Interview with Peter Dowding – Secret Agent, Unsung Hero

Young Australian teacher Bruce Dowding arrived in Paris in 1938, planning only to improve his understanding of French language and culture.

In this new book, Secret Agent, Unsung Hero, authors Peter Dowding and Ken Spillman draw on decades of research to reveal, for the first time, Bruce’s coming of age as a leader in escape and evasion during World War II.

Dowding helped exfiltrate hundreds of Allied servicemen from occupied France and paid the ultimate price. He was beheaded by the Nazis just after his 29th birthday in 1943.

Peter Dowding. Credit Michael Barker

Peter Dowding is a nephew of Bruce Dowding, prominent Australian lawyer, former Western Australian Premier and a Fremantle person. Ken Spillman holds a PhD in history and is a prolific Australian author. Together they tell Bruce’s story, but in the process tell a whole lot more about Australia’s social, economic and political history from the early 20th century, as well as providing first-hand accounts of life in France before, during and after the German invasion.

The book also dissects the early history of Allied escape and evasion during World War II, highlighting the contribution of Spanish exiles and the French Resistance and unravelling the ties between Britain’s MI9’s exfiltration network and Varian Fry‘s American project rescuing Jewish intellectuals, artists and musicians via Marseilles.

Ultimately, the book brings from the shadows a forgotten, unsung Australian hero.

Secret Agent, Unsung Hero is available online and from all good bookshops, including New Edition in High Street, Fremantle.

Our editor, Michael Barker was pleased to catch up with Peter Dowding to make this podcast discussing the book and Peter’s Uncle Bruce. You won’t want to miss it. An amazing story.

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Here’s the PODCAST. Enjoy!