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

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 Combining vibrant novelistic storytelling with extensive research, interviews, and previously unpublished accounts, Simon Parkin describes for the first time the role that women played in developing the Allied strategy that, in the words of one admiral,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

30 review for A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Ingenious Young Women Whose Secret Board Game Helped Win World War II

  1. 4 out of 5

    Roberta

    These two books are really difficult for me to review. The first book, A Game of Birds and Wolves reads like a thriller and I would give it a very solid four-stars. The British, out maneuvered and out gunned, are this close to losing WWII because Germany is throwing up a barricade of u-boats, cutting off supplies, sinking supply ships and killing huge numbers of sailors and civilian passengers. The Germans are surely and steadily winning the Battle of the Atlantic. They have Supreme Commander of These two books are really difficult for me to review. The first book, A Game of Birds and Wolves reads like a thriller and I would give it a very solid four-stars. The British, out maneuvered and out gunned, are this close to losing WWII because Germany is throwing up a barricade of u-boats, cutting off supplies, sinking supply ships and killing huge numbers of sailors and civilian passengers. The Germans are surely and steadily winning the Battle of the Atlantic. They have Supreme Commander of the Navy Admiral Karl Doenitz running the show and they have deadly, skilled submarine captains like Otto Kretschmer and Wolfgang Lüth playing for their team. The German u-boat captains had already made a game out of it -- awarding points for every ton of British ship they send to the bottom. Sink 100,000 tons and Admiral Doenitz pins a medal on your chest. Captain Schnee sinks the SS Aguila, killing 70 young women and gets 9,000 points. Captain Bleichrodt sinks the SS City of Benares, killing over 250 people, including 77 small children, and is awarded 11,000 points. Bleichrodt trades in his points for the Iron Cross. Captain Hardegen sinks the oil tanker Norness, resulting in the deaths of two crew members and a puppy and giving him a whopping 12,000 points. Inexplicably, Britain recruits Gilbert Roberts to head up a group to figure out how to push the Germans back. Still dangerously underweight, Roberts' had previously been mustered out of the service because he is suffering from tuberculosis. On top of that, the team he will be leading consists almost entirely of young WRENS (Women's Royal Naval Service) whose training, such as it was, consisted mostly of typing and other skills that were considered appropriate for females of the day. Even though we know how it turned out, (view spoiler)[The Germans lost the Battle of the Atlantic. (hide spoiler)] it's still pretty exciting to see how it was done. Lots of this was top secret until pretty recently. The second book, The Ingenious Young Women Whose Secret Board Game Helped Win World War II is pretty much a two-star book, or an episode of "Ripping Yarns." There are a couple of pages scattered here and there about two outstanding WRENS, Jean Laidlaw and Janet Okell, and a handful of other WRENS flit through various chapters like ghosts. There is some chit chat about their designer uniforms and engagements to fellow naval personnel. There is a lot of lip service given to their importance to the success of the mission but not much information that actually backs it up. Really, the only thing that's new is the extent to which women are allowed to participate at all. Are there really two books? No, it just seems like it. Now the publisher is probably sorry that I was sent a free copy. Well, I gave 1/2 of the book a 4-star review ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ . My peeve: An interminable anecdote in Chapter 13 about John Lamb partying in NYC is very entertaining but had only the most tenuous connection to the game of birds and wolves. The footnote there that the editor of Vogue magazine, who was at the party, died four months later is only half as interesting and twice as irrelevant.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Book2Dragon

    I really, really liked this book. I was lucky to win it, and this review has nothing to do with that. The story of the U-Boats in WWII is not one I had delved into much, although the German movie 'Das Boot' was all about submarines. But the story of the women (WRENs) of England, many quite young, who assisted with the games that turned the Battle of the Atlantic around is one I definitely did not know about. Apparently not many people did, and I am grateful to the author for his studious researc I really, really liked this book. I was lucky to win it, and this review has nothing to do with that. The story of the U-Boats in WWII is not one I had delved into much, although the German movie 'Das Boot' was all about submarines. But the story of the women (WRENs) of England, many quite young, who assisted with the games that turned the Battle of the Atlantic around is one I definitely did not know about. Apparently not many people did, and I am grateful to the author for his studious research and excellent presentation of this part of history. He presents the facts in a way that kept me interested, both of the men and women who worked so hard to bring success to this goal, and he also presents the enemy without indiscriminately painting them all as monsters. He stops occasionally to lament that wars happen at all, and for those killed, he presents deaths so that they are personal, not just numbers (although the numbers are sobering.) It also brings to light just how much the British suffered during the war, and how close the allies came to losing. I'd highly recommend this book to everyone: current and former sailors, history professors and buffs, anyone studying or interested in World War II, young people who don't really remember the war or know much about it, and anyone who just wants to increase their knowledge of how the world works. History is there for us to learn.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Disappointing. Charitably, due partly to the sparsity of primary source material, since the women were barred from talking about their activity for fifty years and male military leaders and war historians ignored it. As a result, this is mistitled. It’s mostly about the actual Atlantic convoy battles of WWII and their strategists. And about Gilbert Roberts, who devised and ran the war games school. The relatively small part about the women is padded out with their backstories and romantic lives. Disappointing. Charitably, due partly to the sparsity of primary source material, since the women were barred from talking about their activity for fifty years and male military leaders and war historians ignored it. As a result, this is mistitled. It’s mostly about the actual Atlantic convoy battles of WWII and their strategists. And about Gilbert Roberts, who devised and ran the war games school. The relatively small part about the women is padded out with their backstories and romantic lives. There just isn’t enough documentation about how large a role they played to support the hype. At least not here.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Historyguy

