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Churchill's Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Mavericks Who Plotted Hitler's Defeat

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  3,638 ratings  ·  467 reviews

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 mav

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published February 7th 2017 by Picador
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Joel Blackwell Well this is an interesting question and I cannot find the answer. I sent the email below to Damien Lewis through his web site and will publish the an…moreWell this is an interesting question and I cannot find the answer. I sent the email below to Damien Lewis through his web site and will publish the answer if I get one. Both authors seem to have solid credentials.
I landed here as I sat down to write a review of the Giles Milton book, which is first rate.
Titles cannot be copyrighted, but you can't help but wonder, looking at the cover of the two books, if they are not at least dueling versions of the same fascinating story. The answer may be simple, two writers were working on the same material and produced books at the same time. Perhaps because previously classified material was made public. If there has been a story about the coincidence of these two books, I haven't seen it.

Message sent:
I see on Amazon your book on ungentlemanly warfare. It has an almost identical title to the one by Giles Milton. I do not see this book on your site or in your wikipedia bio.
Even the cover is remarkabbly similar.
Both seem to have come out in 2016?
How did this book come to be and why is it not listed?


Community Reviews

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K.J. Charles
An extraordinary story: the impact of saboteurs on WW2, and how much the British establishment fought against them. Reads like fiction. People inventing limpet mines and hedgehog anti submarine missiles and training the Jedburghs (three-man saboteur units that helped D-Day succeed by stopping Panzer divisions getting to Normandy before a beachhead was established). Fascinating, hugely readable stuff about a deeply peculiar world of extraordinary people.
Terence M (Spring is in My Step!)
Wonderful book!

Yet another “Review to Come!”
Dec 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If caught this eclectic group of researchers and intelligence spies, a slow painful death was would be their last assignment. There was no book written on the best way to kill, incapacitate, or maim the maximum number of people. Every tactic listed not only had to be practical, but able to implement with minimal materials, knowledge, and time. This fast-paced book highlights people, places, and mission where this super-secret group designed weapons, planned mission, and continued striking at the ...more
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In dark days that heralded World War Two Britain assembled a collection of people willing to fight in ways that would destroy the enemy and break all the "rules" of polite war.

The dangerous inventor
Gubbins’s task would be to plan a dirty, mischievous and thoroughly ungentlemanly war against Hitler’s Nazis.

Few in the regular army had any experience of fighting an ungentlemanly war. Gubbins’s priority was to prepare an instruction manual in such warfare, setting out in terse prose how best to kill
May 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is both a chilling book and a fascinating one.

The book depicts the act of sabotage and gorilla warfare as though its an necessity - which at the time it was. However by its very nature (and something that is referred to several times both by the author and in quotes of some of dialogue referred to in this book) as ungentlemanly. The fact you are referring to death and destruction is almost a side effect. The way in which seemingly average people set themselves about the promotion and devel
FAN-F$&@ING-TASTIC. I absolutely love history that reads like a novel, and this was a swashbuckling ride from beginning to end. I had no idea just how little I knew about the massive impact that these brave saboteurs has on the outcome of the war, and ultimately history as we know it. Good gracious, this was loads of fun. ...more
This is a sort of greatest hits of Britain's clandestine guerilla warfare during WWII. The ministry (once it had some legitimacy in the government, that is; there were plenty of people who were opposed to sabotage and assassination as ways of waging war, and they were vocal) and the people who ran it take a backseat to the missions themselves. This is probably for the best, since internecine government battles don't make the most interesting reading, but blowing up a heavy water plant does.

Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“The whole art of guerilla warfare lies in striking the enemy where he least expects it and yet where he is most vulnerable.” Colin Gubbins

The best World War Two history I’ve read in years. One blurb claims, “The last untold story of World War Two.” And a critical story it is. An unlikely collection of English men and women, working outside normal channels but with cover by the prime minister, develop and field weapons which solve many problems critical to England’s survival and eventual victory
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
To me this read like an incredible spy novel. However, this was real life. During World War II, British prime minister Winston Churchill organized a top secret spy organization to wreck havoc on Hitler's war machine. Six men directed the guerrilla warfare against the Germans. Cecil Clarke, was an engineer and an explosives expert who was responsible for the assassination of SA leader Reinhard Heydrich. Another was William Fairburn, who was the world's leading expert in silent killing and hand to ...more
Pamela Shropshire
Informative, entertaining and inspiring! A sensational account of the SOE from its beginnings in a tiny office “with an old table and two chairs” to its immeasurable impact on the Allied victory in WW2. They say truth is stranger than fiction; indeed, the courage and bravery of the many agents and saboteurs across Europe seems more like a Hollywood propaganda film than deeds of real people facing capture, torture, imprisonment or certain death - or all the above.

If you have any interest in WW2,
Daniel Farabaugh
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent book that really gives a great account of a lesser known subject of World War II. It does a great job of putting the guerrilla warfare and sabotage in the context of the larger war. It was briskly paced and easy to keep the people involved straight.
Paul  Perry
This history of those who worked tirelessly to build and plan Britain's and indeed the Allies Special Forces and guerrilla operations and some of those who carried them out is thrilling, exhilarating and wonderfully informative.
Lee Battersby
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Absolutely fascinating insight into the formation, development, and successes of a typically British endeavour: a disparate collection of professional soldiers, backyard garage boffins, Oxbridge Mafia types and gentlemen of ill-repute who were drawn together to create the definite rule book and arsenal of sabotage, assassination, and guerrilla warfare.

Milton draws on multiple sources to provide a comprehensive and seamless narrative, including the campaign of obstruction that was waged against t
David  Schroeder
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Such an enjoyable read and written in such an informative grouping of short stories of what became of the British MI(R) during World War 2. Most great stories involving clandestine services don't come into light until years later and this goes to prove that there are never enough great stories about World War 2. It is also a sobering reminder that there is no 'clean' war and that the John Wayne portrayals of war are mere fiction. What these stories do reveal though is that there are unsung heroe ...more
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
2019 bk 229. It took me longer than normal to finish this excellent book about the beginnings of the S. O. E. from the early years of WWII through to the end. This book tied up a lot of missing pieces, identified folks in unidentified pictures in other books and in general was an excellent read. The reason it took so long, I would read a chapter and then have to root through my bookshelves to see other books it referred to or to write clarifications and then I went on vacation. The book was heav ...more
Mar 01, 2018 added it
This is not so much a book about Churchill as it is about the people he surrounded himself in an attempt to stymie Hitler's war effort. The damage they caused at Norsk Hydro prevented Hitler from being able to develop the bomb. Their hit and run raids caused the Germans an extra 2 weeks to reach Normandy, by which time Allied forces had already established a beachhead.
Sadly, no evidence exists of their exploits. The facilities that were utilized have either been destroyed or turned back to the
I was excited to buy this book because I have always had an interest in World War II and this seemed to offer new information. It did.

