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Churchill's Shadow Raiders: The Race to Develop Radar, World War II's Invisible Secret Weapon

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From award-winning war reporter and internationally bestselling author Damien Lewis, a blistering account of one of the most daring raids of WWII--and the top-secret weapon that changed the course of history. Based on the never-before-seen WWII archive of those who masterminded Britain's air defenses, Churchill's Shadow Raiders reveals the untold story of Operation Colossu From award-winning war reporter and internationally bestselling author Damien Lewis, a blistering account of one of the most daring raids of WWII--and the top-secret weapon that changed the course of history. Based on the never-before-seen WWII archive of those who masterminded Britain's air defenses, Churchill's Shadow Raiders reveals the untold story of Operation Colossus - the Allies first ever airborne raid, and the forgotten heroes of WWII. In the winter of 1941, as Britain faced defeat on all fronts, an RAF reconnaissance pilot photographed an alien-looking object on the French coast near Le Havre. The mysterious device--a "Wurzburg Dish"--appeared to be a new form of radar technology: ultra-compact, highly precise, and pointed directly across the English Channel. Britain's experts found it hard to believe the Germans had mastered such groundbreaking technology. But one young technician thought it not only possible, he convinced Winston Churchill that the dish posed a unique and deadly threat to Allied forces, one that required desperate measures--and drastic action . . . So was launched Operation Biting, a mission like no other. An extraordinary "snatch-and-grab" raid on Germany's secret radar installation, it offered Churchill's elite airborne force, the Special Air Service, a rare opportunity to redeem themselves after a previous failed mission--and to shift the tides of war forever. Led by the legendary Major John Frost, these brave paratroopers would risk all in a daring airborne assault, with only a small stretch of beach menaced by enemy guns as their exit point. With the help of a volunteer radar technician who knew how to dismantle the dish, as well as the courageous men and women of the French Resistance, they succeeded against all odds in their act of brazen robbery. Some would die. Others would be captured. All fought with resolute bravery . . . This is the story of that fateful night of February 27, 1942. A brilliantly told, thrillingly tense account of Churchill's raiders in their finest hour, this is World War II history at its heart-stopping best.


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From award-winning war reporter and internationally bestselling author Damien Lewis, a blistering account of one of the most daring raids of WWII--and the top-secret weapon that changed the course of history. Based on the never-before-seen WWII archive of those who masterminded Britain's air defenses, Churchill's Shadow Raiders reveals the untold story of Operation Colossu From award-winning war reporter and internationally bestselling author Damien Lewis, a blistering account of one of the most daring raids of WWII--and the top-secret weapon that changed the course of history. Based on the never-before-seen WWII archive of those who masterminded Britain's air defenses, Churchill's Shadow Raiders reveals the untold story of Operation Colossus - the Allies first ever airborne raid, and the forgotten heroes of WWII. In the winter of 1941, as Britain faced defeat on all fronts, an RAF reconnaissance pilot photographed an alien-looking object on the French coast near Le Havre. The mysterious device--a "Wurzburg Dish"--appeared to be a new form of radar technology: ultra-compact, highly precise, and pointed directly across the English Channel. Britain's experts found it hard to believe the Germans had mastered such groundbreaking technology. But one young technician thought it not only possible, he convinced Winston Churchill that the dish posed a unique and deadly threat to Allied forces, one that required desperate measures--and drastic action . . . So was launched Operation Biting, a mission like no other. An extraordinary "snatch-and-grab" raid on Germany's secret radar installation, it offered Churchill's elite airborne force, the Special Air Service, a rare opportunity to redeem themselves after a previous failed mission--and to shift the tides of war forever. Led by the legendary Major John Frost, these brave paratroopers would risk all in a daring airborne assault, with only a small stretch of beach menaced by enemy guns as their exit point. With the help of a volunteer radar technician who knew how to dismantle the dish, as well as the courageous men and women of the French Resistance, they succeeded against all odds in their act of brazen robbery. Some would die. Others would be captured. All fought with resolute bravery . . . This is the story of that fateful night of February 27, 1942. A brilliantly told, thrillingly tense account of Churchill's raiders in their finest hour, this is World War II history at its heart-stopping best.