    Told in vivid, thrilling detail, A Game of Birds and Wolves shines a light into one of the forgotten tactical units of the Second World War and the core role the men and women who worked there played in driving the U-boats from the Atlantic. The book often reads like a thriller, with well-rounded, memorable characters on both sides of the conflict, and high-stakes, but is clearly rooted in painstaking archival research and interview. A gripping, tight-focus expose, not only of the role of wargam Told in vivid, thrilling detail, A Game of Birds and Wolves shines a light into one of the forgotten tactical units of the Second World War and the core role the men and women who worked there played in driving the U-boats from the Atlantic. The book often reads like a thriller, with well-rounded, memorable characters on both sides of the conflict, and high-stakes, but is clearly rooted in painstaking archival research and interview. A gripping, tight-focus expose, not only of the role of wargames in the battle of the Atlantic, but also of their usefulness to both sides in the wider war.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    Books about women in World War II are popular these days, and the latest one I’ve come across — A Game of Birds and Wolves by Simon Parkin — is a good one, up to a point. Parkin tells the story of several dozen mostly very young women who participated in a little-recognized but vital aspect of the Allied victory. They were recruits to an auxiliary of the British Navy known as the Wrens (Women’s Royal Navy Service). However, in reality, A Game of Birds and Wolves is, more properly, about the man Books about women in World War II are popular these days, and the latest one I’ve come across — A Game of Birds and Wolves by Simon Parkin — is a good one, up to a point. Parkin tells the story of several dozen mostly very young women who participated in a little-recognized but vital aspect of the Allied victory. They were recruits to an auxiliary of the British Navy known as the Wrens (Women’s Royal Navy Service). However, in reality, A Game of Birds and Wolves is, more properly, about the man who founded and commanded the top-secret unit in which they served. Unfortunately, partly because the women were never publicly recognized or rewarded for their service and were forced to keep their work secret for fifty years following the war, and partly because apparently the publisher felt the need to mislead readers to boost sales, the subtitle is The Ingenious Young Women Whose Board Game Helped Win World War II. Still, the book really does tell the tale of how wargames helped win World War II, and Parkin tells it well. World War II hung in the balance in the Battle of the Atlantic Most accounts of the war in Europe dwell on the conflict on land, focusing on such pivotal events as the Battle of Britain, Stalingrad, the Normandy Invasion, and the Battle of the Bulge as well as the secret war carried on by intelligence agents and partisans. The Battle of the Atlantic is all too often lost in this narrative. Yet in the early years, when Great Britain was struggling to survive in the face of a threatened Nazi invasion, the British came perilously close to losing World War II because Germany’s U-boats were sinking prodigious numbers of merchant ships carrying essential food and fuel to the island — 2,603 merchant ships and 175 of their escorts. At the time, however, both the Germans and the British tallied losses not in numbers of ships sunk but in the tonnage of food and supplies lost, a bloodless conception reminiscent of the “body count” of the Vietnam War. The threat was so great that for years the British government kept secret how enormous the losses had been. Even some members of Churchill’s cabinet were kept in the dark — yet the people of the UK came perilously close to starvation. And A Game of Birds and Wolves is the story of how the British Royal Navy eventually prevented that by winning the Battle of the Atlantic. A strategy born out of desperation won the Battle of the Atlantic Parkin tells the tale of a top-secret unit established deep underground in Liverpool. There, a small staff developed wargames to help develop new antisubmarine tactics, eventually training thousands of British naval officers who commanded escort vessels protecting the convoys of merchant ships who traversed the Atlantic throughout the war. A retired officer turned game designer named Gilbert Roberts masterminded the effort, working with a staff composed largely of young Wrens, some of them barely out of secondary school. The Western Approaches Tactical Unit (WATU), as it was called, arose out of desperation. Winston Churchill personally set WATU in motion, ordering Roberts to “‘Find out what is happening and sink the U-boats.” WATU’s wargames helped win World War II In fact, “the first fruits of WATU’s work began to be seen in summer 1942, when escort ships sank four times as many U-boats as the previous month, beginning an upward trend that would continue, broadly, for the rest of the year.” And by March 1943, the inventive tactics WATU had designed allowed the British to win “‘the greatest convoy battle of all time.'” In May of that year, Admiral Karl Doenitz, the supreme commander of the German Navy and the architect of the “wolfpack” strategy that had proved so deadly, admitted that he had lost the Battle of the Atlantic and recalled his boats to shore. The critical role of the Wrens Throughout A Game of Birds and Wolves, Parkin valiantly tries to highlight the experiences of the young women who served with Roberts (and later his successor) in WATU. He dwells on the contributions of several individuals, but there is now apparently little information available. “Not one of the Wrens involved was to receive public recognition for her contribution,” so there is virtually nothing in the official record. And, as he notes, “captains at sea and the anxious admirals at home were all granted special dispensation to tell their stories soon after the war; everyone else involved, including the Wrens, was forbidden from talking or writing about their work for fifty years.” By which time, of course, many of them had died. However, Parkin makes absolutely clear that the Wrens’s contributions were huge. As one example, he tells the tale of a nineteen-year-old Wren recruit who had gained such expertise in playing the games they devised that she beat the most celebrated submarine ace in the Royal Navy — five times in a row. WATU was Roberts’s masterstroke, but the intelligence and resourcefulness the Wrens brought to the unit made its success possible. The long history of wargames As Parkin reports, “archaeologists have unearthed sets of miniature soldiers that represent Sumerian and Egyptian armies. Many of the earliest board games that, like chess and go, are still played today are either military-themed, or explore concepts of strategy and tactics.” Chess is believed to have originated in the early years of the first millennium CE in northern India, while go was first played in China in the fourth century BCE. But the first board game specifically designed to explore military strategy and tactics was invented in Prussia in 1780. Ever since then, armies and navies alike around the world have organized wargames to test new tactics and probe for weaknesses in their strategies. The British Navy’s effort in World War II continued a long tradition. About the author Simon Parkin has been a contributor to the New Yorker since 2013. Much of his writing is about technology. He is also a video game critic: his first book was Death by Video Game. A Game of Birds and Wolves is his second.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laura Hoffman Brauman

