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A Game of Birds and Wolves : The Ingenious Young Women Whose Secret Board Game Helped Win World War II
by Simon Parkin




Overview -
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Combining vibrant novelistic storytelling with extensive research, interviews, and previously unpublished accounts, Simon Parkin describes for the first time the role that women played in developing the Allied strategy that, in the words of one admiral,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.

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More About A Game of Birds and Wolves by Simon Parkin

 
 
 

Overview

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.

 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316492096
  • ISBN-10: 0316492094
  • Publisher: Little Brown and Company
  • Publish Date: January 2020
  • Page Count: 320
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

A Game of Birds and Wolves

Games can be deadly serious—ask any soccer parent—but we generally see them as child’s play. It is therefore surprising that in war, where the stakes are the absolute highest, games play an essential role. War games allow armies to test officers’ strategies and decision-making in a risk-free environment, and lessons learned on the game board are frequently transferred to the battlefield. One man who thoroughly grasped this idea was Captain Gilbert Roberts, who, along with his team of eight officers from the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS, popularly known as the Wrens), devised a game that arguably changed the course of World War II. In A Game of Birds and Wolves, Simon Parkin tells this remarkable and little-known story.

In 1941, Great Britain was in danger of being starved of food and supplies by U-boat attacks. Roberts realized that, by simulating the conditions of war as closely as possible on an auditorium-sized game board, he could devise countermeasures to the tactics used by U-boat captains. He could also train submarine hunters without the risk of failure. Ultimately, the men who played the game used their knowledge to defeat the U-boat fleet in the decisive Battle of Birds and Wolves. Without the Wrens, who not only ran the games but also helped design new scenarios and countermeasures, none of this would have happened.

Like a well-designed game, A Game of Birds and Wolves is fun, informative and intense. Parkin naturally focuses much of his attention on Roberts, whose story of triumph over adversity and skepticism is a great read. But the book really shines when Parkin reclaims the history of the Wrens. Although women played a vital role in the war, their work was often undervalued, and much of this history was lost or destroyed. The Wrens, working with Roberts, were instrumental to an Allied victory, but few among us know what we owe to them. 

Parkin’s respect and affection for these women is apparent on every page, and his extensive research and excellent storytelling go a long way toward paying that debt.

 

BAM Customer Reviews