As the clock ticked towards midnight on October 16, 1943, six men from Britain’s Special Operations Executive parachuted into the treacherous mountains of Albania. Their mission, ordered by Churchill, was to ‘set Europe ablaze’. Its codename: Operation Spillway.
Among them was the most unlikely special forces operative of all, Staff Sergeant Bruce Chisholm, chief clerk at SOE training headquarters in Palestine.
The slightly built, bespectacled administrator had only just scraped through his Army entry medical.
Chisholm died, age 46, in February 1964, his poor health exacerbated by a fondness for gin and, perhaps, the damage done to his 5ft 8in, ten-and-a-half-stone frame in Albania.
Half a century later his military papers, a handful of photographs and a beautifully written 5,000-word account of his extraordinary feat were discovered in a long-unopened box by his son Oliver, now 75. Prior to that, he had known nothing of his father’s wartime heroism.
SOE author and expert Dr Roderick Bailey, of Oxford University, has confirmed Staff Sgt Chisholm’s heart-stopping memoir tallies with other contemporary accounts. It adds new and vivid detail to a remarkable chapter of British military history.