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Covert Radio Agents, 1939–1945 (Hardback)

Signals From Behind Enemy Lines

WWII Espionage & the SOE Photographic Books Military

By David Hebditch
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 320
Illustrations: 180 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526794949
Published: 2nd February 2021


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Clandestine radio operators had one of the most dangerous jobs of World War 2. Those in Nazi-occupied Europe for the SOE, MI6 and the OSS had a life-expectancy of just six weeks. In the Gilbert Islands the Japanese decapitated 17 New Zealand ‘Coastwatchers’.

These ‘behind the lines’ highly skilled agents’ main tasks were to maintain regular contact with their home base and pass vital intelligence back. As this meticulously researched book reveals, many operators did more than that. Norwegian Odd Starheim hi-jacked a ship and sailed it to the Shetlands. In the Solomon Islands Jack Read and Paul Mason warned the defenders of Guadalcanal about incoming enemy air raids giving American fighters a chance to inflict irreversible damage on the Japanese Air Force. In 1944 Arthur Brown was central to Operation Jedburgh’s success delaying the arrival of the SS Das Reich armoured division at the Normandy beach-heads. The author also explains in layman’s terms the technology of 1940s radios and the ingenious codes used.

Most importantly, Covert Radio Agents tells the dramatic human stories of these gallant behind-the-lines radio agents. Who were they? How were they trained? How did they survive against the odds? This is both a highly informative and uplifting work about unsung heroes.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book tells the story of radio agents in WWII, which is a story not often told. It covers agents all over Europe as well as the Solomon Islands.

Well researched and meticulous detail are the hallmark of this book. There are tales of derring-do interspersed with logistical nightmares and the sad end of some of the radio agents. Being a radio agent was very risky work and there are a lot of soldiers who owe their lives to these men and women.

I particularly liked the story of Tommy Macpherson - what a character! And I am considering learning morse, now that I know you can do a course online. Talk about melding 20th century smarts and 21st century technology.

Enjoyable book! Dare I say it - quite a nerdy one. If you are a radio enthusiast, you will love it. Or someone who loves cyphers and codes.

5 stars from me.

NetGalley, Monica Mac

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

An excellent, well-written book about covert radio operations during WWII. It is apparent the author went to great lengths to research available materials about the individuals and operations and training aspects of covert radio operatives. Vast amounts of details about covert radio operatives left me with a lot to reflect upon and added greatly to my knowledge about this aspect of the war.

NetGalley, Brenda Yeager

A solid, thorough read about exactly what you think it's about: covert radio operatives during WWII.

NetGalley, Emily C

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Covert Radio Agents, 1939-1945 by David Hebditch is a well researched and clearly written account of some of the most important yet least remembered participants in World War II. While not an exhaustive or comprehensive account, it serves as a wonderful introductory account for those of us with an interest.

My comment about not being exhaustive is not a negative, in fact, I mean it as a positive. No doubt there could be many books written on the topic and, especially, about these people. Hebditch does a remarkable job of discussing the training, the technology, the people, and the importance to the war effort all while keeping the reader engaged and interested.

I highly recommend this to any reader interested in the lesser known aspects of the Allied efforts in World War II. The notes and bibliography at the end offer many avenues for further reading in areas of interest to the reader.

NetGalley, Jack Messer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating book into the covert radio agents! The author researched well this book and educates us on how they trained, their jobs/ duties and the risks they took! Highly recommended for history buffs!

NetGalley, Kamila Bouvier

Very well written book, lots of details, gives a good sense of the training and amount of pression these agents went on during war. I love to learn more about the war time and how people lived in that time.

NetGalley, Aline Mello

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I enjoyed the 8.5 hours I spent reading this 320-page WWII history. I had read about some of the activities before, but this book certainly contained a lot of new material. I found the technical details towards the end of the book to be particularly interesting. You will find this book of special interest if you are researching SOE & OSS activities during the war. I do like the chosen cover art.

NetGalley, John Purvis

About David Hebditch

David Hebditch is an award-winning author and documentary film-maker. His first book for the general reader was about the smuggling of sensitive western technology to the Soviet Union (Techno-Bandits, 1983). In 2001 he produced and directed Allies and Lies, an investigation into covert operations in Bosnia, for BBC2. From 2003 he worked for NRK Television, Norway, on Stealing History about the looting of antiquities from war zones. Subsequently David and Ola Flyum won the 2005 Skup (Scoop) and ICIJ awards for Outstanding International Investigative Reporting. Between 2006 and 2016 he was involved in the production of Sarajevo Ricochet, A Town Betrayed and Taliban Oil. David is also the author (with SAS veteran Ken Connor) of How to Stage a Military Coup.

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