    A Game of Birds and Wolves was a fascinating look at a behind the scenes story from WWII. The Wrens were a group of women in the British Royal Navy who were part of a group that developed strategies to help the British and American ships outmaneuver the German U-Boats. If you like WWII history or stories of women defying stereotypes, this is a perfect read for you.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Senn

    I thought this was a FANTASTIC book, but the title and description were a little misleading. I felt that the book focused more on the u-boats and convoys than the WRENS. The WRENS felt like just a bit role in a book that is supposedly about them. I did enjoy the afterward that followed up on some of the girls that were mentioned and the explanation of why there isn't much historical record or personal recollections. All in all, a GREAT book that I feel like is being marketed to young women that I thought this was a FANTASTIC book, but the title and description were a little misleading. I felt that the book focused more on the u-boats and convoys than the WRENS. The WRENS felt like just a bit role in a book that is supposedly about them. I did enjoy the afterward that followed up on some of the girls that were mentioned and the explanation of why there isn't much historical record or personal recollections. All in all, a GREAT book that I feel like is being marketed to young women that would be enjoyed by a FAR broader audience. Don't let the title throw you off! If you enjoy WWII, Battle of the Atlantic, submarines, or war strategy, this is the book for you!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Casey

    A great book, providing both a history of the Royal Navy’s WRNS (Women’s Royal Navy Service) and a study of the use of tactical wargames in WWII’s Battle of Atlantic. The title itself only refers to the May 1942 fighting which took place around Convoy ONS-5, considered by many the pivotal turning point in the battle against the U-Boats. But the book covers a much broader scope, giving both detailed insights into the actions and motivations of the WRNS volunteers as well as the background and mac A great book, providing both a history of the Royal Navy’s WRNS (Women’s Royal Navy Service) and a study of the use of tactical wargames in WWII’s Battle of Atlantic. The title itself only refers to the May 1942 fighting which took place around Convoy ONS-5, considered by many the pivotal turning point in the battle against the U-Boats. But the book covers a much broader scope, giving both detailed insights into the actions and motivations of the WRNS volunteers as well as the background and machinations surrounding the use of wargames to devise Anti-Submarine Warfare tactics. Captain Gilbert Roberts was the RN Officer who led the Western Approaches Tactical Unit, or WATU (Western Approaches being the RN’s primary command element fighting the U-Boats). Captain Roberts had to fight a command culture which disdained simulation and initially looked askance at the tactics he put forth. This was not helped by his being an invalided Officer, denied the chance for active service. But, after developing the successful Raspberry tactic and achieving the support of a few critical tactical leaders, Captain Roberts was able to implement across the Fleet additional tactics from his wargame and use his facility as the premier training course for ASW units. He was ably assisted in this effort by a group of youthful but very smart female RN personnel; in fact, they became so good at “the game” that they themselves devised most of the new tactics. The author does add in a number of accounts from the ‘frontlines,’ the experience of being torpedoed or depth-charged, as well as some accounts of life and operations in the U-Boat Force. These insertions slightly offset the main thrust of the story, but overall the book is helped by this additional color and variety. The book ends in a solid tribute to the many WRNS officers and ratings who played a major role in the allied naval victory in the Atlantic. Highly recommended for those wanting to better understand the RN’s tactical ASW development in WWII.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Peck

    Disappointing. The topic interested me and when I learned about WATU last year, I wanted to read a book about it. I think at least one of the above stars I gave just because I like the subject. The book tells both sides of the story well the Nazi and British knowledge and actions are displayed side by side which I found pleasing. The end of part two and the beginning of part three are incredibly well written. On the other hand, Early on ( and a little at the end but that's more forgivable) the bo Disappointing. The topic interested me and when I learned about WATU last year, I wanted to read a book about it. I think at least one of the above stars I gave just because I like the subject. The book tells both sides of the story well the Nazi and British knowledge and actions are displayed side by side which I found pleasing. The end of part two and the beginning of part three are incredibly well written. On the other hand, Early on ( and a little at the end but that's more forgivable) the book waxes poetically pedantic frequently. It will demonstrate and explain a tragic situation (and do a good job at it) but then just flatly evaluate the situation by stating it was tragic and war is bad. The first third of the book does this all the time. It made it clunky. and hard to read, made otherwise good writing quite juvenile. All history books these days seem to have the model where they begin by describing the climax of the action up until the resolution to hook you then they go back to a more standard beginning and eventually get you back there. This is probably unnecessary in a book with at least one boat explosion every five pages and just offensive when the book attempts to do this trick twice. On page 107 the book says "Hitler believed women's lives should revolve around three Ks: 'Kinder', Küche and Kirche'" No, he didn't.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Keith Silver

    Learned about this book thanks to an interview with the author on The New Yorker Radio Hour. An important book for those interested in an underreported chapter of WWII history. Readers that like Erik Larson’s non-fiction, such as his recent “The Splendid and the Vile”, should enjoy this book that illustrates the significance of the Battle of the Atlantic and British attempts to keep food and war supplies flowing across the ocean in large military escorted convoys of merchant ships. The devastati Learned about this book thanks to an interview with the author on The New Yorker Radio Hour. An important book for those interested in an underreported chapter of WWII history. Readers that like Erik Larson’s non-fiction, such as his recent “The Splendid and the Vile”, should enjoy this book that illustrates the significance of the Battle of the Atlantic and British attempts to keep food and war supplies flowing across the ocean in large military escorted convoys of merchant ships. The devastating carnage caused by Nazi U-boat wolf packs was made more vivid by Simon Parkin’s description of the German’s adoption of a naval strategy that made sinking ships as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. I can’t imagine the fear that crews sailing the Atlantic in the early 1940s must have had knowing how vulnerable they were to a painful death in the rough and cold sea. Without including spoilers, let’s say that the book does a good job explaining how game strategy worked to turn the tide in the Allies favor. And the under appreciated role of the Wrens — the Women’s Royal Navy Service — in developing this game as well as in doing many other admirable jobs that, if done by men, would have been remembered and recognized in a large way after the war. The concluding chapters and epilogue did much to pull together the significance of this period in history and how it continues to influence the military and society today.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Martha Meyer

