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The Brookwood Killers (Hardback)

Military Murderers of WWII

WWII Frontline Books True Crime Frontline: WWII Military

By Paul Johnson
Frontline Books
Pages: 256
Illustrations: 40 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399011822
Published: 9th February 2022

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Nestled deep in the Surrey countryside stands the Brookwood 1939-1945 Memorial. Maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, its panels contain the names of nearly 3,500 men and women of the land forces of Britain and the Commonwealth who died in the Second World War and who have no known grave.

Among the men and women whose names are carved on the memorial are Special Operations Executive agents who died as prisoners or while working with Allied underground movements, servicemen killed in the various raids on enemy occupied territory in Europe, such as Dieppe and Saint-Nazaire, men and women who died at sea in hospital ships and troop transports, British Army parachutists, and even pilots and aircrew who lost their lives in flying accidents or in aerial combat.

But the panels also hide a dark secret. Entwined within the names of heroes and heroines are those of nineteen men whose last resting place is known, and whose deaths were less than glorious. All were murderers who, following a civil or military trial, were executed for the heinous offence they had committed. The bodies of these individuals, with the exception of one, lay buried in un-consecrated ground.

As Paul Johnson reveals, the cases of the ‘Brookwood Killers’ are violent, disturbing and often brutal in their content. They are not war crimes, but crimes committed in a time of war, for which the offender has their name recorded and maintained in perpetuity. Something that is not always applied in the case of the victim.

This book is packed with a large number of killers and sadly their victims during World War II. But the disturbing thing about this book is that we read about 20 murders, which is bad enough but then you realise the vast majority of these killers you have never heard of. This is both very sad for each victim but also sad that it kind of feels a little like because of who and when then these crimes occurred the killers have got away with something, as in without being known in a notorious manner.

I enjoyed this book and reading about crimes as a bit of a true crime buff, especially as I had not really ever heard of these crimes. The book is very well written, concise but comprehensive, I also enjoyed the fact that you got the crime, investigation, trial, appeal and finally the result. The author Paul Johnson has done a really good job and this book is an enjoyable read, just like his previous book Hertfordshire Soldiers of the Great War. As this book says it is staggering that these names appear on a memorial and yet even the victims' names are not, it is surprising that nothing has been done about this. This is a good book if your into true crime, it makes a change from the usual true crime books.

Read the full review here

The History Fella

One cannot help but wonder why the names of these nineteen murderers are included on a memorial to members of the SOE... A fascinating account of some very bad men.

Books Monthly

For those people who have an interest in crime stories, and in this case those committed by military personnel. What I like about this title, is that the details are kept to relevance and so are easily read due to the length of each individual chapter. The result is a pleasing read, covering crimes committed in times of war.

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Armorama

This book introduces the reader to the Brookwood Memorial which commemorates 3,500 men and women of the Commonwealth who died during the Second World War but have no known grave and could not be commemorated on any other memorial in the various theatres of war. Most of those commemorated are honourable men and women, who died as Special Operations Executive agents who died as prisoners, servicemen killed in the various raids on enemy occupied territory in Europe, men and women who died at sea in hospital ships and troop transports, British Army parachutists, and even pilots and aircrew who lost their lives in flying accidents or in aerial combat.

However, there are 19 men on the memorial who's deaths were not at all heroic - they all committed murder whilst enlisted in the armed forces. Their graves are known, but no headstone marks their passing.

The book is an interesting premise. The author presents each case, with details culled from censuses and trial transcripts to put flesh on the bones of assailant and victim. The cases are all very different, and present an interesting picture of life in Britain in WW2, with civilians interacting with army personnel and families coping with very difficult situations either without their breadwinner, or when a damaged soul returned.

NetGalley, Sue Andrews

The Brookwood Killers examines the cases of nineteen of these men who did not die serving their country but who were executed while servicemen - and then buried in unconsecrated ground. Paul Johnson has gathered considerable detail - in every case painting a picture of the assailant, their victim and the circumstances of the crime.

Read the full review here

WW2 Today

Featured in

Surrey Constabulary History Journal

This is a fascinating book, well researched, well-written and sensitive to the memories of the victims, the perpetrators and any family members who may still be alive.

