The Hornet's Sting: The Amazing Untold Story of World War II Spy Thomas Sneum

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Assassination by crossbow, refueling homemade planes in mid-air, mother and daughter seduction—Allied spy Tommy Sneum did it all during World War II. The exploits of the Danish-born spy made him a legend in espionage circles. But until now, the full, extraordinary story of Sneum’s action-packed career as a British-run spy has never been told.

From his incredible escape from Denmark in a battered Hornet Moth aircraft, which he refueled in mid-air, to his second escape, where he ...

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Overview


Assassination by crossbow, refueling homemade planes in mid-air, mother and daughter seduction—Allied spy Tommy Sneum did it all during World War II. The exploits of the Danish-born spy made him a legend in espionage circles. But until now, the full, extraordinary story of Sneum’s action-packed career as a British-run spy has never been told.

From his incredible escape from Denmark in a battered Hornet Moth aircraft, which he refueled in mid-air, to his second escape, where he walked across a treacherous frozen sea on which two of his companions died, Ryan covers all of Sneum’s thrilling adventures.

After escaping, Sneum leaked Nazi intelligence regarding radar installations in Denmark and an atom bomb. His reward? Imprisonment in Brixton as a suspected double agent. He cheated the hangman—but it is only with the publication of this enthralling book that Sneum can be celebrated as—in the words of Professor R.V. Jones, Churchill’s chief of scientific intelligence—“one of the true heroes of World War II.”

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Even fictional spy masters James Bond and Jason Bourne would be hard-pressed to match the real-life adventures of Thomas Sneum (1917-2007), a Danish national who spied for the British during WWII. His first mission was self-assigned, risking his life to photograph a German Freya radar station and catch a daring plane flight from Denmark to England in order to trade intelligence for an opportunity to serve as a Royal Air Force pilot. British Intelligence, however, had other plans for Sneum, convincing him to return to Denmark and continue his espionage. The twists and turns his life takes after parachuting back into Nazi-occupied Denmark are more involved and excruciating than Fleming or Ludlum could dream; Sneum himself says, "There were times during the war when James Bond would have gone back. I carried on." This involving chronicle from UK writer Ryan, based on extensive interviews with Sneum, is an excellent example of the old truth-and-fiction adage, and a treat for fans of wild WWII yarns.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

In 1940, Thomas Sneum, a 22-year-old pilot in the Danish Air Arm, refused to stand by while the Germans took over his homeland. He gathered data about Nazi radar installations, using a camera and German contacts. Then he and a fellow pilot pieced back together a disassembled Hornet Moth biplane they had found and flew it to England to share their information. The Hornet lacked the range to make it all the way, requiring Sneum to climb out of the plane onto the wing in midair to refuel. Sneum was eventually recruited by the British and provided valuable information during the war despite the many obstacles in his way, including being jailed as a suspected double agent. Using original documents and hundreds of hours of interviews with Sneum (who died in 2007), Ryan's book is the first to chronicle the journey of the audacious Dane whose real-life exploits include all the key elements of any good spy story: sex, danger, and intrigue. In fact, Ken Follet's The Hornet's Sting was based on this World War II episode, but the real account is more exciting than fiction: readers will find the book hard to put down. Highly recommended.
—Patti C. McCall

Kirkus Reviews
A ripping real-life yarn of espionage and daring that also inspired Ken Follett's novel Hornet Flight (2002). Shortly before feisty 89-year-old Thomas Sneum died in 2007, British journalist Ryan tracked down the former pilot and elicited his amazing story of spying for British Intelligence in Nazi-occupied Denmark. Sneum grew up on the island of Fanoe, off the West coast. In April 1940, he was a 22-year-old flight lieutenant, furious that his superiors had refused to engage the mighty Luftwaffe as the Germans rolled into Denmark. Vowing to help the British, Sneum was careful to ingratiate himself with the occupiers. When a Nazi officer responded to his questions about a mysterious installation the Germans were building on Fanoe by boasting of "special technology" that could spot aircraft from far away, Sneum didn't realize it was radar (then a little-known innovation), but he did guess it was a dangerous new tool. When he got to the British Legation outside Stockholm with this information, the naval attache suggested he return to Fanoe and take photographs of it. Sneum not only got the photos, he insisted on flying them to England himself. With the help of his friend and co-pilot Kjeld Pedersen, he refurbished a beat-up Havilland Hornet Moth and took it on a hare-brained flight across the North Sea. Ryan's depiction of this six-hour odyssey is studded with jaw-dropping facts: To refuel, for example, Sneum had to walk out on the wing while airborne. The author also crafts a convincing description of his subject as a scrappy, immodest, slightly oily charmer. The SIS sent him back to Denmark to learn more about the Germans' boasts of a "super-bomb," and he transmitted information by radiowith the help of Danish Resistance engineer Duus Hansen. However, Sneum's berth within Britain's complicated intelligence network was always uneasy. He became fatally entangled in interdepartmental rivalries, and his allegiances were eventually called into question. Ryan skillfully builds and sustains interest through a narrative that grows increasingly convoluted.
Ken Follett
“An amazing man with an extraordinary story . . . he had nerve, tremendous nerve . . . a real hero.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781602397101
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
  • Publication date: 4/1/2009
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 4.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Ryan interviewed Tommy Sneum at length before the former spy died last year aged 89. Mark Ryan is a writer and lives in England.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments x

