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SAS Italian Job

by Damien Lewis


In the hard‐fought winter of 1944 the Allied advance through northern Italy stalled on the fearsome mountain defences of the Gothic Line. Two men were sent in, as part of a last ditch effort to break the deadlock. One was SOE agent Captain Mike ‘Wild Man’ Lees, a seasoned clandestine warrior almost without compare. The other was maverick SAS commander Major Roy Farran, DSO, MC, who – unwilling not to lead his men from the front ‐ parachuted behind the lines against all orders. Their mission: to raise a polyglot army of Italian partisans, escaped Russian POWs, former French Foreign Legionairres and even German deserters, to lay waste to the enemy’s impregnable Army headquarters, killing the top Nazi Generals based there. If the daring mission succeeded, the Gothic line would fall. If it failed, few would return alive.


Nothing like it had ever been tried before, by either SOE or SAS.
Along with his forty SAS warriors, Farran brought with him David 'The Mad Piper' Kilpatrick, resplendent in tartan kilt. This fearless war hero was to lead the assault, piping Highland Laddie ‐ so leaving an indelible British signature on the raid, to deter Nazi reprisals, which had savaged villages across Italy. But as the column of raiders – this ‘collection of old toughs’ ‐ formed up, high command radioed through an order to stand down. It was then that Farran and Lees took an utterly momentous decision: they would act as if the order had never been received. Come hell or high‐water, they were going in.
Relying on files declassified for the purposes of writing this account, unpublished eyewitness testimony, and working with the families of the key figures involved, Lewis reveals an untold epic of daring, courage, ruthless rule‐breaking and ferocity, plus shocking high‐level betrayal.