandos." This book covers both Wworld wars. There are lots of interesting vignettes and operations, but Rankin's turgid style makes it hard to plow through them.
Ian May
I really enjoyed this book.

Even after more than half a century, there's always more information to learn about WW2, and of course, the whole origins of deception back to WW1 are most interesting.

It was an easy read too, and it only took me a long time because I have so few spare minutes in the average day to pick up a book!
Mick Geratowski
The book's title is misleading since it's mainly about general facts during WW1/WW2 with only small amount of palpable camuflage/propaganda/cunning examples. However, if you'd like to extend your knowledge on the World War from the British perspective, this read is perfect and larded with dates & interesting datums!
Christian
Decent enough book, but less factual than I was expecting. The author places a lot of stock in the story of the deception, rather than the history or the facts. In it's own right, it's a fun book, but not what I was looking for at the time. I would call it a 3-star summer read, in any other context.
Dave
Aug 21, 2012 Dave rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Young adults and above
An absolutely brilliantly written book. I have read this book three times, and cannot recommend it highly enough. Not only is it written in such a way as to make history accessible to non-historians, but it is also written in such a way as to do justice to the subject of history of itself.
Michael
History was always my favourite subject at school and this book was an engaging, well-written and highly informative read. It was great reading about the heroic tales of the various men and women during the wars, and the ingenious tactics they came up with to help win the wars.
Verity W
Really really good. I'm only annoyed it took me so long to get around to reading this. Its a fascinating insight into the deceptions and trickery practiced by the British in World War One and Two. Well worth a read - especially if you're looking for an introduction to the subject.
Rod
Plenty of detail covering both World Wars and concerning the British genius for deception. The book convinces one that this branch of warfare certainly helped win the conflict. The deceptions were much more extensive than one would have guesssed.
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