Book review: Secret Operations

By - Wednesday 18th April, 2018

The astonishing autobiography of 98-year-old Croydonian Eric Sanders

Photo author’s own.

As you might expect, the life story of a 98-year-old man contains plenty of detail, but there can be few stories as compelling as that of Norbury’s Eric Sanders.

Born Ignaz Schwarz in Vienna, Austria, Eric fled the country in 1938 after the Nazis took over, finding a home in England just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.

A talented musician, he found opportunities to use his piano skills in between stints of manual farm labour before joining the British Army Pioneer Corps and later the Special Operations Executive (SOE). It was while in the SOE that he permanently changed his name to Eric Sanders, to give himself a chance of survival should he fall into enemy hands.

Eric’s peacetime experiences as a teacher are just as well detailed and interesting as his wartime ones

His book is a fine document, charting a happy early childhood but with a growing knowledge of increasing antisemitism as he reached his adolescence. He then fought in a war where being on the winning side was literally a matter of life or death.

After being part of the Italian campaign, Eric was instrumental in the reconstruction of his home country, Austria, before returning to England and a job in civvy street.

Eric’s peacetime experiences as a teacher are just as well detailed and interesting as his wartime ones, making Secret Operations a very good read. It’s a life story that cracks along at a good pace and is entertaining from first to last.

In addition to his autobiography, Eric has written two thrillers: Mazes 1: Murder In Munich and Mazes 2: Conspiracy In Vienna. I’m looking forward to reading both.

Paul Dennis

Paul Dennis

An award-winning journalist, Paul has worked on angling titles for much of his career, including 16 years as deputy editor of Angler's Mail and 4 years as editor of Total Sea Fishing magazine. He is a regular freelance contributor for a wide array of non-angling-related titles, author of two books on angling and a widely-followed authority on the subject.

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  • Sean Creighton

    Garry Davis of the Ruskin House Folk & Blues Club and I are arranging an evening with Eric to talk about his books with songs. Date and other details to be finalised soon. For details contact me at

    • lizsheppardjourno

      Hi there Sean – would be really interested to come to this. Can you send me details when they are known?

      • Anne Giles

        And I.

  • Margaret Siudek

    I’d be interested too