'Elliott has penetrated deeper than most authors do into the muddles that dogged much of SOE's work in the field, and shows a wide and cultivated understanding of English and French 20th-century society, quite apart from the intricacies of resistance, which he has also mastered. His book is therefore required reading both for resistance and social historians.'
M. R. D. Foot, The Spectator, July 2009
Denis Rake, born in 1901, was the son of a Times correspondent in Brussels and a Belgian soprano. He spent his youth in a circus - and in Occupied Belgium in the First World War. Rake spent some years as the gay lover of various exotic European mentors. He was working at Drury Lane with Ivor Novello when war broke out.
He became an SOE wireless operator, and served in France with immense courage on two missions, surviving capture by the Germans and escape across the Pyrenees. Slight of stature and defiantly gay even when living amid a band of maquis (resistance fighters) in the Auvergne, Rake was one of the most raffish and endearing of SOE's extraordinary gallery of stars, and was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery in battle.
The Special Operations Executive warmed by Churchill's sponsorship, gathered together an extraordinary range of individualists and exhibitionists, heroes and lunatics. Rake was one of the most extraordinary of these. Rake was a delightfully camp figure who, in 1947, was eking a living as Douglas Fairbanks Jnr's butler. His employer was disconcerted to see a letter arrive at the house, addressed to 'Major Denis Rake, MC'. 'Oh dear, I'd hoped you wouldn't know about all that nonsense', said the butler apologetically.