A Game of Birds and Wolves

A Game of Birds and Wolves

The Ingenious Young Women Whose Secret Board Game Helped Win World War II

Book - 2020
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As heard on the New Yorker Radio Hour: The triumphant and "engaging history" ( The New Yorker ) of the young women who devised a winning strategy that defeated Nazi U-boats and delivered a decisive victory in the Battle of the Atlantic.

By 1941, Winston Churchill had come to believe that the outcome of World War II rested on the battle for the Atlantic. A grand strategy game was devised by Captain Gilbert Roberts and a group of ten Wrens (members of the Women's Royal Naval Service) assigned to his team in an attempt to reveal the tactics behind the vicious success of the German U-boats. Played on a linoleum floor divided into painted squares, it required model ships to be moved across a make-believe ocean in a manner reminiscent of the childhood game, Battleship. Through play, the designers developed "Operation Raspberry," a counter-maneuver that helped turn the tide of World War II.

Combining vibrant novelistic storytelling with extensive research, interviews, and previously unpublished accounts, Simon Parkin describes for the first time the role that women played in developing the Allied strategy that, in the words of one admiral, "contributed in no small measure to the final defeat of Germany." Rich with unforgettable cinematic detail and larger-than-life characters, A Game of Birds and Wolves is a heart-wrenching tale of ingenuity, dedication, perseverance, and love, bringing to life the imagination and sacrifice required to defeat the Nazis at sea.
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2020.
Edition: First US edition.
ISBN: 9780316492096
Branch Call Number: 940.54516 PARKIN
Characteristics: 309 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


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Nov 10, 2020

This is not only one of the greatest WW II books I have read, it is one of the best books I have ever read. Parkin is a master of placing the reader along side the real life characters of his book. Looking through his sources, his research is impeccable and gives light to people, especially Roberts and his Wrens, who's contribution to the success of the British in WW II has been generally brushed to the dust bin of history. His depth of knowledge of his characters is so accomplished and his empathy for their hard work and actions so skillfully worded on every page. I couldn't put this book down and at the end I was in tears. A true masterpiece.

Sep 14, 2020

The book is really about the Battle for the Atlantic (there seems to be a disagreement about how much winning it depended on breaking codes, devising tactics, or technology) and the role of war games in developing tactics. It sounds like writing any comprehensive book about the WRENS at this point would be hard because so much of the history has been "misplaced." I had a few quibbles with the writing, such as I would not use "salubrious" where the author used it.

Jul 20, 2020

I wanted to learn what these WRENS did, but after 100 pages, I didn’t have a clue. I wasn’t even in the room where this was all to take place. Lots of preliminary junk about this Uboat captain or this sinking of 21 other WRENS. If you know nex to nothing about the Uboat war, this book might be ok. If you already know a lot about it, this book is a drudge.

Mar 01, 2020

An interesting book told from a British prospective, with lots of amusing colloquialisms. I like stories that bring you history on a 'man on the street' level, which this book does while still providing a strategic overview. Plus it covers the how the war effected women, an aspect which is usually not explored very much. Anyway I found it a captivating and enlightening read.


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