Special Operations Executive
Overview
The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was a World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 organisation of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. It was officially formed by Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

 Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 and Minister of Economic Warfare
Minister of Economic Warfare
The Minister of Economic Warfare was a British government position which existed during the Second World War. The minister was in charge of the Special Operations Executive.-Ministers of Economic Warfare 1939-1945:...

 Hugh Dalton
Hugh Dalton
Edward Hugh John Neale Dalton, Baron Dalton PC was a British Labour Party politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1945 to 1947, when he was implicated in a political scandal involving budget leaks....

 on 22 July 1940, to conduct guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 against the Axis powers
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 and to instruct and aid local resistance movement
Resistance during World War II
Resistance movements during World War II occurred in every occupied country by a variety of means, ranging from non-cooperation, disinformation and propaganda to hiding crashed pilots and even to outright warfare and the recapturing of towns...

s. On its formation, it was ordered by Churchill to "set Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 ablaze". Its mission was to encourage and facilitate espionage
Espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

, sabotage
Sabotage
Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening another entity through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction. In a workplace setting, sabotage is the conscious withdrawal of efficiency generally directed at causing some change in workplace conditions. One who engages in sabotage is...

 and reconnaissance
Reconnaissance
Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment....

 behind enemy lines. In its early days, it was also involved in the formation of the Auxiliary Units
Auxiliary Units
The Auxiliary Units or GHQ Auxiliary Units were specially trained, highly secret units created by the United Kingdom government during the Second World War, with the aim of resisting the expected occupation of the United Kingdom by Nazi Germany, after a planned invasion codenamed Operation Sea Lion...

, a British resistance movement which would act in case of a German invasion of Britain.

Being a clandestine organisation, few people were openly aware of its existence.
Encyclopedia
The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was a World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 organisation of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. It was officially formed by Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

 Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 and Minister of Economic Warfare
Minister of Economic Warfare
The Minister of Economic Warfare was a British government position which existed during the Second World War. The minister was in charge of the Special Operations Executive.-Ministers of Economic Warfare 1939-1945:...

 Hugh Dalton
Hugh Dalton
Edward Hugh John Neale Dalton, Baron Dalton PC was a British Labour Party politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1945 to 1947, when he was implicated in a political scandal involving budget leaks....

 on 22 July 1940, to conduct guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 against the Axis powers
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 and to instruct and aid local resistance movement
Resistance during World War II
Resistance movements during World War II occurred in every occupied country by a variety of means, ranging from non-cooperation, disinformation and propaganda to hiding crashed pilots and even to outright warfare and the recapturing of towns...

s. On its formation, it was ordered by Churchill to "set Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 ablaze". Its mission was to encourage and facilitate espionage
Espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

, sabotage
Sabotage
Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening another entity through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction. In a workplace setting, sabotage is the conscious withdrawal of efficiency generally directed at causing some change in workplace conditions. One who engages in sabotage is...

 and reconnaissance
Reconnaissance
Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment....

 behind enemy lines. In its early days, it was also involved in the formation of the Auxiliary Units
Auxiliary Units
The Auxiliary Units or GHQ Auxiliary Units were specially trained, highly secret units created by the United Kingdom government during the Second World War, with the aim of resisting the expected occupation of the United Kingdom by Nazi Germany, after a planned invasion codenamed Operation Sea Lion...

, a British resistance movement which would act in case of a German invasion of Britain.

Being a clandestine organisation, few people were openly aware of its existence. To those who were part of it or liaised with it, it was sometimes referred to as "the Baker Street Irregulars
Baker Street Irregulars
The Baker Street Irregulars are any of several different groups, all named after the original, from various Sherlock Holmes stories in which they are a gang of young street children whom Holmes often employs to aid his cases.- Original :...

", after the location of its London headquarters. It was also known as "Churchill's Secret Army" or "The Ministry
Ministry (government department)
A ministry is a specialised organisation responsible for a sector of government public administration, sometimes led by a minister or a senior public servant, that can have responsibility for one or more departments, agencies, bureaus, commissions or other smaller executive, advisory, managerial or...

 of Ungentlemanly Warfare". For security purposes, various branches, and sometimes the organisation as a whole, were concealed behind names such as the Joint Technical Board or the Inter-Service Research Bureau.

SOE operated in all countries or former countries occupied by or attacked by the Axis forces, except where demarcation lines were agreed with Britain's principal allies (the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

). It also made use of neutral territory on occasion, or made plans and preparations in case neutral countries were attacked by the Axis. The organisation directly employed or controlled just over 13,000 people, about 3,200 of whom were women. It is estimated that SOE supported or supplied about 1,000,000 operatives worldwide.

Origins

The organisation was formed from the merger of three existing secret departments, which had been formed shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. Immediately after Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 annex
Annexation
Annexation is the de jure incorporation of some territory into another geo-political entity . Usually, it is implied that the territory and population being annexed is the smaller, more peripheral, and weaker of the two merging entities, barring physical size...

ed Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 (the Anschluss
Anschluss
The Anschluss , also known as the ', was the occupation and annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938....

) in March 1938, the Foreign Office created a propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 organisation known as Department EH (after Electra House, its headquarters), run by Canadian
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 newspaper magnate
Magnate
Magnate, from the Late Latin magnas, a great man, itself from Latin magnus 'great', designates a noble or other man in a high social position, by birth, wealth or other qualities...

 Sir Campbell Stuart. Later that month, the Secret Intelligence Service
Secret Intelligence Service
The Secret Intelligence Service is responsible for supplying the British Government with foreign intelligence. Alongside the internal Security Service , the Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence Intelligence , it operates under the formal direction of the Joint Intelligence...

 (SIS, also known as MI6) formed a section known as Section D, under Major Lawrence Grand, to investigate the use of sabotage, propaganda and other irregular means to weaken an enemy. In the autumn of the same year, the War Office
War Office
The War Office was a department of the British Government, responsible for the administration of the British Army between the 17th century and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence...

 set up a department, nominally for the purpose of research into guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 and known initially as GS (R), headed by Major J. C. Holland. GS (R) was renamed MI R in early 1939.

These three departments worked with few resources until the outbreak of war. There was much overlap between their activities and Section D and EH duplicated much of each others' work. On the other hand, Section D and MI R shared information. Their heads were both officers of the Royal Engineers
Royal Engineers
The Corps of Royal Engineers, usually just called the Royal Engineers , and commonly known as the Sappers, is one of the corps of the British Army....

 and knew each other. They agreed a rough division of their activities; MI R researched irregular operations which could be undertaken by regular uniformed troops, while Section D dealt with truly undercover work.

During the early months of the war, Section D was based at the Metropole Hotel in London. The Section attempted unsuccessfully to sabotage deliveries of vital strategic materials to Germany from neutral countries by mining the Iron Gate
Iron Gate (Danube)
The Iron Gates The gorge lies between Romania in the north and Serbia in the south. At this point, the river separates the southern Carpathian Mountains from the northwestern foothills of the Balkan Mountains. The Romanian, Hungarian, Slovakian, Turkish, German and Bulgarian names literally mean...

 on the River Danube. MI R meanwhile produced pamphlets and technical handbooks for guerrilla leaders. MI R was also involved in the formation of the Independent Companies
Independent Company
An Independent Company was a formation of the British Army during the Second World War. Initially there were 10 independent companies, who were raised from volunteers in second line Territorial Army divisions in April 1940. They were intended for guerrilla style operations in Norway following the...

, autonomous units formed from within second-line Territorial Army divisions which were intended for sabotage and guerrilla operations behind enemy lines and which later developed into the British Commandos
British Commandos
The British Commandos were formed during the Second World War in June 1940, following a request from the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, for a force that could carry out raids against German-occupied Europe...

; and the Auxiliary Units
Auxiliary Units
The Auxiliary Units or GHQ Auxiliary Units were specially trained, highly secret units created by the United Kingdom government during the Second World War, with the aim of resisting the expected occupation of the United Kingdom by Nazi Germany, after a planned invasion codenamed Operation Sea Lion...

, stay-behind resistance groups which would act in the event of an Axis
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 invasion of Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, as seemed possible in the early years of the war.

Formation

On 13 June 1940, at the instigation of newly-appointed Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

, Lord Hankey
Maurice Hankey, 1st Baron Hankey
Maurice Pascal Alers Hankey, 1st Baron Hankey, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, PC was a British civil servant who gained prominence as the first Cabinet Secretary and who later made the rare transition from the civil service to ministerial office.-Life and career:The third son of R. A...

 (who held the Cabinet post of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is, in modern times, a ministerial office in the government of the United Kingdom that includes as part of its duties, the administration of the estates and rents of the Duchy of Lancaster...

) persuaded Section D and MI R that their operations should be coordinated. On 1 July, a Cabinet
Cabinet (government)
A Cabinet is a body of high ranking government officials, typically representing the executive branch. It can also sometimes be referred to as the Council of Ministers, an Executive Council, or an Executive Committee.- Overview :...

 level meeting arranged the formation of a single sabotage organisation. On 16 July, Hugh Dalton
Hugh Dalton
Edward Hugh John Neale Dalton, Baron Dalton PC was a British Labour Party politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1945 to 1947, when he was implicated in a political scandal involving budget leaks....

, the Minister of Economic Warfare
Minister of Economic Warfare
The Minister of Economic Warfare was a British government position which existed during the Second World War. The minister was in charge of the Special Operations Executive.-Ministers of Economic Warfare 1939-1945:...

, was appointed to take political responsibility for the new organisation, which was formally created on 22 July. Dalton used the Irish Republican Army
Irish Republican Army
The Irish Republican Army was an Irish republican revolutionary military organisation. It was descended from the Irish Volunteers, an organisation established on 25 November 1913 that staged the Easter Rising in April 1916...

 (IRA) during the Irish war of Independence
Irish War of Independence
The Irish War of Independence , Anglo-Irish War, Black and Tan War, or Tan War was a guerrilla war mounted by the Irish Republican Army against the British government and its forces in Ireland. It began in January 1919, following the Irish Republic's declaration of independence. Both sides agreed...

 as a model for the organisation. One department of MI R, MI R(C), which was involved in the development of weapons for irregular warfare, was not integrated into the SOE but became an independent body codenamed MD1
MD1
Ministry of Defence 1 , also known as "Churchill's Toyshop" was a British weapon research and development organisation of the Second World War....

. (It was nicknamed "Churchill's Toyshop" from the Prime Minister's close interest in it and his enthusiastic support.) Majors Grand and Holland both returned to service in the regular army and Campbell Stuart left the organisation.

Leadership

The Director of SOE was usually referred to by the initials "CD". The first Director to be appointed was Sir Frank Nelson, a former head of a trading firm in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, a back bench
Backbencher
In Westminster parliamentary systems, a backbencher is a Member of Parliament or a legislator who does not hold governmental office and is not a Front Bench spokesperson in the Opposition...

 Conservative Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 and Consul
Consul (representative)
The political title Consul is used for the official representatives of the government of one state in the territory of another, normally acting to assist and protect the citizens of the consul's own country, and to facilitate trade and friendship between the peoples of the two countries...

 in Basel
Basel
Basel or Basle In the national languages of Switzerland the city is also known as Bâle , Basilea and Basilea is Switzerland's third most populous city with about 166,000 inhabitants. Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel also has suburbs in France and Germany...

, Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

.

Dalton was replaced as Minister of Economic Warfare by Lord Selborne
Roundell Palmer, 3rd Earl of Selborne
Roundell Cecil Palmer, 3rd Earl of Selborne, CH, PC was a British Conservative politician, known as Viscount Wolmer from 1895 to 1941....

 in February 1942. Selborne in turn retired Nelson, who had suffered ill health as a result of his hard work, and appointed Sir Charles Hambro
Charles Hambro
Charles Eric Alexander Hambro, Baron Hambro was a banker and politician in the United Kingdom.- Background:Hambro was the last family chairman of the Hambros Bank, the merchant bank founded by Carl Joachim Hambro...

, head of the English banking firm Hambro's
Hambros Bank
Hambros Bank was a British bank based in London. The Hambros bank was a specialist in Anglo-Scandinavian business with expertise in trade finance and investment banking, and was the sole banker to the Scandinavian kingdoms for many years...

 to replace him. Hambro had been a close friend of Churchill's before the war and had won the Military Cross
Military Cross
The Military Cross is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and other ranks of the British Armed Forces; and formerly also to officers of other Commonwealth countries....

 in the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. Selborne also transferred Gladwyn Jebb
Gladwyn Jebb, 1st Baron Gladwyn
Hubert Miles Gladwyn Jebb, 1st Baron Gladwyn, GCMG, GCVO, CB, known as Gladwyn Jebb , was a prominent British civil servant, diplomat and politician as well as the Acting Secretary-General of the United Nations....

 who, as one of Dalton's senior civil servants had run the Ministry's day-to-day dealings with S.O.E., back to the Foreign Office.

Selborne and Hambro cooperated closely until August 1943, when they fell out over the question of whether S.O.E. should remain a separate body or coordinate its operations with those of the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 in several theatres of war. Hambro felt that this loss of control would cause a number of problems for S.O.E. in the future. At the same time, Hambro was found to have failed to pass on vital information to Selborne. He was dismissed as Director, and became head of a raw material
Raw material
A raw material or feedstock is the basic material from which a product is manufactured or made, frequently used with an extended meaning. For example, the term is used to denote material that came from nature and is in an unprocessed or minimally processed state. Latex, iron ore, logs, and crude...

s purchasing commission in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, which was involved in the exchange of nuclear information.

As part of the subsequent closer ties between the Imperial General Staff and S.O.E., Hambro's replacement as Director from September 1943 was the former Deputy Director, Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 Colin Gubbins
Colin Gubbins
Major-General Sir Colin McVean Gubbins KCMG, DSO, MC was the prime mover of the Special Operations Executive in the Second World War....

