Secret Flotillas: Clandestine Sea Operations to Brittany, 1940-1944 - Vol. 1

Secret Flotillas: Clandestine Sea Operations to Brittany, 1940-1944 - Vol. 1

Secret Flotillas: Clandestine Sea Operations to Brittany, 1940-1944 - Vol. 1

Secret Flotillas: Clandestine Sea Operations to Brittany, 1940-1944 - Vol. 1


Focusing upon Allied clandestine operations by sea to Brittany from 1940 to 1944 this second edition effectively splits the original book on 'Secret Flotillas' into two volumes. Had the book remained as one volume it would have become unwieldy with the weight of new information that has come to light in the interim.


Sir Brooks Richards wrote most of this book in the early 1990s-that is, half a century or so after the events described in it took place; but he had the enormous advantage of having been present in person at many of the crucial occasions he discussed. In an age when not many military historians have had a chance to hear shots fired in anger, it is an extra delight to find a participant who thinks so clearly and writes so well.

He took part in running agents to and fro across the Channel between Cornwall and Brittany, and earned the first of his two DSCs for gallantry under fire while doing so. The second of them was awarded for operations behind the German right flank in the Tunisian campaign. He could still, when he wrote this book, recall precisely the difficulties that in the pre-satellite age attended on navigation close to shore, when Breton rocks and tidal streams, or Moroccan surf and indistinguishable dunes, not to speak of enemy land, sea and air patrols, presented incessant dangers. Every sortie had to be most precisely timed, to fit in with the known perils; for the unexpected, one could do nothing but improvise and hope.

He moved on in 1943 from his seaborne career to land-based work for SOE, running agents into southern France from Algiers, and next year began a long and distinguished diplomatic career, which culminated in his own embassy in Athens from 1974 to 1978. Retirement from the diplomatic service, on reaching the age of sixty, did not mean for him retiring from public life: he had held several responsible posts in Whitehall already, and became the Crown's adviser on security in Northern Ireland.

Sir Brooks Richards never forgot those who had served with him in the war. He was long one of the pillars of the Special Forces Club. In this book, he recaptures with wonderful vividness the minute details of secret sea operations; and in this second edition, which alas he did not live to see in print, he expands it beyond the Tunisian campaign to cover small boat work on to the coasts of Italy, both before and after the Italian change of sides. Some of this was conducted by his friend Andrew Croft, from bases in Corsica, with exceptional daring. Over and over again, he uses his knowledge of the personalities involved to illuminate what went on.

This is one of the books that brings out the horror, the exultation

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