Book Review: X Troop: The Secret Jewish Commandos of World War II by Leah Garrett (four stars)

Book Review: X Troop: The Secret Jewish Commandos of World War II by Leah Garrett (four stars)

‘Although he had escaped internment, as he said later, the impact of being classified as an enemy alien had a profound effect on [Colin Anson]. It made him feel, as he said later, as if he had to “apologize for every breath of English air.”’

Well-documented history of a unique unit of the British army in World War Two consisting almost exclusively of young German and Austrian Jews who had barely escaped the wrath of Hitler only to be mistrusted by the British. Wherever and whatever the mission, if it was important one or two X Troopers probably led the way.

“We were reborn in Aberdovey [training site]. As far as I was concerned, five years living as a pariah and four years of being an enemy alien were behind us, and we were somebody new now.” Manfred Gans

Garrett writes a clear and compelling story of courage and heroism. She deserves credit for assuring this tale is documented and recorded. The text begs proofing and tightening.

‘Of the forty-five X Troopers who had landed in Normandy on D-Day, more than half, twenty-seven, had been killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.’

The sad epilogue to these men’s service was that the country for which they sacrificed, and many died, begrudged them recognition. They were patched up, promoted, and sent back into the fight. When it was over, they were again classified as enemy aliens and barred from further service. They were eventually granted citizenship, but to this day their Jewishness is obscured.

Oft I listened to the chime, To the dulcet, ringing rhyme,

Of the bells of Aberdovey. I first hear them years ago

When, careless and light-hearted, I thought not of coming woe,

Nor of bright days departed; Now those hours are past and gone,

And when the strife of life is done, Peace is found in heaven alone,

Says the bells of Aberdovey.