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Award-winning war reporter and internationally bestselling military historian Damien Lewis explores one of WWII’s most remarkable Special Forces missions during the Normandy landings on D-Day–and the extraordinary hunt that followed to take down a cadre of fugitive SS and Gestapo war criminals.
On the night of June 13th, 1944, a twelve-man SAS unit parachuted into occupied France. Their objective: hit German forces deep behind the lines, cutting the rail-tracks linking Central France to the northern coastline. In a country crawling with enemy troops, their mission was to prevent Hitler from rushing his Panzer divisions to the D-Day beaches and driving the Allied troops back into the sea. It was a Herculean task, but no risk was deemed too great to stop the Nazi assault. In daring to win it all, the SAS patrol was ultimately betrayed, captured, and tortured by the Gestapo before facing execution in a dark French woodland on Hitler’s personal orders. Miraculously, two of the condemned men managed to escape, triggering one of the most secretive Nazi-hunting operations ever, as the SAS vowed to track down every one of the war criminals who had murdered their brothers in arms…all with Churchill’s covert backing.
With Nazi Germany’s lightning seizure of much of Western Europe, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had called for the formation of specially trained troops of the “hunter class.” Their purpose was to incite a reign of terror across enemy-occupied Europe. Churchill’s warriors were to shatter all known rules of warfare, taking the fight to the enemy with no holds barred. In doing so, the Special Air Service would be tested as never before during the pivotal D-Day landings, and the quest for vengeance that followed.
Breathtaking and exhaustively researched, Churchill’s Band of Brothers is based upon a raft of new and unseen material provided by the families of those who were there. It reveals the untold story of one of the most daring missions of WWII, that not only had ramifications for the war itself but led to the most extraordinary and gripping of aftermaths.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Damien Lewis became an author largely by accident, when a British publisher asked him if he’d be willing to turn a TV documentary he was working on into a book. That film was shot in the Sudan war zone, and told the story of how Arab tribes seized black African slaves in horrific slave raids. Lewis had been to the Sudan war zone dozens of times over the past decade, reporting on that conflict for the BBC, Channel 4 and US and European broadcasters.
His slavery documentary told the story of a young girl from the Nuba tribe, seized in a raid and sold into slavery in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital city, and of her epic escape. The publisher asked Lewis if the Nuba girl would be willing to write her life story as a book, with his help as co-author. The book that they co-wrote was called ‘Slave’, and it was published to great acclaim, becoming a number one bestseller and being translated into some 30 lanc guages worldwide. It won several awards and has been made into a feature film.
Over the preceding fifteen years Lewis had reported from many war, conflict and disaster zones – including Sudan, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Iraq, Syria, Burma, Afghanistan and the Balkans (see Author’s Gallery). He (and his film crew) traveled into such areas with aid workers, the British or allied military, UN forces or local military groups, or very much under their own steam. He reported on the horror and human impact of war, as well as the drama of conflict itself. Often, he worked alone. Often, he filmed his own material over extended periods of time living in the war or conflict zone.
During a decade spent reporting from around the world Lewis lived in deserts, rainforests, jungles and chaotic third world cities. In his work and travels he met and interviewed people smugglers, diamond miners, Catholic priests ‘gone native’, desert nomads, un-contacted tribes, aid workers, bush pilots, arms dealers, genocidal leaders, peacekeepers, game wardens, slum kids, world presidents, heroin traffickers, rebel warlords, child prostitutes, Islamist terrorists, Hindu holy men, mercenaries, bush doctors, soldiers, commanders and spies. He was injured, and was hospitalised with bizarre tropical diseases – including flesh-eating bacteria, worms that burrow through the skin and septicemia – but survived all that and continued to report.
It was only natural that having seen so much of global conflict he would be drawn to stories of war, terrorism, espionage and the often dark causes behind such conflicts when he started writing books. Having written a number of true stories, in 2006 he was chosen as one of the ‘nation’s 20 favourite authors’ and wrote his first fiction, Desert Claw, for the British Government’s Quick Read initiative. Desert Claw tells of a group of ex-Special Forces soldiers sent into Iraq to retrieve a looted Van Gogh painting, with a savage twist to the tale. That fiction was followed up by Cobra Gold, an equally compelling tale of global drama and intrigue and shadowy betrayal.
Damien Lewis’s work, books and films have won the Index on Censorship (UK), CECRA (Spain), Project Censored (US), Commonwealth Relations (UK), Discovery-NHK BANFF (Canada), Rory Peck (UK), BBC One World (UK), BBC-WWF Wildscreen (UK), International Peace Prize (US), Elle Magazine Grande Prix (US), Victor Gollanz (Germany), and BBC One World (UK) Awards. He is a Fellow of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.