Maps xii

Introduction 1

1 The Tightrope to Radar 7

2 Trapped 18

3 Himmler and the Longbow 25

4 A Taste of Freedom 31

5 On Location 38

6 Flight Plan 45

7 The Jigsaw Puzzle 52

8 A Close Shave 61

9 Take-Off 68

10 Up Close and Personal 74

11 Wing-Walker 81

12 The Welcome 88

13 Disbelief 93

14 Sennding for the Doctor 99

15 The Spymaster 108

16 SIS, SOE and a Strained Mariage 115

17 Spy School 126

18 A Recipe for Disaster 134

19 Into Action 140

20 A Fragile Foothold 146

21 Bed Manners 153

22 The Threat 160

23 Meet the Wife 167

24 Brothers in Arms 173

25 History-Makers 178

26 Infighting 186

27 Christmas Horrors 193

28 Hunted 199

29 Bohr's Bombshell 205

30 London Beckons 213

31 Trek to the Unknown 218

32 Closing In 226

33 Surrounded 233

34 Definance and Loyalty 239

35 Living on the Edge 247

36 Walking with Ghosts 252

37 Spilling the Beans 261

38 The Gamble 267

39 The Consequences 272

40 The Ordeal 277

41 A Diplomatic Incident 287

42 Smear Campaign 293

43 Powerless 297

44 A New Betrayal 304

45 All's Fair in Love and War 310

46 When Life is Too Short 314

47 The Accident 321

48 Rewards and Memories 328

49 Coming Home 336

Epilogue: The Hornet's Sting 343

Notes 358

Index 374

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 20 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 31, 2009

    A Spy Thriller of WW II that is unbelievable because it is true!

    Mark Ryan has written a spy story of WW II that should be made into a movie. Except the exploits of Thomas Sneum are so incredible that his story defies reality. Richly researched and documented Ryan spent countless hours with Sneum before Sneum's death in 2007. Not only did Sneum become one of the great "unknown heroes" of the secret war against Hitler, he repeatedley volunteered to return to Denmark to take on ,missions that the SOE,SBS,or OSS professionals may have been somewhat hesitiant to take on.
    A real life adventure that keeps readers on the edge of their seats from start to finish the story of Tommy Sneum has to be read to be believed. From photographing radar stations, working with the Danish resistance, escaping across frozen lakes that cost his companions their lives, and returning to do it all over again makes one wonder where these men and women drew on the intestinal fortitude to stare at certain death from the Nazi's and the feared Gestapo. And, to live on the knife's edge of the world of espionage. Some of his toughest battles was convincing his own spymasters he was not a double agent, and that he came within a breath of being hung by British Intelligence only makes his story more gripping.
    This story could have come from spymaster Ian Fleming and his fictional agent 007, except, it is real and more interesting.
    Mark Ryan is outstanding in his telling as one of the great spy stories of WW II. Of which there are many. The story of Tommy Sneum deserves to be ranked among the best.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2011

    Kindle edition is only $1.99

    Why such a big price difference?

    3 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 3, 2012

    Great book

    Great book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 20, 2013

    A riveting account of a truly colorful character

    During World War II, Thomas Sneum was a young Danish flyer who, when he was grounded after the Germans occupied Denmark, began gathering intelligence for Britain – on his own. His goal was to get to England and fly for the Royal Air Force against the Germans. He found his way to England but, rather than flying, wound up parachuting back into Denmark as a spy for England.

    What Tommy didn’t know – and what the author details brilliantly -- is that he was in the middle of a turf war between two British spy agencies. He was also saddled with an inept and cowardly partner while in Denmark – a partner who became a danger to Tommy and others.

    The author based his research on many, many interviews with Tommy Sneum before his death in 2007. But Mark Ryan wasn’t content to take everything the aging spy told him at face value, but sought out independent confirmation of Tommy’s story. That included interviews with others who were privy to the information – and documents from those years.

    What Mark Ryan has created is a riveting account of one of the most colorful characters – real or imagined – readers are likely to encounter. Sadly, Tommy did not get the recognition he deserved while he was alive. But the author has created a book that will make sure his exploits are known and appreciated long after Tommy’s death. A riveting read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2013

    Liked it

    Good read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2013

    Great story

    Read it twice. A great story. Highly recommend!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2013

    Hmm...

    Would this be a good book for a ten year old?

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  • Posted January 16, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I'm a history buff and mostly I've read alot of WW2 history from

    I'm a history buff and mostly I've read alot of WW2 history from the american point of view. So
    when I came across this ebook I gave it a shot. Thomas Sneum had a lot of guts he would have made a fine US Marine, it was good to see a side of WW2 from the eyes & point of view from the Danish. Too bad Thomas did not get the recogniztion he had deserved for his bravery. Overall it was a really good book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2012

    B&N Shipping exceptionally slow

    Took over a month to ship

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2012

    Hornets Sting

    This should be made into a movie...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2012

    Wow

    Amazing true story about a real WW II spy and a great read.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2012

    What the fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuq.....

    Im scarred for life....

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2012

    RYAN

    Gtg

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2012

    Don't put spoilers in the review, douche. And why review it 1 star just to complain about the price?

    I havent read the book, and after having much of it spoiled, I may not for a while.

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted August 3, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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