Drawing on long-classified documents, Target: Italy (Faber & Faber, 2014) is the official history of the war waged by Britain's Special Operations Executive on Benito Mussolini's Fascist Italy. It is the first full account of SOE's clandestine efforts to strike at Italy and sever its alliance with Nazi Germany, and uncovers missions as remarkable as a plot to assassinate Mussolini and plans to arm the Mafia.
Target: Italy is also the first in-depth history of SOE's attempts at causing trouble inside an enemy country, as opposed to an enemy-occupied one. As such, it issues a sobering reminder of the terrible risks that foreign agencies can run when trying to encourage resistance to powerful authoritarian regimes.
This is a compelling tale of desperate daring and sacrifice, climaxing in one of the most extraordinary episodes of the Second World War: the delicate and dramatic dealings between the Allies and the Italians that led to Italy's surrender in 1943.
“A gripping history of Britain's undercover role in fomenting anti-Fascist activity in wartime Italy” (Observer)
“Inspiring . . . The great skill of this book is to demonstrate that war is both brutal and dizzyingly unpredictable . . . Bailey not only pays tribute to determined and brave people, but unravels a web of conflict in a beautiful land” (Sinclair McKay, Daily Telegraph)
“Roderick Bailey is a fluent writer, with a fine eye for personalities, and this book is, apart from its solid professional virtues, a very good read. The nightmarish and brutal world of underground work against Fascism in Italy is well covered . . . Drama is ever present . . . A great strength of the book is the use of oral interviews and Italian archival material, in contrast to earlier SOE histories which depend mostly on British documents” (James Pettifer, Times Literary Supplement)
“Roderick Bailey is a fine historian who has researched his subject and given his tale a strong narrative drive” (David Gilmour, Spectator)
“Readable and authoritative . . . The role of British intelligence agencies in the Second World War is now better understood” (Christopher Andrew, Literary Review)
"A precious testimony to our past . . . Well written, well structured and with an absolutely flawless series of sources" (Angelo Paratico, Corriere della Sera)
The Wildest Province
In 1943, at the height of the Second World War, small teams of elite British soldiers began parachuting into the mountains of Axis-occupied Albania. Their orders were to find and arm bands of local guerillas and harass the enemy as best they could. Trying to survive in extreme conditions and formidable terrain, these young men, all members of Britain's Special Operations Executive, lived under constant threat of capture and death. Casualties were appalling. Later, survivors claimed that British communists in SOE, perhaps even colleagues of the Cambridge spies, had conspired to betray British interests.
In The Wildest Province (Jonathan Cape, 2008), Roderick Bailey draws on interviews with survivors, long-hidden diaries and declassified files to tell the full story of this remarkable corner of SOE history.
“Beautifully written and impeccably researched . . . The Wildest Province is a must-have acquisition for anyone remotely interested in the region, the war, its politics or the experiences of the men who fought there” (Antony Loyd, The Times)
“An unknown but important chapter in war history, which has now found a fine chronicler” (Financial Times)
"Roderick Bailey’s first book establishes him as a modern historian of great skill . . . Anyone interested in human nature under stress, or problems of counter-insurgency, or sheer adventure, will read it with profit" (Professor M.R.D. Foot, Literary Review)
“A rich and rounded account . . . he has mastered a mass of complex material, and analysed it with great clarity and fairness . . . it is hard to imagine that task being done better than this” (Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph)
"Exemplary" (Max Hastings, Sunday Times)
“A tremendous work of scholarship” (Daily Telegraph)
"A tribute to average men with the guts to be extraordinary . . . The author's research is monumental" (Sunday Express)
Abducting a General
One of the greatest feats in Patrick Leigh Fermor's remarkable life was his daring abduction of General Heinrich Kreipe, a senior German officer in Nazi-occupied Crete, in April 1944.
Disguised as German military police, Leigh Fermor and a colleague, Captain Billy Moss, stopped Kreipe's car on a lonely Cretan road, took the general prisoner, drove through twenty-two German checkpoints, trekked high into the mountains, and ultimately succeeded in hoodwinking and hiding from the pursuing German Army before being picked up on a beach in the south of the island and transported to safety in Egypt.