. Gubbins had wide experience of commando
Commando
In English, the term commando means a specific kind of individual soldier or military unit. In contemporary usage, commando usually means elite light infantry and/or special operations forces units, specializing in amphibious landings, parachuting, rappelling and similar techniques, to conduct and...

 and clandestine operation
Clandestine operation
A clandestine operation is an intelligence or military operation carried out in such a way that the operation goes unnoticed.The United States Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms defines "clandestine operation" as "An operation sponsored or conducted by governmental...

s and had played a major part in MI R's early operations. He also put in practice many of the lessons he learned from the I.R.A.
Irish Republican Army
The Irish Republican Army was an Irish republican revolutionary military organisation. It was descended from the Irish Volunteers, an organisation established on 25 November 1913 that staged the Easter Rising in April 1916...

 during the Irish War of Independence
Irish War of Independence
The Irish War of Independence , Anglo-Irish War, Black and Tan War, or Tan War was a guerrilla war mounted by the Irish Republican Army against the British government and its forces in Ireland. It began in January 1919, following the Irish Republic's declaration of independence. Both sides agreed...

.

Organisation

The organisation of S.O.E. continually evolved and changed during the war. Initially, it consisted of three broad departments: SO1, which dealt with propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

; SO2 (Operations); and SO3 (Research). SO3 was quickly overloaded with paperwork and was merged into SO2. In August 1941, following quarrels between the Ministry of Economic Warfare and the Ministry of Information over their relative responsibilities, SO1 was removed from S.O.E. and became an independent organisation, the Political Warfare Executive
Political Warfare Executive
During World War II, the Political Warfare Executive was a British clandestine body created to produce and disseminate both white and black propaganda, with the aim of damaging enemy morale and sustaining the morale of the Occupied countries....

.

Thereafter there was a single, broad "Operations" department which controlled the Sections operating into enemy and sometimes neutral territory, and the selection and training of agents. Sections were assigned to a single country. Some enemy-occupied countries had two or more sections assigned to deal with politically disparate resistance movements. (France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 had no less than six).

Four departments and some smaller groups were controlled by the Director of Scientific Research (Professor Dudley Maurice Newitt
Dudley Maurice Newitt
Dudley Maurice Newitt was a British chemical engineer who was awarded the Rumford Medal in 1962 'In recognition of his distinguished contributions to chemical engineering'....

), and were concerned with the development or acquisition and production of special equipment. A few other sections were involved with economic research and administration, although S.O.E. had no central registry or filing system.

The Director of S.O.E. had either a Deputy from the Army, or (once Gubbins became Director) an army officer as Chief of Staff
Chief of Staff
The title, chief of staff, identifies the leader of a complex organization, institution, or body of persons and it also may identify a Principal Staff Officer , who is the coordinator of the supporting staff or a primary aide to an important individual, such as a president.In general, a chief of...

. The main controlling body of S.O.E. was its Council, consisting of around fifteen heads of departments or sections. About half of the Council were from the armed forces
Armed forces
The armed forces of a country are its government-sponsored defense, fighting forces, and organizations. They exist to further the foreign and domestic policies of their governing body, and to defend that body and the nation it represents from external aggressors. In some countries paramilitary...

 (although some were specialists who were only commissioned after the outbreak of war), the rest were various civil servants, lawyers, or business or industrial experts.

Several subsidiary S.O.E. headquarters and stations were set up to manage operations which were too distant for London to control directly. S.O.E.'s operations in the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 and Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 were controlled from a headquarters in Cairo
Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

, which was notorious for poor security, infighting and conflicts with other agencies. It finally became known in April 1944 as Special Operations (Mediterranean), or SO(M). A subsidiary headquarters initially known as "Force 133" was later set up in Bari
Bari
Bari is the capital city of the province of Bari and of the Apulia region, on the Adriatic Sea, in Italy. It is the second most important economic centre of mainland Southern Italy after Naples, and is well known as a port and university city, as well as the city of Saint Nicholas...

 in Southern Italy under the Cairo headquarters to control operations in the Balkans and Northern Italy
Northern Italy
Northern Italy is a wide cultural, historical and geographical definition, without any administrative usage, used to indicate the northern part of the Italian state, also referred as Settentrione or Alta Italia...

. There was also a station near Algiers
Algiers
' is the capital and largest city of Algeria. According to the 1998 census, the population of the city proper was 1,519,570 and that of the urban agglomeration was 2,135,630. In 2009, the population was about 3,500,000...

, established in late 1942 and codenamed "Massingham", which operated into Southern France
Southern France
Southern France , colloquially known as le Midi is defined geographical area consisting of the regions of France that border the Atlantic Ocean south of the Gironde, Spain, the Mediterranean, and Italy...

.

An S.O.E. station, which was first called the India Mission, and was subsequently known as GS I(k) was set up in India late in 1940. It subsequently moved to Ceylon
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 so as to be closer to the headquarters of the Allied South East Asia Command
South East Asia Command
South East Asia Command was the body set up to be in overall charge of Allied operations in the South-East Asian Theatre during World War II.-Background:...

 and became known as Force 136
Force 136
Force 136 was the general cover name for a branch of the British World War II organization, the Special Operations Executive . The organisation was established to encourage and supply resistance movements in enemy-occupied territory, and occasionally mount clandestine sabotage operations...

. A Singapore Mission was set up at the same time as the India Mission but was unable to overcome official opposition to its attempts to form resistance movements in Malaya
British Malaya
British Malaya loosely described a set of states on the Malay Peninsula and the Island of Singapore that were brought under British control between the 18th and the 20th centuries...

 before the Japanese
Imperial Japanese Army
-Foundation:During the Meiji Restoration, the military forces loyal to the Emperor were samurai drawn primarily from the loyalist feudal domains of Satsuma and Chōshū...

 overran Singapore
Battle of Singapore
The Battle of Singapore was fought in the South-East Asian theatre of the Second World War when the Empire of Japan invaded the Allied stronghold of Singapore. Singapore was the major British military base in Southeast Asia and nicknamed the "Gibraltar of the East"...

. Force 136 took over its surviving staff and operations.

There was also a branch office in New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, formally titled British Security Coordination
British Security Coordination
British Security Coordination was a covert organization set up in New York City by the British Secret Intelligence Service in May 1940 upon the authorization of Winston Churchill.-Operation:...

, and headed by the Canadian businessman Sir William Stephenson
William Stephenson
Sir William Samuel Stephenson, CC, MC, DFC was a Canadian soldier, airman, businessman, inventor, spymaster, and the senior representative of British intelligence for the entire western hemisphere during World War II. He is best known by his wartime intelligence codename Intrepid...

. This branch office, located at Room 3603, 630 Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center is a complex of 19 commercial buildings covering between 48th and 51st streets in New York City, United States. Built by the Rockefeller family, it is located in the center of Midtown Manhattan, spanning the area between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue. It was declared a National...

, coordinated the work of S.O.E., SIS and MI5 with the American F.B.I.
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

 and Office of Strategic Services
Office of Strategic Services
The Office of Strategic Services was a United States intelligence agency formed during World War II. It was the wartime intelligence agency, and it was a predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency...

.

Relationships

S.O.E. cooperated fairly well with Combined Operations Headquarters during the middle years of the war, usually on technical matters as S.O.E.'s equipment was readily adopted by commandos and other raiders. This support was lost when Vice Admiral
Vice Admiral
Vice admiral is a senior naval rank of a three-star flag officer, which is equivalent to lieutenant general in the other uniformed services. A vice admiral is typically senior to a rear admiral and junior to an admiral...

 Louis Mountbatten
Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma
Admiral of the Fleet Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas George Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, KG, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO, DSO, PC, FRS , was a British statesman and naval officer, and an uncle of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh...

 left Combined Operations, though by this time S.O.E. had its own transport and had no need to rely on Combined Operations for resources. On the other hand, the Admiralty
Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 objected to S.O.E. developing its own underwater vessels, and the duplication of effort this involved.

S.O.E.'s relationships with the Foreign Office and with SIS, which the Foreign Office controlled, were usually more difficult. Where SIS preferred placid conditions in which it could gather intelligence and work through influential persons or authorities, S.O.E. promised turbulent conditions and often backed anti-establishment organisations, such as the Communists, in several countries. At one stage, SIS actively hindered S.O.E.'s attempts to infiltrate agents into enemy-occupied France.

S.O.E.'s activities in enemy-occupied territories also brought it into conflict with the Foreign Office on several occasions, as various governments in exile protested at operations taking place without their knowledge or approval, which sometimes resulted in Axis reprisal
Reprisal
In international law, a reprisal is a limited and deliberate violation of international law to punish another sovereign state that has already broken them. Reprisals in the laws of war are extremely limited, as they commonly breached the rights of civilians, an action outlawed by the Geneva...

s against civilian populations. S.O.E. nevertheless generally adhered to the rule, "No bangs without Foreign Office approval."

Dissolution

Towards the end of the war, Lord Selborne advocated keeping SOE, or a similar body, in being. He proposed that the organisation could be useful against "the Russian
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 menace" and "the smouldering volcanoes of the Middle East", and that it would report to the Ministry of Defence
Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom)
The Ministry of Defence is the United Kingdom government department responsible for implementation of government defence policy and is the headquarters of the British Armed Forces....

. The Foreign Secretary
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, commonly referred to as the Foreign Secretary, is a senior member of Her Majesty's Government heading the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and regarded as one of the Great Offices of State...

, Anthony Eden
Anthony Eden
Robert Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon, KG, MC, PC was a British Conservative politician, who was Prime Minister from 1955 to 1957...

, insisted that his ministry, already responsible for MI6, should control SOE or its successors. Selborne retorted that "To have SOE run by the Foreign Office would be like inviting an abbess to supervise a brothel." Churchill took no decision, and after he lost the general election
United Kingdom general election, 1945
The United Kingdom general election of 1945 was a general election held on 5 July 1945, with polls in some constituencies delayed until 12 July and in Nelson and Colne until 19 July, due to local wakes weeks. The results were counted and declared on 26 July, due in part to the time it took to...

 in 1945, the matter was dealt with by the Labour
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 Prime Minister, Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee
Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS was a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951, and as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955...

.

Selborne told Attlee that SOE still possessed a worldwide network of clandestine radio networks and sympathisers. Attlee replied that he had no wish to own a British Comintern
Comintern
The Communist International, abbreviated as Comintern, also known as the Third International, was an international communist organization initiated in Moscow during March 1919...

, and closed Selborne's network down at 48 hours' notice. SOE was dissolved officially on 15 January 1946. Most of its personnel reverted to their peacetime occupations (or regular service in the armed forces), but 280 personnel were taken into the "Special Operations Branch" of MI6. Some of these had served as agents in the field, but MI6 was most interested in SOE's training and research staff. Sir Stewart Menzies
Stewart Menzies
Major General Sir Stewart Graham Menzies, KCB, KCMG, DSO, MC was Chief of MI6 , British Secret Intelligence Service, during and after World War II.-Early life, family:...

, the head of MI6 (who was generally known simply as "C") soon decided that a separate branch was unsound, and merged it into the general body of MI6.

Locations

SOE maintained a large number of training, research and development or administrative centres. It was a joke that "SOE" stood for "Stately 'omes of England", after the large number of country houses and estates it requisitioned and used.

After working from temporary offices in Central London, the headquarters of SOE was moved on 31 October 1940 into 64 Baker Street
64 Baker Street
64 Baker Street, London was the address of the headquarters of the Special Operations Executive. The organisation moved to Baker Street in September 1940.A plaque on the building's face gives details of its former inhabitants.-See also:*221B Baker Street...

 (hence the nickname "the Baker Street Irregulars
Baker Street Irregulars
The Baker Street Irregulars are any of several different groups, all named after the original, from various Sherlock Holmes stories in which they are a gang of young street children whom Holmes often employs to aid his cases.- Original :...

"). Ultimately, SOE occupied much of the western side of Baker Street.

Another important London base was Aston House, where weapons and tactics research were conducted. However, the main weapons and devices research was carried out by two establishments; The Firs, near Aylesbury
Aylesbury
Aylesbury is the county town of Buckinghamshire in South East England. However the town also falls into a geographical region known as the South Midlands an area that ecompasses the north of the South East, and the southern extremities of the East Midlands...

 in Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan home county in South East England. The county town is Aylesbury, the largest town in the ceremonial county is Milton Keynes and largest town in the non-metropolitan county is High Wycombe....

, and Station IX
Station IX
Station IX was a secret British Special Operations Executive factory making commando equipment during World War II. It was established at a mansion called 'The Frythe' about an hours drive north from London near the town of Welwyn ....

 at The Frythe
The Frythe
The Frythe is a country house set in its own grounds in rural Hertfordshire, just outside the village of Welwyn, about 30 miles north of London....

, a former hotel outside Welwyn Garden City
Welwyn Garden City
-Economy:Ever since its inception as garden city, Welwyn Garden City has attracted a strong commercial base with several designated employment areas. Among the companies trading in the town are:*Air Link Systems*Baxter*British Lead Mills*Carl Zeiss...

 where, under the cover name of ISRB (Inter Services Research Bureau), SOE developed radios, weapons, explosive devices and booby trap
Booby trap
A booby trap is a device designed to harm or surprise a person, unknowingly triggered by the presence or actions of the victim. As the word trap implies, they often have some form of bait designed to lure the victim towards it. However, in other cases the device is placed on busy roads or is...

s.

Station XV, at the Thatched Barn
Thatched Barn
The Thatched Barn was a two-storey mock-Tudor hotel built in the 1930s on the Barnet by-pass in Borehamwood, that was bought by holiday camp founder, Billy Butlin, before being requisitioned as Station XV by the Special Operations Executive in World War Two, and used to train spies...

 near Borehamwood
Borehamwood
-Film industry:Since the 1920s, the town has been home to several film studios and many shots of its streets are included in final cuts of 20th century British films. This earned it the nickname of the "British Hollywood"...

