News items

Special NEWS Item – 12 December 2016:

Operation Suicide

UK financier acquires screen rights to WWII story 'Operation Suicide’

Motion Picture Capital has acquired the screen rights to the historical novel Operation Suicide: The Remarkable Story of the Cockleshell Raid.

The story, based on real events, is written by military historian Dr Robert Lyman and depicts the daring raid of a German shipping base in Bordeaux by 12 British royal marines in 1942. Read more here >

August 2016:
JAIL BUSTERS: The Secret Story of MI6, the French Resistance and Operation Jericho
has been included in the prestigious CAS' Reading List 2016
Read the full Review herePDF


June 2016: Among the Headhunters tells the previously untold story of the loss of USAAF Flight 12420 in August 1943 over the vast, jungled borders of northern Burma, deep within Japanese-held territory. Of the twenty one passengers and crew on board that day were senior OSS operative Duncan C. Lee (a descendant of Robert E. Lee) clandestinely working as a Soviet spy, en route to meet the Chinese intelligence chief; Eric Sevareid, the celebrated CBS journalist sent by President Roosevelt to ascertain the ‘truth about China’ and General ‘Vinegar Joe’ Stilwell’s political adviser, John Paton Davies of the State Department, and Bill Stanton a senior operative from the Department of Economic Warfare.

Sevareid found fame as the man who announced the German entry into Paris in June 1940 and was one of the most feted radio journalists of the age. For his part the brilliant Davies was to lose his Foreign Service career in the McCarthy witch hunt of the following decade, merely for predicting that the Communists would win the decades long Civil War in China; Super-spy Duncan C. Lee would, surprisingly, never be indicted and go on to have a successful post-war career as a lawyer.
Read more here...

May 2015: Quercus announce that they are publishing Robert Lyman’s The Real X-Men September 2015.

Between 1942 and 1945 the Royal Navy engaged in a type of warfare so secret that very few people knew about it at the time, and few people have heard about since. It was extraordinarily tough work, and demanded unusually high standards of personal courage, physical fitness, determination, training and leadership from those engaged, not merely to get through training, but to survive a live operation against the enemy. It was concerned with using tiny sub-surface craft to take the war to the enemy.

The two main types were manned torpedoes, known in British Service as ‘Chariots’, and 4-man 30-ton ‘midget’ submarines, known as X-craft, which were designed in the first place to take on the mighty Tirpitz in 1943, but whose use extended to other strategic targets in the Far East in 1945. Mini-submarines were an idea that had been long in consideration by navies around the globe, but which was applied with success by only a few. The Japanese experimented with this concept, but no other belligerent during the Second World War developed it as thoroughly, or enjoyed as much success with it, as the Royal Navy.
Read more here...

Jail Busters

September 2013: Robert Lyman was commissioned to investigate the RAF raid on Amiens Prison in 1944

JAIL BUSTERS: The Secret Story of MI6, the French Resistance and Operation Jericho

Richard Milner of Quercus
has announced that he has commissioned Dr Robert Lyman to investigate the RAF raid on Amiens Prison in February 1944, widely but erroneously known as Operation Jericho and described as 'mysterious' by the late historian of the SOE, Professor Michael Foot.

In recent years doubts have been cast on the original RAF account of the raid, in which the gallant Group Captain Charles Pickard led 19 Mosquito fighter-bombers to break down the walls of the prison, so as to allow the prisoners to escape, many of whom were members of the various local branches of the French Resistance, and some of whom would inevitably face execution at the hands of the Nazis.

Following on from the popular Operation Suicide and his recent Into the Jaws of Death Robert's new book will be an exciting and analytical evaluation of the raid. Early research already shows that the story is an exciting and largely unknown combination of RAF low-flying precision bombing, French Resistance operations against the Nazi V-weapon programme in north east France and secret MI6 intelligence operations in preparation for D Day.

The book will open up to modern scholarship one of the remaining mysteries of World War Two. Pleasingly, it is also clear that the essential narrative of the raid stands up to objective scrutiny, disproving some of the more recent, fanciful views of the reasons for the raid. Robert has already extensively examined archives as far afield as France and the United States in his pursuit of this story. Jail Busters: The Secret Story of MI6, the French Resistance and Operation Jericho will be published by Quercus in 2014, the 70th anniversary of the raid.

Major new Movie: The Lion of Tobruk see PDF

Robert Lyman is advising and supporting a forthcoming major film production. World War II has long provided incredible stories for cinema: tales of remarkable bravery, terrible cruelty and heroism on all sides. But these stories so often seem to come from one place – the battlefields of Europe, or maybe the islands of the Pacific. And the heroes are always white.

The motivation was quite simple: To write a “classic” war film, whilst being very conscious of how trends in cinema have changed, and what an audience would expect in 2013. We want to create a “big” film, whilst still focussing on the “intimate” moments.

We endeavoured to make the battle scenes as realistic as possible, and to this end, our collaboration with esteemed military historian Robert Lyman has helped us to achieve the authenticity we are striving for.
PDF: Read More

Into the Jaws of Death

Now available 2013 Into The Jaws of Death: The True Story of the Legendary Raid on Saint-Nazaire, Quercus
On the night of 28 March 1942, the Royal Navy and British commandos assaulted the German-held French Atlantic port of Saint-Nazaire in one of the most audacious raids of the Second World War. Their plan was simple: to drive an old destroyer packed with three tons of explosive at full speed into the outer gate of the Normandie dock. Its complement of commandos would then rush out to engage the town’s garrison, and blow up a series of carefully selected targets.
Destroying the dock would deny the formidable Tirpitz battleship, then lurking menacingly in the Norwegian fjords, a base from which it could inflict devastation upon the convoys supplying Britain from the United States. It would also prove that the British were capable of striking back into German-held Europe at a time when the nation’s very existence seemed at peril.
‘Operation Chariot’ was dramatically successful, but at a great cost. Fewer than half the men who went on the mission returned from the maelstrom of fire and bullets provoked by their assault. In recognition of extraordinary bravery, eighty-nine decorations were awarded, including five Victoria Crosses.
Into the Jaws of Death is a gripping story of high daring that demonstrates how the decisive courage of a small group of men brought hope and light during one of their country’s darkest hours.

Robert Lyman
Lord Slim
Akiko Macdonald and Lord Slim
Donald Easten
Donald Easten and Jamie Wilson

Launch of Japan’s Last Bid for Victory:
The Invasion of India, 1944

The launch of Japan’s Last Bid for Victory was held at the Army and Navy Club in November 2011, amongst 80 veterans of the battles for Kohima and Imphal between March and August 1944.  

Viscount Slim OBE was guest of honour.

Viscount Slim gave a stirring speech at the launch of Robert Lyman's new book, Japan's Last Bid For Victory.

The book, about the Japanese invasion of India in 1944, is the first to be published under Pen and Sword Books' new academic imprint, Praetorian Press, and has been described by author and journalist Fergal Keane as a 'triumph'.

The launch event was held at the Army and Navy Club and was well attended by several veterans of the conflict and their families.

Robert Lyman’s deep knowledge and understanding of the war in Burma, and the great battles at Kohima and Imphal in 1944, are well known.

In this book he uses original documents, published works and personal accounts to weave together an enthralling account of some of the bitterest fighting of the Second World War.

Robert Lyman has produced what is arguably the most balanced history of the battles that were pivotal in ending the Japanese empire.  

Warfare magazine

Japan's last Bid for Victory: The Invasion of India, 1944
Read the review of Japan’s Last Bid for Victory in the

Naga Porters

In this book, the first modern narrative account of the Japanese attempt to breach India’s eastern defences in 1944, Robert Lyman tells the story through the eyes of British, Japanese and Naga participants.  

Fergal Keane, author of The Road of Bones: The Siege of Kohima 1944 has commented on the book: "Robert Lyman is one of the great writers about men and war and in this book he has succeeded magnificently in conveying the courage, genius and folly of an epic struggle. I cannot think of a writer engaged in the subject of the Second World War who can match Lyman for his integrity or the soundness of his judgements."

The Historical Association has chosen Japan’s Last Bid For Victory for one of its 12 Short Spring Reviews. Reviewer Dr Jeremy Black writes:
“An impressive and well-written account of the 1944 campaign. Focuses on the operational and tactical dimension, rather than its strategic counterpart. An interesting guide to current thinking on an important campaign."

Italian bombing of Libya, 1911
May 2011

A discussion on the BBC World Service describing the first offensive use of airpower, by the Italian Army in Libya in November 1911.

Britain's Greatest General is Crowned
April 2011
By Ali Gibson

On Saturday 9 April five historians battled it out at the National Army Museum in London to argue that their hero had the military 'X Factor', the audience of military enthusiasts got to vote and decide the winner.

The five contenders came from across the centuries, Oliver Cromwell, The Duke of Wellington, The Duke of Marlborough, Douglas Haig and Bill Slim.

The TV presenter Peter Snow was one of those who took to the podium and he stressed how important it was to remember the great generals of our past. He said: “We owe our existence to our people, all these generals put the country together, we might be talking French if it hadn’t been for Wellington....”

After a heated afternoon of discussion and debate at the National Army Museum it was time to vote for a winner. But the crowd couldn’t decide on just one winner so in joint first place Bill Slim and The Duke of Wellington were both crowned Britain’s Greatest Generals.

Both historians representing them, Robert Lyman and Peter Snow were delighted. Robert Lyman expressed that he was: ''hugely excited, Slim has been the forgotten general, this vote places him on his rightful pedestal.”