    Wonderful WW2 story of the Wrens (Women's Royal Naval Service) and the retired Naval officer who led them to create a game that gave Britain the chance to reverse course and begin winning the Battle of the Atlantic! Full of thrilling naval battles and many fascinating details of some amazing women's lives! After France fell to Germany in 1941, England's source of food and other raw materials was cut off. Germany expected Britain to surrender. Instead, they soldiered on, completely dependent shipp Wonderful WW2 story of the Wrens (Women's Royal Naval Service) and the retired Naval officer who led them to create a game that gave Britain the chance to reverse course and begin winning the Battle of the Atlantic! Full of thrilling naval battles and many fascinating details of some amazing women's lives! After France fell to Germany in 1941, England's source of food and other raw materials was cut off. Germany expected Britain to surrender. Instead, they soldiered on, completely dependent shipping via the North Atlantic from Canada and later, America. Because of the U-boats, Britain was going to starve, losing the war due to the lack of supplies. Then, Churchill's team recruited a Naval Officer, Gilbert Roberts, retired because of TB, to create a war game, staffed with women because no one else was available. This is the story of how Roberts and his team discovered the U - Boat tactics and devised new anti-U boat maneuvers and taught them to thousands of British naval officers as well as Americans and Norwegians. A crackling good story plus a denouement that tears at your heart. Excellent companion to The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson. This book is better, written by a Brit whose grandfather owes his life to Roberts and the Wrens.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ransom

    Simon Parkin carefully and captivatingly shares the history of WATU (Western Advances Tactical Unit) and how the development of board game-style war games impacted the Battle of the Atlantic against the German U-Boats. Parkin has done an incredible amount of primary research to fill the book with as much detail and realism as possible. He's visited museums and scoured unpublished diaries and memoirs and his dedicated work shows. He writes with a style that is gripping, expertly sewing together d Simon Parkin carefully and captivatingly shares the history of WATU (Western Advances Tactical Unit) and how the development of board game-style war games impacted the Battle of the Atlantic against the German U-Boats. Parkin has done an incredible amount of primary research to fill the book with as much detail and realism as possible. He's visited museums and scoured unpublished diaries and memoirs and his dedicated work shows. He writes with a style that is gripping, expertly sewing together different threads to make a complete picture. As deftly as Parkin shares the story, my one complaint is that at times, there are almost too many characters and individuals dropping in and out. It feels a little like Parkin is trying to show off all the details that he's discovered. As a result, the flow and drive of the book suffers occasionally. It becomes difficult to keep straight the many Wrens (Women's Royal Navy Service) as they pop in and out of the story and figure out how their side stories contribute to the main focus of the book. Roberts (the head of WATU) and Doenitz (head of German U-boats) are the two dueling minds and focusing on them more could have made for better overall flow. Despite this, I really enjoyed the book and felt like I learned a lot about this frequently overlooked (yet critical) aspect of WWII. I received this as a Goodreads Giveaway.

  13. 5 out of 5

    David Wasley

    The book I read had a different sub-title but I assume this is the same one. The author likes to jump all over the place in time and place which makes for a disjointed account. The important contribution of the Wrens to the war effort in the Atlantic is overstated.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Caryl

    Excellent audiobook of another aspect of WWII history. It’s a bit mis-named as there’s more about the men involved but the author says he tried to put in more details about the Wrens but the women didn’t write enough in diaries etc. for the historical record. Lots about anti-U boat tactics.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jaxon Reed

    I am a fan of nautical non-fiction, and I have a more than passing interest in games applications. And of course who doesn't like World War II books? So when I found Simon Parkin's new book combining all three of these topics, it became a must-read. Wargaming is old and has taken multiple forms down through the ages. Boardgames representing the battlefield help leaders understand strategy. With that simple concept, using games in the North Atlantic battlefield and leveraging them to understand h I am a fan of nautical non-fiction, and I have a more than passing interest in games applications. And of course who doesn't like World War II books? So when I found Simon Parkin's new book combining all three of these topics, it became a must-read. Wargaming is old and has taken multiple forms down through the ages. Boardgames representing the battlefield help leaders understand strategy. With that simple concept, using games in the North Atlantic battlefield and leveraging them to understand how Nazi U-boats were successfully decimating British and American convoys, as well as developing strategies to defeat them, were all logical leaps. Parkin does a great job of holding the reader's interest in the build-up to the war's climax at sea, when the tide finally changed against German submarine warfare. The book is extremely well-crafted, with polished prose, zero to no grammatical errors, and a bevy of wonderful Briticisms. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. As far as complaints, I would have preferred even more discussion of the thought processes leading Doenitz to practically abandon his submarine wolf packs after seemingly one major defeat. This was never fully explained by Parkin. Inevitably, modern politics creeps in a bit, although Parkin does a good job of holding down the modern lens on a past time throughout most of the book. This is an effort to celebrate the Wrens, those often under-appreciated British female service members. The author does as well as could be expected with a paucity of source material, drawing from diaries and other unpublished materials as well as records in the Imperial War Museum, conversations with the few living Wrens from the era and their relatives, and more. However, we hardly need to be informed in great detail of which Wrens were lesbians, nor reminded of the fact that just as the Brits were winning the Battle of the Atlantic, other parts of the empire were starving. I also wish the author had spent more time on the game mechanics, although I suspect part of that might have to do with a lack of clear information. We are treated to a variety of photographs from the time, though, and can see the game in action for ourselves even if we don't clearly understand precisely how it was played. It's like observing a car without fully understanding the engine under the hood. We know it works, but understanding the "how" requires much more discussion. The whole idea of using wargames in the effort against U-boats sprang from a British naval officer by the name of Gilbert Roberts, who had earlier been forcibly retired from service due to tuberculosis. He managed quite admirably and relatively anonymously in the role of training other officers how to handle submarine attacks by playing this giant boardgame. He also was forward thinking enough for his time (there's that modern lens again) to accept women into his ranks. Some of these young and bright Wrens had never actually been to sea, but they understood naval strategies and helped effectively teach officers going through Robert's gaming course. The book does a good job of finally offering Captain Roberts overdue recognition for his service. With so many other things going on in the war, and so many people contributing, it's refreshing to find the overlooked and take a "deep dive" into their efforts. With such a splendid and well-written book, Simon Parkin should be celebrated. With action swinging back from the pitching decks at sea in the midst of battle, to the personal struggles of Captain Roberts on shore as well as the women serving with him, this makes for a compelling true life story.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Non-fiction book review is on A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Ingenious Young Women Whose Secret Board Game Helped Win World War II by Simon Parkin. It is 309 pages long, including index, notes, and bibliography. Lucas and published by Little, Brown and Company. The cover is a picture taken from the game room where Captain Roberts and his wrens played the war-games. There is mild foul language, no sexuality and no violence in this book. There Be Spoilers Ahead. From the dust jacket- the triumphan Non-fiction book review is on A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Ingenious Young Women Whose Secret Board Game Helped Win World War II by Simon Parkin. It is 309 pages long, including index, notes, and bibliography. Lucas and published by Little, Brown and Company. The cover is a picture taken from the game room where Captain Roberts and his wrens played the war-games. There is mild foul language, no sexuality and no violence in this book. There Be Spoilers Ahead. From the dust jacket- the triumphant story of a group of young women who helped devise a winning strategy to defeat the Nazi U-boats and deliver 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. Review- A fascinating, narratively told story filled with interesting characters in the drama of World War II. The book begins at the end with Captain Roberts going to Germany to learn if he was right about how the Germans were using their U-boats and then backs up to take us back to the beginning, to Captain Roberts being discharged from the Royal Navy for health reasons. The start of the war no one believed that Germany had the ability to truly stop Britain from getting supplies but they quickly learned that the Germans did have enough U-boats and they were being led by a brilliant commander who believed in U-boats and their crews. So Captain Roberts is brought back as he had been an instructor and knew more about U-boats than anyone else. Captain Roberts comes up with an ingenious plan of basically playing battleship. Roberts trained the young women who worked for them, they were called wrens, in basic tactical warfare and they learned. They learned so well they began teaching Royal Navy ship captains and commanders on how to defeat and evade U-boats. This is a fascinating piece of almost forgotten World War II history, with so many women at the center of it. I'm glad that the story has been found and being told to new readers. If you were looking for a different kind of World War II non-fiction book, less about the battles or the concentration camps, then I highly recommend this book. I give this book a Five out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I borrowed this book from my local library

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anneke

    A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Ingenious Young Women Whole Secret Board Game Helped Win WWII Author: Simon Parkin Publisher: Little Brown and Company Publication Date: January 29, 2020 Review Date: January 4, 2020 I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, From the blurb: “The triumphant true story of the young women who helped to devise the winning strategy that defeated Nazi U-boats and delivered a decisive victory in the Battle of the Atlantic. By 1941, Wins A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Ingenious Young Women Whole Secret Board Game Helped Win WWII Author: Simon Parkin Publisher: Little Brown and Company Publication Date: January 29, 2020 Review Date: January 4, 2020 I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, From the blurb: “The triumphant true story of the young women who helped to devise the 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 countermaneuver 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.” I do not recommend this book, 3 starts tops. I recommend only for the most hung-ho readers of WWII history, who have plenty of time. The book was slow, dry, boring. I abandoned the book at 21%. The game had not even been introduced by then. There are just too many other fascinating books in my NetGalley TBR list, that I could not keep hoping this book would get better. Thank you to Little Brown for allowing an early look at this book. Good luck to the author #netgalley #wwII #littlebrown

  18. 4 out of 5

    Marvin Goodman

    Important recognition, left hungry for more tactical details All due credit to Mr. Parkin for bringing this important story to light and for providing long overdue credit to a group of women whose efforts undoubtedly saved thousands of convoy sailors’ lives. It appears that a detailed and well preserved historical record of their exploits was largely non-existent, or lost to time and indifference, making his task that much more challenging. I found Mr. Parkin’s writing engaging and enjoyable,and Important recognition, left hungry for more tactical details All due credit to Mr. Parkin for bringing this important story to light and for providing long overdue credit to a group of women whose efforts undoubtedly saved thousands of convoy sailors’ lives. It appears that a detailed and well preserved historical record of their exploits was largely non-existent, or lost to time and indifference, making his task that much more challenging. I found Mr. Parkin’s writing engaging and enjoyable,and if I were grading his effort and workmanship I would lavish more praise. The resulting book, however, left me mildly disappointed, not because it wasn’t interesting and enjoyable to read, but because I was hungry for more tactical details on the WATU-designed tactics and how they were carried out by escort vessels. In a perfect scenario, ships’ logs would be available to researchers like Parkin, and effusive in their descriptions of battles with wolf packs, so we could read more detailed descriptions of battles that were conducted by students of Roberts’ and the Wrens’ tactical courses. But, that’s apparently not the case. Those logs are probably not easy to get hold of, and the few examples that I’ve seen of naval ship logs from that era tended toward the taciturn. It’s a shame, because further descriptions of the maneuvers being successfully conducted would have made the story come alive to me even more than the acknowledgements of WATU’s importance that were provided. Perhaps, however, such tactical detail would have made the narrative drag for many readers. I’ll accept that, but will note that I suffered my own boredom at the numerous passages about the romantic lives of various wrens. If I could race through those passages, a different reader could race through more detailed battle descriptions, and we’d both leave happy.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Travis