, was devoted to camouflage
Camouflage
Camouflage is a method of concealment that allows an otherwise visible animal, military vehicle, or other object to remain unnoticed, by blending with its environment. Examples include a leopard's spotted coat, the battledress of a modern soldier and a leaf-mimic butterfly...

, which usually meant equipping agents with authentic local clothing, equipment. Various sub-stations in London, and Station XIV near Roydon
Roydon, Essex
Roydon is a small village located in the Epping Forest district of the County of Essex, England. It is located 1.5 miles west of Harlow, 3.5 miles east of Hoddesdon and 4.6 miles north-west of Epping....

 in Essex
Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

 which specialised in forgery
Forgery
Forgery is the process of making, adapting, or imitating objects, statistics, or documents with the intent to deceive. Copies, studio replicas, and reproductions are not considered forgeries, though they may later become forgeries through knowing and willful misrepresentations. Forging money or...

 of identity papers, rations books and so on, were also involved in this task.

The initial training centres of the SOE were at country houses such as Wanborough
Wanborough, Surrey
Wanborough is a small hamlet in Surrey approximately 6 km west of Guildford on the northern slopes of the Hog's Back. Neighbouring villages include: Puttenham and Christmas Pie...

 Manor, Guildford
Guildford
Guildford is the county town of Surrey. England, as well as the seat for the borough of Guildford and the administrative headquarters of the South East England region...

. Agents destined to serve in the field underwent commando
Commando
In English, the term commando means a specific kind of individual soldier or military unit. In contemporary usage, commando usually means elite light infantry and/or special operations forces units, specializing in amphibious landings, parachuting, rappelling and similar techniques, to conduct and...

 training at Arisaig
Arisaig
Arisaig is a village in Lochaber, Invernessshire, on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands.-History:On 20 September 1746 Bonnie Prince Charlie left Scotland for France from a place near the village following the failure of the Jacobite Rising. The site of his departure is marked by the Prince's...

 in Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, where they were taught armed and unarmed combat skills by William E. Fairbairn
William E. Fairbairn
William Ewart Fairbairn was a British soldier, police officer and exponent of hand-to-hand combat method, the close combat, for the Shanghai Police between the world wars, and allied special forces in World War II. He developed his own fighting system known as Defendu, as well as other weapons...

 and Eric A. Sykes
Eric A. Sykes
Eric Anthony Sykes , born Eric Anthony Schwabe in Barton on Irwell, Manchester, England. He is most famous for his work with William E. Fairbairn in the development of the eponymous Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife and modern British Close Quarters Battle martial arts during World War II...

, former Inspectors in the Shanghai Municipal Police
Shanghai Municipal Police
The Shanghai Municipal Police was the police force of the Shanghai Municipal Council which governed the Shanghai International Settlement between 1854 and 1943, when the settlement was retroceded to Chinese control....

. They then attended courses in security and "tradecraft" at Group B schools around Beaulieu
Beaulieu, Hampshire
Beaulieu is a small village located on the south eastern edge of the New Forest national park in Hampshire, England and home to both Palace House and the British National Motor Museum.- History :...

 in Hampshire
Hampshire
Hampshire is a county on the southern coast of England in the United Kingdom. The county town of Hampshire is Winchester, a historic cathedral city that was once the capital of England. Hampshire is notable for housing the original birthplaces of the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force...

. Finally, they received specialist training in skills such as demolition
Demolition
Demolition is the tearing-down of buildings and other structures, the opposite of construction. Demolition contrasts with deconstruction, which involves taking a building apart while carefully preserving valuable elements for re-use....

 techniques or Morse code
Morse code
Morse code is a method of transmitting textual information as a series of on-off tones, lights, or clicks that can be directly understood by a skilled listener or observer without special equipment...

 telegraphy
Telegraphy
Telegraphy is the long-distance transmission of messages via some form of signalling technology. Telegraphy requires messages to be converted to a code which is known to both sender and receiver...

 at various country houses in England and parachute
Parachute
A parachute is a device used to slow the motion of an object through an atmosphere by creating drag, or in the case of ram-air parachutes, aerodynamic lift. Parachutes are usually made out of light, strong cloth, originally silk, now most commonly nylon...

 training (if necessary) by STS 51 and 51a situated near Altrincham
Altrincham
Altrincham is a market town within the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford, in Greater Manchester, England. It lies on flat ground south of the River Mersey about southwest of Manchester city centre, south-southwest of Sale and east of Warrington...

, Cheshire
Cheshire
Cheshire is a ceremonial county in North West England. Cheshire's county town is the city of Chester, although its largest town is Warrington. Other major towns include Widnes, Congleton, Crewe, Ellesmere Port, Runcorn, Macclesfield, Winsford, Northwich, and Wilmslow...

 with the assistance of No.1 Parachute Training School RAF, at RAF Ringway
RAF Ringway
RAF Ringway, was a Royal Air Force station near Manchester, UK, in the parish of Ringway, then in Cheshire. It was operational from 1939 until 1957.-Prewar years:...

 (later Manchester Airport).

A commando training centre similar to Arisaig was later set up at Oshawa
Oshawa
Oshawa is a city in Ontario, Canada, on the Lake Ontario shoreline. It lies in Southern Ontario approximately 60 kilometres east of downtown Toronto. It is commonly viewed as the eastern anchor of both the Greater Toronto Area and the Golden Horseshoe. It is now commonly referred to as the most...

, for Canadian members of SOE and members of the American organisation, the Office of Strategic Services
Office of Strategic Services
The Office of Strategic Services was a United States intelligence agency formed during World War II. It was the wartime intelligence agency, and it was a predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency...

.

Agents

A variety of people from all classes and pre-war occupations served SOE in the field. In most cases, the primary quality required was a deep knowledge of the country in which the agent was to operate, and especially its language, if the agent was to pass as a native of the country. Dual nationality was often a prized attribute. This was particularly so of France. Many of the agents in F Section were of working class
Working class
Working class is a term used in the social sciences and in ordinary conversation to describe those employed in lower tier jobs , often extending to those in unemployment or otherwise possessing below-average incomes...

 origin (some even reputedly from the criminal underworld).

In other cases, especially in the Balkans, a lesser degree of fluency was required as the resistance groups concerned were already in open rebellion and a clandestine existence was unnecessary. A flair for diplomacy combined with a taste for rough soldiering was more necessary. Some regular army officers proved adept as envoys, although others (such as the former diplomat Fitzroy Maclean or the classicist Christopher Woodhouse) were commissioned only during wartime.

Exiled or escaped members of the armed forces of some occupied countries were obvious sources of agents. This was particularly true of Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 and the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

. In other cases (such as Frenchmen owing loyalty to Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

 and especially the Poles), the agents' first loyalty was to their leaders or governments in exile, and they treated SOE only as a means to an end. This could occasionally lead to mistrust and strained relations in Britain.

SOE employed many Canadians; the Canadian
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 government recruited Canadian volunteers for clandestine service to either SOE or MI9
MI9
MI9, the British Military Intelligence Section 9, was a department of the British Directorate of Military Intelligence, part of the War Office...

.

The organisation was prepared to ignore almost any contemporary social convention in its fight against the Axis. It employed (for example) known homosexuals, people with criminal record
Criminal record
A criminal record is a record of a person's criminal history, generally used by potential employers, lenders etc. to assess his or her trustworthiness. The information included in a criminal record varies between countries and even between jurisdictions within a country...

s (some of whom taught skills such as lock-picking) or bad conduct records in the armed forces, Communists and anti-British nationalists. Although some of these might have been considered a security risk, there is practically no known case of an SOE agent wholeheartedly going over to the enemy.

Communications

Most of the resistance networks which SOE formed or liaised with were controlled by radio directly from Britain or one of SOE's subsidiary headquarters. The main transmitting and receiving stations in Britain were at Grendon Underwood
Grendon Underwood
Grendon Underwood is a village and civil parish in Aylesbury Vale district in Buckinghamshire, England. It is in the west of the county, close to the boundary with Oxfordshire and near the Roman road Akeman Street....

 and Poundon
Poundon
Poundon is a hamlet and also a civil parish within Aylesbury Vale district in Buckinghamshire, England. It is located near the Oxfordshire border, about four miles north east of Bicester, three miles south west of Steeple Claydon....

, both in Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan home county in South East England. The county town is Aylesbury, the largest town in the ceremonial county is Milton Keynes and largest town in the non-metropolitan county is High Wycombe....

 (and near the SIS-controlled Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park is an estate located in the town of Bletchley, in Buckinghamshire, England, which currently houses the National Museum of Computing...

; the location and topography were suitable for all three sites). All resistance circuits contained at least one wireless operator, and except for early exploratory missions sent "blind" into enemy-occupied territory, all drops or landings were arranged by radio.

This made SOE highly dependent upon the security of radio transmissions. There were three factors involved in this: the physical qualities and capabilities of the radio sets, the security of the transmission procedures and the provision of proper cipher
Cipher
In cryptography, a cipher is an algorithm for performing encryption or decryption — a series of well-defined steps that can be followed as a procedure. An alternative, less common term is encipherment. In non-technical usage, a “cipher” is the same thing as a “code”; however, the concepts...

s.

SOE's first radios were supplied by SIS. They were large, clumsy and required large amounts of power. SOE acquired a few, much more suitable, sets from the Poles in exile, but eventually designed and manufactured their own, such as the Paraset
Paraset
The Paraset was a small, low-power, vacuum tube CW radio transmitter-receiver supplied to the resistance groups in France, Belgium and the Netherlands during World War II.- History :...

. Some of these, together with their batteries, weighed only 9 pounds (4.1 kg), and could fit into a small attache case, although larger sets were required to work over ranges greater than about 500 miles (804.7 km).

Operating procedures were insecure at first. Operators were forced to transmit verbose messages on fixed frequencies and at fixed times and intervals. This allowed German direction finding
Direction finding
Direction finding refers to the establishment of the direction from which a received signal was transmitted. This can refer to radio or other forms of wireless communication...

 teams time to triangulate their positions. After several operators were captured or killed, procedures were made more flexible and secure. The SOE wireless operators were also known as "The Pianists".

As with their first radio sets, SOE's first ciphers were inherited from SIS. Leo Marks
Leo Marks
Leopold Samuel Marks was an English cryptographer, screenwriter and playwright.-Early life:Born the son of an antiquarian bookseller in London, he was first introduced to cryptography when his father showed him a copy of Edgar Allan Poe's story, "The Gold-Bug"...

, SOE's chief cryptographer, was responsible for the development of better codes to replace the insecure poem code
Poem code
The poem code is a simple, and insecure, cryptographic method.The method works by the sender and receiver pre-arranging a poem to use. The sender chooses a set number of words at random from the poem and gives each letter in the chosen words a number. The numbers are then used as a key for some...

s. Eventually, SOE settled on single use ciphers, printed on silk. Unlike paper, which would be given away by rustling, silk would not be detected by a casual search if it was concealed in the lining of clothing.

The BBC also played its part in communications with agents or groups in the field. During the war, it broadcast to almost all Axis-occupied countries, and was avidly listened to, even at risk of arrest. The BBC included various "personal messages" in its broadcasts, which could include lines of poetry or apparently nonsensical items. They could be used, for example, to announce the safe arrival of an agent or message in London, or be instructions to carry out operations on a given date.

In the field, agents could sometimes make use of the postal services, though these were slow, not always reliable and letters were almost certain to be opened and read by the Axis security services. In training, agents were taught to use a variety of easily-available substances to make invisible ink, though most of these could be detected by a cursory examination, or to hide coded messages in apparently innocent letters. The telephone services were even more certain to be intercepted and listened to by the enemy, and could be used only with great care.

The most secure method of communication in the field was by courier. In the earlier part of the war, most women sent as agents in the field were employed as couriers, on the assumption that they would be less likely to be suspected of illicit activities.

Equipment

SOE was forced by circumstances to develop a wide range of equipment for clandestine use. Among products developed at Station IX were a miniature folding motorbike (the Welbike
Welbike
The Welbike was a British single-seat motorcycle devised during World War Two at Station IX — the "Inter Services Research Bureau" — based at Welwyn, UK, for use by Special Operations Executive . It has the distinction of being the smallest motorcycle ever used by the British Armed Forces,...

) for use by parachutists, a silenced pistol (the Welrod
Welrod
The Welrod was a British bolt action, magazine fed, suppressed pistol devised during World War II at the Inter-Services Research Bureau , based near Welwyn Garden City, UK, for use by irregular forces and resistance groups...

) and several miniature submersible craft (the Welman submarine
Welman submarine
The Welman submarine was a Second World War one-man British midget submarine developed by the Special Operations Executive. It only saw action once and was never particularly successful.-Design:...

 and Sleeping Beauty). A sea trials unit was set up in West Wales
West Wales
West Wales is the western area of Wales.Some definitions of West Wales include only Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire, an area which historically comprised the Welsh principality of Deheubarth., an area called "South West Wales" in the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics....

 at Goodwick
Goodwick
Goodwick is a coastal town in Pembrokeshire, south-west Wales, immediately west of its twin town of Fishguard. Goodwick was a small fishing village in the parish of Llanwnda, but in 1887 work commenced on a railway connection and harbour, and the village grew rapidly to service this...

, by Fishguard
Fishguard
Fishguard is a coastal town in Pembrokeshire, south-west Wales, with a population of 3,300 . The community of Fishguard and Goodwick had a population of 5043 at the 2001 census....

 (station IXa) where these craft were tested. In late 1944 craft were dispatched to Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 to the Allied Intelligence Bureau
Allied Intelligence Bureau
The Allied Intelligence Bureau was an joint United States, Australian, Dutch and British intelligence and special operations agency during World War II. It was responsible for operating parties of spies and commandos behind Japanese lines in order to collect intelligence and conduct guerrilla...

 (SRD), for tropical testing.

