Simon Heffer

The Enemy Within

An Underworld at War: Spivs, Deserters, Racketeers and Civilians in the Second World War


John Murray 429pp £20 order from our bookshop

THE ROMANTICISM THAT clothed the British effort in the Second World War has taken some decades to wear thin. Correlli Barnett, in his magisterial The Audit of War (published in 1986), gave the lie to the notion that all classes were pulling together in the drive to keep Britain supplied. As he pointed out, trade unions in vital industries saw nothing unpatriotic in striking, and management often saw no reason to improve practices unless they themselves benefited drectly. In this book, Donald Thomas has done for the dishonest members of wartime British society what Barnett did for the honest ones. He has provided an audit of criminal life in the Second World War, and very entertaining and edifjing reading it makes too.

There are three reasons why the war provided golden opportunities for crime. First, the sheer number of regulations - on everything fiom the blackout to the consumption of meat - made it very easy to break the law. Second, the amount of additional

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter