The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

  • by Damien Lewis
  • Narrated by Nigel Carrington
  • 10 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

From award-winning historian, war reporter, and author Damien Lewis (Zero Six Bravo, Judy) comes the incredible true story of the top-secret "butcher-and-bolt" black ops units Prime Minister Winston Churchill assigned the task of stopping the unstoppable German war machine. Criminals, rogues, and survivalists, the brutal tactics and grit of these "deniables" would define a military unit the likes of which the world had never seen.
When France fell to the Nazis in spring 1940, Churchill declared that Britain would resist the advance of the German army - alone if necessary. Churchill commanded the Special Operations Executive to secretly develop a very special kind of military unit that would operate on their own initiative deep behind enemy lines. The units would be licensed to kill, fully deniable by the British government, and a ruthless force to meet the advancing Germans.
The very first of these butcher-and-bolt units - the innocuously named Maid Honour Force - was led by Gus March-Phillipps, a wild British eccentric of high birth; and an aristocratic, handsome, and bloodthirsty young Danish warrior, Anders Lassen. Amped up on amphetamines, these assorted renegades and sociopaths undertook the very first of Churchill's special operations - a top-secret, high-stakes mission to seize Nazi shipping in the far-distant port of Fernando Po in West Africa.
Though few of these early desperadoes survived WWII, they took part in a series of fascinating, daring missions that changed the course of the war. It was the first stirrings of the modern special ops team, and all of the men involved would be declared war heroes when it was all over.
The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare focuses on a dozen of these extraordinary men, weaving their stories of brotherhood and comradely and elite soldiering into a gripping narrative yarn, from the earliest missions to Anders Lassen's tragic death just weeks before the end of the war.


What the Critics Say

"Kill without mercy, party like there's no tomorrow: Churchill's secret band of fearless warriors broke hearts, rules, and the Nazis' spirit." (The Daily Mail)
"An enjoyable, thought-provoking read." (Soldier Magazine)
"A truly astonishing story." (Weekend Sport)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Good Show Old Man; Jolly Good Show!

The Good - This book is pretty good. It told the story of a fairly murky part of WW II that needs to be told. Aside from being educational it is entertaining and it does read like a fiction novel. I eventually found this writing style enjoyable after several chapters. I learned a part of history I never really knew about before and that take away is great.

The Not So Good - The book started off a little shaky for me because of the first person imitations. It was a bit too much like a fictional account and this initially distracted me from the story. However, this could be related to my preference for non-fiction and the fact that I'm not a big fan of books with excessive or complete first-person imitations and I prefer third-person telling of the story. Eventually this feeling subsided with this book though. Also, the book was a bit confusing in the early chapters due to the way it jumped around the chronology of events. The chapter numbers are off by one as typical to Audible, but that's not the author's fault. Minor point.

The Bad - Nothing was bad about the book.

The Narration - The performance was very good. Carrington’s cadence and tone were enjoyable throughout the book and his imitations were pretty good as well, but some, namely that of Anders Lassen, were a little annoying. It was too harsh to the ear especially when listening with earbuds at night; I’d find myself jumping when he’d speak in that voice. That said, there is one particularly humorous story near the end of the book which was, I believe, only made so because of Carrington's imitations. Without spoiling it I can say the story highlighted the difference between the stuffy British regular army officer and the 'irregular' British soldier. The telling of this account was so good that I had to bookmark it so I could listen to it again. Which I've done three times already.

The Overall - I truly enjoyed this book. While it started off a little rocky it soon began to flow. I’m happy I stuck with it to the end. It tells a very important part of WW II history. It ended on a somber note, but on a note that needed to be struck. If for no other reason I feel this book was worth it simply for the story about Wright and Holmes dealing with officers and the way it was written and narrated. I can't recall another book I've listened to about WW II that made me unabashedly laugh out loud. It's good to get some humor in books about such serious topics now and again. If you like any books about special forces, espionage or WW II you will enjoy this book.
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- Matthew


This audiobook is more docudrama than history. The author seems to have invented many of the small details for dramatic effect. The narrator was sometimes quite melodramatic. I like my history straight and this was a disappointment.
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- Carl

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-12-2016
  • Publisher: Quercus