30 review for Churchill's Shadow Raiders: The Race to Develop Radar, World War II's Invisible Secret Weapon

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    Military historians tend to agree that radar played a singularly important role in the Allied victory in World War II, arguably greater than the decoding of the German Enigma codes (and certainly greater than the atomic bomb, which only ended the war). But British and American sources tend to disagree on where the critical advances in the technology took place. Unsurprisingly, the British highlight the role of British scientists, the Americans that of Americans. However, in fact, it was Nazi sci Military historians tend to agree that radar played a singularly important role in the Allied victory in World War II, arguably greater than the decoding of the German Enigma codes (and certainly greater than the atomic bomb, which only ended the war). But British and American sources tend to disagree on where the critical advances in the technology took place. Unsurprisingly, the British highlight the role of British scientists, the Americans that of Americans. However, in fact, it was Nazi scientists whose contributions may have been the most significant. That’s the little-known fact that comes to light in author and filmmaker Damien Lewis‘s fascinating book about the theft of German radar technology, Churchill’s Shadow Raiders. The English won the Battle of Britain with primitive radar Although German radar technology came to play a crucial role later in the war, Britain did, indeed, win the Battle of Britain on the strength of its radar defenses as much as on the bravery of its young RAF pilots. Long before September 1939, when World War II broke out, British scientists had pioneered the development of what was then called Radio Detection Finding (RDF). Two years before Hitler attacked Poland, Britain began erecting a ring of tall Early Warning RDF towers called Chain Home all along the island’s coast. The large radar installations in these towers proved decisive in giving RAF Fighter Command an edge against incoming German bombers. However, those installations were huge and inflexible, and the Germans soon developed a system (the Battle of the Beams) to avoid them. German radar technology was unknown to the British Soon, however, British military commanders noticed that its own bombers were also being targeted with ruthless efficiency. The prevailing wisdom was “The bomber will always get through.” But that was most certainly not the case. RAF Bomber Command was losing pilots and crews and precious aircraft at an alarming and ultimately unsustainable rate. Nonetheless, commanders in all branches of the British military resolutely refused to believe that the Germans had radar of their own—and they continued to insist that was the case even when conclusive evidence began accumulating. In the end, it required an intervention by Winston Churchill himself to greenlight a paratroop attack on a German radar facility on the north French coast—an attack not to destroy the installation but to steal it. That attack is the centerpiece of Churchill’s Shadow Raiders. The early exploits of Britain’s special forces This is a curious book. Its subtitle, The Race to Develop Radar, is misleading, in that Lewis devotes little attention to the long history of scientific activity in Britain to perfect the technology. The book’s main title, Churchill’s Shadow Raiders, is closer to the mark. In fact, there is virtually no mention of radar in the first quarter of the text, and relatively little in the chapters that immediately follow. The focus is squarely on the founding and early exploits of what came to be called the Special Air Service (SAS)—the paratroop regiment (later a corps) established at the insistence of Winston Churchill to wreak havoc behind German lines. Today, the SAS is the cornerstone of Britain’s special forces. Then, it was a stepchild of the British Army only grudgingly launched by the generals because the Prime Minister would have it no other way. The first, perilous mission of the Special Air Service (SAS) Lewis dramatizes the first, perilous mission of the SAS in his book’s opening chapters. Churchill insisted on demonstrating to the British people that their army could strike back at the Axis powers, even though his generals were adamantly opposed. But the Prime Minister won, of course. Thirty-six paratroopers were dropped at a low altitude over southern Italy in February 1941 in Operation Colossus. Their mission was to blow up a massive aqueduct that supplied water to three coastal towns, including a major port used by the Italian military for operations in North Africa. They succeeded, even though all the paratroops were captured and imprisoned by Italian police and one (an Italian citizen) was executed for treason. However, in one of the tragic ironies of war, photographic reconnaissance failed to confirm the destruction of the aqueduct. For a long time afterward, the mission was universally regarded as a failure. One year later, the SAS achieved a breakthrough Only when conclusive evidence emerged that the Italian mission had, in fact, succeeded, did Churchill’s allies gain the upper hand in senior military planning circles. However, once again the Prime Minister’s personal intervention was necessary to approve the SAS mission named Operation Biting to steal the German radar technology under heavy guard at Bruneval on the French coast. The operation involved a force of just one hundred twenty paratroops, but hundreds of others were involved as well: a photo-reconnaissance team to produce photos of the site, French maquis to map it out from the ground, Royal Navy ships to rescue the men from the beach at the conclusion of the operation, scientists and technicians to advise the troops on how to dismantle the facility and later to analyze it, and scores of military planners. It was well worth all the effort. The mission proved to be a breakthrough. A stirring account of the courageous men of the SAS The paratroops didn’t only succeed in dismantling and spiriting away the German radar technology at Bruneval. They also captured a German radar technician who was only too happy to help British scientists and technicians with “a ‘complete reconstruction of the equipment’ so as to show what it was capable of and, crucially, how to defeat it.” But none of this happened simply because Operation Biting had been well planned (which it was). Naturally, as any military officer would be likely to predict, almost everything went wrong, and it was only through the extraordinary bravery and resourcefulness of the troops in the air (to photograph the German installation), on the ground, and in the English Channel (on the way back) that the mission succeeded. Lewis makes the most of this material. At times, his account reads like a thriller. He does an equally impressive job painting portraits of the eccentric and often brilliant scientists and unconventional military officers involved in organizing and managing the SAS. The historical setting Before Pearl Harbor and the American entry into World War II, Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany. The country had barely survived the Battle of Britain and was badly losing the Battle of the Atlantic to Hitler’s U-boats. The news was unrelievably bad, from Dunkirk to Singapore to Oslo, and Winston Churchill was desperate to demonstrate how Britain might regain the offensive, if only to help bolster morale on the home front. And the Prime Minister’s eagerness for a solution to the problem gave rise to the birth of two top-secret special forces: the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in 1940 and the SAS in 1941. Churchill’s Shadow Raiders involves both organizations but is squarely focused on the paratroops who gave the fighters modeled on the Boer Commandos the name Special AIR Service. Why were the British surprised? It should have been no surprise to the British that Germany had developed more advanced radar than their own boffins. Although scientific progress had been marked throughout the West for a century, German scientists had been responsible for a disproportionate number of the breakthroughs in medicine, optics, chemistry, pharmaceuticals, and physics before World War II. And “the truth was that there were many ‘discoveries’ of radar, in many parts of the world, and the Germans had been in the forefront.” About the author A former war correspondent, Damien Lewis is the author of more than twenty books, most of them military histories or biographies and memoirs. He has also produced twenty films. His books have appeared on bestseller lists in many countries. (The author is not to be confused with the popular British actor, Damian Lewis, who spells his given name in a slightly different way.)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    Churchill's Shadow Raiders is the story of the birth of British special operations, when in the darkest days of WW2, with fascism advancing everywhere, Churchill looked for courageous men to set Europe ablaze. Lewis covers two operations in detail. The first, Operation Colossus, was an attack on an Italian aqueduct that ended in cruel farce. The plane carrying the sappers and the majority of the demolition charges dropped their parachutists one valley over, and the explosives on hand were enough Churchill's Shadow Raiders is the story of the birth of British special operations, when in the darkest days of WW2, with fascism advancing everywhere, Churchill looked for courageous men to set Europe ablaze. Lewis covers two operations in detail. The first, Operation Colossus, was an attack on an Italian aqueduct that ended in cruel farce. The plane carrying the sappers and the majority of the demolition charges dropped their parachutists one valley over, and the explosives on hand were enough to shatter the aqueduct, but not bring it down. When aerial reconnaissance revealed the aqueduct still standing, command concluded the mission had failed and ordered the submarine designated to evacuate the raiders to return home. All of the Colossus raiders were captured, and the stench of failure settled over parachute operations. Operation Biting, the Bruneval Raid, was a chance at redemption. Photo reconnaissance had revealed a strange parabolic antenna, which the boffins figured was a radar system more advanced than anything the British had in Chain Home. Of course, officially radar was solely a British advance; the Germans didn't have it at all. Stealing everything not nailed down at Bruneval would prove that British technology needed to constantly evolve to match the Nazis. The plan was to parachute 120 SAS commandos into the area, seize the radar, and evacuate to the sea before an armored response force could arrive. It was a desperate action that almost never worked right in training, the seaborne evacuation being a particular sticking point, with the assault boats running around. The airborne side was smoother, but still complicated by the crudity of available tech. Paratroopers dropped out of a chute in the belly of the obsolete Whitley Armstrong bomber, armed only with knives and pistols. Their weapons and supplies were dropped separately