Review: SAS Rogue Heroes – The Authorized Wartime History by Ben Macintyre

9780241186633Last year I was blown away by Ben Macintyre’s A Spy Among Friends and quickly worked my way through much of his back list. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction; and I especially don’t read a lot of history — though that’s gradually changing, through no conscious effort on my part — but Macintyre’s work is nothing short of exceptional, blending fact with a fast-paced narrative that’s reminiscent of page-turning thrillers. His latest book, SAS Rogue Heroes: The Authorised Wartime History, takes aim at Britain’s Special Air Service — the SAS — and provides incredible insight into its formation, and its exploits during World War II. What separates Macintyre’s book from others, besides his pedigree, is that Macintyre has been granted access to the previously-clandestine SAS archives. As such, he provides illumination previous books on the subject have not, and provides the definitive account of the SAS’s operations during the Second World War.

The soldiers in the SAS were a rowdy, undisciplined, breed of men, who somehow functioned as a small, independent army dedicated to inflicting a disproportionate amount of damage to the enemy. Founded by renegade David Stirling, they were essentially a group of guerrillas who ducked behind enemy lines and created havoc. They broke the established rules of warfare — in fact, some of their deeds were considered rather “unsportsmanlike” to their superiors — and demonstrated incredible courage and tenacity.

The book is split into chapters which essentially spotlight specific missions, and personnel. The disparate mindsets of the SAS soldiers is particularly interesting, and it’s incredible that such a colourful cast of characters were able to gel, and become such a potent attacking force. Despite their bravado, and in certain circumstances, downright coldness and barbarity, Macintyre paints these men as real people, with real emotion coursing through their veins; they just didn’t have an outlet for that pent up rage and sadness that naturally ensues in wartime. There is real physiological insight here, which is often overlooked for analysis of operations and combat.

SAS Rogue Heroes: The Authorised Wartime History ranks up there with Ben Macintyre’s finest work. This is a book that will make you appreciate the extremes the men of the SAS were put through in order to change the course of the war. An incredibly insightful, inspiring, and action-packed read. Even if you’ve previously read about the exploits of the SAS during World War II, this book is a vital addition to the canon.

ISBN: 9780241186633
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 384
Imprint: Viking
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publish Date: 22-Sep-2016
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

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