Book Review: Churchill's School For Saboteurs: Station 17


by Bernard O'Connor

Stroud, Eng.: Amberley / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2013. Pp. 224. Illus., tables, notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 1445611546

 Training Secret Agents, Running Special Ops

O’Connor, author of Agent Rose, Tempsford Academy, and similar works on special operations in the Second World War, brings us the first account of the British SOE industrial sabotage school at Brickendonbury Manor, Hertford, a place so secret even today it’s hard to track down documents.  He cleverly opens with a history of the manor itself, and then goes on to discuss the origins of the school, which involved the later infamous Soviet agents Guy Burgess and Kim Philby of all people.

O’Connor weaves the story of the school, its staff, and its curriculum into discussions of specific missions by “alumni."   So integrated with the account of the school and its work, are discussions of backgrounds of the agents and of several important operations, including excellent accounts of the various costly missions to Norway to destroy Germany’s source of heavy water and the protracted operation that put a Peugeot factory out of business, with the help of its management. In this way O’Connor prevents what could have been a probably humdrum institutional history into a very readable, lively account of daring men and women risking all in the cause of victory, while helping the reader understand the evolution and workings of the school itself. 

Churchill’s School for Saboteurs is excellent book to introduce someone to the story of special operations in World War II, this will also prove of great value to serious students of the subject.

Note: Churchill’s School for Saboteurs  is also available in paperback, $16.00, ISBN 978-1-4456-4227-7, and as an e-pub

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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