cover art for SAS raids in Italy 1943-45

Explaining History

SAS raids in Italy 1943-45


In this episode of the Explaining History podcast, we delve into the clandestine world of the Special Air Service (SAS) during its critical missions in Italy from 1943 to 1945. Joining us is n historian and author Damien Lewis, an expert on the SAS, whose new book "Forged in Hell" meticulously chronicles this intriguing chapter of World War II history.

Lewis provides captivating insights into the daring and audacious raids carried out by the SAS, shedding light on the unwavering bravery and unique military ethos that defined this elite unit. We explore how these soldiers operated deep behind enemy lines, facing not only the relentless threats from the Axis forces but also the uncertainty of their future due to the scepticism and opposition from senior figures within their own military ranks.

Throughout the episode, we unravel the tactics, challenges, and triumphs of the SAS, understanding their pivotal role in the broader context of the war. Lewis shares anecdotes and stories, many of which are untold until now, bringing to life the sheer determination and ingenuity of these soldiers.

Whether you're a military history enthusiast, a fan of untold war stories, or simply intrigued by the SAS's legendary reputation, this episode promises to be a captivating journey into the heart of covert operations and unyielding courage. Don't miss this deep dive into history with Damien Lewis, as we uncover the legacy and indomitable spirit of the SAS in Italy during World War II.

So, tune in, and prepare to be transported back in time to the treacherous terrains of Italy, where the SAS fought not just for victory, but for their very existence and recognition.

You can buy the book here

And if you've enjoyed today's podcast and would like to support with a one off donation, you can do so here

More episodes

View all episodes

  • William Freeman and America's first profit driven prisons

    In the first half of the 19th Century profit driven prisons were established in America's northern states, using extreme brutality and conditions that amount to torture to extract free labour from inmates. In this week's edition of the Explaining History Podcast, we hear from Professor Robin Bernstein, whose new book Freeman's Challenge: The Murder that Shook America's Original Prison for Profit tells the story of William Freeman. Freeman was wrongfully convicted of stealing a horse and sent the profit driven prison in his home town of Auburn NY, and who endured terrible physical and mental punishment during the five years of his incarceration. Freeman, a half black, half native American was forced to perform free labour and rebelled against the prison's rules, particularly the imposition of total silence 24 hours a day. When released he demanded restitution for the loss of wages and finally committed a terrible murder. What happened next shaped the racist lie perpetuated in America until the present day of an alleged link between African Americans and violent crime.
  • From biplanes to the jet age - three decades in the RAF

    In this episode of the Explaining History podcast, we hear from Mark Aedy, whose father Ken served as a bomber pilot during the Second World War. Trained to fly in Oklahoma in 1942, Ken saw active service as a bomber pilot attacking the Ruhr, Munster, Dresden and a variety of other targets. After the war he stayed with the RAF and served in Egypt during the end of the Palestine mandate and flew Soviet escorted relief flights at the beginning of the first Berlin Crisis of 1948. Join us for this wide ranging chat about aviation the pressures of war and the moral complexities of the allied mass bombing of Germany. If you'd like to grab a copy of Ken Aedy's memoirs, you can get a copy here
  • Music and Marxism - understanding pop from a materialist and class analysis

    In this week's episode we hear from writer Toby Manning whose new book, Mixing Pop and Politics explores a Marxist history of popular music and examines the economic and social forces that make the phenomenon that is popular music and culture. In a wide ranging conversation that explores everything from Beyonce's country album, John Lennon's Working Class Hero, the intersection with queer culture and representation, Queen's commercial suicide in USA following the video for I want to break free, and the corporate pressure on the Beatles and Guns N' Roses, we explore popular music as a site of resistance.You can order a copy of the book directly from Repeater Books here
  • South Africa's Democracy: 30 Years On

    Peter Hain was, along with his family, forced to flee South Africa in the late 1960s, at the height of the Apartheid regime's war against its opponents. From exile in London Peter was a pivotal member of the anti Apartheid movement in the 60s, 70s and 80s. In this interview before the publication of his third novel, the Lion Conspiracy, we talk about conservation and the international corruption that fuels poaching across Africa, and the valiant attempts by African rangers to preserve wildlife. We also explore the state of South Africa three decades after the transition to a multiracial democracy and the reasons for a decline in the popularity of the ANC following the corruption of former prime minister Jacob Zuma. A former member of Tony Blair's government and now a member of the House of Lords, Peter has fascinating insights on the nature of the struggle against apartheid and the reasons for the fall of the Pretoria regime.You can grab a copy of the Lion Conspiracy here
  • Understanding Nostalgia

    Open up your Twitter feed or Facebook page and you're one or two clicks away from a nostalgia meme, they grow like historically illiterate fungi, but nostalgia itself is a more complex and even sometimes problematic phenomenon. In this episode of the Explaining History podcast we hear from Dr Agnes Arnold-Forster, the author of a new history of Nostalgia itself. We explore the first recorded instances of nostalgia in the 17th Century through to its current usage and weaponisation in culture wars. Our shared longings for less complex or worrying times and our fears and misunderstandings about the nature of the past are part of this complex and fluid socially shared emotional and cultural phenomenon. You can grab a copy of the book here
  • Understanding David Lloyd George

    In today's podcast we're joined by Damian Collins MP, whose new book - Rivals in the Storm -, charts the political career of David Lloyd George, the man credited popularly with winning the First World War. In this episode we explore the radical liberal Chancellor and later Prime Minister whose ability to focus on the key challenges of the war saw him eclipse Herbert Asquith in 1916. We examine his complex relationships with both the Liberal and Conservative Parties and his political downfall in 1923.You can hear Damian speak at the Hay Festival on May 28th, tickets are available here.You can grab your copy of Rivals in the Storm Here
  • The British Working Class - 1945-2024

    In this wide ranging interview with Ewan Gibbs, lecturer in social and economic history at the University of Glasgow, we explore the themes in his forthcoming book, The Unmaking of the British Working Class, in which Ewan explores the changes in post war class consciousness, identity and culture. We discuss key transitional moments from post war affluence in the 1950s and 1960s, the assault on organised labour in the 1970s and the social transformations brought about by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, all the way to Brexit and the current moment.If you enjoyed this podcast, please like, subscribe and share.You can support Explaining History on Patreon here
  • The Royal Navy 1918-41

    A family history project into the war record of Jim Carter's great grandfather became an exploration of the history of the Royal Navy in peacetime and war. In July 1918 Herbert Leeder joined the Royal Navy, beginning a naval career which spanned 2 World Wars and 16 ships. 100 years later, his great grandson, Jim Carter was researching the lives of the men listed on his Berkshire village’s war memorial when his mother gave him Herbert’s S459 Record of Service and Carter, with a passion for military history, began to research Herbert’s life.In today's podcast we discuss the early phases of the war, Britain's battle for the Mediterranean, the failed defence of Greece and Crete and the steep learning curve the Royal Navy undertook to win a war at sea.
  • Black Britain 1948-89: Economic drivers of migration

    During the post war decades, migration from Britain's colonies in the Caribbean to the UK grew considerably. There are well documented 'pull' factors that led to this, including a deep sense of identification that many Jamaicans, Barbadians and others felt for the 'mother country'. However, long term structural economic hardships, the effects of a devastating hurricane in 1944 and the lack of any real prospect of migration to America after 1952 created powerful 'push' factors towards Britain.This episode of the Explaining History podcast explores these issues through Eddie Chambers' excellent cultural history of Black Britain, Roots and Culture