In the spring of 1939, a top-secret organization was founded in London: its purpose was to plot the destruction of Hitler's war machine through spectacular acts of sabotage.
The guerrilla campaign that followed was every bit as extraordinary as the six men who directed it. One of them, Cecil Clarke, was a maverick engineer who had spent the 1930s inventing futuristic caravans. Now, his talents were put to more devious use: he built the dirty bomb used to assassinate Hitler's favorite, Reinhard Heydrich. Another, William Fairbairn, was a portly pensioner with an unusual passion: he was the world's leading expert in silent killing, hired to train the guerrillas being parachuted behind enemy lines. Led by dapper Scotsman Colin Gubbins, these men—along with three others—formed a secret inner circle that, aided by a group of formidable ladies, single-handedly changed the course Second World War: a cohort hand-picked by Winston Churchill, whom he called his Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.
Giles Milton's Churchill's Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is a gripping and vivid narrative of adventure and derring-do that is also, perhaps, the last great untold story of the Second World War.
The first installment in Giles Milton's outrageously entertaining series, History's Unknown Chapters: colorful and accessible, intelligent and illuminating, Milton shows his customary historical flair as he delves into the little-known stories from the past.
There's the cook aboard the Titanic, who pickled himself with whiskey and survived in the icy seas where most everyone else died. There's the man who survived the atomic bomb in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And there's many, many more.
Covering everything from adventure, war, murder and slavery to espionage, including the stories of the female Robinson Crusoe, Hitler's final hours, Japan's deadly balloon bomb and the emperor of the United States, these tales deserve to be told.
The tiny island of Run is an insignificant speck in the Indonesian archipelago. Just two miles long and half a mile wide, it is remote, tranquil, and, these days, largely ignored.
Yet 370 years ago, Run's harvest of nutmeg (a pound of which yielded a 3,200 percent profit by the time it arrived in England) turned it into the most lucrative of the Spice Islands, precipitating a battle between the all-powerful Dutch East India Company and the British Crown. The outcome of the fighting was one of the most spectacular deals in history: Britain ceded Run to Holland but in return was given Manhattan. This led not only to the birth of New York but also to the beginning of the British Empire.
Such a deal was due to the persistence of one man. Nathaniel Courthope and his small band of adventurers were sent to Run in October 1616, and for four years held off the massive Dutch navy. Nathaniel's Nutmeg centers on the remarkable showdown between Courthope and the Dutch Governor General Jan Coen, and the brutal fate of the mariners racing to Run--and the other corners of the globe--to reap the huge profits of the spice trade. Written with the flair of a historical sea novel but based on rigorous research, Giles Milton's Nathaniel's Nutmeg is a brilliant adventure story by Giles Milton, a writer who has been hailed as the "new Bruce Chatwin" (Mail on Sunday).
In When Churchill Slaughtered Sheep and Stalin Robbed a Bank, the second installment in his outrageously entertaining series, History’s Unknown Chapters, Giles Milton shows his customary historical flair as he delves into the little-known stories from history, like when Stalin was actually assassinated with poison by one of his inner circle; the Russian scientist, dubbed the “Red Frankenstein,” who attempted to produce a human-ape hybrid through ethically dubious means; the family who survived thirty-eight days at sea with almost no water or supplies after their ship was destroyed by a killer whale; or the plot that served as a template for 9/11 in which four Algerian terrorists attempted to hijack a plane and fly it into the Eiffel Tower.
Giles Milton has been a writer and historian for many years, writing about people and places that history has forgotten. But it took his young daughter's depiction of a swastika on an imaginary family shield - the swastika representing Germany - for Giles to uncover the incredible, dark story of his own family and his father-in-law's life under Hitler's regime.
As German citizens during World War II, Wolfram and his Bohemian, artist parents survived one of the most brutal eras of history. Wolfram, who was only nine years old when Hitler came to power, lived through the rise and fall of the Third Reich, from the earliest street marches to the final defeat of the Nazi regime. Conscripted into Hitler's army, he witnessed the brutality of war - first on the Russian front and then on the Normandy beaches.
Seen through German eyes and written with remarkable sensitivity, The Boy Who Went to War is a powerful story of warfare and human survival and a reminder to us all that civilians on both sides suffered the consequences of Hitler's war.
For almost twenty years the fate of Ralegh's colonists was to remain a mystery. When a new wave of settlers sailed to America to found Jamestown, their efforts to locate the lost colony of Roanoke were frustrated by the mighty chieftain, Powhatan, father of Pocahontas, who vowed to drive the English out of America. Only when it was too late did the settlers discover the incredible news that Ralegh's colonists had survived in the forests for almost two decades before being slaughtered in cold blood by henchmen. While Manteo, Sir Walter Ralegh's "savage," had played a pivotal role in establishing the first English settlement in America, he had also unwittingly contributed to one of the earliest chapters in the decimation of the Native American population. The mystery of what happened to the Roanoke colonists, who seemed to vanish without a trace, lies at the heart of this well-researched work of narrative history.