Although SOE used some silenced assassination weapons such as the Welrod
Welrod
The Welrod was a British bolt action, magazine fed, suppressed pistol devised during World War II at the Inter-Services Research Bureau , based near Welwyn Garden City, UK, for use by irregular forces and resistance groups...

 and the De Lisle carbine
De Lisle carbine
The De Lisle carbine or De Lisle Commando carbine was a British carbine used during World War II. The primary feature of the De Lisle was its very effective suppressor...

, it took the view that weapons issued to resisters should not require extensive training or care. The crude and cheap Sten
Sten
The STEN was a family of British 9 mm submachine guns used extensively by British and Commonwealth forces throughout World War II and the Korean War...

 was a favourite. For issue to large forces such as the Yugoslav Partisans, SOE used captured German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 or Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 weapons. These were available in large quantities after the surrender of Italy, and the partisans could acquire ammunition for these weapons (and the Sten) from enemy sources. Most agents received training on captured enemy weapons before being sent into enemy-occupied territory. Ordinary SOE agents were also armed with handguns acquired abroad, such as, from 1941, a variety of US pistols, and a large quantity of the Spanish Llama
Llama firearms
Llama Firearms officially known as Llama-Gabilondo y Cia SA was a Spanish arms company founded in 1904 under the name Gabilondo and Urresti. Its headquarters were in Eibar in the Basque Country, but they also had workshops during different times in Elgoibar and Vitoria. Llama manufactured ...

 .38 ACP
.38 ACP
The .38 ACP also known as the .38 Auto was introduced at the turn of the 20th century for the Browning designed Colt M1900. The cartridge headspaces on the rim. It had first been used in his Model 1897 prototype, which Colt did not produce...

 in 1944. Such was SOE's demand for weapons, a consignment of 8,000 Ballester-Molina
Ballester-Molina
The Ballester-Molina was a pistol designed and built by the Argentine company Hispano Argentina Fábrica de Automotores SA . The Ballester was originally called the Ballester-Rigaud...

 .45 calibre weapons was purchased from Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

, apparently with the mediation of USA.

SOE also adhered to the principle that resistance fighters would be handicapped rather than helped by heavy equipment such as mortars
Mortar (weapon)
A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that fires explosive projectiles known as bombs at low velocities, short ranges, and high-arcing ballistic trajectories. It is typically muzzle-loading and has a barrel length less than 15 times its caliber....

 or anti-tank guns. These were awkward to transport, almost impossible to conceal and required much training in their use. Later in the war however, when the resistance groups staged open rebellions against enemy occupation, some heavy weapons were dispatched, for example to the Maquis du Vercors
Maquis du Vercors
-In fiction:The maquis du Vercors is depicted and veterans act in Pierre Schoendoerffer's Above the Clouds 2002 feature film, and in the third season of the British TV programme Wish Me Luck, which first aired in 1990.-See also:...

.

SOE developed a wide range of explosive devices for sabotage, such as limpet mine
Limpet mine
A limpet mine is a type of naval mine attached to a target by magnets; they are so named because of their superficial similarity to the limpet, a type of mollusk....

s, shaped charges and time fuses. These were later also used by commando units. SOE pioneered the use of plastic explosive
Plastic explosive
Plastic explosive is a specialised form of explosive material. It is a soft and hand moldable solid material. Plastic explosives are properly known as putty explosives within the field of explosives engineering....

. (The term "plastique" comes from SOE packaged plastic explosive originally destined for France but taken to the United States instead.) It was used in everything from car bomb
Car bomb
A car bomb, or truck bomb also known as a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device , is an improvised explosive device placed in a car or other vehicle and then detonated. It is commonly used as a weapon of assassination, terrorism, or guerrilla warfare, to kill the occupants of the vehicle,...

s, to exploding rats designed to destroy coal fired boilers. Other, more subtle sabotage methods included lubricant
Lubricant
A lubricant is a substance introduced to reduce friction between moving surfaces. It may also have the function of transporting foreign particles and of distributing heat...

s laced with grinding materials, incendiaries disguised as innocuous objects and so on.

SOE developed crossbows powered by multiple rubber bands to shoot incendiary bolts. There were two types, known as "Big Joe" and "Lil Joe" respectively. They had tubular alloy skeleton "stocks" and were designed to be collapsible for ease of concealment. Some of the other more imaginative devices invented by SOE included exploding pens with enough explosive power to blast a hole in the bearer's body, guns concealed in tobacco pipes, explosive material concealed in coal piles
Coal torpedo
The coal torpedo was a hollow iron casting filled with explosives and covered in coal dust, deployed by the Confederate Secret Service during the American Civil War, and intended for doing harm to Union steam transportation. When shoveled into the firebox amongst the coal, the resulting explosion...

 to destroy locomotives, and land mines disguised as cow or elephant
Elephant
Elephants are large land mammals in two extant genera of the family Elephantidae: Elephas and Loxodonta, with the third genus Mammuthus extinct...

 dung. For specialised operations or use in extreme circumstances, SOE issued small fighting knives which could be concealed in the heel of a hard leather shoe or behind a coat lapel. Given the likely fate of agents captured by the Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

, SOE also disguised suicide pill
Suicide pill
A Cyanide pill is a pill, capsule, ampoule or tablet containing a fatally poisonous substance that a person ingests deliberately in order to quickly cause his/her own life to end...

s as coat buttons.

Some devices were designed specifically to mark landing strips and dropping zones. Such sites could be marked by an agent on the ground with bonfires or bicycle lamps, but this required good visibility, not only for the pilot of an aircraft to spot the ground signals, but also to navigate by landmarks to correct dead reckoning. Many landings or drops were thwarted by poor weather. To overcome these problems, SOE and Allied airborne forces used the Rebecca/Eureka transponding radar; this enabled an aircraft to home in on a point on the ground even in thick weather, but was difficult to carry or conceal. SOE developed the S-Phone
S-Phone
The S-Phone system was an ultra high frequency duplex radio telephone system developed during World War II for use by Special Operations Executive agents working behind enemy lines to communicate with friendly aircraft and coordinate landings and the dropping of agents and supplies...

, which allowed a pilot or radio operator to communicate by voice with the "reception committee". Sound quality was good enough for voices to be recognisable; a mission could be aborted if there was any doubt of an agent's identity.

Transport

With the continent of Europe closed to normal travel, SOE had to rely on its own air or sea transport for movement of people, arms and equipment.

Air Marshal
Air Marshal
Air marshal is a three-star air-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force...

 Harris
Sir Arthur Harris, 1st Baronet
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur Travers Harris, 1st Baronet GCB OBE AFC , commonly known as "Bomber" Harris by the press, and often within the RAF as "Butcher" Harris, was Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of RAF Bomber Command during the latter half of World War...

 ("Bomber Harris"), the Commander-in-Chief
Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 of Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF's bomber forces from 1936 to 1968. During World War II the command destroyed a significant proportion of Nazi Germany's industries and many German cities, and in the 1960s stood at the peak of its postwar military power with the V bombers and a supplemental...

, resented the diversion of bombers to SOE purposes (or indeed any purposes other than the offensive against German cities), but he was overruled and by April 1942, SOE had the services of 138
No. 138 Squadron RAF
No. 138 Squadron RAF was a squadron of the Royal Air Force that served in a variety of roles during its career, last disbanded in 1962. It was the first 'V-bomber' squadron of the RAF, flying the Vickers Valiant between 1955 and 1962....

 and 161
No. 161 Squadron RAF
No. 161 Squadron was a highly secretive unit of the Royal Air Force tasked with missions of the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War. Their primary role was to drop and collect secret agents and equipment into and from Nazi-occupied Europe...

 squadrons at RAF Tempsford
RAF Tempsford
RAF Tempsford in Bedfordshire, England was perhaps the most secret Royal Air Force airfield in World War II. It was home to the Special Duties Squadrons, No. 138, which dropped Special Operations Executive agents and their supplies into occupied Europe, and No...

.

The aircraft used by SOE included the Westland Lysander
Westland Lysander
The Westland Lysander was a British army co-operation and liaison aircraft produced by Westland Aircraft used immediately before and during the Second World War...

, which could carry up to three passengers and two panniers loaded with stores, and had an effective range of 700 miles (1,126.5 km). It could use rough landing strips only 400 yards (365.8 m) in length, or even less. Lysanders were used to transport 101 agents to and 128 agents from Nazi-occupied Europe. The Lockheed Hudson
Lockheed Hudson
The Lockheed Hudson was an American-built light bomber and coastal reconnaissance aircraft built initially for the Royal Air Force shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War and primarily operated by the RAF thereafter...

 had a range 200 miles (321.9 km) greater and could carry more passengers (ten or more), but required landing strips twice as long as those needed for the Lysander.

To deliver agents and stores by parachute, SOE could use several aircraft originally designed as bombers: the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
The Armstrong Whitworth A.W.38 Whitley was one of three British twin-engine, front line medium bomber types in service with the Royal Air Force at the outbreak of the Second World War...

 until November 1942, the Handley Page Halifax
Handley Page Halifax
The Handley Page Halifax was one of the British front-line, four-engined heavy bombers of the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. A contemporary of the famous Avro Lancaster, the Halifax remained in service until the end of the war, performing a variety of duties in addition to bombing...

 and the Short Stirling
Short Stirling
The Short Stirling was the first four-engined British heavy bomber of the Second World War. The Stirling was designed and built by Short Brothers to an Air Ministry specification from 1936, and entered service in 1941...

. The Stirling could carry a particularly large load, but only the Halifax had the range to reach dropping zones in Poland (and even then, only from bases in Southern Italy). Later in the war, SOE also used the American-designed C47, which was often landed at airfields in territory held by partisans in the Balkans.

Stores were usually parachuted in cylindrical containers. The "C" type was 69 inches (175.3 cm) long and when fully loaded could weigh up to 224 pounds (101.6 kg). The "H" type was the same size overall but could be broken down into five smaller sections. This made it easier to carry and conceal but made it impossible to carry long loads such as rifles. Some stores such as boots and blankets were "free-dropped" i.e. simply thrown out of the aircraft bundled together without a parachute, often to the hazard of any receiving committee on the ground.

SOE also experienced difficulties with the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

, which also was usually unwilling to allow SOE to use its submarines or motor torpedo boat
Motor Torpedo Boat
Motor Torpedo Boat was the name given to fast torpedo boats by the Royal Navy, and the Royal Canadian Navy.The capitalised term is generally used for the Royal Navy boats and abbreviated to "MTB"...

s to deliver agents or equipment. Submarines were regarded as too valuable to risk within range of enemy coastal defences, and MTBs were in any case often too noisy and conspicuous for clandestine landings. However, SOE often used clandestine craft such as local fishing boats or caiques
Kaiki
Kaiki may refer to:*Kaiki Nobuhide, sumo wrestler*Caïque, is a wooden fishing boat usually found among the waters of the Ionian or Aegean Seas....

 and eventually ran quite large fleets of these, from Algiers
Algiers
' is the capital and largest city of Algeria. According to the 1998 census, the population of the city proper was 1,519,570 and that of the urban agglomeration was 2,135,630. In 2009, the population was about 3,500,000...

, the Shetland Islands
Shetland Islands
Shetland is a subarctic archipelago of Scotland that lies north and east of mainland Great Britain. The islands lie some to the northeast of Orkney and southeast of the Faroe Islands and form part of the division between the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the North Sea to the east. The total...

 (a service termed the Shetland Bus
Shetland bus
The Shetland Bus was the nickname of a clandestine special operations group that made a permanent link between Shetland, Scotland, and German-occupied Norway from 1941 until the German occupation ended on 8 May 1945. From mid-1942 the official name of the group was "Norwegian Naval Independent Unit"...

), Ceylon etc.

France

SOE's operations were usually mounted in order to feel out resistance groups willing to work with the Allies
Allies
In everyday English usage, allies are people, groups, or nations that have joined together in an association for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out between them...

 in preparation for invasion. In France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, personnel were directed by two London-based country sections. F Section was under British control, while RF Section was linked to General de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

's Free French government in exile
Exile
Exile means to be away from one's home , while either being explicitly refused permission to return and/or being threatened with imprisonment or death upon return...

. Most native French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 agents served in RF. There were also two smaller sections: EU/P Section, which dealt with the Polish
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 community in France, and the DF Section which was responsible for establishing escape routes. During the latter part of 1942 another section known as AMF was established in Algiers
Algiers
' is the capital and largest city of Algeria. According to the 1998 census, the population of the city proper was 1,519,570 and that of the urban agglomeration was 2,135,630. In 2009, the population was about 3,500,000...

, to operate into Southern France
Southern France
Southern France , colloquially known as le Midi is defined geographical area consisting of the regions of France that border the Atlantic Ocean south of the Gironde, Spain, the Mediterranean, and Italy...

.

On 5 May 1941, Georges Bégué
Georges Bégué
Georges Bégué or George P. Begue was a French engineer and agent in the Special Operations Executive.-Early life:...

 (1911–1993) became the first SOE agent dropped into German occupied France. He then set up radio communications and met the next agents parachute
Parachute
A parachute is a device used to slow the motion of an object through an atmosphere by creating drag, or in the case of ram-air parachutes, aerodynamic lift. Parachutes are usually made out of light, strong cloth, originally silk, now most commonly nylon...

d into France. Between Bégué's first drop in May 1941 and August 1944, more than four hundred F Section agents were sent into occupied France. They served in a variety of functions including arms and sabotage instructors, couriers, circuit organisers, liaison officers and radio operators. RF sent about the same number; AMF sent 600 (although not all of these belonged to SOE). EU/P and DF sent a few dozen agents each.

SOE included a number of women (who were often commissioned into women's branches of the armed forces such as the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry
First Aid Nursing Yeomanry
The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry is a British independent all-female unit and registered charity affiliated to, but not part of, the Territorial Army, formed in 1907 and active in both nursing and intelligence work during the World Wars.-Formation:It was formed as the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry in...

