Target Italy: The secret war against Mussolini, 1940-1943
The official History of SOE operations in Fascist Italy.
By Roderick Bailey
Faber and Faber
ISBN 9 780571 299188
During the course of my research into the Second World War I am often astounded by the courage and sacrifice displayed by ordinary people doing extraordinary things. The agents in this book are no exception.
At the outbreak of hostilities with Italy, the British Intelligence Services were woefully unprepared to undertake operations in Italy. Slowly, after a distinctly amateurish start, SOE was able to recruit agents, improve operational techniques and begin clandestine operations against the Fascist regime.
Italy was no friendly country occupied by a common enemy. Italy was a hostile country with a hostile population. In addition, unlike SOE, the Italian Secret Services were skilled and professional opponents with 20 years experience of internal repression and counter-espionage work gained within a totalitarian regime. Taken together, the odds of a successful mission were extremely small and yet it is testimony to their bravery that they still went and indeed were successful (at times).
Roderick Bailey’s book is extremely well written, well researched and immensely readable. If I have a criticism its that there is no map to indicate the areas of operations which would have helped with those, like me, who are geographically challenged.