    A disjointed spaghetti of a book that needed more of an editor or focus to be great. The book overall does a lot of telling but little showing. The point of the narrative is that this “game” developed by the Royal Navy helped turn the tide in the Battle of the Atlantic, but glosses over what tactics where really innovated. All we are told is they developed tactics like”Raspberry” but never got the notion that the author knew what that was. The other strategies discovered by the team are never ev A disjointed spaghetti of a book that needed more of an editor or focus to be great. The book overall does a lot of telling but little showing. The point of the narrative is that this “game” developed by the Royal Navy helped turn the tide in the Battle of the Atlantic, but glosses over what tactics where really innovated. All we are told is they developed tactics like”Raspberry” but never got the notion that the author knew what that was. The other strategies discovered by the team are never even explained. The focus on the wrens was interesting and that is a needed element of WW2 history that can be expanded upon, but again after developing several of them it then seems to gloss over contributions. In essence it was: Here is this interesting person who broke through into a masculine world by being tenacious, and then they were in this room where something happened. There are baseline historical elements that are seemingly left out, We never get a table for the Allied shipping losses, despite the repeated emphasis that this WAS a big deal that the UK leadership focused on. We never get a sense of the ebbs and flow of the battle. The beginning setup with a cliff hanger was cheesy and would have been REALLY annoying had I bothered to remember it. That goes for the whole book that seems to jump around in time that it’s not clear when things are happening. I feel like this book is a great idea of an interesting subject, but it needed to either be a 30 page history article, or a 300 page book with charts/graphs.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Taunya Miller

    I received this ARC from Goodreads during an Early Reviewer Giveaway. The opinions stated in this review are mine and mine alone. During WWII, Captain Gilbert Roberts devised a strategy game to try to predict the movements and positions of the German U-boats in the Atlantic. He was tasked with figuring out the tactics used by the Germans, how they were sinking so many ships without being detected. Roberts was given a team of Wrens (members of the Womens Royal Naval Service). They (Wrens) worked I received this ARC from Goodreads during an Early Reviewer Giveaway. The opinions stated in this review are mine and mine alone. During WWII, Captain Gilbert Roberts devised a strategy game to try to predict the movements and positions of the German U-boats in the Atlantic. He was tasked with figuring out the tactics used by the Germans, how they were sinking so many ships without being detected. Roberts was given a team of Wrens (members of the Womens Royal Naval Service). They (Wrens) worked extremely long hours, with little recognition, sworn to secrecy, and treated with disrespect by many of their male counterparts. The strategy games were played in secret locations, on a mock Atlantic (grids made on the floors and walls, model ships, etc.), using prior battles as a model. There they came up with maneuvers for their Naval ships to apply that would level the "battlefield" so to speak. The work of Captain Roberts and his Wrens turned the tide of the Battle of the Atlantic and let to the destruction of many U-boats and the end of the Battle of the Atlantic. Before reading this book, although I am an avid reader of all things WWII (especially Holocaust), I do not recall ever reading about the Wrens. Especially not in any detail. It amazes me how parts of history are omitted or only vaguely mentioned because of the gender of these heroes. The book is very informative, factual, and beautifully written. Thank you Goodreads and Mr. Simon Parkin.

  21. 4 out of 5

    David Hill

    More like 3.5 stars, but rounded up. Books these days need to be at least 300pp for some reason. The core of this story, as written, would end up about half that, so a number of associated stories and digressions are included to "pad" it out to the customary length. Phrased that way, it sounds less than ideal. But, for the most part, I enjoyed the padding. One bit of padding was the story of 11-year-old Colin Ryder Richardson, who survived the torpedoing of the ship he was on. The main story is th More like 3.5 stars, but rounded up. Books these days need to be at least 300pp for some reason. The core of this story, as written, would end up about half that, so a number of associated stories and digressions are included to "pad" it out to the customary length. Phrased that way, it sounds less than ideal. But, for the most part, I enjoyed the padding. One bit of padding was the story of 11-year-old Colin Ryder Richardson, who survived the torpedoing of the ship he was on. The main story is that of WATU (Western Approaches Tactical Unit), which ran war games designed to improve the tactics employed by convoy escort vessels to protect their charges and kill the attacking U-Boats. A good war story is a personal story, and this is the story of Captain Gilbert Roberts and his staff of Wrens. I would hesitate to describe the exercises designed and run by Gilbert as a "board game". I've played my share of board games. While entertaining and educational, they all had shortcomings that would have made them poor instruments of instruction for real combat. "Table exercise" is another term that gets used for this sort of thing, but I feel that's insufficient as well. This "game" of Gilbert's, I think, was truly ingenious and saved perhaps thousands of lives.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dustin