Abducting a General (John Murray, 2015) is Leigh Fermor's own account of the kidnap, published for the first time. Written in his inimitable prose, with an introduction and notes by Roderick Bailey, acclaimed historian of the Special Operations Executive, it is a glorious first-hand account of one of the great adventures of the Second World War.
Also included in this book are Leigh Fermor's intelligence reports, written in straitened circumstances from caves deep within Crete, yet retaining his remarkable prose skills, which bring the immediacy of SOE operations vividly alive, as well as the peril under which SOE and the Cretan Resistance were operating.
“Beautifully written . . . Fermor's love of Crete and scholarly knowledge of the Classics exude from the pages” (The Times)
“Superb . . . Leigh Fermor's many fans will find plenty of the old master's fizz in this resurrected work . . . Irresistible” (Scotsman)
"Paddy's vividly idiomatic reports irresistibly take us in to the skulduggery and derring-do . . . a wonderful story" (Jan Morris, Literary Review)
The Victoria Cross was introduced by Queen Victoria in 1856 for ‘most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy’. Since then it has been awarded only 1,358 times.
A landmark addition to the Forgotten Voices series, Forgotten Voices of the Victoria Cross (Ebury, 2010) sheds new light on the actions and events that led to the VC being awarded. Collected from the Imperial War Museum’s Sound Archives, some testimonies come from soldiers, sailors and airmen who were awarded the VC, while others come from witnesses of extraordinary acts for which the medal was won. The majority of these first-hand accounts are published here for the first time.
From the Introduction by General Sir Richard Dannatt
"This profound study by Roderick Bailey goes a long way to identifying the common characteristics of the bravest of the brave . . . Here is a testament to what is good about humankind against the backdrop of what can be the worst. The abiding thought with which the reader is left is one of hope; that adversity can indeed bring out the best in us. These "Forgotten Voices" are eloquent in proclaiming this enduring truth"
6 June 1944: the day Allied forces crossed the Channel and began fighting their way into Nazi-occupied Northwest Europe. Initiated by airborne units and covered by air and naval bombardment, the Normandy landings were the most ambitious combined airborne and amphibious assault ever attempted. Their success marked the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany.
Drawing on thousands of hours of eyewitness testimony recorded by the Imperial War Museum, Forgotten Voices of D-Day (Ebury, 2009) tells the compelling story of this turning point in the Second World War. Paratroopers and commandos, glider pilots and landing craft crewmen, airmen and naval personnel share their memories of what it was like as they waited to go in, as they neared the beaches and drop zones, and as they landed and met the enemy.
Featuring a mass of previously unpublished material, Forgotten Voices of D-Day is a powerful and important new record of a defining moment in modern history.
"Incomparable. The voices speak with utter immediacy of fear, determination, bewilderment, indifference, and unmistakable courage" (Magnus Linklater, Spectator)
"A wonderful selection of first-hand accounts of D-Day by British servicemen" (Professor Richard Holmes, Evening Standard)
The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was a secret British organisation set up in 1940 to encourage resistance and carry out sabotage behind enemy lines: in Winston Churchill's famous phrase, to 'set Europe ablaze'. Drawing on previously unpublished interviews in the Imperial War Museum’s Sound Archive, Forgotten Voices of the Secret War (Ebury, 2008) tells the story of SOE in the words of its former operatives and headquarters staff, and resistance fighters, aircrew and naval personnel.
"Assembles with great skill a picture of the Special Operations Executive at work behind several fighting fronts . . . A valuable addition to the history of war" (Professor MRD Foot, Literary Review)
"Roderick Bailey has skilfully braided their stories into a coherent narrative, and the quality of their egregious courage catches at the heart" (Magnus Linklater, Spectator)
"An ideal introduction to the whole subject of SOE . . . Thoroughly recommended" (Professor Gary Sheffield, Chair of War Studies, University of Wolverhampton)