Russian Roulette tells the spectacular and harrowing story of the British spies in revolutionary Russia and their mission to stop Lenin's red tide from washing across the free world. They were an eccentric cast of characters, led by Mansfield Cumming, a one-legged, monocle-wearing former sea captain, and included novelist W. Somerset Maugham, beloved children's author Arthur Ransome, and the dashing, ice-cool Sidney Reilly, the legendary Ace of Spies and a model for Ian Fleming's James Bond. Cumming's network would pioneer the field of covert action and would one day become MI6.
Living in disguise, constantly switching identities, they infiltrated Soviet commissariats, the Red Army, and Cheka (the feared secret police), and would come within a whisker of assassinating Lenin. In a sequence of bold exploits that stretched from Moscow to the central Asian city of Tashkent, this unlikely band of agents succeeded in foiling Lenin's plot for global revolution.
Edward Trencom has bumbled through life, relying on his trusty nose to turn the family cheese shop into the most celebrated fromagerie in England. This was no ordinary nose, but one long, aquiline, and furnishing the trademark circular bump over the bridge---the very same nose bestowed on all the Trencom men. It was extraordinary, able to discern the composition, maturity, and quality of cheese---and the Trencom noses had sniffed, whiffed, and judged the very best cheeses of the world.
But on an ordinary day, Edward's world is turned upside down when he stumbles across a crate of family papers. To his horror, he discovers that nine previous generations of his family have come to sticky ends because of their noses. When he investigates---despite his grandfather's caveat never to look into the origin of his nose---Edward finds himself caught up in a Byzantine riddle to which there is no obvious answer. And like his ill-fated ancestors, he is hunted down by rival forces whose identity and purpose remain a total mystery.
Trapped between the mad, the bad, and a cheese to die for, Edward Trencom's nose must make a choice---and for the last nine generations it has made the catastrophically wrong decision.
Giles Milton's deliciously comic debut novel is a mouthwatering blend of Tom Sharpe and P. G. Wodehouse. From the noble Roquefort to the piquant Èpoisses, every page is permeated by the pungent odor of cheese.
Praise for Giles Milton
"He has a rare ability---a talent for sifting fine pearls from faraway sands and for transmuting the merely arcane into little literary gems."
---Simon Winchester, The Boston Globe
"Milton spins a fascinating tale. . . . Exuberantly eccentric characters stride the pages."---Time magazine on Nathaniel's Nutmeg
"In an exceptionally pungent, amusing, and accessible historical account, Giles Milton brings readers right into the midst of these colonists and their daunting American adventure."--- Janet Maslin, The New York Times, on Big Chief Elizabeth
In the summer of 1716, a Cornish cabin boy named Thomas Pellow and fifty-one of his comrades were captured at sea by the Barbary corsairs. Their captors--Ali Hakem and his network of Islamic slave traders--had declared war on the whole of Christendom. France, Spain, England and Italy had suffered a series of devastating attacks. Thousands of Europeans had been snatched from their homes and taken in chains to the great slave markets of Algiers, Tunis and Salé in Morocco.
Pellow and his shipmates were bought by the tyrannical sultan of Morocco, Moulay Ismail, who was constructing an imperial palace of such scale and grandeur that it would surpass every other building in the world, a palace built entirely by Christian slave labor.
Resourceful, resilient, and quick-thinking, Pellow was selected by Moulay Ismail for special treatment, and was one of the fortunate few who survived to tell his tale.
An extraordinary and shocking story, drawn from unpublished letters and manuscripts written by slaves and by the padres and ambassadors sent to free them, White Gold reveals a disturbing and long forgotten chapter of history.
In 1611, the merchants of London's East India Company received a mysterious letter from Japan, written several years previously by a marooned English mariner named William Adams. Foreigners had been denied access to Japan for centuries, yet Adams had been living in this unknown land for years. He had risen to the highest levels in the ruling shogun's court, taken a Japanese name, and was now offering his services as adviser and interpreter.
Seven adventurers were sent to Japan with orders to find and befriend Adams, in the belief that he held the key to exploiting the opulent riches of this forbidden land. Their arrival was to prove a momentous event in the history of Japan and the shogun suddenly found himself facing a stark choice: to expel the foreigners and continue with his policy of isolation, or to open his country to the world. For more than a decade the English, helped by Adams, were to attempt trade with the shogun, but confounded by a culture so different from their own, and hounded by scheming Jesuit monks and fearsome Dutch assassins, they found themselves in a desperate battle for their lives.
Samurai William is the fascinating story of a clash of two cultures, and of the enormous impact one Westerner had on the opening of the East.
Giles Milton's first book, The Riddle and the Knight, is a fascinating account of the legend of Sir John Mandeville, a long-forgotten knight who was once the most famous writer in medieval Europe. Mandeville wrote a book about his voyage around the world that became a beacon that lit the way for the great expeditions of the Renaissance, and his exploits and adventures provided inspiration for writers such as Shakespeare, Milton, and Keats. By the nineteenth century however, his claims were largely discredited by academics. Giles Milton set off in the footsteps of Mandeville, in order to test his amazing claims, and to restore Mandeville to his rightful place in the literature of exploration.
"Erudite, witty and adventurous" (The Mail on Sunday), The Riddle and the Knight is a brilliant piece of detective work.