). F Section alone sent 39 female agents into the field, of whom 13 did not return. The Valençay SOE Memorial
Valençay SOE Memorial
The Valençay SOE Memorial is a monument to the members of the Special Operations Executive F Section who lost their lives for the liberation of France. The memorial was unveiled in the town of Valençay in the Indre département of France on May 6, 1991, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the...

 was unveiled at Valençay
Valençay
Valençay is a commune in the Indre department in central France.-Geography:Valençay is situated in the Loire Valley on a hillside overlooking the River Nahon.-History:...

 in the Indre
Indre
Indre is a department in the center of France named after the river Indre. The inhabitants of the department are called Indriens.-History:Indre is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

 département of France on 6 May 1991, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the despatch of F Section's first agent to France. The memorial's roll of honour
Memorial
A memorial is an object which serves as a focus for memory of something, usually a person or an event. Popular forms of memorials include landmark objects or art objects such as sculptures, statues or fountains, and even entire parks....

 lists the names of the 91 men and 13 women members of the SOE who gave their lives for France's freedom.

To support the Allied invasion of France on D Day in June 1944, three-man parties were dropped into various parts of France as part of Operation Jedburgh
Operation Jedburgh
Operation Jedburgh was a clandestine operation during World War II, in which personnel of the British Special Operations Executive, the U.S...

, to coordinate widespread overt (as opposed to clandestine) acts of resistance. A total of 100 men were eventually dropped, together with 6,000 tons of military stores (4,000 tons had been dropped during the years before D-Day.) At the same time, all the various sections operating in France (except EU/P) were nominally placed under a London-based HQ titled État-major des Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur (EMFFI)
French Forces of the Interior
The French Forces of the Interior refers to French resistance fighters in the later stages of World War II. Charles de Gaulle used it as a formal name for the resistance fighters. The change in designation of these groups to FFI occurred as France's status changed from that of an occupied nation...

.

Poland

SOE did not need to instigate Polish resistance, because unlike the Vichy French the Poles overwhelmingly refused to collaborate with the Nazis. Early in the war the Poles established the Polish Home Army, led by a clandestine resistance government known as the Polish Secret State
Polish Secret State
The Polish Underground State is a collective term for the World War II underground resistance organizations in Poland, both military and civilian, that remained loyal to the Polish Government in Exile in London. The first elements of the Underground State were put in place in the final days of the...

. Nevertheless, there were many Polish members of SOE and much cooperation between the SOE and the Polish resistance.
SOE assisted the Polish government in exile
Polish government in Exile
The Polish government-in-exile, formally known as the Government of the Republic of Poland in Exile , was the government in exile of Poland formed in the aftermath of the Invasion of Poland of September 1939, and the subsequent occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, which...

 with training facilities and logistical support for its 605 special forces operatives known as the Cichociemni
Cichociemni
Cichociemni were elite special-operations paratroops of the Polish Home Army of the Polish Army in exile, created in Great Britain during World War II to operate in occupied Poland.-The name:...

, or "The Dark and Silent". Members of the unit, which was based in Audley End House
Audley End House
Audley End House is largely an early 17th-century country house just outside Saffron Walden, Essex, south of Cambridge, England. It was once a palace in all but name and renowned as one of the finest Jacobean houses in England. Audley End is now only one-third of its original size, but is still...

, Essex
Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

, were rigorously trained before being parachuted into occupied Poland. Because of the distance involved in air travel to Poland, customised aircraft with extra fuel capacity were used in Polish operations such as Operation Wildhorn III. Sue Ryder
Sue Ryder
Margaret Susan Cheshire, Baroness Ryder of Warsaw and Baroness Cheshire, CMG, OBE , best known as Sue Ryder, was a British volunteer with Special Operations Executive in the Second World War, who afterwards led many charitable organizations, notably the charity named in her honour.-Early...

 chose the title Baroness Ryder of Warsaw in honour of these operations.

Secret Intelligence Service
Secret Intelligence Service
The Secret Intelligence Service is responsible for supplying the British Government with foreign intelligence. Alongside the internal Security Service , the Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence Intelligence , it operates under the formal direction of the Joint Intelligence...

 member Krystyna Skarbek
Krystyna Skarbek
Krystyna Skarbek, GM, OBE, Croix de guerre was a Polish Special Operations Executive agent. She became celebrated especially for her daring exploits in intelligence and irregular-warfare missions in Nazi-occupied Poland and France....

 (nom de guerre Christine Granville) was a founder member of SOE and helped establish a cell of Polish spies in Central Europe
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

. She ran several operations in Poland, Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 (with Andrzej Kowerski
Andrzej Kowerski
Andrzej Kowerski was a Polish Army officer and SOE agent in World War II. From 1941 he used the nom de guerre "Andrew Kennedy."-Life:During the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, Lieutenant Kowerski fought gallantly as a member of Poland's 10th Motorized Cavalry Brigade, commanded by Col...

) and France, often using the staunchly anti-Nazi Polish expatriate community as a secure international network. Non-official cover
Non-official cover
Non-official cover is a term used in espionage, particularly by national intelligence services, for agents or operatives who assume covert roles in organizations without ties to the government for which they work. Such agents or operatives are typically abbreviated in espionage lingo as a NOC...

 agents Elzbieta Zawacka
Elzbieta Zawacka
Elżbieta Zawacka , known also by her war-time nom de guerre Zo, was a Polish university professor, scouting instructor, SOE agent and a freedom fighter during World War II. She was also a Brigadier General of the Polish Army , promoted by President Lech Kaczyński on May 3, 2006...

 and Jan Nowak-Jezioranski
Jan Nowak-Jezioranski
Jan Nowak-Jeziorański was a Polish journalist, writer, politician, social worker and patriot. He served during the Second World War as one of the most notable resistance fighters of the Home Army...

 perfected the Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

 courier route out of occupied Europe. Maciej Kalenkiewicz
Maciej Kalenkiewicz
Maciej Kalenkiewicz was a Polish engineer and military officer, a podpułkownik of the Polish Army. During the World War II he received training as a Cichociemny and was delivered to occupied Poland, where he assumed the command over the Nowogródek Home Army area. He was one of the Polish...

 was parachuted into occupied Poland, only to be killed by the Soviets
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. A Polish agent was integral to SOE's Operation Foxley
Operation Foxley
Operation Foxley was a 1944 plan to assassinate Adolf Hitler, made by the British Special Operations Executive . Although detailed preparations were made, no attempt was made to carry out the plan...

, the plan to assassinate Hitler.

Thanks to cooperation between SOE and the Polish Home Army, the Poles were able to deliver the first Allied intelligence on the Holocaust to London. Witold Pilecki
Witold Pilecki
Witold Pilecki was a soldier of the Second Polish Republic, the founder of the Secret Polish Army resistance group and a member of the Home Army...

 of the Polish Home Army designed a joint operation with SOE to liberate Auschwitz, but the British rejected it as infeasible. Joint Anglo-Polish operations provided London with vital intelligence on the V-2 rocket
V-2 rocket
The V-2 rocket , technical name Aggregat-4 , was a ballistic missile that was developed at the beginning of the Second World War in Germany, specifically targeted at London and later Antwerp. The liquid-propellant rocket was the world's first long-range combat-ballistic missile and first known...

, German troops movements on the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

, and the Soviet repressions of Polish citizens.

RAF 'Special Duties Flights' were sent to Poland to assist the Warsaw Uprising
Warsaw Uprising
The Warsaw Uprising was a major World War II operation by the Polish resistance Home Army , to liberate Warsaw from Nazi Germany. The rebellion was timed to coincide with the Soviet Union's Red Army approaching the eastern suburbs of the city and the retreat of German forces...

 against the Nazis. The rebellion was defeated with a loss of 200,000 casualties (mostly German executions of Polish civilians) after the nearby Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 refused military assistance to the Polish Home Army. RAF Special Duties Flights were refused landing rights at Soviet-held airfields near Warsaw, even when requiring emergency landings after battle damage. These flights were also attacked by Soviet fighters, despite the U.S.S.R.'s officially Allied status.

Germany

Due to the dangers and lack of friendly population few operations were conducted in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 itself. The German and Austrian section of SOE was run by Lt. Col. Ronald Thornley for most of the war and was mainly involved with black propaganda
Black propaganda
Black propaganda is false information and material that purports to be from a source on one side of a conflict, but is actually from the opposing side. It is typically used to vilify, embarrass or misrepresent the enemy...

 and administrative sabotage in collaboration with the German section of the Political Warfare Executive
Political Warfare Executive
During World War II, the Political Warfare Executive was a British clandestine body created to produce and disseminate both white and black propaganda, with the aim of damaging enemy morale and sustaining the morale of the Occupied countries....

. After D-Day
D-Day
D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

, the section was re-organised and enlarged with Major General Gerald Templer
Gerald Templer
Field Marshal Sir Gerald Walter Robert Templer KG, GCB, GCMG, KBE was a British military commander. He is best known for his defeat of the guerrilla rebels in Malaya between 1952 and 1954...

 heading the Directorate, with Thornley as his deputy.

Several major operations were planned, including Operation Foxley
Operation Foxley
Operation Foxley was a 1944 plan to assassinate Adolf Hitler, made by the British Special Operations Executive . Although detailed preparations were made, no attempt was made to carry out the plan...

, a plan to assassinate Hitler, and Operation Periwig, an ingenious plan to simulate the existence of a large-scale anti-Nazi resistance movement within Germany. Foxley was never carried out but Periwig went ahead despite restrictions placed on it by SIS
Secret Intelligence Service
The Secret Intelligence Service is responsible for supplying the British Government with foreign intelligence. Alongside the internal Security Service , the Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence Intelligence , it operates under the formal direction of the Joint Intelligence...

 and SHAEF. Several German prisoners of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

 were trained as agents, briefed to make contact with the anti-Nazi resistance and to conduct sabotage. They were then parachuted into Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 in the hope that they would either hand themselves in to the Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

 or be captured by them, and reveal their supposed mission. Fake coded wireless transmissions were broadcast to Germany and various pieces of agent paraphernalia such as code books and wireless receivers were allowed to fall into the hands of the German authorities.

The Netherlands

Section N of SOE ran operations in the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

. They committed some of SOE's worst blunders in security, which allowed the Germans to capture many agents and much sabotage material, in what the Germans called the "Englandspiel
Englandspiel
', also called Unternehmen Nordpol , was an enormous counter intelligence operation launched by the German Intelligence Organisation during World War II. German forces captured Allied resistance agents operating in the Netherlands and used the agents' codes to fool the Allies into continuing to...

". SOE apparently ignored the absence of security checks in radio transmissions, and other warnings from their chief cryptographer, Leo Marks
Leo Marks
Leopold Samuel Marks was an English cryptographer, screenwriter and playwright.-Early life:Born the son of an antiquarian bookseller in London, he was first introduced to cryptography when his father showed him a copy of Edgar Allan Poe's story, "The Gold-Bug"...

, that the Germans were running the supposed resistance networks.

Eventually, two captured agents escaped to Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 in August 1943. The Germans sent messages over their controlled sets that they had gone over to the Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

, but SOE was at last more wary.

SOE partly recovered from this disaster to set up new networks, which continued to operate until the Netherlands were liberated at the end of the war.

Belgium

Section T established some effective networks in Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, in part orchestrated by fashion designer Hardy Amies
Hardy Amies
Hardy Amies, Ltd. is a British-based fashion house specialising in modern luxury menswear.-Sir Edwin Hardy Amies:Sir Edwin Hardy Amies, KCVO , was a British fashion designer, best known for his official title as dressmaker for Queen Elizabeth II, from her accession to the throne until his...

, who rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Amies adapted names of fashion accessories for use as code words, while managing some of the most murderous and ruthless agents in the field.

In the aftermath of the Battle of Normandy, British armoured forces liberated the country in less than a week, giving the resistance little time to stage an uprising. They did assist British forces to bypass German rearguards, and this allowed the Allies to capture
Battle of the Scheldt
The Battle of the Scheldt was a series of military operations of the Canadian 1st Army, led by Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds. The battle took place in northern Belgium and southwestern Netherlands during World War II from 2 October-8 November 1944...

 the vital docks at Antwerp intact.

After Brussels was liberated, Amies outraged his superiors by setting up a Vogue
Vogue (magazine)
Vogue is a fashion and lifestyle magazine that is published monthly in 18 national and one regional edition by Condé Nast.-History:In 1892 Arthur Turnure founded Vogue as a weekly publication in the United States. When he died in 1909, Condé Montrose Nast picked up the magazine and slowly began...

 photo-shoot in Belgium. In 1946, he was Knighted in Belgium for his service with SOE, being a Named Officier de l'Ordre de la Couronne
Order of the Crown (Belgium)
The Order of the Crown is an Order of Belgium which was created on 15 October 1897 by King Leopold II in his capacity as ruler of the Congo Free State. The order was first intended to recognize heroic deeds and distinguished service achieved from service in the Congo Free State - many of which acts...

.

Italy

As both an enemy country, and supposedly a monolithic fascist state with no organised opposition which SOE could use, SOE made little effort in Italy before mid-1943, when Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

's government collapsed and Allied forces already occupied Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

. In April 1941, in a mission codenamed "Yak", Peter Fleming attempted to recruit agents from among the many thousands of Italian prisoners of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

 captured in the Western Desert Campaign
Western Desert Campaign
The Western Desert Campaign, also known as the Desert War, was the initial stage of the North African Campaign during the Second World War. The campaign was heavily influenced by the availability of supplies and transport. The ability of the Allied forces, operating from besieged Malta, to...

. He met with no response.

In the aftermath of the Italian collapse, SOE helped build a large resistance organisation in the cities of Northern Italy
Northern Italy
Northern Italy is a wide cultural, historical and geographical definition, without any administrative usage, used to indicate the northern part of the Italian state, also referred as Settentrione or Alta Italia...

, and in the Alps
Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

. Italian partisans harassed German forces in Italy throughout the autumn and winter of 1944, and in the Spring 1945 offensive in Italy
Spring 1945 offensive in Italy
The Spring 1945 offensive in Italy, codenamed Operation Grapeshot, was the Allied attack by Fifth United States Army and British 8th Army into the Lombardy Plain which started on 6 April 1945 and ended on 2 May with the surrender of German forces in Italy....

 they captured Genoa
Genoa
Genoa |Ligurian]] Zena ; Latin and, archaically, English Genua) is a city and an important seaport in northern Italy, the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria....

 and other cities unaided by Allied forces.

