A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Ingenious Young Women Whose Secret Board Game Helped Win World War II

Little, Brown. Jan. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9780316492096. $29. HIST
Parkin (Death by Video Game) provides a vivid glimpse of a little-known World War II effort that pitted young British women against the full force of the Nazi U-Boat campaign in the Atlantic. The game to which the title refers was an actual game, played out on the floor in a secret British military installation by an invalid captain and a contingent of “Wrens”—young women who answered the call to serve with the Royal Navy in a variety of capacities during the war. This game, focused on evaluating and developing successful tactical strategies for outsmarting the ruthless German submarines that laid waste to many Allied ships, was played out on a large chess-like grid on the floor, complete with various props to illustrate ships and submarines as they plied the waters off Britain’s coast. Parkin weaves this history together like a novel, switching back and forth among various characters and storylines to reveal a fascinating fight for freedom; both for Britain and the young women who defied contemporary norms to serve their country.
VERDICT Vibrant and readable, recommended for anyone interested in the history of World War II, women in the military, naval history, and military history.
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