If you ever need to attack an armored enemy vehicle, overpower someone who's holding you at gunpoint, or drop by parachute into a country where no one should know how you got there, this book is for you.
Hey, wait. Don't leave yet.
I have read various sections aloud, much to the perturbation and amusement of my family members. As my mom said, "Sometimes she'll pull out something that will surprise you." Yup. Reading of choice this last week has been the SOE spy training manual for Allied spies, and lots of times it beat out my current fiction as more enjoyable, less traumatic, and tons of fun.
Even if you're not trying to write spy novels, like I am, you'll still love this book. I think it's the most unique book I've ever reviewed on the blog, and it gets 5 stars for sheer awesomeness.
The Book (From Amazon)
During World War II, training in the black arts of covert operation was vital preparation for the “ungentlemanly warfare” waged by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) against Hitler’s Germany and Tojo’s Japan. In the early years of the war, the SOE set up top secret training schools to instruct prospective agents in the art of being a spy. Soon there was an international network of schools in operation in secluded locations ranging from the Scottish Highlands to Singapore and Canada.
Reproduced here is one of the most comprehensive training syllabi used at SOE’s Special Training Schools (STSs) instructing agents on how to wreak maximum havoc in occupied Europe and beyond. A staggering array of unconventional skills are covered—from burglary, close combat, and silent killing, to utilizing propaganda, surveillance, and disguise—giving an unprecedented insight into the workings of one of WWII’s most intriguing organizations.
These files, released from the British National Archive, put covert history in readers’ hands. Uncover an exciting, little-known part of WWII history and delve into the inner workings of a real spy network.
One of my goals in writing a homefront spy novel is to showcase some unsung heroes of the war effort. Soldiers get a lot of glory (as well they should), foreign spies get a lot of novels--but those who spied on the homefront did just as much work for the safety of family and friends, and they deserve to be thought about.
If you write books with any kind of espionage, whether in the Middle Ages, or a fantasy world, or WW2, then this manual would be an excellent research book to read. While some weapons are strictly WW2, most of the book contains universal spy lore that can apply in any situation you would like it to. It's an easy read, and will give you a wealth of plot inspiration and finely honed techniques for your characters to use.
Even if you're not a writer, and just a history buff, this book gives a cool sneak-peek into the lives of homefront and foreign spies. Training was detailed, and I don't know how they remembered everything they needed to know. The mindset that spies had to have both to deceive and in many sobering instances, to kill, always leaves me wrestling.
This book will teach you all kinds of clandestine knowledge. How to break into a house. How to successfully enter a house full of enemies who want to kill you. How to apply first aid to burns, gunshots, and knife wounds (and yeah, I'm pretty pleased with the way I handled sucking chest wounds in one story). Probably the most sobering sections were on how to kill guards with knives, guns, or hands. Such knowledge is never to be lightly sought out, but in endeavoring to write realistic fiction, this book is useful without including gratuitous violence. It will give you what you need to know in frank, straightforward words that cut right to the core of the issue.
This book rekindled my excitement for my espionage work-in-progress, and gave me an even better knowledge foundation for my characters' secret lives. An entertaining and informative read.