in lighted containers, and the first task was to get their guns. The actual mission went much better, with luck helping and hindering the British raiders in equal measure. The team with the key job of seizing of the evacuation beach was dropped on the wrong side of the town of Bruneval, and had to fight their way to the objective, arriving in the nick of time. The Royal Navy flotilla commander brought his ships in closer to shore, a fortunate modification to the plan because the original offshore rally point was in the middle of a German sea lane, and if the ships had been there they would have collided with a patrol of Nazi destroyers and torpedo boats. Despite two Commandos KIA, and six left behind in the chaos of evacuation, the mission was a stunning success, a scientific coup which provided a much needed boost to morale. Lewis writes a fast-paced, very readable history, but also one that doesn't reach beyond the cliches of the swaggering SAS commando. The best bits are on the triumph of the French Resistance in getting near complete intelligence on the sight, including the names of key Nazi officers.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    The Bruneval Raid will always be seen as the first successful co-operation of the three Armed Services, Army, Navy and Air Force, with SOE and British Intelligence, after the ‘Boffins’ led by scientist RV Jones had persuaded the disbelieving War Office that the Germans already had radar, and in fact had a radio detection based on their revolving dish, or Wurzburg, far outstripping the British Chain Home system. This book carefully explains the origins of the ‘Radar War’ that led to the daring ai The Bruneval Raid will always be seen as the first successful co-operation of the three Armed Services, Army, Navy and Air Force, with SOE and British Intelligence, after the ‘Boffins’ led by scientist RV Jones had persuaded the disbelieving War Office that the Germans already had radar, and in fact had a radio detection based on their revolving dish, or Wurzburg, far outstripping the British Chain Home system. This book carefully explains the origins of the ‘Radar War’ that led to the daring airborne raid on the Bruneval radar post in February 1942. Thoroughly researched and exhaustive analysis ensures this book is an indispensable aid for both committed historians, keen to deepen their understanding of the beginnings of commando operations, and for those new to learning about World War Two and the origins of the SAS. Damien Lewis has produced a fast paced and thrilling account of the exciting raid - a real ‘page turner’ - that is a fitting memorial to those who lost their lives and to the courage and bravery of the 120 service personnel involved in the successful operation. Damien Lewis In his excellent book, ‘Churchill’s Shadow Raiders’ provides anecdotal evidence of the ad hoc nature of some military planning in the early part of WW2, and in particular the provenance of ‘Operation Colossus.’ On 27th June 1940, within a few weeks of the last troops returning from Dunkirk, Professor Colin Graham Hardie, an Oxford University classicist, wrote to SOE ( Ministry of Economic Warfare) at their Berkeley Square HQ. They hid their clandestine planning behind various shadow identities like ISRB - ‘Inter Services Research Bureau’ - and Hardie advised them from his recent personal knowledge, of the terrain, (having been on an educational tenure in Rome), of the strategic importance of the Aqueduct Pugliese. Professor Hardie was summoned to a meeting in London, with engineers from a civil engineering firm, George Kent and Sons. The contractor had originally built this aqueduct near a place called Tragino near Naples in southern Italy, and they provided SOE with with detailed knowledge the aqueduct which ran for 213.5 kms and furnished 65 towns with water and the damage, he assured the meeting, to the aqueduct in Southern Italy could severely damage the water supply of the whole of South Eastern Italy, between 2-3 million people, and the water supply to the three naval bases at Bari, Taranto and Brindisi and so disrupt supply to the Italian Army in North Africa. Following the study of air reconnaissance photographs taken in the autumn of 1940 by the British War Office, Damien Lewis says the planners at SOE researched every available resource including ‘Milan Journal of Civil Engineering’ and a British engineer came forward saying he had worked on the original construction of the Tragino Aqueduct and that , it seems was how Operation Colossus was born. The engineers said this aqueduct had masonry pillars (brickwork) as opposed to concrete pillars, and would be easier to dynamite. This information was of great interest to Hugh Dalton, Director at SOE, who liked targets of industrial and military importance and could be so effectively sabotaged. Dalton recruited Professor Hardie, and other academics were soon approached to join the growing number of ‘experts’ at SOE headquarters. Five months later, in November 1940, SOE said it was beyond their capabilities so handed back to Roger Keyes at Combined Operations. Various options were looked at and finally a request to help went to Britain’s only parachute unit. This was the 11th Special Air Service Battalion who had formed from No 2 Commando in the middle of 1940. Damien Lewis writes with such bravura his research reads like an Ian Fleming novel and you expect James Bond to be part of the raiding party. ( Incidentally David Niven the colourful debonair British film star was a deputy at Command Operations)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mark Dore

