The forgotten world of female espionage

When the Germans occupied northern Italy in the autumn of 1943, they were pleased with the way that young Italian women, pedalling on bicycles around the country lanes in white socks and pigtails, smiled at them. The soldiers offered to help with their loaded baskets and gave them lifts in lorries. It took some months before they discovered that these smiling girls, known as staffette, were working as couriers, spies and carriers of weapons for the Resistance, then busy forming in the foothills of the Alps. When they realised their mistake, their reaction was often brutal. If caught, the women knew they would fare no better than the men. Prison

How a small town in Ukraine stopped the Russians in their tracks

The other day, John Simpson, He Who Cannot Be Removed From The BBC, tweeted something purportedly about Volodymyr Zelensky. What it was really about, though, was John Simpson – how many world leaders he had interviewed (200), over how long (more than 50 years), and who he most admired (Zelensky, Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel). It is difficult to imagine Andrew Harding, a veteran BBC foreign correspondent, tweeting something like that. He is a much more understated reporter, and less prone to foreground himself at the expense of his interviewees. He is just as likely to be on receive as transmit and understands that he is not the story. The

What the Royal Society of Chemistry gets wrong about free speech

Why has the Royal Society of Chemistry published a 37 page opinion piece entitled ‘Academic free speech or right-wing grievance?’ in their new journal Digital Discovery? Digital Discovery publishes ‘theoretical and experimental research at the intersection of chemistry, materials science and biotechnology’ focusing on ‘the development and application of machine learning’. So it is a little surprising for them to publish a piece that ‘argues that those who wish to have an honest debate about the limits around freedom of speech need to engage that conversation in a manner that avoids resonance with the language of White (heterosexual, cisgender male) supremacy, lest their arguments provide intellectual cover to those who

Was this footballer killed for scoring against the Nazis?

Vienna, April 1938. To mark the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria by the Third Reich, the German football team plays a match against the Austrian team, which will cease to exist when the match is over. The Austrians are much better, but can’t seem to score – aha, the match has been fixed by the Nazis. And then, in the 70th minute, Austria’s best player, Matthias Sindelar, can’t take the pretence any more and puts the ball in the German net. At the end of the match, to underline his feelings, he performs a victory dance in front of the Nazi dignitaries. This might sound like fiction but it really