Book Review: "A" Force: The Origins of British Deception During the Second World War

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by Whitney T. Bendeck

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2013. Pp. x, 262. Maps, notes, biblio, index. $45.95. ISBN: 161251233X

Learning to Fool the Enemy

Bendeck (Florida State) opens her account of British deception activities in World War II by reviewing some of their very effective deception operations during the First World War . But this skill was neglected in the interwar period, due to a perceived lack of need.  It was only t he desperate times that followed the Fall of France , with the threat of German invasion and the entry of Italy into the Second World War sparked a revival of British interest in deception. 

Bendeck then takes up the role of deception in the defense of Britain’s weakly held possessions in Egypt, the Middle East, and East Africa, threatened by substantial Italian forces in the Mediterranean, Libya, East Africa, and the Red Sea. She gives us a chapter on the protracted campaign in East Africa, which marked the first large scale use of deception by the British in the war, initially for defensive purposes, but then offensively.  In some ways t his is among the most valuable part s of “A Force, as the campaign is one of the most neglected of the war, and it was where British deception artists, notably Dudley W. Clarke, first practiced their skills. Bendeck follows this with four chapters on the more famous operations in the Western Desert, but most of the deception operations in that campaign have been well treated in earlier books.   Throughout the book Bendeck gives us little lessons in the design, planning, and execution of deception s , with numerous examples, not all of them successful. 

Bendeck has written a valuable account of how the British came to learn – or rather relearn – the arts of deception.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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