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ARRSE (Army Rumour Service)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Having visited the huge cemetery at Brookwood, and viewed some part of vast expanse of memorials, the title of this book caught my attention. While the subject is macabre in itself the detailed accounts tell their own story of life in England during WWll and the pressures on individuals that conflict applied on the Home Front. The separation of couples and the presence of tens of thousands of overseas troops in the UK inevitably would generate the circumstances whereby these horrific crimes were committed.
It was interesting to observe at this time distance, of the rapidity of the investigations of the crimes and the subsequent delivery of justice that reflected the society of the time. A very sad observation made in the book is that while the perpetrators are remembered at Brookwood, many of the victims’ last resting places are today, unknown.
A very factual account of some of the more abhorrent crimes during those times however, I will look for the commemorative plaques at Brookwood on my next visit.

NetGalley, Sandra Miller

The crimes and the events before and after them were written in an interesting and exciting way.

NetGalley, Sandor Kozma

As featured in

The Bookseller

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A great true crime book regarding murders committed by servicemen in England during WW2. The author does an outstanding job of weaving the tale of the victim and assailant together, with how the crime was committed and the trial afterwards. A great read for the true crime enthusiast.

NetGalley, Ron Baumer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Omg I had no idea about this crime. Wonderful writing too.

NetGalley, Blind Bat Books Bakunzi

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Millions serving in WWII lost their lives. However, the author of The Brookwood Killers focuses on those British and Commonwealth land forces who attacked, raped and/or murdered during WWII and were executed. These were crimes which took place during the war as opposed to war crimes. Each chapter concludes with the haunting "Remember Them" as the victims are often buried in unvisited unmarked graves whereas murderers are commemorated with their names on panels amongst about 3,500 in the Brookwood Memorial in Surrey.

Most murders and other violent crimes seem to be committed because of lust, greed, fear, hate and revenge. In times of war blackouts, air raids and other restrictions created more opportunities to commit crimes. The author notes he contacted as many family members related to those mentioned in his book out of respect and hopes that we will remember. Described are the executioners, execution procedures and burial. He then goes on to describe each brutal crime in detail, the victim(s), assailant, Brookwood panel number, service number and unit of the criminal, not only Brits and Canadians but other in the Commonwealth. He includes letters of appeal, trial, outcome and execution for each.

Many stories stand out in my mind but one tragic letter of appeal came from the assailant's mother who was desperate to have her son die in battle, not executed. One of the executions was botched. Another heartbreaking story is about the little boy who witnessed his father kill his mother. Actually, there is no information on record of what happened to the little boy. Gut wrenching in every way. There was one soldier executed for treachery in WWII and a murder/suicide ("disgraceful death"). As evinced in letters back and forth, one couple planned the death of their baby. And many others.

Nonfiction WWII readers and those interested in true crime/forensics ought to read this enlightening book from a completely different perspective of criminals and tragically, their victims during the war. This book does contain graphic descriptions so is not for everyone.

My sincere thank you to Pen & Sword for the privilege of reading this evocative book. It is so important to know about the bad to recall the good and honour the victims and their families. That is my most profound takeaway.

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

The Brookwood Killers is a fascinating book that reveals one of the lesser-known aspects of wartime, namely violent crime and their punishment on the home front. In this case, it is focused on those criminals who have also ended up memorialized on a monument.

I think there are a lot of things a reader can take from this book. The look at the cases themselves was very good and quite interesting. If you're more into the big picture, I think you will find the larger story of how the circumstances in Britain during this time, while bringing out the best in so many, also was ripe for bringing out the worst in a few.

I found the telling of the bigger story through the telling of all of the smaller stories quite compelling. Johnson also tried to make sure the victims of these crimes, while not memorialized on a monument, were not forgotten or overlooked just for sensationalist reasons.

Highly recommended for both true crime readers as well as those with an interest in history, particularly wartime history with a focus on the home front.

NetGalley, Jack Messer

About Paul Johnson

PAUL JOHNSON is a recognised military & aviation researcher, historian and author, who has published a number of books covering various aspects of both the First and Second World Wars. An occasional battlefield guide, he has worked as an historical consultant and contributor for both television, radio and projects of national remembrance.

Perfect Partner

Hertfordshire Soldiers of The Great War (Hardback)

In Hertfordshire Soldiers of The Great War the authors explore a series of individual case studies of Hertfordshire men who served in various theatres during the First World War, all of which had been uncovered as part of the Herts At War community project. This unique collection of largely unknown accounts includes stories from the Western Front, Gallipoli, Salonika, Mesopotamia, East Africa, Egypt and even Russia in the fight against the Bolsheviks in 1919. The Herts At War team uncovered many letters and objects in the course of their research, including men who were Victoria Cross winners…

By Dan Hill, Paul Johnson

Click here to buy both titles for £50.00
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