Published Nov 2021
This is the gripping and sometimes hilarious story of how a band of heroic curators and eccentric custodians saved Britain’s national heritage during the Second World War. As Hitler prepared to invade Poland during the sweltering summer of 1939, men and women from across London’s museums, galleries and archives forged extraordinary and ingenious plans to send their collections to safety. Using stately homes, tube tunnels, slate mines, castles, prisons, quarries and even their own houses, a dedicated bunch of remarkable misfits packed up the nation’s greatest treasures and, in a race against time, dispatched them throughout the country on a series of top-secret wartime adventures. What happened to them next is recounted by Caroline Shenton in a fascinating story where Downton Abbey meets the Monuments Men. With a cast of characters who could have stepped right out of an Ealing Comedy, this is a moment from our history when an unlikely coalition of mild-mannered civil servants, social oddballs, and metropolitan aesthetes became nothing less than the heritage front in our fight against the Nazis.