Hugh Sebag-Montefiore was a barrister before becoming a journalist and historian. He has written for the Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph, Observer, Independent on Sunday, and Mail On Sunday. His first book Kings On The Catwalk: The Louis Vuitton and Moët-Hennessy Affair was published in 1992.
Bletchley Park, the backdrop to much of the action in his first history book Enigma: The Battle For The Code (published in 2000), used to be owned by Hugh’s great great grandfather, Sir Herbert Leon. Hugh’s father, Stephen, used to stay at Bletchley Park every Christmas, at a time when the house was humming with servants, and when the garden was tended by no less than forty gardeners. During the run up to the 70th anniversary of the capture of the Enigma codebooks from German U-boat U-110, Hugh was commissioned by Bletchley Park to supply the text and photos for an exhibition describing the capture.
The location for the climax of his next book, Dunkirk: Fight To The Last Man (published in 2006), also summoned up forgotten memories within Hugh’s family. His cousin Denzil Sebag-Montefiore lost his precious ivory backed hair brushes engraved, with his initials, which had to be thrown into the sea at Dunkirk, along with other heavy items in his backpack, so that he would be more buoyant. He eventually made it back to England, after being heaved into one of the boats ferrying British soldiers out to the larger ships waiting off shore. Another cousin, Basil Jaffé, passed the time waiting to be rescued from the shallows near one of the Dunkirk beaches by reading his miniature edition of Shakespeare’s plays.
Hugh’s next book will tell the story of another great British military enterprise: the 1916 Battle of the Somme. It is to be published by Penguin in July 2016, at the beginning of the Somme centenary.
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