The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest continuous military campaign in World War II. German U-boats targeted convoys of British merchant ships and the naval vessels that escorted them, with the goal of starving Britain into submission. By the end of 1941, Germany was succeeding--a fact that was a closely guarded secret in Britain.
In A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Ingenious Young Women Whose Secret Board Game Helped Win World War II, journalist Simon Parkin (Death by Video Game) tells the largely forgotten story of how Captain Gilbert Roberts, a retired naval officer brought back into service as a result of wartime manpower shortages, and a staff of young Wrens (Women's Royal Naval Service) helped turn the tide of the war. Together Roberts and his team created successful anti-U-boat tactics and trained almost 5,000 British naval officers in their use. Their method? A room-sized board game based on previously lost sea battles.
The subtitle is deceptive. Parkin gives full credit to the Wrens for the key role they played in defeating the U-boats, but unlike works in the growing genre of forgotten women's history, the focus is not on the women. That said, Parkin's work is a powerful account of an under-told piece of World War II history, relayed from the perspectives of not only Roberts and his team of Wrens, but those of victims of U-boat attacks, Roberts's German counterpart, several U-boat commanders and a number of British naval officers. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins