Review: From the Red Army to SOE, by Major L H Manderstam with Roy Heron

Let me begin by saying that Major L H Manderstam is not someone I’d want to invite over for dinner. This memoir, published in 1985 shortly after the author’s death, is full of obnoxious racist and sexist remarks. The author lived in South Africa for several years and is of the opinion that the majority Black population could never be given self-determination (and this was written in final years of the apartheid system). Ireland, he says, could become Britain’s Cuba, a springboard for Communist revolution in this country. His comments about women, what he thought about them, how he used them, do not deserve to be repeated.

So why read the book? Because Manderstam became a senior figure in Britain’s SOE, the intelligence organisation that was in charge of sabotage and covert operations in Nazi-occupied Europe. Part of his job consisted of interviewing captured Soviet citizens who were fighting as part of the German army — this interested me for obvious reasons. But more important was the role Manderstam played in the secret British plan to assassinate Hitler, known as Operation Foxley. While Foxley did not become public knowledge until 1998, long after this book was published, Manderstam does reveal, very briefly, his thoughts on a role he played in that story (without mentioning the context). Learning that made the book interesting for me, but I can’t recommend it to others.