On the night of March 27, 1945, a small group of partisans and British soldiers from the elite Special Air Service (SAS) stormed two villas in northern Italy that were serving as the headquarters of the German 14th Army. In Churchill's Hellraisers: The Secret Mission to Storm a Forbidden Nazi Fortress
(Citadel Press, 2020), Damien Lewis recounts this daring mission and the risks undertaken by the men who led it. The brainchild of Mike Lees, an SAS officer with considerable experience operating behind enemy lines, its goal was to kill the Wehrmacht’s top commanders in the region and disrupt their defenses in the process. Commanded by Roy Farran, a legendary figure in the SAS, the two pushed forward with the operation even in the face of a potentially disastrous last-minute order from Allied headquarters to delay the operation. Recognizing the need to take advantage of the moment, Farran and Lees led a group of SAS parachutists in an attack that killed dozens of German soldiers and sowed chaos from which the Allies soon benefited. Yet while Farran received a battlefield decoration for his efforts, as Lewis notes Lees became a scapegoat for their decision to go against orders, as the disapproval of his superiors ended his once-promising prospects for a postwar career in the intelligence service.