The Eagle has Landed - Jack Higgins

Author: Jack Higgins

The Eagle has Landed

Date of publication: 1975

Site: Studley Constable, a small English coastal village

Main characters:

Adolf Hitler, the German Leader

Heinrich Himmler, Head of the SS

Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Chief of Military Intelligence, Abwehr

Colonel Max Radl, working for Canaris

Mrs. Joanna Grey, a German agent in England

Sir Henry Willoughby, Home Guard Commander

Lieutenant-Colonel Kurt Steiner, leader of a special unit of German soldiers

Steiner's men:            Altmann, Neumann, Sturm, Brandt, Dinter, Berg, Becker, Jansen

                                   Meyer, Riedl, Walther, Briegel, Klugl, Preston

Liam Devlin, an IRA man teaching English at Berlin University, working for Steiner

 and his men

Molly Prior, a seventeen-year-old English village girl

Pamela Vereker, Molly's girl friend, daughter of the village priest

The Twenty-first Special Raiding Force (Americans), training at Meltham House near

     Studley Constable

Colonel Robert Shafto, the leader of the American special unit

Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister

Plot synopsis:

In 1943 Hitler orders Admiral Canaris to kidnap the British Prime Minister Winston Curchill. Canaris thinks that Hitler can't be taken seriously. But then there is a report of a German agent saying that it would be simple enough. Churchill will spend a weekend at the home of Sir Henry Willoughby, seven kilometres outside the village of Studley Constable near the English south coast. Colonel Radl is to organize the kidnapping. Churchill is to be taken alive if possible or dead if there is no other way. Radl persuades Liam Devlin, an IRA soldier and Colonel Steiner and his unit to carry out his plans. Devlin and Steiner speek Englisch fluently, which is important for the operation.

Devlin and Mrs. Grey prepare the landing site and the hiding place for Steiner's men. In spite of Mrs. Grey's warnings Devlin falls in love with Molly Prior an English village girl. On November the 5th a plane drops Steiner's men near the south coast and they all land savely. Devlin hides them in a cottage in the marsh. Molly finds out about the soldiers but Liam tells her that they are on the side of Britain and they are there for a very special reason, which is top secret. Sergeant Sturm, one of Steiner's men, is drowned while saving a little girl from a river. When they tear his jacket open to feel for his heart the village people notice the German uniform under his jump jacket. Now the Germans have to act quickly. They take all the village people to the church and prevent all communication with outside. Molly and her friend Pamela who have been cleaning the church, notice that there is something wrong and hide in a side room of the church. They listen to the others talking in the church and learn what is happening. They escape through a secret tunnel and warn the Americans who are training at Meltham House. Colonel Shafto orders his men to take Winston Churchill to Meltham House. Then he sends forty men and and eight jeeps to attack the Germans. The Americans attack the German strongholds in the mill, the church, and the post office. In half an hour both, the Germans and the Americans, lose lots of men. In the end only three Germans escape the bloodbath in the church: Steiner, Devlin and Neumann. Molly shows them the secret tunnel and Devlin and Neumann go to the coast where a German E-boat takes them on board. Molly refuses to come with them and disappears in the night. At the same time Steiner tries to finish his job at Meltham House. He manages to get into the house and point his gun at Winston Churchill. But he hesitates long enough for the the Americans to get into the room and shoot him.

Two years later Pamela gets married to one of the American officers. Then the wedding guests learn that all the bloodshed has been useless: The man who spent his weekend at Studley Constable in November 1943 was not Winston Churchill himself, but an actor who looked very like the Prime Minister and whose only task was to mislead the Germans.


Since the end of the Second World War lots of authors and film directors have been fascinated by themes of war and espionage. "The Eagle has landed" is one of the books dealing with these topics. I don't know how much of it is based on real facts and how much belongs to imagination, but that doesn't really matter. The main problem presented in the book is the conflict between duty and love. Liam and Molly are standing on two different sides in the war and yet they fall in love. In the end the sense of duty seems to be stronger than their feelings for each other but nevertheless Molly helps Liam to escape. She saves his life but can't make up her mind to come with them. Their differences are too great.

Personal Comment:

I liked this book very much because I am very interested in the Second World War. The book shows Hitler's megalomania and the absolute loyalty and bravery of his soldiers. They do their job, no matter how bad the chances are. The book is very thrilling and depressing at the same time and it really makes you think about the sense of war.

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