The two winners were more than a century apart, but they are clearly both recognised for the way they changed British military techniques and helped form the British Army we have today.

Source: British Forces News

See also BBC News





Kohima 1944: The Battle that Saved India
Osprey, published 2010
Read brief description

DC3 of 31 Squadron RAF
Painting by talented artist Peter Dennis, one of three specially commissioned for
the book Kohima 1944. A DC-3 Dakota of 31 Squadron RAF dropping supplies over Garrison Hill during April 1944. The IGH Spur is immediately below.

Jap infantry attacking
Japanese infantry attacking across the Deputy Commissioner's tennis court above the bungalow
and being bloodily repulsed. (Peter Dennis)

Assulting Japanese bunkers
Soldiers of the Royal Scots clear Japanese bunkers at the base of GPT Ridge, supported by Lee Grant tanks
commanded by Major Ezra Rhodes. (Peter Dennis)

Erratum Unfortunately, two small but critical errors have crept into this book, for which Robert apologises. On page 11 the Tennis Court is described as ‘below’ the Bungalow. Of course, it was ‘above’. Then, on Line 21 of p. 51 the name ‘Kimura’ inadvertently appears. It should read ‘Kawabe’. These mistakes will be corrected in new editions of the book.




Bill Slim

Bill Slim

Robert's short biography on Field Marshal Slim in the Osprey ‘Command’ series, was published in Spring 2011

Slim 1944
Slim leading a Corps Commander's Orders Group prior to the battle for Yenangyaung, 18 April 1942.

Troops of 15th Corps 1044
Troops of the 15th Corps fighting in the Arakan's Mayu Range, February 1944.

Major Henchman 1944
Major Henchman, 2nd Battalion The Duke of Wellington's Regiment, during a night attack by 23 Long Range Penetration Brigade against a Japanese-held Naga village at Tseminyu, April 1944.

Operation Suicide

Quercus acquired Robert Lyman’s Operation Suicide: The Remarkable Story of the Cockleshell Raid, a canoe-based raid by British commandos and their subsequent escape through France and Spain during the Second World War, which no one was expected to survive.

The book was published in February 2012, and tells story of the 1942 raid, from the time it was conceived through to its execution, and the escapes and captures which followed. It looks at the French Resistance together with the extraordinary efforts by the English aristocrat Mary Lindell and her underground team to help Allied servicemen escape through Occupied France.

Richard Milner of Quercus said: “I’m thrilled to welcome Robert Lyman to Quercus with such a break-out book, and we look forward to growing his reputation as one of our finest narrative military historians.”

For the review in The Express
For the review in The Daily Mail
For the review in Daily History
For the review in The Oxford Times
For the review at
For the review at Navy News
For the review in Mail of Sunday
PDF Letter from the Mayor of Bordeaux

"You have written an exceptional and outstanding book. I admire the way you write, so well, and with respect and humanity. You have written so accurately of Blondie – you have captured his character completely. It is a joy to me that you have managed this.

"Your book will always be very precious to our family - now, and for those to come. It gives me a feeling of great reassurance to know that there is an account 'out there' which I much admire and value."
Mrs Bridget Hasler, widow of 'Blondie' Hasler

Oxford Literary Festival

Robert Lyman at Oxford Literary Festival 2010

Robert attended the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival on 27 March 2010 alongside veterans of the Siege of Tobruk (both British and German) in a session compeered by Jim Naughtie of the BBC.  

(L-R) 90 year old Ray Ellis, late of the South Notts Hussars, Rudolf Schneider, late of the Afrika Korps and a member of Rommel’s personal battle company, the author, and David Freeman of SkyTV.

Pilgrimage to India

Visit to Kohima, 2011

In November 2011 Robert Lyman accompanied a British military delegation to the battlefields led by Major General David Shaw CBE.

British delegation
The British delegation at the 2nd Division memorial.

During the visit, during which wreaths were laid at the famous 2nd Division memorial at the Common War Graves Cemetery in Kohima, the group were introduced to Sovehu Nienuh, a veteran of the Assam Regiment who fought at the battle of Jessami, a few days before the Japanese 31st Division arrived at Kohima. Sovehu Nienuh currently lives in Phek Village.

Sovehu Nieuh
Robert with Sovehu Nienuh outside the Razhu Pru guesthouse in Kohima.

Tobruk Cover

The Longest Siege: Tobruk and the Battle for Africa, 1941
Pan Macmillan, 2009

An account of the siege of Tobruk, Libya – the longest siege in British imperial military history
Read early reviews
View research photographs

Desert Rats Reunion article
Veterans of Tobruk Siege Reunited Today BBC Radio4
BBC Radio4 – Jim Naughtie's Blog
'I was Rommel's driver' The Independent – major article