*** 5 stars ***
The Scouts of St. Michael: Operation Archangel, by Dan Morales, is set in rural England during the early stages of World War II. A group of young boys, living in an orphanage, wards of the British state, are determined to start their own Boy Scout Troop. Without the funds to buy uniforms, the sisters of the orphanage pitch in, as does the headmaster, and The Scouts of St. Michael is born. Despite warnings to stay clear of British artillery installations located around the countryside, the boys visit one of the "big-gun" emplacements and are shown how things work. It's all fun and games to them, until a short time later, when a German fighter plane streaks overhead and starts bombing the countryside. The boys dash to the anti-aircraft gun and find it unmanned, so they take it upon themselves to fire off round after round of high caliber shots, finally knocking the enemy from the sky. After capturing the injured pilot and turning him over to the authorities, news of their heroics reaches London, the King himself, and the boys become national heroes. Winston Churchill decides that the scouts could play an even more critical role in war efforts, and proposes a daring plan to use them in an undercover operation in Germany - one that could help unhinge Hitler's German Youth's program, the very matrix of his army. This is an excellently written story. The author has gone to great lengths to present a very realistic rendering of what it took, the months of preparation to bring Boy Scouts to the point where they could parachute into Germany and carry out a life or death operation. This is historical fiction right up there at the top rung. A good read, and one that suggests a sequel to come. (we hope).
This book has been a labor of love for the last several years. The idea came to me as I was reading about the real life exploits of British Boy Scouts during World War II,which included acting as Air Wardens for Air Raid Precautions, fighting fires, search-and-rescue for victims of bombing raids and more. There was even one scout who used his roller skates to deliver coded messages between Home Guard bases. He was such an integral part of their team that the MOD actually requisitioned him replacement wheels when his wore out. I paid homage to him with one of my characters, Willy, who spends a lot of time on his roller skates.