    This would make a great film or even a mini series.hard to believe it's a true story. This would make a great film or even a mini series.hard to believe it's a true story.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eric Lee

    One thing I loved about this book is that it tells a much bigger story than one might imagine. At the heart of Lewis' tale is the heroic raid by British paratroopers in early 1942 to capture a German radar installation on the French coast. That story alone could have been the entire book. But instead, the author has chosen to put it into context, by initially telling the story of an earlier airborne raid by British soldiers in Italy -- one which was mistakenly branded as a failure. He correctly One thing I loved about this book is that it tells a much bigger story than one might imagine. At the heart of Lewis' tale is the heroic raid by British paratroopers in early 1942 to capture a German radar installation on the French coast. That story alone could have been the entire book. But instead, the author has chosen to put it into context, by initially telling the story of an earlier airborne raid by British soldiers in Italy -- one which was mistakenly branded as a failure. He correctly sees this later raid, Operation Biting, as a vindication of the use of airborne troops. But he also doesn't close the book with the raiders returning home successfully. Instead he follows up with what happened next, explaining clearly the significance of what the raiders did, and how by improving Britain's own radar defences, and implementing a tactic to circumvent German raider, the raid allowed Bomber Command to do its work much more effectively, and with far fewer losses. The paratroopers described here really did change the course of the war.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    I never knew how much radar played in the battles of early 1940 and 1941. I also did not understand how Nazi Germnay had progressed their radar technology, far in advance of British efforts. What better way to get ahead than to steal the enemy radar set. They did just that. Read this book for a better understanding of radar and the battle to master this technology.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    Everyone knows that radar was a British invention that enabled them to survive the Blitz. But radar was not just a British monopoly. The Germans had their own radar sets that were used with success against British bombers. And the British were keen to get their hands on a set which is the gist of Damien Lewis' Churchill's Shadow Raiders. Lewis focuses on two Special Airborne Services (SAS) operations. The first, Operation Colossus was launched in February 1941 to take out an aqueduct that suppli Everyone knows that radar was a British invention that enabled them to survive the Blitz. But radar was not just a British monopoly. The Germans had their own radar sets that were used with success against British bombers. And the British were keen to get their hands on a set which is the gist of Damien Lewis' Churchill's Shadow Raiders. Lewis focuses on two Special Airborne Services (SAS) operations. The first, Operation Colossus was launched in February 1941 to take out an aqueduct that supplied the Italian naval base of Taranto. Thirty-five SAS troopers parachuted into Italy, managed to severely damage the aqueduct, and escaped into the countryside. But, due to an unfortunate bomber crash, their escape route was compromised and they were eventually all caught. The follow-up aerial recon failed to show the damage that had happened, so the high command considered Colossus a failure. Operation Biting was launched a year later in February 1942 for the purpose of grabbing a German radio direction finding device. Biting was much more ambitious with SAS troopers descending from the skies, seizing the device, fighting their way to the coast, and being snatched off the beach by motor gun boats. However, Lewis offers more than the details of the operations. He provides context, background, and the exciting story of scientists, SOE operatives, and French Resistance fighters that made the operations possible. Also, Lewis provides an understanding of what was accomplished and the part these operations played in the larger conflict along with a briefing on what happened to the participants afterwards. So if you want a thrilling WWII read, do pick up Churchill's Shadow Raiders!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Berryman

    I have to start this review with several notations: 1. I am a 66 year old woman who loves history. 2. I'm married with two sons, all have served in the military. 3. Among my favorite movies are A Bridge Too Far, The Longest Day, The Great Escape and We Were Soldiers. With that said, I was totally riveted by this book. It read like an Alistair MacLean novel. Rich in detail, I was in awe of the brave, courageous young men. Well-researched, with just the right amount of facts and details, but not t I have to start this review with several notations: 1. I am a 66 year old woman who loves history. 2. I'm married with two sons, all have served in the military. 3. Among my favorite movies are A Bridge Too Far, The Longest Day, The Great Escape and We Were Soldiers. With that said, I was totally riveted by this book. It read like an Alistair MacLean novel. Rich in detail, I was in awe of the brave, courageous young men. Well-researched, with just the right amount of facts and details, but not too much to overwhelm one. I can't recommend this book enough. For history buffs, this is one book you should not miss, even if you are looking just for an interesting read, try this book! I received an e-book from NetGalley in return for an unbiased review. Thank you NetGalley!

  9. 4 out of 5

    James Flack

    I really enjoyed this book, as well as the others of Damien Lewis that I have read. A very well researched book at the origins of the paras and the SAS. I learned a lot, as much about the Axis capabilities in WW2, as much as the Allies with radar technology and the level of sophistication at the time. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in history of the time, once again another little aspect of the war, with huge consequences, involving so many people who played their part in a I really enjoyed this book, as well as the others of Damien Lewis that I have read. A very well researched book at the origins of the paras and the SAS. I learned a lot, as much about the Axis capabilities in WW2, as much as the Allies with radar technology and the level of sophistication at the time. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in history of the time, once again another little aspect of the war, with huge consequences, involving so many people who played their part in achieving the overall goal of defeating Nazism. It's these little stories that show the many different ways that people of the time contributed to the war effort. Loved it..

