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  • Hitler’s British Traitors

  • By: Tim Tate
  • Narrated by: Tim Tate
  • Length: 16 hrs and 53 mins
  • Categories: History, Military
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (89 ratings)

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Summary

Hitler’s British Traitors is the first authoritative account of a well-kept secret: the British Fifth Column and its activities during the Second World War.   

Drawing on hundreds of declassified official files - many of them previously unpublished - Tim Tate uncovers the largely unknown history of more than 70 British traitors who were convicted, mostly in secret trials, of working to help Nazi Germany win the war, and several hundred British Fascists who were interned without trial on evidence that they were working on behalf of the enemy. Four were condemned to death; two were executed.     

This engrossing audiobook reveals the extraordinary methods adopted by MI5 to uncover British traitors and their German spymasters as well as two serious wartime plots by well-connected British fascists to mount a coup d’etat which would replace the government with an authoritarian pro-Nazi regime.     

The audiobook also shows how archaic attitudes to social status and gender in Whitehall and the courts ensured that justice was neither fair nor equitable. Aristocratic British pro-Nazi sympathisers and collaborators were frequently protected while the less-privileged foot soldiers of the Fifth Column were interned, jailed or even executed for identical crimes.

©2019 Tim Tate (P)2019 Audible, Ltd

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

The other side of the WWII legend.

Tate draws on fairy recently released archives of counter-espionage and security services documents of surveillance and and in (necessarily circumspect) newspaper reports in the thirties and forties to portray the character and extent of fascist and antisemitic groups in the UK, and their efforts to help Nazi Germany win the war.
The reluctance of those in power to act against those of wealth or social standing is made clear in Tate’s account - “one of us”, old school tie, plus ability to employ eminent lawyers and establishment connections protected them from the harsher punishments meted out to ordinary mortals!
The UK was no more prepared in the matter of legislation, strategy and Human Resources to combat subversion from within, as in military readiness on 3 September 1939.
It’s about time to add nuance to the monochrome portrayal of a nation all pulling in one direction, heroes to a man and woman. Oswald Mosley and William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) are remembered but they were not alone.

14 people found this helpful

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Fascinating insight

After a bit of a slow start, I found myself immersed in this fascinating insight into how normal people have managed to get themselves caught up in espionage, sometimes motivated solely by ideology with no involvement from foreign intelligence agencies. Parallels can be drawn with modern day where people take to twitter and social media to promote their loyalties to various regimes such as Putin, Trump, IS etc.

The knowledge and experience of the research comes across in the narration. Tim Tate also sounds a bit like Harry Hill which gives the audiobook a very period feel.

Highly recommended.

4 people found this helpful

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Britain's 5th Columnists

A really enjoyable read exploring an area not normally covered by historians of the 2nd World War. The story of how our secret services worked to stop home grown men and women spying for the enemy. Potential spies from the lowest strata of society to the aristocracy, what they did, how they were stopped and how the class system protected the rich and famous from real punishment for their efforts at treason, whilst ordinary folk suffered much stiffer punishment. Fascinating stuff

3 people found this helpful

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A salutory lesson from history

Tim Tate in a very well researched book exposes the incompetant and arbitrary way that Britain dealt with perceived enemies of the state in the first half of the 20th C. Sadly, being a member of the aristocracy seems to have conferred a degree of immunity against prosecution irrespective of unsavoury behaviour. The redaction of the archives tells its own story. The final chapter adds further food for thought.

3 people found this helpful

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Fascinating.

A worrying, well researched, work of history. Provides a another key to understanding British society.

1 person found this helpful

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Interesting but hard going

Bit repetitive and without terribly exciting subject matter. It's interesting to learn of the first fumbling steps in domestic counter espionage when espionage was already quite sophisticated . The most interesting thing to me was a small mention of Hollis, which adds a small snippet regarding the questions marks over him.

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Interesting but a bit repetitious

Worth a listen but could have been shorter : with some of the narrative quite repetitious.

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Excellent and accessible history!

Tim Tate's book was an impulse buy for me, but I am very pleased that I acquired it. It's a sometimes shocking, always entertaining, expose of the ineptitude and laxity which characterised the British response to fifth columnist supporters of Hitler's regime. Unsurprisingly, the 'establishment' doesn't come out of this story at all well. Known traitors in its ranks were either allowed to continue operating, or were dealt with leniently. Not so 'rank and file' fascists, who - once the war started - often felt the full weight of the law, up to and including the death penalty. Two things struck me most forcibly in listening to this book. Firstly, the sickening double standard applied to domestic fascists, depending on their social class. Secondly, the astounding ineptitude and amateurishness of MI5 in its early years - think Dad's Army crossed with 'Allo 'Allo!

This is, overall, a cracking historical account of the issue - scrupulously balanced and meticulously researched. The audio performance by the author is excellent. Best of all, it's an immensely absorbing and enlightening audio book that will appeal to anyone with an interest in history, espionage or warfare.