S.A.S. Italian Job; The Secret Mission to storm a forbidden Nazi Fortress.

S.A.S. Italian Job; The Secret Mission to storm a forbidden Nazi Fortress.

Damien Lewis.
ARRSE Rating
4.5 Mushroom Heads
In 1944 the attack on the 'soft underbelly' of Europe was in progress, American and British and Commonwealth troops had invaded Italy and were fighting their way through. In the meanwhile, Italian Partisans were behind enemy lines waging a war of attrition. The advance began to stall when it reached the mighty and fearsome 'Gothic Line', a more successful version - albeit Axis - version of the Maginot Line. This defensive line was made up of many hundreds of machine gun nests, artillery positions and minefields then staffed with thousands of German troops. It seemed impregnable, at least without massive losses on the Allied side.

Further back, behind the German lines, partisans were active, aided by members of the S.O.E. with varying degrees of success, and then a new British Liaison Officer ( BLO) was dropped in by parachute. This was Captain Mike Lees, widely regarded by the senior general staff as a wild man, a maverick, and by those whom he had worked with as an excellent, brave and daring soldier. Lees, who was a tall and fit man, began a process of turning the partisans from a group of small semi-bandits into a much larger fighting force, one to be reckoned with. He also acquired a Major Roy Farran. A name that still resonates today, a squadron commander in the Special Air Service and yet another fighting man with few peers. Between them they forged a force to be reckoned with.

Once again Damien Lewis has produced a book that works as a novel and a history. He has had unprecedented access to once sealed records and weaved them seamlessly into the narrative. The story details the trials and tribulations of this disparate group, the heroics and the behind the scenes betrayals. It was a period of WW2 that I had only the slightest awareness of and it has prompted me to learn much more.

There is a wealth of detail in the book, especially on the make up of the partisan bands, their courage and indomitable spirit give the lie to the usual jaundiced view of Italians as fighting men, and the atmosphere and ambience is such that I could almost smell the vines and taste the grappa ( although, having tasted that already, I would have certainly passed on that experience)

This is an entertaining and fast paced book, well told and written with great sympathy and empathy. I very much enjoyed it.

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