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ivy Miranda

    England takes great pride in its many accomplishments in history. They believed themselves to be the inventors of Radio Detecting and Ranging or radar, however WWII would change all of those assumptions. As Germany was raining heavy fire down on England, it became apparent that the Germans were clearly in possession of their own radar technology. And not only in possession, but also advanced radar that far surpassed what England had created. As Churchill becomes more and more aware of this fact England takes great pride in its many accomplishments in history. They believed themselves to be the inventors of Radio Detecting and Ranging or radar, however WWII would change all of those assumptions. As Germany was raining heavy fire down on England, it became apparent that the Germans were clearly in possession of their own radar technology. And not only in possession, but also advanced radar that far surpassed what England had created. As Churchill becomes more and more aware of this fact (even amid the naysayers of his cabinet), he believes that England must strike back if they are ever going to turn the tide of the war. After the Battle of Dunkirk, Churchill asks for volunteers into the Special Services. These men would eventually form the Special Air Service, a highly trained airborne infantry. Their primary focus was to land in enemy territory and stop them from engaging any farther. The Special Air Services had a shaky start, with the supposed failure of Operation Colossus, but was actually a remarkable success. And then finally the real baptism by fire, Operation Biting. The full blown raid into France where Hitler was housing the advanced radar system. Instead of destroying it, though, England wants to retrieve it and bring it back to help better their own technology. The Special Air Services, Op Biting, charging into unknown territory to steal something that may not even exist was a gamble, but it ended being a fortunate one. The British Airborne proved to be necessary to the Battle of Britain, and became the model for America's own airborne infantry. There's a story about me coming across this book. Last year, I completely immersed myself into the study of WWII after reading Band of Brothers and then watching the mini-series. The series was so excellent that it left me wondering about the real men and their lives. So for the rest of the year, I read as many books as I could find about the men of Easy Company and reviewing them on both Goodreads and my personal website. So now, we get to early January of this year and I get this e-mail: Hi, Ivy, I found your blogpost on the Band of Brothers books and series, and wanted to e-mail you to see if you might be interested in another WWII nonfiction book: CHURCHILL’S SHADOW RAIDERS: The Race to Develop Radar, WWII’s Invisible Secret Weapon (Kensington Books; May 2020). This is the true story of a daring parachute-and-sea raid – executed shortly after Dunkirk - to capture the Germans’ advanced Wurzburg radar, using what Churchill called “ungentlemanly warfare”. The Shadow Raiders undertook the first operation to seize the German radar in Operation Biting – the Allies’ first successful airborne raid, claiming a top-secret weapon that changed the course of history. Award-winning British author and war correspondent Damien Lewis used salvaged British War archival material to create the thrilling narrative. Lewis has spent over two decades reporting from war, disaster, and conflict zones around the world, winning numerous awards. He has written more than a dozen books about WWII, including The Ministry for Ungentlemanly Warfare, The Dog Who Could Fly, SAS Ghost Patrol, and The Nazi Hunters. His work has been published in over forty languages, and many of his books have been made, or are being developed as feature films, TV series, or as plays for the stage. More about the book and a link to a digital copy is below my signature. (If you’re not sure, you can listen to Damien talk about the book here: Episode 287-Damien Lewis Interview: Churchill’s Shadow Raiders | The History of WWII Podcast - by Ray Harris Jr (worldwariipodcast.net) Thanks! – Best, Ann Ann Pryor Senior Communications Manager Kensington Publishing Corp. So, needless to say, I was absolutely surprised that a publisher had been on my site and read my reviews! And of course, I was genuinely very interested in the book as well. I finally managed to purchase the book, not knowing what to expect as this was from England's POV, but I was certainly not disappointed either. There were a lot of people in this story and it was hard to keep up with everyone, but they were so wonderful to read about as well. The Special Air Services wasn't just soldiers. It was made up of scientists, mechanics and codebreakers; all of them with gifts and talents that were employed for the war effort. The French Resistance plays a vital role in this story. One of my favorite chapters was about the French Resistance leader, Gilbert Renault and the great sacrifices he and his people made. Of course, not being a scientific person, I had a hard time understanding the science behind radar and was lost on more than one occasion. However, the people and the places more than made up for my momentary confusion. There is one excerpt from the book that so overwhelmed me, that for a moment I wondered if I was reading about a battle from WWII or from a thousand years ago: All of a sudden, a new sound reverberated across the headland. Incredibly stirring to Cox and his sappers, it must have struck the fear of God into the enemy. A crescendo of bloodcurdling yells rose above the battle noise: 'Caber Feigh! Caber Feigh! Caber Feigh' - Gaelic for 'The Antlers of the Deer.' Since the immemorial this had been the battle cry of the Seaforth Highlanders, whose distinctive cap badge displays a highland stag. Charteris and his men were making for the valley of death, leading a wild charge.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cropredy