Late in 1943, SOE established a base at Bari
Bari
Bari is the capital city of the province of Bari and of the Apulia region, on the Adriatic Sea, in Italy. It is the second most important economic centre of mainland Southern Italy after Naples, and is well known as a port and university city, as well as the city of Saint Nicholas...

 in Southern Italy, from which they operated their networks and agents in the Balkans. This organisation had the codename "Force 133". This later became "Force 266", reserving 133 for operations run from Cairo rather than the heel of Italy. Flights from Brindisi were run to the Balkans and Poland, particularly once control had been wrested from Cairo and passed to Gubbins. Close to Brindisi Air base SOE established a new packing station for the parachute containers along the lines of those created at Saffron Walden. This was ME 54, a factory employing hundreds, the American (OSS) side of which was known as Paradise Camp.

Yugoslavia

In the aftermath of the German invasion in 1941, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Kingdom of Yugoslavia
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was a state stretching from the Western Balkans to Central Europe which existed during the often-tumultuous interwar era of 1918–1941...

 fragmented. In Croatia
Croatia
Croatia , officially the Republic of Croatia , is a unitary democratic parliamentary republic in Europe at the crossroads of the Mitteleuropa, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean. Its capital and largest city is Zagreb. The country is divided into 20 counties and the city of Zagreb. Croatia covers ...

, there was a substantial pro-Axis movement, the Ustaše
Ustaše
The Ustaša - Croatian Revolutionary Movement was a Croatian fascist anti-Yugoslav separatist movement. The ideology of the movement was a blend of fascism, Nazism, and Croatian nationalism. The Ustaše supported the creation of a Greater Croatia that would span to the River Drina and to the border...

. In Croatia as well as the remainder of Yugoslavia, two resistance movements formed; the royalist Chetniks
Chetniks
Chetniks, or the Chetnik movement , were Serbian nationalist and royalist paramilitary organizations from the first half of the 20th century. The Chetniks were formed as a Serbian resistance against the Ottoman Empire in 1904, and participated in the Balkan Wars, World War I, and World War II...

 under Draža Mihailović
Draža Mihailovic
Dragoljub "Draža" Mihailović was a Yugoslav Serbian general during World War II...

, and the Communist Partisans
Partisans (Yugoslavia)
The Yugoslav Partisans, or simply the Partisans were a Communist-led World War II anti-fascist resistance movement in Yugoslavia...

 under Josip Broz Tito
Josip Broz Tito
Marshal Josip Broz Tito – 4 May 1980) was a Yugoslav revolutionary and statesman. While his presidency has been criticized as authoritarian, Tito was a popular public figure both in Yugoslavia and abroad, viewed as a unifying symbol for the nations of the Yugoslav federation...

.

Mihailović was the first to attempt to contact the Allies, and SOE despatched a party on 20 September 1941 under Major "Marko" Hudson. Hudson also encountered Tito's forces. Through the royalist government in exile, SOE at first supported the Chetniks. Eventually, however, due to reports that the Chetniks were less effective and even collaborating with German and Italian forces on occasion, British support was redirected to the Partisans, even before the Tehran Conference
Tehran Conference
The Tehran Conference was the meeting of Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill between November 28 and December 1, 1943, most of which was held at the Soviet Embassy in Tehran, Iran. It was the first World War II conference amongst the Big Three in which Stalin was present...

 in 1943.

Although relations were often touchy throughout the war, it can be argued that SOE's unstinting support was a factor in Yugoslavia's maintaining a neutral stance during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

. However, accounts vary dramatically between all historical works on the "Chetnik controversy".

Hungary

SOE was unable to establish links or contacts in Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 before the regime of Miklós Horthy
Miklós Horthy
Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya was the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary during the interwar years and throughout most of World War II, serving from 1 March 1920 to 15 October 1944. Horthy was styled "His Serene Highness the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary" .Admiral Horthy was an officer of the...

 aligned itself with the Axis Powers
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

. Distance and lack of such contacts prevented any effort being made by SOE until the Hungarians themselves dispatched a diplomat (László Veress) in a clandestine attempt to contact the Western Allies
Western Allies
The Western Allies were a political and geographic grouping among the Allied Powers of the Second World War. It generally includes the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth, the United States, France and various other European and Latin American countries, but excludes China, the Soviet Union,...

. SOE facilitated his return, with some radio sets. Before the Allied governments could agree terms, Hungary was placed under German military occupation and Veress was forced to flee the country.

Two missions subsequently dropped "blind" i.e. without prior arrangement for a reception party, failed. So too did an attempt by Basil Davidson
Basil Davidson
Basil Risbridger Davidson MC was a British historian, writer and Africanist, particularly knowledgeable on the subject of Portuguese Africa prior to the 1974 Carnation Revolution....

 to incite a partisan movement in Hungary, after he made his way there from northeastern Yugoslavia.

Greece

Greece
Kingdom of Greece
The Kingdom of Greece was a state established in 1832 in the Convention of London by the Great Powers...

 was overrun by the Axis after a desperate defence lasting several months. In the aftermath, SIS and another intelligence organisation, SIME, discouraged attempts at sabotage or resistance as this might imperil relations with Turkey, although SOE maintained contacts with resistance groups in Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

. When an agent, "Odysseus", a former tobacco-smuggler, attempted to contact potential resistance groups in Greece, he reported that no group was prepared to cooperate with the monarchist government in exile in Cairo.

In late 1942, at the army's instigation, SOE mounted its first operation, codenamed Operation Harling
Operation Harling
Operation Harling was a World War II mission by the British Special Operations Executive , in cooperation with the Greek Resistance groups ELAS and EDES, which destroyed the heavily guarded Gorgopotamos viaduct in Central Greece on 25 November 1942...

, into Greece in an attempt to disrupt the railway which was being used to move materials to the German Panzer Army Africa. A party under Colonel (later Brigadier) Eddie Myers, assisted by Christopher Woodhouse, was parachuted into Greece and discovered two guerrilla groups operating in the mountains: the pro-Communist ELAS and the republican EDES. On 25 November 1942, Myers's party blew up one of the spans of the railway viaduct at Gorgopotamos
Gorgopotamos
Gorgopotamos is a village and a former municipality in Phthiotis, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Lamia, of which it is a municipal unit. It is located 10 km southwest of Lamia. Its 2001 population was 443 for the village and 4,510 for the...

, supported by 150 Greek partisans from these two organisations who engaged Italians guarding the viaduct. This cut the railway linking Thessaloniki with Athens and Piraeus.

Relations between the resistance groups and the British soured. When the British needed once again to disrupt the railway across Greece as part of the deception operations preceding Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily, the resistance groups refused to take part, rightly fearing German reprisals against civilians. Instead, a six-man commando party from the British and New Zealand armies carried out the destruction of the Asopos
Asopos
Asopos is a village and a former municipality in Laconia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Monemvasia, of which it is a municipal unit. Population 4,187 . The seat of the municipality was in Papadianika....

 viaduct on 21 June 1943.

EDES received most aid from SOE, but ELAS secured many weapons when Italy collapsed and Italian military forces in Greece dissolved. ELAS and EDES fought a vicious civil war
Civil war
A civil war is a war between organized groups within the same nation state or republic, or, less commonly, between two countries created from a formerly-united nation state....

 in 1943 until SOE brokered an uneasy armistice
Armistice
An armistice is a situation in a war where the warring parties agree to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, but may be just a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace...

 (the Plaka
Plaka
Pláka is the old historical neighborhood of Athens, clustered around the northern and eastern slopes of the Acropolis, and incorporating labyrinthine streets and neoclassical architecture. Plaka is built on top of the residential areas of the ancient town of Athens...

 agreement).

A lesser known, but important function of the SOE in Greece was to inform the Cairo headquarters of the movement of the German military aircraft that were serviced and repaired at the two former Greek military aircraft facilities in and around Athens.

Eventually, the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 occupied Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 and Piraeus
Piraeus
Piraeus is a city in the region of Attica, Greece. Piraeus is located within the Athens Urban Area, 12 km southwest from its city center , and lies along the east coast of the Saronic Gulf....

 in the aftermath of the German withdrawal, and fought a street-by-street battle to drive ELAS from these cities and impose an interim government under Archbishop Damaskinos
Archbishop Damaskinos
Archbishop Damaskinos Papandreou was the archbishop of Athens and All Greece from 1941 until his death. He was also the regent of Greece between the pull-out of the German occupation force in 1944 and the return of King Georgios II to Greece in 1946...

. SOE's last act was to evacuate several hundred disarmed EDES fighters to Corfu
Corfu
Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the edge of the northwestern frontier of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality. The...

, preventing their massacre by ELAS.

Crete

In Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

, unlike mainland Greece, there were several resistance groups and Allied stay-behind parties after the Germans occupied the island in the Battle of Crete
Battle of Crete
The Battle of Crete was a battle during World War II on the Greek island of Crete. It began on the morning of 20 May 1941, when Nazi Germany launched an airborne invasion of Crete under the code-name Unternehmen Merkur...

. SOE's operations on Crete involved figures such as Patrick Leigh Fermor
Patrick Leigh Fermor
Sir Patrick "Paddy" Michael Leigh Fermor, DSO, OBE was a British author, scholar and soldier, who played a prominent role behind the lines in the Cretan resistance during World War II. He was widely regarded as "Britain's greatest living travel writer", with books including his classic A Time of...

, John Lewis, Tom Dunbabin
Thomas James Dunbabin
Thomas James Dunbabin DSO , was an Australian classicist scholar and archaeologist of Tasmanian origin. His father was , a distinguished journalist. Dunbabin studied at the University of Sydney and then moved to Corpus Christi College, Oxford...

, Sandy Rendel, John Houseman, Xan Fielding
Xan Fielding
Xan Fielding, born Alexander Wallace Fielding DSO , was a British soldier and writer, noted for his English translations of Planet of the Apes and The Bridge on the River Kwai, both by Pierre Boulle....

 and Bill Stanley Moss
W. Stanley Moss
Ivan William "Billy" Stanley Moss MC , was a British army officer in World War II, and later a successful writer, broadcaster, journalist and traveller. He served with the Coldstream Guards and the Special Operations Executive . He was a best-selling author in the 1950s, based both on his novels...

. Some of the most famous moments included the abduction of General Heinrich Kreipe
Kidnap of General Kreipe
The Kidnap of General Kreipe was a Second World War operation by the Special Operations Executive, an organisation of the United Kingdom. The mission took place on the German occupied island of Crete in May 1944....

 led by Leigh Fermor and Moss, and the sabotage of Damasta
Damasta sabotage
The Damasta sabotage was an attack by Cretan resistance fighters led by British Special Operations Executive officer Captain Bill Stanley Moss MC against German occupation forces in World War II...

 led by Moss.

Albania

Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

 had been under Italian influence since 1923, and was occupied by the Italian Army
Italian Army
The Italian Army is the ground defence force of the Italian Armed Forces. It is all-volunteer force of active-duty personnel, numbering 108,355 in 2010. Its best-known combat vehicles are the Dardo infantry fighting vehicle, the Centauro tank destroyer and the Ariete tank, and among its aircraft...

 in 1939. In 1943, a small liaison party entered Albania from northwestern Greece. SOE agents who entered Albania then or later included Julian Amery
Julian Amery, Baron Amery of Lustleigh
Harold Julian Amery, Baron Amery of Lustleigh, PC was a British politician of the Conservative Party, who served as a Member of Parliament for 39 of the 42 years between 1950 and 1992. He was appointed to the Privy Council in 1960. He was created a life peer upon his retirement from the House of...

, Anthony Quayle
Anthony Quayle
Sir John Anthony Quayle, CBE was an English actor and director.-Early life:Quayle was born in Ainsdale, Southport, in Lancashire to a Manx family....

, David Smiley
David Smiley
Colonel David de Crespigny Smiley, LVO, OBE, MC & Bar was a British special forces and intelligence officer. He fought in the Second World War in Palestine, Iraq, Persia, Syria, Western Desert and with Special Operations Executive in Albania and Thailand.- Background :Smiley was the 4th and...

 and Neil "Billy" McLean
Neil McLean (politician)
Lieutenant-Colonel Neil Loudon Desmond McLean DSO, known as Billy McLean , was a British Army intelligence officer and politician who led a celebrated Special Operations Executive operation in Albania during the Second World War, and later attempted to overthrow Communism in the country...

. They discovered another internecine war between the Communist partisans under Enver Hoxha
Enver Hoxha
Enver Halil Hoxha was a Marxist–Leninist revolutionary andthe leader of Albania from the end of World War II until his death in 1985, as the First Secretary of the Party of Labour of Albania...

, and the republican Balli Kombëtar
Balli Kombëtar
Balli Kombëtar was an Albanian nationalist, anti-communist and anti-monarchy organization established in October 1939. It was led by Ali Këlcyra and Mit’hat Frashëri...

. As the latter had collaborated with the Italian occupiers, Hoxha gained Allied support.

SOE's envoy to Albania, Brigadier "Trotsky" Davies, was captured by the Germans early in 1944. Some SOE officers warned that Hoxha's aim was primacy after the war, rather than fighting Germans. They were ignored, but Albania was never a major factor in the effort against the Germans.

Czechoslovakia

SOE sent many missions into the Czech areas
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

 of the so-called Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
The Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was the majority ethnic-Czech protectorate which Nazi Germany established in the central parts of Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia in what is today the Czech Republic...

, and later into Slovakia
Slovakia
The Slovak Republic is a landlocked state in Central Europe. It has a population of over five million and an area of about . Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south...

