The Extraordinary Life of Mike Cumberlege SOE

Author(s): Robin Knight 

ISBN: 9781781557327
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A memorable and enduring story of resourcefulness and love in peace, daring and initiative in war, optimism and courage in death.
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  • Unique insights into the pre-1940 world of top-end ocean sailing in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Aegean

  • Never-before published letters, images and original documents about SOE para-naval activities in the eastern Mediterranean during the Second World War

  • More than seventy previously unpublished photographs, many taken during the war by the subject 

  • A story of love and hope, identity and belief, tragedy and evil

This first-ever biography of Lt. Cdr Mike Cumberlege DSO & Bar, Greek Medal of Honour, murdered in Sachsenhausen concentration camp in February-March 1945, recalls a man who was ‘truly Elizabethan in character – a combination of gaiety and solidity and sensitiveness and poetry with daring and adventurousness – and great courage.’

Cumberlege came from a maverick sea-going family. He was highly resourceful and lived by his wits, skippering ocean-going yachts for wealthy Americans before the war. In 1936, he married Nancy; their relationship was close and, with the sea, forms a thread in The Extraordinary Life of Mike Cumberlege SOE.

From 1940, Cumberlege served in undercover roles in the Royal Navy in Marseilles and Cape Verde and was on the staff of General de Gaulle in London. Posted to Egypt in 1941 in the SOE, he formed a para-naval force of fishing vessels, took part in fighting in Greece, attacked the Corinth Canal, escaped from Crete, was wounded and returned three times to Crete clandestinely.

On a second operation to destroy the Corinth Canal in 1943, he was captured. Tortured in Mauthausen concentration camp, he was transferred to Sachsenhausen and spent twenty-one months in solitary confinement.

The book contains unique material gathered from the family and from well-wishers in places as far apart as Ukraine, Australia and the US.


BOOK ISBN 9781781557327
FORMAT 234 x 156 mm
BINDING hardback
PAGES 208 pages
PUBLICATION DATE 7 November 2018
TERRITORY World
ILLUSTRATIONS 77 black-and-white photographs






Robin Knight has written for a living all his career. He is a graduate of Dublin and Stanford universities and was a foreign correspondent for an American newsmagazine for 28 years based in London, Moscow, Johannesburg, Rome and Washington DC. From 1997-2003, he was editorial writer at BP plc. Since then, he has owned and run Knightwrite Ltd. He is the author of six books, most recently Pangbourne College: Spirit in Changing Times, published by TMI/Profile Books in 2016 ahead of the school’s centenary.