    Let's get one thing off my chest straight away - the book's title and cover photos "...The Secret Race to Develop Radar, World War II's Invisible Secret Weapon" No - this book is not about the race to develop radar; it is primarily about the raid by British paratroopers to capture German radar and then ultimately, in the final chapters, how to defeat that radar. If you are thinking you are going to get a story about how radar was developed and how the technology evolved and was deployed, you shoul Let's get one thing off my chest straight away - the book's title and cover photos "...The Secret Race to Develop Radar, World War II's Invisible Secret Weapon" No - this book is not about the race to develop radar; it is primarily about the raid by British paratroopers to capture German radar and then ultimately, in the final chapters, how to defeat that radar. If you are thinking you are going to get a story about how radar was developed and how the technology evolved and was deployed, you should look elsewhere. It is not as if the story of the British Chain Home radar isn't told, but only briefly. This book is primarily about the raid on Bruneval in February 1942 (the motivation for it, the planning, the execution, and the aftermath). "Churchill's Shadow Raiders..." - I think throwing Churchill's name into a book title is the publisher's version of click bait. Yes, Churchill demanded the formation of commando-type units to strike back at Occupied Europe after the disastrous defeat at Dunkirk. But, again, this book is about two raids, the first British airborne operation against an aqueduct in Italy and how the lessons from that raid influenced the raid told in this book. And the cover photos -- the book is about an airborne raid on Bruneval yet the top cover photo is the scuttled Graf Spee (!?) and the bottom photo looks like a training mission to land seaborne raiders. There's a beautiful photo in the middle of the text of the actual Wurzburg radar at Bruneval that would have been a better and more instructive top photo and there are also photos inside of paratroops dropping from Whitleys. Yes, there is a tangential link to the Graf Spee in the story and yes, the airborne raiders were rescued by sea by the Royal Navy. But still, come on. And two more annoying things -- First, the book has absolutely no "Notes" section that sources the details behind the narrative. I have no doubt the author conducted extensive research, but refusal to put notes in I hope can be blamed on the publisher who must deem that the book's audience would find them a waste of space. And secondly, for some odd reason, the famed RAF reconnaissance pilot Adrian Warburton, whose biography I coincidentally just finished reading Warburtons War: The Life of Maverick Ace Adrian Warburton DSO DFC DFC has his name spelled Wharburton. Both the aqueduct precursor raid (Operation Colossus) and Bruneval raid (Operation Biting) are told in excellent detail using primary source accounts from the troopers and officers involved. Even Admiral Pound, who makes a disastrous decision in PQ 17, is part of the story -- his caution preventing any chance of rescue for the Operation Colossus teams. Both raids are told from solely the British point of view with a smattering of details from the German side and none from the Italian side. The author, Damien Lewis, who writes popular histories, has prose more than adequate to the task without it being quite the best of the military history genre. You'll finish the book in a handful of reads. There are three maps that are useful. Amazingly, no photos of the actual battlefield sites, despite being readily visitable which would give the reader a better sense of the terrain. Read this book if you are interested in a detailed story of Bruneval and it makes an interesting bookend if you've seen the TV show "Castles in the Sky" about the development of British radar before the war.

  12. 4 out of 5

    JL Dixon

    My review of CHURCHILL'S SHADOW RAIDERS by Damien Lewis ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Thankyou to @NetGalley for giving me the ARC in turn for my honest review. To give it its full title, "Churchill's Shadow Raiders: The Race To Develop Radar, WWII's Invisible Secret Weapon", is a highly detailed account of the formation of our special forces during World War II, the origins of the SAS title, and the raid to steal German radar technology. I enjoyed reading this book immensity, although I felt the title was misleading. Much of My review of CHURCHILL'S SHADOW RAIDERS by Damien Lewis ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Thankyou to @NetGalley for giving me the ARC in turn for my honest review. To give it its full title, "Churchill's Shadow Raiders: The Race To Develop Radar, WWII's Invisible Secret Weapon", is a highly detailed account of the formation of our special forces during World War II, the origins of the SAS title, and the raid to steal German radar technology. I enjoyed reading this book immensity, although I felt the title was misleading. Much of the book had nothing to do with radar at all, and more to do with the raids carried out by special forces against specific axis targets. That said, this is a fascinating look into the formation of the SAS, the inner workings of SOE, and Churchill's intention to win whatever methods were employed. I felt some terminologies, regarding radar, were confusing to the layman without explanation hence four stars, but I happily recommend Churchill's Shadow Raiders to anyone with an interest in military history

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dave Clarke

    Whilst well written and nicely paced, i feel cheated as the book does not live up to the promise of the blurb, where we are led to believe the whole story of operation Colossus will be revealed, instead we get the context, the build up, and then it starts to get flaky, with the attack being written about as if the author had something else to do, and then ... nothing ... suddenly, we are back in England, and the 2nd operation is being planned to swipe a German radar from its site on a Normandy c Whilst well written and nicely paced, i feel cheated as the book does not live up to the promise of the blurb, where we are led to believe the whole story of operation Colossus will be revealed, instead we get the context, the build up, and then it starts to get flaky, with the attack being written about as if the author had something else to do, and then ... nothing ... suddenly, we are back in England, and the 2nd operation is being planned to swipe a German radar from its site on a Normandy clifftop ... now, interesting as this second part of the tale is, it's not what was promised when i started the book ... and whilst, throughout this second part, the author refers back to the members of the first mission, their tale of escape, evasion and eventual capture is missing in action ... and finishing the book just left me frustrated that this part of the story wasn't included ...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    This review is by a certifiable history geek, so of course I loved it as the information was mostly new to me. I appreciated the narrative style as opposed to textbook style as I think all but the most scholarly do. There's no need for me to re-invent the wheel here as the publisher's blurb does give a better than average overview. Longish or not, it did grab me and keep me reading, but between tasks. I requested and received a free ebook copy from Kensington Books/Citadel via NetGalley. Thank yo This review is by a certifiable history geek, so of course I loved it as the information was mostly new to me. I appreciated the narrative style as opposed to textbook style as I think all but the most scholarly do. There's no need for me to re-invent the wheel here as the publisher's blurb does give a better than average overview. Longish or not, it did grab me and keep me reading, but between tasks. I requested and received a free ebook copy from Kensington Books/Citadel via NetGalley. Thank you!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael W. Guthrie

    A Missing Piece in My Understanding of WWII I thought I was well informed on the important events if WW II, but I was wrong. This book describes a crucial event regarding the capture of a german radar set that changed the outcome of the war. It also described the origins of British paratroop use which was used in the raid. Very well written and detailed regarding all of the personnel involved.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Stelling

    I enjoyed this book much more than expected, as the narrative style helps to bring the story to life and give the impression that you’re reading fiction rather than non fiction. Alas, it’s not my period and so didn’t enjoy it as much as some others may have done and am in no position to comment on the historicity of the book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hugh Harkin

    Another good book by Damian Lewis this book digs into the radar war and reveals the much important part it played in bring the Nazi regime to an end. It also highlights the bravery of the men that took part in the first ever airborne assault and the second assault showing successful this new branch of the forces can be

  18. 4 out of 5

    simon payne

    A great read, well researched giving an insight into the characters that made our special forces the best. The tenacity even following capture is quiet unbelievable. Damien has written several books on the subject, all worth reading for both serious and casual WW2 historians. Only Ghost Riders to read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    frazer livingstone

    A lot of background story before getting to the main event. However once it gets going really does read like a novel rather than a factual account of a historical event. Amazing the bravery of those that fought in the war and how thin the line is between success and failure. Look forward to the next one.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    This was a book I could not put down. A great find for anyone with an interest in learning more about events in world war two. We are taken on a journey of the planning, implementation and aftermath of two main operations, Colossus and Biting. The author describes the background to each of the key figures in the operations with an ending telling you where they ended up long term after the war was over. Sometimes you can read a history book and it feels more like a textbook, however, the writing This was a book I could not put down. A great find for anyone with an interest in learning more about events in world war two. We are taken on a journey of the planning, implementation and aftermath of two main operations, Colossus and Biting. The author describes the background to each of the key figures in the operations with an ending telling you where they ended up long term after the war was over. Sometimes you can read a history book and it feels more like a textbook, however, the writing style of the author in a semi narrative format pulls you in to the midst of these dynamic events. I cannot wait to read more books by the author after reading this one.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Scott Andrews

    Damien Lewis delivers again, very enjoyable read. Found it dragged just a little in the middle, which is rare for me to say that about Damien's work. Start and finish certainly made up for that, attention to detail and research was outstanding as always. Fascinating account of the operations Colossus & Biting. Will look for further reading on these operations as a result. Damien Lewis delivers again, very enjoyable read. Found it dragged just a little in the middle, which is rare for me to say that about Damien's work. Start and finish certainly made up for that, attention to detail and research was outstanding as always. Fascinating account of the operations Colossus & Biting. Will look for further reading on these operations as a result.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    This was an excellent story, full of Background, Espionage, Personal experience along with all kinds of suspense and action, sometimes nothing gets better than real life. The author did an excellent job of research to pull the full story together to chronical a daring operation that changed the course of the Second World War.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Keiichi Furuya

    Incredible historical account of WW2 heroes and the unbelievable set of circumstances that occurred and amounted to the victory. This book took me a little longer to read as I've been a bit busy and not been reading as much but its definitely a recommended read. Incredible historical account of WW2 heroes and the unbelievable set of circumstances that occurred and amounted to the victory. This book took me a little longer to read as I've been a bit busy and not been reading as much but its definitely a recommended read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mr J Ferrier

    Brilliant read, a fantastic historical insight into what I imagine is a rather unknown story outside of military circles. Each character is given note and tells of an adventure by people of almost a long forgotten breed of bravery and heroism.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Another great book from Damien, well researched and once ,ore uncovers little known secrets of WWII.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Jenkins

    Good historical record, first half seemed to jump around a lot, settled down later

  27. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Interesting A bit long-winded. Although it was an interesting read, I felt the author could have cut to the chase slightly earlier.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Charles Snyder

    Fascinating story that combines engineering, human intelligence, politics, and gripping war time actions.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Churchill's Shadow Raiders: The Race to Develop Radar, World War II's Invisible Secret Weapon was a fascinating read to me. I learned a lot I did not know. Five plus stars. Churchill's Shadow Raiders: The Race to Develop Radar, World War II's Invisible Secret Weapon was a fascinating read to me. I learned a lot I did not know. Five plus stars.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    I received this book free through the Gooodreads giveaway. My son is really into the WW2 stories and really enjoyed this book. Thank you for the opportunity to read it.

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