Friday, February 12, 2010

Operation Macintyre

We had a tremendous evening on Thursday, with Times journalist - and author of the acclaimed Agent ZigZag - at Abingdon School to talk about his latest book Operation Mincemeat, currently hovering around the top of the bestseller charts since it's publication back in January. Ben talks as well as he writes, and he took us on a whistle-stop tour through the story of this incredible wartime deception, focusing (as the book does) on the cast of unlikely characters who helped make it happen. Many of them have fabulous-sounding typically British names such as Charles Cholmondeley (pronounced 'chumly'), Bentley Purchase and Sir Bernard Spilsbury. Operation Mincemeat was a deception played for the highest stakes, and it's success influenced the outcome of key battles on both the Eastern and Western front in Europe during WWII. What at times seems an outlandish, almost comical, series of events had deadly serious repercussions, and Ben's triumph with the book is to take such a complex and murky subject, and turn it into a book as gripping as any crime thriller, as well as - with the help of recently declassified documents - set it firmly in the historical context of that crucial part of the conflict. Ben is an old boy of the school, and we took advantage of their splendid hospitality suite at the top of the new sports centre. It was pretty much a full house as well. My thanks to the school - and in particular Jan Glover who organised everything from their side - and of course to Ben for making it such a great event. The chap behind us on the big TV screen by the way is one of the architects of Operation Mincemeat, old Charles Cholmondeley himself, sporting a splendid RAF moustache. A character from a bygone age, he - and many other brave individuals - deserve to be better known, and Ben's book my just do that...

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