A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Secret Game that Won the War by Simon Parkin

birds and wolves.jpgTitle: A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Secret Game that Won the War

Author: Simon Parkin

Genre: Non-fiction, Biography

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Sceptre

Published: 12th November 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 310

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: Find out what is happening in the Atlantic, find ways of getting the convoys through, and sink the U-boats!’ Prime Minster, Winston Churchill

  1. The Battle of the Atlantic is a disaster. Thousands of supply ships ferrying vital food and fuel from North America to Britain are being torpedoed by German U-boats.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill is lying to the country about the number of British ships sunk. He is lying about the number of British men killed. And worst of all, unless something changes, he knows that Britain is weeks away from being starved into surrender to the Nazis.

This is the story of the game of battleships that won the Second World War. In the first week of 1942 a group of unlikely heroes – a retired naval captain and a clutch of brilliant young women, the youngest only seventeen-years-old – gather to form a secret strategy unit. On the top floor of a bomb-bruised HQ in Liverpool, the Western Approaches Tactical Unit spends days and nights designing and playing wargames in an effort to crack the U-boat tactics.

A GAME OF BIRDS AND WOLVES takes us from the sweltering fug of a U-boat as the German aces coordinate their wolfpack, to the tense atmosphere of the operation room as the British team plot battles at sea on the map.

The story of Operation Raspberry and its unsung heroines has never been told before. Investigative journalist Simon Parkin brings these hidden figures into the light and shows the ingenuity, perseverance and love needed to defeat the Nazis in this gripping tale of war at sea.

~*~

In 1941, the Battle of the Atlantic is raging between Britain and Germany, months before Pearl Harbour is bombed and the Americans finally enter the war. Following the sinking of a ship taking evacuees to America for safety, where only thirty-three of all the children aboard survived, Churchill decides it is time to take more action. With each sunken ship, Britain is receiving fewer supplies to keep the country going. In 1942, a retired naval captain and a group of Wrens begin to plot a strategy to defeat the U-Boats, using maps and small ships to build a game to plan warfare – a game that would come to be known as Battleship. Parkin weaves between this and what was happening with Germany, and peppers it with personal stories of what happened, and in the events leading up to the creation of the game, showing just how close things came to ending up a different way, and how a simple game of secrecy became one of the biggest and most significant strategies in the war that would end in 1945 with the defeat of Germany.

Had Operation Raspberry not gone ahead and had these people whose stories have never been told not risked their lives to plot the naval battles of the Atlantic, World War Two might have had a very different outcome for many people in Europe and indeed, the rest of the world. This is another story from the war that has previously been untold and was shrouded in secrecy until Simon Parkin discovered it. It is an important story, because it adds to the historical record of how the trajectory of World War Two was changed, and ultimately, changed the outcome of the war.

Knowing these stories adds to our understanding of the war – some facts may have been known – the general facts, the basics, but not the intricacies of how the game came about, who was involved and what they spent their days doing, as well as the dangers they faced even just planning and executing the game, which led to safety measures being put in place after a few incidents.

Like other aspects and figures in history who have long been hidden, silenced or ignored for one reason or another, including issues around secrecy like this war game, these stories coming to light expands on what we already know, and gives us a new understanding for what happened and how it happened, and what it took to get there. With carefully researched books like this, these stories are told in engaging and intriguing ways, and should perhaps become recommended reading for students of history, especially when studying this area of history, so they can gain a better understanding beyond what we already know.

An intriguing read for anyone studying or interested in history.

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