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World War Two in Secret

World War Two in Secret
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Gavin Mortimer

World War Two in Secret

The Hidden Conflict 1939 to 1945

Gavin Mortimer

World War Two was a conflict of tanks, ships and aircraft, fought across the globe, from the icy waters of the North Atlantic to the steaming jungles of South-east Asia. It was a war that called for that most basic of battlefield requirements – raw courage. But World War Two was also the war of top-secret technology. The conflict began with Polish horsemen attacking German tanks and ended with the dropping of Atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

World War Two in Secret explores of the hidden stories behind the first truly technological war. From Bouncing Bombs to Atomic Bombs, from S.O.E to S.A.S and from radar to Enigma code-breakers, the book will lift the lid on all aspects of World War Two that were crafty, cunning, and covert, explaining the thinking behind their creation and the influence that top-secret weapons and strategies had on the outcomes of the war.

Dozens of eye-catching photographs have been drawn from the archives compiled by all the major fighting powers, accompanied by illuminating text. Inspiring and informative chapters follow the arc of the Axis attack, the turning of the tide, and the war going global, while placing special focus on crucial World War Two operations—for example, the secret war at sea, the role of the Special Forces in North Africa, the Blitz and the radar race. Includes a chapter on Australia’s top performing Special Z Unit.

SPECIFICATIONS: Hardback (PLC with jacket) | 220 x 250 mm


The Great Circle, December 2015

This book subtitled ‘The Hidden Conflict 1939-1945’ covers a wide spectrum, virtually
anything that was a surprise to the enemy at the time. It is divided into broad sections –
‘The Axis Attacks’, ‘Fighting Back’, ‘Turning the Tide’ and ‘The Coming of the End’ – which
mirror the progress of World War Two, and within each section there are short vignettes
portraying a bewildering variety of events. The sections are prefaced by a brief reference to
the mythical beginning of secrecy in war (the Wooden Horse at Troy), a summary of the
importance of secrecy in subsequent wars, and by Churchill’s trenchant comment to
Chamberlain after Munich in 1938: ‘ You were given the choice between war and dishonor.
You chose dishonor and you will have war’. Prophetic indeed!
The well-known tales are here: the 1939 Russo-German Pact which so disconcerted the
western powers when it became known and cleared the way for Hitler to invade Poland
with Russian complicity; the brilliant use by Germany of parachute troops in the capture of
the Dutch frontier fort of Eban Emael, which cleared the way for German panzers to break
out through Holland and France in 1940; the later German use of paratroops to capture the
island of Crete, though with such severe losses that Hitler refused to use them in that
manner again; the development of U-boat ‘wolf pack’ tactics and Allied countermeasures
which nullified the threat to shipping in the Atlantic; the ‘Doolittle’ raid on Tokyo in mid-
1942 by US B25 bombers; the ‘man who never was’, the highly ingenious and successful
British plan to deceive the Germans as to the D-Day landing plans; Barnes Wallis and his
‘bouncing bomb’ which destroyed German dams; Germany’s V-weapons and jet aircraft;
and the Manhattan atomic bomb project. Code-breaking and clandestine operations also
receive mention: Colonel Colin Gubbins and his development of British commando raids; the
story of ‘ULTRA’ (deciphering the German military codes) and the American breaking of the
Japanese ‘Purple’ code. The Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) in North Africa receives due
mention, as does ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan and the operations of his OSS (Office of Strategic
Services) in Europe and the Far East.
Australians will note that the only operations based in their country that receive mention
are the Jaywick and Rimau raids on shipping in Singapore by Major Ivan Lyons and his
Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD) commandos. These are dealt with concisely and
clearly but the author repeats the common mistake of asserting that they belonged to ‘Z
Special Force’. They didn’t. ‘Z Special’ was the name given to the SRD holding unit for
recruits only; but I suppose it sounds more dramatic and exciting than the deliberately lowkey
name given to Services Reconnaissance Department. Nor does the author mention that
SRD was simply the British-officered and Australian-manned section of General MacArthur’s
Allied Intelligence Bureau, of which the all-Australian North East section, operating in New
Guinea, was by far the most successful; nor that Central Bureau, MacArthur’s multi-national
code-breaker Group, was a highly successful part of the story of breaking the Japanese
military codes.
Perhaps it is too much to expect perfection in a publication of this truncated nature.
However, one of the great strengths of Gavin Mortimer’s account is that he includes some
of the most memorable, little-known episodes of the secret war. Virtually all readers of
accounts of the Mediterranean war mention the triumphal raid by British Swordfish aircraft
on Taranto in November 1941, but did you know of the great feat of four Italian frogmen of
December in that year? They penetrated the British sea base at Alexandria, Egypt, sank the
battleship Queen Elizabeth and an oil tanker and badly damaged another battleship, Valiant.
As Mortimer tells us, even Winston Churchill commended their ‘extraordinary courage and
ingenuity’. He tells us, too, of other events that have never been well-publicised. Though
this war was so vast and complex that no one can gather all the clandestine events of it into
one volume, you’ll find a great selection of them here in readable form.
Alan Powell
Emeritus Professor of History
Charles Darwin University

“these books are well written, adorned with large numbers of photographs, many seldom seen before”

Exisle Publishing Great Circle World War 2 at Sea


BMA Magazine, July 2015

In World War Two in Secret: The Hidden Conflict 1939 to 1945, award-winning author Gavin Mortimer exposes the role of subversive ingenuity and intrigue across the multiple fronts on which this war was fought.In World War Two in Secret: The Hidden Conflict 1939 to 1945, award-winning author Gavin Mortimer exposes the role of subversive ingenuity and intrigue across the multiple fronts on which this war was fought.

BMA Magazine World War Two in Secret

The Senior, July 2015

“Filled with intriguing photographs of the era, many rarely seen before, this book takes readers behind the propaganda for an insight into how the war was fought both on the front line and in the campaign headquarters.”

The Senior World War Two In Secret Exisle Publishing

The Daily Telegraph, June 2015

"easy to read and exciting"

Daily Telegraph Exisle World War Two in Secret Gavin Mortimer


Ladies in Racing, May 2015

“The little known story of Australia’s Z Special Unit is just one of the exploits exposed in World War Two In Secret”

Exisle Publishing World War Two In Secret Ladies in Racing



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