    I wasn't completely impressed by the book, but I feel that was more of an issue of historiography rather than the author's writing. The main characters of the book should by the women of the WATU. However, that's very difficult. During the war, there was an unwritten narrative that "women don't have stories of note because it's men undertaking all the risks." They were run into the ground at their jobs during the war, working so many hours that they were too exhausted to keep copious notes of th I wasn't completely impressed by the book, but I feel that was more of an issue of historiography rather than the author's writing. The main characters of the book should by the women of the WATU. However, that's very difficult. During the war, there was an unwritten narrative that "women don't have stories of note because it's men undertaking all the risks." They were run into the ground at their jobs during the war, working so many hours that they were too exhausted to keep copious notes of their experiences for posterity - there is one major character whose diary has an entry for when she starts the job, and another when the war ends, with nothing in between. And after the war, they had to contend with the Official Secrets Act, and were forced to remain quiet about their war experiences for fifty years. These were the people the author was trying to craft a story around, and I feel like if the story was a bit underwhelming it's because the challenges he faced in gathering the material were too great. Hopefully, as more archives are declassified and more information becomes available, the story of the women of the WATU can be fleshed out in more detail.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia Livingston

    I had forgotten how perilously close Britain came to losing WWII because they were not self sufficient with regard to food supplies, fuel and heating oil. Convoys of ships with escorts came from Allies, largely in America, across the North Atlanta and were routinely damaged or sunk by German U-boats produced in every increasing numbers and organized into "wolf packs" at the direction of Admiral Doenitz. Gilbert Rogers and a number of women in an organization called the Wrens developed an increas I had forgotten how perilously close Britain came to losing WWII because they were not self sufficient with regard to food supplies, fuel and heating oil. Convoys of ships with escorts came from Allies, largely in America, across the North Atlanta and were routinely damaged or sunk by German U-boats produced in every increasing numbers and organized into "wolf packs" at the direction of Admiral Doenitz. Gilbert Rogers and a number of women in an organization called the Wrens developed an increasing number of war games, played on the floor with wooden ships under timed conditions that drilled ships officers and crew in U-boat detection, torpedo avoidance, and other maneuvers. These games are credited in turning the tide of losses. In March 1943 the ministry of food predicted reserves of 8 weeks. It was only in July 1943 that tonnage launched overtook the figures of tonnage lost. 2,603 merchant ships and 175 escort ships were sunk in the Battle of the Atlantic and more than 30,000 merchant seamen and more than 6,000 Royal Navy sailors died. A well documented and fascinating read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kris Springer

    Really interesting story about the Wrens, the Women's Naval Corps in WW2. The Wrens played a vital role in helping fight the war, especially in the work they did with the wargames developed to defeat the UBoats. In the first 3 years of the war, German UBoats were starving the British, and the British didn't know what to do. Enter Captain Gilbert Roberts, a former Naval officer recruited to develop a wargame setup to defeat the UBoats. He and the Wrens who comprised most of the staff at the warga Really interesting story about the Wrens, the Women's Naval Corps in WW2. The Wrens played a vital role in helping fight the war, especially in the work they did with the wargames developed to defeat the UBoats. In the first 3 years of the war, German UBoats were starving the British, and the British didn't know what to do. Enter Captain Gilbert Roberts, a former Naval officer recruited to develop a wargame setup to defeat the UBoats. He and the Wrens who comprised most of the staff at the wargames, were ultimately successful. By May 1943, the UBoat threat had been neutralized through the careful analysis of the UBoats' activities, strategies developed to defeat those activities and the training of British (as well as American, Canadian, Norwegian, Indian, Polish, etc.) Naval Officers in the techniques. Most people who've read about WW2 and know a lot about the different battles and figures on both sides don't know this story. If you're interested in WW2, in the story of women's heroic role in the war and enjoy a well-researched and written history, this would be a great choice.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cavak

    Wonderful historical narrative for an imperative part of any war effort: the protection of food supplies and noncombatant transportation. Bien. Parkin tried his darndest to sharpen the Wrens' involvement with little to no remaining records. On one hand, what remains appeals to modern sensibilities and social commentary regarding women in the service. An imperative need to preserve any history of an era that is slowly fading from even the survivors' memories. Interesting to know that they did more Wonderful historical narrative for an imperative part of any war effort: the protection of food supplies and noncombatant transportation. Bien. Parkin tried his darndest to sharpen the Wrens' involvement with little to no remaining records. On one hand, what remains appeals to modern sensibilities and social commentary regarding women in the service. An imperative need to preserve any history of an era that is slowly fading from even the survivors' memories. Interesting to know that they did more than clerical work and worked hellish hours. A shame we won't be able to preserve everything they did. Yet I'm torn on Parkin's presentation for Roberts. Parkin depicts Roberts as a dishonored and disheartened marine climbing back to his well-deserved seat of recognition. This is what I can agree as an appealing, worthwhile summation. Where there were gaps in the Wrens' activities, Roberts filled them. His story was a welcome buffer to cronyism and skepticism. It's the other aspect, the father to his Wrens, where I struggle. His repeated pride for his tactical genius, his controlling and exact nature, and his backhanded dismissal of his foes' intelligence edge on the selfish scale to me. I appreciate the anecdotes of Roberts supporting a handful of his women coworkers, yet I had a hard time seeing his wholesome acceptance of Wrens as a whole. More along the time-appropriate "I'll show those higher ups how great my game is when even these women can beat them" and "I just need someone, anyone, who can put my plans into action" rhetoric. Parkin included commentary regarding the era's predominate attitude towards women, but he overall refused to apply that to Roberts without the indirect blanket statement. We can never know someone through written records and eyewitness statements alone, true. But I couldn't help wondering if Parkin drew Roberts to be too heroic here. What I would have liked to balance out the experience was a few more perspectives from the Nazis since they felt caricatured (wow, what an unreal sentence to type). There are few exceptions, but they generally are simplified as an arrogant, bullying, lethal menace. Parkin remarks the exaggerations spread by post-WWII propaganda after the Allies won the Atlantic, but its undercurrents remain in his own writings. Perhaps a longer postscript for all of the affected parties would have softened that image to make them more human. Oh, and something that shows the game being played as opposed to just photos of it being played. Yes, I know Battleship. Yet even a photo of the wooden version in his family would have been nice. Some sort of diagram or online video demonstration link in the resource section even. Maybe a copyright or other legal issue prevented that. Shame. I may sound down on A Game of Birds and Wolves, yet I enjoyed reading it. These are my nitpick impressions after I had finished the book. The cynic in me knocks the subtitle as a marketing gimmick by Little, Brown and Company to draw in more American readers. Bringing to light the Wrens at all is a fine change of the times though. I like learning something new so thank you, Parkin, for writing this book. I received the book for free through Goodreads Giveaways.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Paul Ark

