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Paperback Now Available

Spies in the Sky was short-listed for the prestigious Royal United Services Institute/Duke of Westminster Award for Military Literature. The other books short-listed were All Hell Let Lose by Max Hastings, The Chief: Douglas Haig and the British Army by Gary Sheffield, George Kennan by John Gaddis and With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918 by David Stevenson. At a ceremony in July 2012 the Award was given to Sir Max Hastings. Taylor was delighted to be short-listed with such a group of  distinguished historians. 


Little, Brown 2011, Paperback 2012

 Spies in the Sky: The Secret Battle for Aerial Intelligence tells the gripping story of the reconnaissance pilots tasked with the risky job of taking aerial photographs over occupied Europe during the Second World War, and the boffins who invented a completely new science to analyse these photographs and to discover the enemies' secrets. Based at RAF Medmenham, a country house in the Thames valley, these men and women provided some of the most vital intelligence of the war from finding the Bismarck to tracking down Hitler's V-weapons, and from planning the Dam Busters' Raid to preparing for D-Day. With a host of colourful characters, Spies in the Sky is an historical narrative to rival the tales of the famous code-breaking centre at Bletchley Park.

Prof. David Reynolds (Cambridge University) Author of In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War has written of Spies in the Sky: ‘A fascinating read and a significant contribution to the history of World War Two. The code-breakers of Bletchley have become internationally renowned. Now Taylor Downing tells the unsung story of the photo-analysts of Medmenham and the heroic pilots in the skyplanes, putting them back where they belong - at the heart of Britain's secret war.’

Andrew Roberts, prominent historian and author of The Storm of War has written: ‘As Taylor Downing’s superbly researched and fluently written Spies in the Sky proves, just as important to victory in the Second World War as the code-breakers at Bletchley Park were the photo interpreters of Danesfield House at Medmenham. In the hunt for Hitler’s secret V-weapons, the tracking of the Tirpitz, the Combined Bomber Offensive over Germany, the defeat of the Italian navy, and Operation Overlord – as well in literally thousands of other actions – the best Intelligence often came from the extremely talented men and women who pored over grainy, black-and-white photos taken from as high as 30,000 feet for evidence of enemy capabilities and even intentions. A single shadow might mean a refuelling panzer unit, or a camouflaged Luftwaffe squadron. Downing faces head-on the charges that photo intelligence failed the Allies when it came to identifying Auschwitz and Hitler’s plans for the Battle of the Bulge, and he convinces.  Staffed with larger-than-life characters such as Professor RV Jones, the lovely Connie Babington Smith, John Merrifield (who photographed a V-1 being test-launched) and Michael Suckling (who spotted the Bismarck), Spies in the Sky fills in a huge gap in Second World War historiography in both an exciting and intellectually stimulating way. No-one will be able to write a history of the conflict again without giving Medmenham its central role in Allied Intelligence-gathering.’   

 Published by Little, Brown – paperback summer 2012