The book tells the story of a small group of mavericks who disdained the grinding bureaucracy, mindless discipline and conventional thinking of both the British Army and government ministries, leading up to and during World War II. They knew that in 1940 Britain was facing its darkest hour, an expression we associate with Winston Churchill, of course, who coined i
John Findlay
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
After the first few chapters of this book, I was ready to slog through it and give it a mediocre rating. But the final 75% was well worth it. The stories were amazing, all the more because they were true and because they helped the Allies win WWII. The history of British Special Forces is told in scintillating form. Initially a group of about six gentlemen were recruited to find ways to harass the Germans by fighting a guerilla war. At the time, this was viewed as crude and illegal, even though ...more
Stephanie G
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was terribly interesting. It's the untold history of underhanded tactics taken on by true gentlemen. I have a basic knowledge of WWII, thanks to sporadic history instruction, John Wayne movies, and a grandpa who fought in the Pacific. Like 'Code Talker,' this book follows a select group and their contribution to the war effort. It involves tinkerers, masterminds, geniuses, and everyday men and women who stood up against an awful foe, who all shook their fists at evil, rolled up their sleeve ...more
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
To everyone caught up in the fervor of the WWII fiction trend - stop what you’re doing and read this book. This is non-fiction at its finest. It is, at once, jaw-dropping and witty, inspiring and gut-wrenching. I only wish Mr. Milton can be prevailed upon to include some maps in the paperback edition. Otherwise flawless.
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant new information about the eccentricities and creative power of the British during the war. These actual secret departments of the government directly reflected Churchill's encouragement and support. Wonderfully written with authenticity,
Humor and grit.
Joe Faust
I knew the Ministry was an important thing during W0rld War II, but I had no idea just how far down the rabbit hole the Ungentlemen went. From stealing three ships out from under the noses of the Nazis to making the beaches safe for D-Day, plus providing vital technology for the Nagasaki Atom Bomb and paving the way for our CIA. This crew clearly deserved this account, if not many more.
Oct 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: history-war
This was too intellectual to be as fun as the title suggests. I wanted this to be really intriguing and while it had some interesting parts, it was too much about the production of the sabatoge devices.
John Frazier
Apr 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The fact that I'll never live long enough to read all the fascinating accounts of heroism demonstrated during WWII is sad on a personal level--those I have read are generally very engaging and enlightening--but even more so because so many are required to tell the complete story. It seems that everywhere you turn there's another compelling record of the "fight to save the world," and this is no exception.

Let me begin by saying that the title--accurate as it is--left me smiling. Leave it to the e
Sep 26, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways
Authors of books that reveal secrets from past wars have to be careful. Their aim might be to recognise the work and efforts of a forgotten group of people but they then open up the whole issue of why such work has been kept secret for so long.

Here we have a group of people, starting out small in a single office in an anonymous building in London but later being able to to commandeer huge estates almost at will and having access to resources denied other parts of the military. This was the group
Robert Walker
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing

A couple of months ago I won an advanced copy of Giles Milton’s book entitled Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare from the Goodreads Giveaways program. The book generally tells of some of the World War II activities of the British Special Operations Executive. The SOE, as it was called, was, among other things, formed to conduct espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance, and to design and construct special weapons, explosives and devices. While some in the military and government conside
Mary Alice
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this book because it came in the mail, a sort of book-of-the-month club book; and I tend to favor books about the second World War anyway. What I usually don't read is books about weapons and explosives, and this book talks a lot about bombs.

This is the story of the British saboteurs, the British bombs, and the British bombmakers of World War II, and how they played a major role in winning the war for the Allies. Giles Milton teaches us about different kind of bombs -- he makes the mortar
Sahani Perera at The Book Info
By 1939, a top-secret organization formed with only one purpose: to sabotage Hitler's war machines. As every bit of extraordinary effort valued, theses 6 pivotal characters were the top notch that Britain's had: Colin Gubbins, Millis Jefferis, William Fairbairn, Cecil Clarke, Stuart Macrae, and Eric Sykes. Their highest accomplishment, the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich and the sabotage of Norsk Hydro plant, gained them recognition and further support. With the aid from a group of formidable ...more
I enjoyed a free advanced reader's copy of Churchill's Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Mavericks Who Plotted Hitler's Defeat that I received as a Goodreads giveaway. It was an intriguing account of the formation and operation of a relatively unknown group of British saboteurs who greatly assisted the Allied cause during World War II.

This book is the best, if not the only, nonfiction thriller that I have ever read. The story that Milton pieces together from interviews, documents, and
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is about an interesting group of people who are determined to defeat Hitler and the Nazis using unorthodox methods, hence the title "ungentlemanly".

It is a good read, and tells us something about the second world war. A few people (two hundred men and women) can help win a war. The story is about two groups, the Special Operations Executive led by Colin Gubbins and Military Intelligence (Research) led by Millis Jefferis.

One group would pioneer weapons that would change the outcome of
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British writer and journalist Giles Milton was born in Buckinghamshire in 1966. He has contributed articles for most of the British national newspapers as well as many foreign publications, and specializes in the history of travel and exploration. In the course of his researches, he has traveled extensively in Europe, the Middle East, Japan and the Far East, and the Americas.

Knowledgeable, insati

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