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Secret Heroes of World War II

Spies, scientists and other heroes



Eric Chaline

Gosford, NSW: Exisle Publishing, Apr 2024

Hardback  224pp   RRP: $39.99


Reviewer: Neville Taylor, March 2024


This is one of a boxed pair from Exisle Publishing. Its companion is Deceptions of World War II.

It has presented eight ‘Backroom’ (read scientist/engineer) heroes, eighteen “Espionage’ heroes, sixteen ‘Resistance’ heroes and three ‘Escape’ heroes. It is not a collection of Allied heroes – there are a number from the Axis powers.

Either four or two pages explores the contribution each made with a person photograph for most, and frequently additional photographs of them or their location. An historic insert comes with each providing additional background on local situations at the time.

The reader can make a choice – read about those already familiar, read the unknown individuals, or leisurely read the volume from cover to cover. [Rather like a monthly digest that has been published since before most of us were born.

The majority of the escape heroes were non-military people who facilitated ‘escape lines’ for hundreds of individuals who had no chance of escaping the purges of the day. It was refreshing to see these individual being classified as heroes and their efforts being brought to our attention after all this time.

Whilst enjoying the presentations, a couple of them fell quite short in detail. Where was Captain Ewen Montague’s photograph and why was a half-page photograph of Major Martin’s ‘girlfriend’ used when the text could have benefitted from greater volume? There is more detail on Operation Mincemeat in the companion volume than here. Claus von Stauffenberg was the key conspirator, and no one else was prepared to make the attempt on Hitler’s life. The fact that only half the planned charge was able to be prepared in time and failed to kill Hitler has been totally overlooked.

The presentation of Secret Heroes is a credit to the publisher. It is extremely well presented with high resolution photographs on the highest quality paper. A very enlightening and good read that brings to light quite a number of unknown heroes.



The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.

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