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When Nazi Germany’s Buchenwald concentration camp was liberated in 1945, its records revealed that two young Canadians, Ken Macalister and Frank Pickersgill, were among its countless victims. At 30 and 31 years of age, they had been agents of Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE ), an undercover unit established by Winston Churchill that used sabotage and subversion When Nazi Germany’s Buchenwald concentration camp was liberated in 1945, its records revealed that two young Canadians, Ken Macalister and Frank Pickersgill, were among its countless victims. At 30 and 31 years of age, they had been agents of Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE ), an undercover unit established by Winston Churchill that used sabotage and subversion to bring down the Nazi regime from within.     Jonathan F. Vance brings us the dramatic, untold story of two men who were the most unlikely of soldiers. Pickersgill, an up-andcoming journalist, and Macalister, one of the finest law students ever to attend the University of Toronto, were both living in France when the Nazis seized power. Pickersgill, arrested as an enemy alien, spent two years in prison before escaping to England.     The men’s intelligence, resourcefulness and familiarity with French customs and language caught the attention of the SOE. Trained in special-operations techniques, from radio control to killing, they were paired together and parachuted into France—just as the underground network they were to join was cracked open by the Germans.     Unlikely Soldiers is an extraordinary tale of unsung heroes, intrigue and tragic error. With access to the recently opened SOE archives, Vance draws new material into a fascinating narrative that will appeal to anyone interested in military history, the evolution of espionage, or simply the remarkable story of two heroic Canadians.   Above the village of Châtillon-sur-Cher on the night of June 15/16, 1943, Frank and Ken sat in the fuselage of the Halifax and watched as the dispatcher hooked their parachutes to the static line. Seconds later, the red light blinked on, the dispatcher pulled the cover off the chute in the floor, and the two Canadians sat down. . . . Then the green light flashed . . . and Ken and Frank were gone. —From Unlikely Soldiers


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When Nazi Germany’s Buchenwald concentration camp was liberated in 1945, its records revealed that two young Canadians, Ken Macalister and Frank Pickersgill, were among its countless victims. At 30 and 31 years of age, they had been agents of Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE ), an undercover unit established by Winston Churchill that used sabotage and subversion When Nazi Germany’s Buchenwald concentration camp was liberated in 1945, its records revealed that two young Canadians, Ken Macalister and Frank Pickersgill, were among its countless victims. At 30 and 31 years of age, they had been agents of Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE ), an undercover unit established by Winston Churchill that used sabotage and subversion to bring down the Nazi regime from within.     Jonathan F. Vance brings us the dramatic, untold story of two men who were the most unlikely of soldiers. Pickersgill, an up-andcoming journalist, and Macalister, one of the finest law students ever to attend the University of Toronto, were both living in France when the Nazis seized power. Pickersgill, arrested as an enemy alien, spent two years in prison before escaping to England.     The men’s intelligence, resourcefulness and familiarity with French customs and language caught the attention of the SOE. Trained in special-operations techniques, from radio control to killing, they were paired together and parachuted into France—just as the underground network they were to join was cracked open by the Germans.     Unlikely Soldiers is an extraordinary tale of unsung heroes, intrigue and tragic error. With access to the recently opened SOE archives, Vance draws new material into a fascinating narrative that will appeal to anyone interested in military history, the evolution of espionage, or simply the remarkable story of two heroic Canadians.   Above the village of Châtillon-sur-Cher on the night of June 15/16, 1943, Frank and Ken sat in the fuselage of the Halifax and watched as the dispatcher hooked their parachutes to the static line. Seconds later, the red light blinked on, the dispatcher pulled the cover off the chute in the floor, and the two Canadians sat down. . . . Then the green light flashed . . . and Ken and Frank were gone. —From Unlikely Soldiers

42 review for Unlikely Soldiers: how Two Canadians Fought The Secret War Against

  1. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    This book was an extremely profound and almost refreshing read. I find that far too often than Canada's contributions in both the First and Second World Wars are neglected due to the Americans blazing in toward the end. Any books I have found about the Canadian involvement are often so dry and written so poorly that it is quite hard to maintain any sort of interest. However, Vance's "Unlikely Soldiers" literally rewrites this. The majority of the book reads like a fictional thriller, and is quite This book was an extremely profound and almost refreshing read. I find that far too often than Canada's contributions in both the First and Second World Wars are neglected due to the Americans blazing in toward the end. Any books I have found about the Canadian involvement are often so dry and written so poorly that it is quite hard to maintain any sort of interest. However, Vance's "Unlikely Soldiers" literally rewrites this. The majority of the book reads like a fictional thriller, and is quite difficult to put down. Ken Macalister and Frank Pickersgill's contributions were unparalleled, and it is a shame that not many people know about them without having read this book. These two young men went above and beyond what was expected of them, and while their mission ultimately failed, one cannot overlook what they did for the Allies during the short time they were a part of the War. My only complaint about the book that was toward the end it became less and less about Macalister and Pickersgill and more and more about the other people involved who were British and French. I had picked up the book wanting as much information given to me about the Canadians involved, and was somewhat disappointed by the last few chapters. However, one can chalk this up to the secrecy of their mission and not much information being known about it in the first place. If you're a fan of WWII history, I strongly suggest you pick this up and give it a whirl. You will put it down once you've finished it with a profound sense of understanding, and perhaps regret that these young men were not able to reach the full potential of the lives that they could have had.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Huguette Larochelle

    the horrors of war .

  3. 5 out of 5

    Liz

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alec

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bill Coe

  6. 5 out of 5

    Joshbishop

  7. 4 out of 5

    Greg

  8. 5 out of 5

    caractacus

  9. 4 out of 5

    Gilles

  10. 5 out of 5

    M.K.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Walker

  12. 5 out of 5

    LAM

    I might be bias, I know the author.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

  14. 4 out of 5

    Meaghan Buchanan

  15. 4 out of 5

    Brian Hahn

  16. 4 out of 5

    Terry Ducarme

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rob Scharf

  18. 5 out of 5

    Glenda

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  20. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

  21. 5 out of 5

    Candice

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey Scott

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Meyer

  25. 5 out of 5

    Christina

  26. 5 out of 5

    John Brookfield

  27. 5 out of 5

    Trista

  28. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gavin Stephenson-Jackman

  30. 4 out of 5

    sraxe

  31. 5 out of 5

    Barb

  32. 5 out of 5

    Joebacca

  33. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  34. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Smith

  35. 5 out of 5

    Shawna

  36. 5 out of 5

    Lianne

  37. 4 out of 5

    Annemarie Pedersen

  38. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Tilley

  39. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

  40. 5 out of 5

    Anne

  41. 4 out of 5

    Jonah Conner

  42. 4 out of 5

    Erica

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