    Fantastic history of Britain’s grossly overlooked and unappreciated Western Approaches Tactical Unit (WATU), an elite unit of WWII war gamers comprised of members of the Women Reserve Naval Service (WRNS, or Wrens) and British naval officers who devised tactics to defend naval convoys against devastating German u-boat wolf pack attacks. This remarkable group of women, many of them in their late teens, helped the British navy turn the tide of naval warfare, helped ensure the flow of goods into th Fantastic history of Britain’s grossly overlooked and unappreciated Western Approaches Tactical Unit (WATU), an elite unit of WWII war gamers comprised of members of the Women Reserve Naval Service (WRNS, or Wrens) and British naval officers who devised tactics to defend naval convoys against devastating German u-boat wolf pack attacks. This remarkable group of women, many of them in their late teens, helped the British navy turn the tide of naval warfare, helped ensure the flow of goods into the UK and stave off starvation & surrender, and win the Battle of the Atlantic. Incidentally, the Wrens also staffed Alan Turing’s code-breaking team that helped cracked the Enigma cypher (a topic for other books). Great coverage of life in the UK during the war, which highlights the stakes of WATU’s work.

  27. 5 out of 5

    James Korsmo

    This is a good piece of narrative history. It recounts the development of a war game in Britain during the early days of the Second World War. This game, simulating U-boat tactics and convoy responses, proved instrument in turning the tide of the tonnage war and keeping Britain from starving. A key component of this war game was its staff of WRNS (Women's Royal Naval Service) Wrens, women called into the service of the British military. Though their roles went largely unsung in the contemporary This is a good piece of narrative history. It recounts the development of a war game in Britain during the early days of the Second World War. This game, simulating U-boat tactics and convoy responses, proved instrument in turning the tide of the tonnage war and keeping Britain from starving. A key component of this war game was its staff of WRNS (Women's Royal Naval Service) Wrens, women called into the service of the British military. Though their roles went largely unsung in the contemporary awareness of the war effort and also in subsequent histories, these women took on vital roles throughout the military, symbolized well by their pivotal role as game players and game keepers in the war games, the vital testing ground for strategies that would eventually win the Battle of the Atlantic.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Steve Solnick

    An entertaining take, in the manner of Ben MacIntyre, but without the same focus. Parkin hasn't met a detail he didn't like, and the resulting tale tends to hop around frustratingly. We are on the Atlantic, then in Berlin, then in Liverpool, discussing tactics, tracking love affairs, ruminating on women's empowerment, considering games as strategy tools, etc. I found myself flipping ahead to get on with the war. When the decisive moments come though - the strategy breakthrough or the decisive ba An entertaining take, in the manner of Ben MacIntyre, but without the same focus. Parkin hasn't met a detail he didn't like, and the resulting tale tends to hop around frustratingly. We are on the Atlantic, then in Berlin, then in Liverpool, discussing tactics, tracking love affairs, ruminating on women's empowerment, considering games as strategy tools, etc. I found myself flipping ahead to get on with the war. When the decisive moments come though - the strategy breakthrough or the decisive battle - they get less time in the book than a visiting sailor's trip to NY. In fact, I found the climactic battle somewhat anticlimactic - it didn't read like such a decisive victory, frankly. For all that, Parkin is a fluid and adept writer and the story is a fascinating one. I enjoyed the book!even when I was wishing for a sterner editor.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nathaniel H.

    Fascinating story of the young women (Wrens) who were vital to the British naval war strategy. It also gives insight into the strategies used by the German U-boats and how games helped the British develop effective techniques to combat them. Unfortunately, the women who were integral to this effort were not properly honored in their lifetimes, but this book helps to right the record, although I am left with sadness. It is not sadness about the war, it is a depression about society, and how it ta Fascinating story of the young women (Wrens) who were vital to the British naval war strategy. It also gives insight into the strategies used by the German U-boats and how games helped the British develop effective techniques to combat them. Unfortunately, the women who were integral to this effort were not properly honored in their lifetimes, but this book helps to right the record, although I am left with sadness. It is not sadness about the war, it is a depression about society, and how it takes us so painfully long to learn simple lessons. Everyone has value, everyone can contribute. If you are interested in WWII, submarines, games, strategy, or Women's rights, you will enjoy this illuminating book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chrismcginn

    Little known story of the war game project that helped defeat Uboats in WWII. The subtitle is a little misleading. The book absolutely does highlight the unknown work of a group of WRENs (women’s auxiliary) in the game but the book itself is pretty evenly or even more about the role of Captain Roberts as well as the Uboat captains and sailors in the convoys. I think the marketing tried to grab readers who enjoy books that are popular for highlighting the overlooked role of women— which I applaud Little known story of the war game project that helped defeat Uboats in WWII. The subtitle is a little misleading. The book absolutely does highlight the unknown work of a group of WRENs (women’s auxiliary) in the game but the book itself is pretty evenly or even more about the role of Captain Roberts as well as the Uboat captains and sailors in the convoys. I think the marketing tried to grab readers who enjoy books that are popular for highlighting the overlooked role of women— which I applaud but seemed uneven in this book. That said, I enjoyed the book and the way it was written. I learned about aspects of WWII I had not really considered before which was nice considering how many books I have read / shows seen on the topic.

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