. The most famous mission was Operation Anthropoid
Operation Anthropoid
Operation Anthropoid was the code name for the targeted killing of top German SS leader Reinhard Heydrich. He was the chief of the Reich Main Security Office , the acting Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, and a chief planner of the Final Solution, the Nazi German programme for the genocide of the...

, the assassination of SS leader Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

 in Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

. From 1942 to 1943 the Czechoslovaks
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

 had their own Special Training School (STS) at Chicheley Hall
Chicheley
Chicheley is a village and civil parish in the Borough of Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England. The village is about 2½ miles north east of Newport Pagnell.The village name is Anglo Saxon in origin, and means Cicca's clearing...

 in Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan home county in South East England. The county town is Aylesbury, the largest town in the ceremonial county is Milton Keynes and largest town in the non-metropolitan county is High Wycombe....

. In 1944, SOE sent men to support the Slovak National Uprising
Slovak National Uprising
The Slovak National Uprising or 1944 Uprising was an armed insurrection organized by the Slovak resistance movement during World War II. It was launched on August 29 1944 from Banská Bystrica in an attempt to overthrow the collaborationist Slovak State of Jozef Tiso...

.

Norway

In March 1941 a group performing commando raids in Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, Norwegian Independent Company 1
Norwegian Independent Company 1
Norwegian Independent Company 1 was a British SOE group formed in March 1941 originally for the purpose of performing commando raids during the Occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany. It was organized under the leadership of Captain Martin Linge...

 (NOR.I.C.1) was organised under leadership of Captain Martin Linge
Martin Linge
Martin Jensen Linge was a former Norwegian actor who, in World War II, became the commander of the Norwegian Independent Company 1 , formed in March 1941 for operations on behalf of the Special Operations Executive.-Biography:Martin Linge was born in Norddal, Møre og Romsdal County, Norway...

. Their initial raid in 1941 was Operation Archery
Operation Archery
Operation Archery, also known as the Vaagso Raid, was a British Combined Operations raid during World War II against German positions on Vaagso Island , Norway, on 27 December 1941....

, the best known raid was probably the Norwegian heavy water sabotage
Norwegian heavy water sabotage
The Norwegian heavy water sabotage was a series of actions undertaken by Norwegian saboteurs during World War II to prevent the German nuclear energy project from acquiring heavy water , which could be used to produce nuclear weapons...

. Communication lines with London were gradually improved so that by 1945, 64 radio operators were spread throughout Norway.

Denmark

Most of the actions conducted by the Danish resistance were railway sabotage to hinder German troop and material movements from and to Norway. However, there were examples of sabotage on a much larger scale especially by BOPA
BOPA
BOPA was a group of the Danish resistance movement operating at the time of the occupation of Denmark by Nazi Germany during the Second World War....

. In all over 1,000 operations were conducted from 1942 and onwards.

In October 1943 the Danish resistance also saved nearly all of the Danish Jews from certain death in German concentration camps. This was a massive overnight operation and is to this day recognised among Jews as one of the most significant displays of public defiance against the Germans.

The Danish resistance assisted SOE in its activities in neutral Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

. For example, SOE was able to obtain several shiploads of vital ball-bearings which had been interned in Swedish ports. The Danes also pioneered several secure communications methods; for example, a burst transmitter/receiver
Burst transmission
In telecommunication, the term burst transmission or data burst has the following meanings:# Any relatively high-bandwidth transmission over a short period of time...

 which transcribed Morse code
Morse code
Morse code is a method of transmitting textual information as a series of on-off tones, lights, or clicks that can be directly understood by a skilled listener or observer without special equipment...

 onto a paper tape faster than a human operator could handle.

There are a series of Historic Notes written by David Lampe in his "The Danish Resistance" also called "The Savage Canary".

Romania

In 1943 an SOE delegation was parachuted into Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 to instigate resistance against the Nazi occupation at "any cost" (Operation Autonomous
Operation Autonomous
Operation Autonomous was a clandestine operation carried out on the territory of Romania by the Special Operations Executive set up by Churchill for the duration of the war to assist local Resistance movements.-Participants:...

). The delegation, including Colonel Gardyne de Chastelain
Alfred Gardyne de Chastelain
Alfred George Gardyne de Chastelain, DSO, OBE was a British businessman, soldier, and secret agent, noted for his actions during World War II...

, Captain Silviu Meţianu and Ivor Porter
Ivor Porter
Ivor F. Porter CMG, OBE is a former British Ambassador and author.-Education:Porter was brought up in the Lake District and educated at Barrow-in-Furness Grammar School and Leeds University.-Special Operations Executive:...

, was captured by the Romanian Gendarmerie
Jandarmeria Româna
Jandarmeria Română is the military branch of the two Romanian police forces .The gendarmerie is subordinated to the Ministry of Interior and Administrative Reform and does not have responsibility for policing the Romanian Armed Forces...

 and held until the night of King Michael's Coup
King Michael's Coup
King Michael's Coup refers to the coup d'etat led by King Michael of Romania in 1944 against the pro-Nazi Romanian faction of Ion Antonescu, after the Axis front in Northeastern Romania collapsed under the Soviet offensive.-The coup:...

 on 23 August 1944.

Other operations in Europe

Through cooperation with the Special Operations Executive and the British intelligence service, a group of Jewish volunteers from Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

 were sent on missions to several countries in Nazi-occupied Europe from 1943 to 1945.

Abyssinia

Abyssinia
Ethiopian Empire
The Ethiopian Empire also known as Abyssinia, covered a geographical area that the present-day northern half of Ethiopia and Eritrea covers, and included in its peripheries Zeila, Djibouti, Yemen and Western Saudi Arabia...

 was the scene of some of SOE's earliest and most successful efforts. SOE organised a force of Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

n irregulars under Orde Charles Wingate
Orde Charles Wingate
Major-General Orde Charles Wingate, DSO and two bars , was a British Army officer and creator of special military units in Palestine in the 1930s and in World War II....

 in support of the exiled Emperor
Emperor
An emperor is a monarch, usually the sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the female equivalent, may indicate an emperor's wife or a woman who rules in her own right...

 Haile Selassie. This force (named Gideon Force
Gideon Force
The Gideon Force was a small British-led African regular force which acted as a Corps d'Elite amongst the irregular Ethiopian forces fighting the Italian occupation forces in Ethiopia during the East African Campaign of World War II...

 by Wingate) caused heavy casualties to the Italian occupation forces, and contributed to the successful British campaign there. Wingate was to use his experience to create the Chindits
Chindits
The Chindits were a British India "Special Force" that served in Burma and India in 1943 and 1944 during the Burma Campaign in World War II. They were formed into long range penetration groups trained to operate deep behind Japanese lines...

 in Burma.

Southeast Asia

As early as 1940, SOE was preparing plans for operations in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

. As in Europe, after initial Allied military disasters, SOE built up indigenous resistance organisations and guerrilla armies in enemy (Japanese) occupied territory. SOE also launched "Operation Remorse" (1944–45), which was ultimately aimed at protecting the economic and political status of Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

. Through Force 136
Force 136
Force 136 was the general cover name for a branch of the British World War II organization, the Special Operations Executive . The organisation was established to encourage and supply resistance movements in enemy-occupied territory, and occasionally mount clandestine sabotage operations...

, SOE engaged in covert trading of goods and currencies in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

. Its agents proved remarkably successful, raising £77m through their activities, which were used to provide assistance for Allied prisoners of war and, more controversially, to buy influence locally in order to facilitate a smooth return to pre-war conditions.

Later analysis and commentaries

The mode of warfare encouraged and promoted by SOE is considered by several modern commentators to have established the modern model that many alleged terrorist organisations emulate, pioneering most of the tactics, techniques and technologies that are the mainstays of terrorism as it is commonly known today.

Film

  • Now It Can Be Told (aka School for Danger) (1946)
Filming began in 1944 and starred real-life SOE agents Captain Harry Rée
Harry Rée
Harry Alfred Rée DSO OBE was a British educationist and wartime member of the Special Operations Executive.Harry Rée was born in England, the son of Dr Alfred Rée, a chemist who was descended from an illustrious Danish Jewish family, and Lavinia Dimmick, the American-born great granddaughter of...

 and Jacqueline Nearne. The film tells the story of the training of agents for SOE and their adventures in France. The training sequences were filmed using the SOE equipment at the training schools at Traigh and Garramor (South Morar) and at Ringway.
  • The Fight over the Heavy Water (1948)
A French/Norwegian black and white docu-film titled "La Bataille de l'eau lourde"/"Kampen om tungtvannet" (trans. "The Fight Over the Heavy Water"), featured some of the ‘original cast’, so to speak. Joachim Rønneberg has stated; "The Fight over Heavy Water was an honest attempt to describe history. On the other hand 'Heroes of Telemark' had little to do with reality."
  • Odette
    Odette (film)
    Odette is a 1950 film that was directed by Herbert Wilcox and used a screenplay by Warren Chetham-Strode. The film starred Anna Neagle as Odette Sansom, an Allied French-born heroine of World War II who joined the Special Operations Executive and was sent to France to work with the resistance...

     (1950)
Based on the book by Jerrard Tickell
Jerrard Tickell
Edward Jerrard Tickell was an Irish writer known for his novels and World War II historical books.Tickell was born in Dublin and educated in Tipperary and London. He joined the Royal Army Service Corps in 1940 and was commissioned in 1941, when he was appointed to the War Office...

 about Odette Sansom
Odette Sansom
Odette Sansom Hallowes GC, MBE, Chevalier de la légion d'honneur was an Allied heroine of the Second World War.-Early years:...

, starring Anna Neagle
Anna Neagle
Forming a professional alliance with Wilcox, Neagle played her first starring film role in the musical Goodnight Vienna , again with Jack Buchanan. With this film Neagle became an overnight favourite...

 and Trevor Howard
Trevor Howard
Trevor Howard , born Trevor Wallace Howard-Smith, was an English film, stage and television actor.-Early life:...

. The film includes an interview with Maurice Buckmaster
Maurice Buckmaster
Colonel Maurice James Buckmaster OBE was the leader of the French section of Special Operations Executive and was awarded the Croix de Guerre. He was a corporate manager with the French branch of the Ford Motor Company, in the postwar years serving in Dagenham...

, head of F-Section, SOE.
  • Ill Met by Moonlight (film) (1957)
The Powell and Pressburger
Powell and Pressburger
The British film-making partnership of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, also known as The Archers, made a series of influential films in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1981 they were recognized for their contributions to British cinema with the BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award, the most prestigious...

 film, (released as Night Ambush in the States), based on the book
Ill Met by Moonlight
Ill Met by Moonlight , also known as Night Ambush, is a film by the British writer-director-producer team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the last film they made together through their Archers production company...

 by W. Stanley Moss
W. Stanley Moss
Ivan William "Billy" Stanley Moss MC , was a British army officer in World War II, and later a successful writer, broadcaster, journalist and traveller. He served with the Coldstream Guards and the Special Operations Executive . He was a best-selling author in the 1950s, based both on his novels...

, starring Dirk Bogarde
Dirk Bogarde
Sir Dirk Bogarde was an English actor and novelist. Initially a matinee idol in such films as Doctor in the House and other Rank Organisation pictures, Bogarde later acted in art-house films such as Death in Venice...

 and Marius Goring
Marius Goring
Marius Goring CBE was an English stage and cinema actor. He is most often remembered for the four films he did with Powell & Pressburger, particularly as Conductor 71 in A Matter of Life and Death and as Julian Craster in The Red Shoes...

. It dramatises the true story of the capture of a German general by Patrick Leigh Fermor
Patrick Leigh Fermor
Sir Patrick "Paddy" Michael Leigh Fermor, DSO, OBE was a British author, scholar and soldier, who played a prominent role behind the lines in the Cretan resistance during World War II. He was widely regarded as "Britain's greatest living travel writer", with books including his classic A Time of...

 and W. Stanley Moss.
  • Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) is a well-known classic British-made war-drama set in Burma during World War II, during the construction of the Siam–Burma railway through virgin jungle and endless hills and gorges, using malnourished, mistreated allied prisoners of war. A counter-story in the film, which collides with the main story at the climax, relates to a mission to destroy the newly-constructed railway bridge by a fictitious cloak and dagger sabotage organisation called 'Force 316', whose training base is in Ceylon. In fact, this is a thinly-disguised reference to the real-life Force 136
    Force 136
    Force 136 was the general cover name for a branch of the British World War II organization, the Special Operations Executive . The organisation was established to encourage and supply resistance movements in enemy-occupied territory, and occasionally mount clandestine sabotage operations...

    , part of SOE, who indeed had wartime jungle-training facilities in Ceylon at M.E. 25—Horona.
  • Carve Her Name with Pride
    Carve Her Name with Pride
    Carve Her Name with Pride is a 1958 British drama film based on the book of the same name by R.J. Minney. Set during World War II, the film is based on the true story of the heroism of Special Operations Executive agent Violette Szabo, with Virginia McKenna in the lead role.The film includes the...

     (1958)
Based on the book by R.J. Minney about Violette Szabo
Violette Szabo
Violette Reine Elizabeth Bushell Szabo, GC, was a Second World War French-British secret agent.-Early life and marriage:...

, starring Paul Scofield
Paul Scofield
David Paul Scofield, CH, CBE , better known as Paul Scofield, was an English actor of stage and screen...

 and Virginia McKenna
Virginia McKenna
Virginia A. McKenna OBE is a British stage and screen actress, author and wildlife campaigner.-Early career:McKenna trained as an actress at the Central School of Speech and Drama then worked on stage in London's West End theatres before making her motion picture debut in 1952...

.
  • The Guns of Navarone
    The Guns of Navarone (film)
    The Guns of Navarone is a 1961 British-American Action/Adventure war film based on the 1957 novel of the same name about the Dodecanese Campaign of World War II by Scottish thriller writer Alistair MacLean. It stars Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn, along with Anthony Quayle and Stanley...

