Ian Fleming's Commandos.

By Nicholas Rankin

Printed: 2011

Publisher: Faber & Faber. London

Dimensions 13 × 20 × 3 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 13 x 20 x 3

Condition: As new  (See explanation of ratings)

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Softback. Sea with submarine image and silver title.

  • F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feeling and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.

In 1942, Lieutenant-Commander Ian Fleming was personal assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence – the dynamic figure behind James Bond’s fictional chief, ‘M’. Here, Fleming had a brilliant idea: why not set up a unit of authorised looters, men who would go in hard with the front-line troops and steal enemy intelligence?

Known as ’30 Assault Unit’, they took part in the major campaigns of the Second World War, landing on the Normandy beaches and helping to liberate Paris. 30AU’s final amazing coup was to seize the entire archives of the German Navy – thirty tons of documents. Ian Fleming flew out in person to get the loot back to Britain, where it was combed for evidence to use in the Nuremburg trials.

In this gripping and highly enjoyable book, Nicholas Rankin, author of the best-selling Churchill’s Wizards, puts 30 Assault Unit’s fascinating story in a strategic and intelligence context. He also argues that Ian Fleming’s Second World War service was one of the most significant periods of his life – without this, the most popular spy fiction of the twentieth century would not have been written.

Review: A positively engaging read about 30 Assault Unit (30 AU) during WW2 (with a brief modern history included at the end of the book) and Ian Fleming (the writer of the James Bond series).

I must be honest in saying that, at first, I loathed the including of material about James Bond since I wanted to read about war and not another series entirely. I found myself reading between the lines and picking out the materiel I wanted to read, in the first few chapters at least. For the most part of the book, after the begging and until the end, James Bond features only lightly across each chapter but by the end I’d come to the conclusion that it would be impossible to tell the story of Ian Fleming and 30 AU without writing about the James Bond series. Footnotes largely relate to James Bond and I ignored most after realising. I can’t be quite sure how to conclude my opinion on such including of material. I’ve read it, I don’t feel like it wasted my time, that is all.

Beside the above, and on the whole, I found it a valuable account of WW2 to read. It includes detail of much but keeps them light. It provides a chronological account of 30 AU throughout WW2 and concludes in the modern day. It has interesting bits in the intelligence that was obtained and stories of how famous writers like Ernest Hemingway was involved in the war, if only briefly. There is another author mentioned that struck me but fail to recall a name. I’d say if spies, intelligence and alike are favourable reads then this is a volume that might take your interest for that angle.

The book includes a section of photographs that span some handful of pages but beside that the book is a wall of text. Given all this time on I can’t help but feel additional material in the forms of maps, scanned documents and alike would have positively expanded the work and only added to its contribution of books on WW2. The book doesn’t fail without the including of such material but certainly other volumes of WW2 books provide content that show me things this one does not. The book serves its purpose mind, and tells the story, so that’s most important.

There’s a couple of full stops missing on two unrecorded pages and a sentence that starts and makes no sense on an unrecorded page also. I’m surprised proof-readers, editors and alike haven’t picked this up. One for the sharp eyed that has no real effect on anything when all considered.

The covers a nice design and makes it easy on the eye. The font of the book is spaced for an engaging read but not so much that one is left looking from top to bottom of a page to read the next sentence (metaphorically). Very well typesette’d and formatted. Printed on cream like paper that makes the blackness stand out and easier on the eye.

Overall for the small fee, perhaps less than £3, you can pay for a used copy of this volume on Amazon it really is a steal. Despite my three star rating for the various disagreements stated above I’d recommend this without a doubt to the addition in ones collection. I think perhaps my next hunt is to obtain the other titles from this author and see how they compare. But then that’s an authors job done, isn’t it? When a reader feels the need to explore more volumes and purchase another copy the book must have left an impression.

Nicholas Rankin spent 20 years broadcasting for BBC World Service where he was Chief Producer and won two UN awards. His first book for Faber, Dead Man’s Chest, followed in Robert Louis Stevenson’s footsteps from Scotland to Samoa and was much enjoyed by Graham Greene. His second, Telegram from Guernica, was a widely-praised biography of the ground-breaking war-correspondent and front-line propagandist George Lowther Steer.

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