Historical and factual books have a great many themes and varied contents with WWII being more covered than most. Audible popped up with ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: Churchill’s Mavericks’ and I expected a retread of themes I have read and heard before. Perhaps something based on the SAS or D-Day? However, I found instead a more personal and closer look into the histories and personal lives of a range of eccentric characters which formed Churchill’s Toyshop – which later mutated into the SoE.
The book first focuses on the tools and the methods they could develop from the Buckinghamshire mansion than on where they could use them and they produced a number of interesting results. Probably best known are the Limpet bomb and the water bomb that closed the Rhine to German shipping, but they also trained saboteurs and were instrumental in breaking some of the German cryptographic schemes.
The Book then follows the Toyshop’s head, Millicent Jeffris, as he joins the nascent SoE and follows them through the war.
It might seem odd from our current perspective but there was some real debate in England at the time about the morals of asymmetrical warfare and in weapons that weren’t just battlefield focused. The first couple of hours of the book focused on Jeffris’ attempts to get the idea seriously considered and funded with the oncoming Nazi threat. Ultimately, he receives a couple of lucky breaks and manages to get the ear of the First Lord of the Navy – Winston Churchill. A success with the Limpet bomb and they were off and rolling.
Retailer: Audible +
Price: ± € £24.99 or one Credit
About Giles Milton
Giles Milton is a popular author of narrative historical non-fiction. He had previously published one book – Nathaniel’s Nutmeg – which focused on the 17th century spice trade. It was serialized by the BBC and he has since also branched out into writing thrillers.
The narrator, Jonathan Keeble, has a calming voice that manages to bring personality whilst at the same time creating a relaxed listening experience. He switches accents depending on who he is quoting and manages a very passable Scottish brogue.
- Genre: Non-fiction with a narrative style
- Target age: Teens, Adults, Older adults
Environment & People
The book is just over 12 hours long. One Audible credit (costing £6-£8 depending on your plan) is a very reasonable cost.
Written by: Giles Milton
Narrated by: Jonathan Keeble
Listening length: 12 hours and 18 minutes
Pages: 365 pages (Hardcover)
Available formats: Unabridged Audiobook, Kindle Edition, Paperback, Hardcover
Publisher: John Murray
Release date: June 2016
Audible App or a MP3 player.
World War Two is a subject that has been endlessly diagnosed in a number of dry and factual as well as many not so dry or factural books and audio books over many years. The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare successfully brings a more personal feel to the time and made me feel more connected to some of the most eccentric people who played a significant role in the war.
The audio book narration adds a dramatic air to the text and suits the personal style of the book very well. If you are looking for an entertaining listen that will get you interested in the people who ran the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, this title is for you. Recommended.
The review is based on the Audible version of The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: Churchill’s Mavericks: Plotting Hitler’s Defeat during insert October 2016. This article was first published on 6 November 2016.