     (1961)
Based on a well-known 1957 novel about World War II by Scottish thriller writer Alistair MacLean
Alistair MacLean
Alistair Stuart MacLean was a Scottish novelist who wrote popular thrillers or adventure stories, the best known of which are perhaps The Guns of Navarone, Ice Station Zebra and Where Eagles Dare, all three having been made into successful films...

. It starred Gregory Peck
Gregory Peck
Eldred Gregory Peck was an American actor.One of 20th Century Fox's most popular film stars from the 1940s to the 1960s, Peck continued to play important roles well into the 1980s. His notable performances include that of Atticus Finch in the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird, for which he won an...

, David Niven
David Niven
James David Graham Niven , known as David Niven, was a British actor and novelist, best known for his roles as Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days and Sir Charles Lytton, a.k.a. "the Phantom", in The Pink Panther...

 and Anthony Quinn
Anthony Quinn
Antonio Rodolfo Quinn-Oaxaca , more commonly known as Anthony Quinn, was a Mexican American actor, as well as a painter and writer...

, along with Anthony Quayle
Anthony Quayle
Sir John Anthony Quayle, CBE was an English actor and director.-Early life:Quayle was born in Ainsdale, Southport, in Lancashire to a Manx family....

 (the same Anthony Quayle listed above as serving with SOE in Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

) and Stanley Baker
Stanley Baker
Sir Stanley Baker was a Welsh actor and film producer.-Early career:William Stanley Baker was born in Ferndale, Rhondda Valley, Wales. In the mid-1930s his parents moved to London, where Baker spent most of his formative years...

. The book and the film share the same basic plot: the efforts of an Allied commando team to destroy a seemingly impregnable German fortress that threatens Allied naval ships in the Aegean Sea, and prevents 2,000 isolated British troops from being rescued, that were holed up on the island of Kheros in the Aegean, near Turkey.
  • Moonstrike
    Moonstrike
    Moonstrike is a British television series produced by the BBC in 1963.The series was an anthology programme: a collection of self-contained stories about acts of resistance in occupied Europe during the Second World War...

     (1963)
A BBC television drama series comprising self-contained episodes of SOE's work in occupied Europe.
  • The Heroes of Telemark
    The Heroes of Telemark
    The Heroes of Telemark is a 1965 war film directed by Anthony Mann based on the true story of the Norwegian heavy water sabotage during World War II...

     (1965)
Based on an SOE operation to sabotage the heavy water
Heavy water
Heavy water is water highly enriched in the hydrogen isotope deuterium; e.g., heavy water used in CANDU reactors is 99.75% enriched by hydrogen atom-fraction...

 plant at Rjukan
Rjukan
Rjukan is a town and the administrative center of Tinn municipality in Telemark . It is situated in Vestfjorddalen, between Møsvatn and Tinnsjå, and got its name after Rjukanfossen west of the town. The Tinn municipality council granted township status for Rjukan in 1996. The town has 3 386...

, Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 in 1943.
  • Operation Crossbow
    Operation Crossbow (film)
    Operation Crossbow is a British 1965 spy thriller and World War II film, made from a story from Duilio Coletti and Vittoriano Petrilli and filmed at MGM-British Studios...

     (1965)
A spy thriller and World War II film, made from a story from Duilio Coletti and Vittoriano Petrilli. It is a highly fictionalised account of the real-life Operation Crossbow
Operation Crossbow
Crossbow was the code name of the World War II campaign of Anglo-American "operations against all phases of the German long-range weapons programme—operations against research and development of the weapons, their manufacture, transportation and their launching sites, and against missiles in flight"...

, but it does touch on the main aspects of the operation.
  • Where Eagles Dare
    Where Eagles Dare
    Where Eagles Dare is a 1968 World War II action-adventure spy film starring Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood and Mary Ure. It was directed by Brian G. Hutton and shot on location in Upper Austria and Bavaria....

     (1968)
A spy film directed by Brian G. Hutton
Brian G. Hutton
Brian G. Hutton is a film director whose most notable credit is for the 1970 action classic Kelly's Heroes.-Filmography:*Wild Seed *The Pad and How to Use It *Sol Madrid...

 and featuring Richard Burton
Richard Burton
Richard Burton, CBE was a Welsh actor. He was nominated seven times for an Academy Award, six of which were for Best Actor in a Leading Role , and was a recipient of BAFTA, Golden Globe and Tony Awards for Best Actor. Although never trained as an actor, Burton was, at one time, the highest-paid...

, Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood
Clinton "Clint" Eastwood, Jr. is an American film actor, director, producer, composer and politician. Eastwood first came to prominence as a supporting cast member in the TV series Rawhide...

, and Mary Ure
Mary Ure
Eileen Mary Ure was a Scottish actress of stage and film.-Early life:Born in Glasgow where she studied at the school of drama, Ure was the daughter of civil engineer Colin McGregor Ure and Edith Swinburne. She went to the independent Mount School in York and trained for the stage at the Central...

. The film's screenplay and eponymous 1967 best-selling novel were written almost simultaneously by Alistair MacLean.
  • Operation Daybreak
    Operation Daybreak
    Operation Daybreak is a 1975 World War II film based on the true story of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague - starring Anthony Andrews, Timothy Bottoms and Martin Shaw. It was directed by Lewis Gilbert and shot mostly on location in Prague. It was adapted from the book Seven Men...

     (1976)
Based upon a true, dangerous operation in May 1942 to drop a small group of Czech and Slovak S.O.E. agents into their own occupied country with the singular deadly mission to assassinate Reichsführer-SS
Reichsführer-SS
was a special SS rank that existed between the years of 1925 and 1945. Reichsführer-SS was a title from 1925 to 1933 and, after 1934, the highest rank of the German Schutzstaffel .-Definition:...

 Heinrich Himmler's protégé, Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

, Reichsprotektor (representing the Nazi protectorate over the Czech puppet-state) of Bohemia and Moravia, hated as The Butcher of Prague. The mission succeeded, but with tragic results.
  • Nancy Wake Codename: The White Mouse (1987)
A docudrama
Docudrama
In film, television programming and staged theatre, docudrama is a documentary-style genre that features dramatized re-enactments of actual historical events. As a neologism, the term is often confused with docufiction....

 about Nancy Wake
Nancy Wake
Nancy Grace Augusta Wake, AC, GM , served as a British agent during the later part of World War II. She became a leading figure in the maquis groups of the French Resistance and was one of the Allies' most decorated servicewomen of the war.-Early life:Born in Roseneath, Wellington, New Zealand in...

's work for SOE, partly narrated by herself.
  • Wish Me Luck
    Wish Me Luck
    Wish Me Luck is a British television drama about the exploits of British women undercover agents during the Second World War. The series was made by London Weekend Television for the ITV network between 1987 and 1989 and created by Lavinia Warner and Jill Hyem, who had previously produced and...

     (1987)
A television series that was broadcast between 1987 and 1990 featuring the exploits of the women and, less frequently, the men of SOE, which was renamed the 'Outfit'.
  • Charlotte Gray
    Charlotte Gray (film)
    Charlotte Gray is a 2001 British-Australian-German feature film directed by Gillian Armstrong, based on the novel of the same name by Sebastian Faulks...

    , (2001)
Based on a novel by Sebastian Faulks
Sebastian Faulks
-Early life:Faulks was born on 20 April 1953 in Donnington, Berkshire to Peter Faulks and Pamela . Edward Faulks, Baron Faulks, is his older brother. He was educated at Elstree School, Reading and went on to Wellington College, Berkshire...

.
  • Churchill's Secret Army
A Documentary about the SOE broadcast on Channel 4 in 2001.
  • Foyle's War
    Foyle's War
    Foyle's War is a British detective drama television series set during World War II, created by screenwriter and author Anthony Horowitz, and was commissioned by ITV after the long-running series Inspector Morse came to an end in 2000. It has aired on ITV since 2002...

    , episode "The French Drop" (2004)
Foyle, a detective in England during WWII, investigates what turns out to be domestic activity of the SOE. The series is known for its attention to historical detail, and many aspects of the real-life SOE are shown.
  • Robert and the Shadows, French Documentary on "France Television" (2004)
Did General De Gaulle tell the whole truth about the French resistance ? This is the purpose of this documentary. Jean Marie Barrere, the french director, uses the story of his own grand father (Robert) to tell the French what SOE did at that time. Robert, was a french teacher based in the south west of France and he worked with the famous SOE agent George Reginald Starr (Hilaire, Wheelwright circuit).
  • The 11th Day (2006)
A documentary film, with recreation, of the Resistance, on the island of Crete, during the Second World War. Includes a detailed interview with Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor
Patrick Leigh Fermor
Sir Patrick "Paddy" Michael Leigh Fermor, DSO, OBE was a British author, scholar and soldier, who played a prominent role behind the lines in the Cretan resistance during World War II. He was widely regarded as "Britain's greatest living travel writer", with books including his classic A Time of...

 with recreation of the kidnapping of German Major General Kreipe
Heinrich Kreipe
Karl Heinrich Georg Ferdinand Kreipe was a German general, who served in World War II. He is most famous for his spectacular abduction by British and Cretan resistance fighters from occupied Crete in April 1944....

.
  • The Bonzos (2008)
A BBC documentary film about the men sent to rescue Hitler's hoard of looted art—including works by Titian, Tintoretto and Van Gogh—which the Nazis had stripped from Europe's greatest galleries and museums and hidden in a salt mine in the town of Alt Aussee in Austria. Including archive footage, eyewitness testimony and contributions from historians.
  • Les Femmes de l'Ombre
    Les Femmes de l'ombre
    Female Agents is a French film about female resistance fighters in the Second World War...

A French film about five SOE female agents and their contribution towards the D-Day
D-Day
D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

 invasions.
  • Age Of Heroes
    Age of Heroes
    Age of Heroes is a 2009 Iranian video game. Created by the Modern Industry Center, it was released by Ras Games and the National Foundation for Computer Games with support from the Ferdowsi Foundation.The plotline of Age of Heroes centers around the efforts of Atar, son of Pishad and commander of...

     (2011)
A film about the formation of a special operations team and their mission to destroy Nazi radar equipment in Norway during WWII.

Novels

  • Author Ian Fleming
    Ian Fleming
    Ian Lancaster Fleming was a British author, journalist and Naval Intelligence Officer.Fleming is best known for creating the fictional British spy James Bond and for a series of twelve novels and nine short stories about the character, one of the biggest-selling series of fictional books of...

    , who knew both Maurice Buckmaster
    Maurice Buckmaster
    Colonel Maurice James Buckmaster OBE was the leader of the French section of Special Operations Executive and was awarded the Croix de Guerre. He was a corporate manager with the French branch of the Ford Motor Company, in the postwar years serving in Dagenham...

     and Vera Atkins
    Vera Atkins
    Vera Atkins, CBE was a British Intelligence Officer during World War II.-Early life:...

    , is reputed to have used at least parts of them to create "M
    M (James Bond)
    M is a fictional character in Ian Fleming's James Bond series, as well as the films in the Bond franchise. The head of MI6 and Bond's superior, M has been portrayed by three actors in the official Bond film series: Bernard Lee, Robert Brown and since 1995 by Judi Dench. Background =Ian Fleming...

    ", and "Miss Moneypenny
    Miss Moneypenny
    Jane Moneypenny, better known as Miss Moneypenny, is a fictional character in the James Bond novels and films. She is secretary to M, who is Bond's boss and head of the British Secret Service...

    " in his James Bond
    James Bond
    James Bond, code name 007, is a fictional character created in 1953 by writer Ian Fleming, who featured him in twelve novels and two short story collections. There have been a six other authors who wrote authorised Bond novels or novelizations after Fleming's death in 1964: Kingsley Amis,...

     books. In his first Bond novel, Casino Royale
    Casino Royale (novel)
    Casino Royale is Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel. It paved the way for a further eleven novels by Fleming himself, in addition to two short story collections, followed by many "continuation" Bond novels by other authors....

    , Fleming is said to have based the "Vesper Lynd" character on the SOE agent, Christine Granville. Other agents that Fleming used for his Bond character were Duane Hudson
    Duane Hudson
    Colonel Duane Tyrell Hudson DSO OBE was a British SOE officer who fought in Yugoslavia during World War II.Hudson, a mining engineer, was a rugby player, swimmer, rider, skier, boxer, and wrestler. He attended St. Andrew's College in Grahamstown, South Africa. He spoke six foreign languages and...

     and Andrew Croft
    Andrew Croft
    Colonel Noel Andrew Cotton Croft DSO OBE , was a member of the Special Operations Executive in the Second World War, with operations in Norway and Corsica, as well as Military attaché to Sweden, an explorer, holding the longest self-sustaining journey in the Guinness Book of Records for more than...

    . Chief of SOE Technical Branch and later GS Branch MI6, Charles Bovill was represented in the Bond books as 'Q'.
  • Tim Powers
    Tim Powers
    Timothy Thomas "Tim" Powers is an American science fiction and fantasy author. Powers has won the World Fantasy Award twice for his critically acclaimed novels Last Call and Declare...

    ' Declare
    Declare
    Declare is a supernatural spy novel by Tim Powers. It presents a secret history of the Cold War in which an agent for a secret British spy organization learns the true nature of several beings living on Mount Ararat. In this he is opposed by real-life communist traitor Kim Philby, who did travel...

     and Charles Stross
    Charles Stross
    Charles David George "Charlie" Stross is a British writer of science fiction, Lovecraftian horror and fantasy. He was born in Leeds.Stross specialises in hard science fiction and space opera...

    's The Atrocity Archives
    The Atrocity Archives
    The Atrocity Archives contains two stories by British author Charles Stross, consisting of the short novel The Atrocity Archive and The Concrete Jungle, which won the 2005 Hugo Award for Best Novella.The stories are Lovecraftian spy thrillers involving a secret history of the 20th century,...

    . Fictional versions of SOE turn up as the organisation in charge of occult activities in these books.
  • Gravity's Rainbow
    Gravity's Rainbow
    Gravity's Rainbow is a postmodern novel written by Thomas Pynchon and first published on February 28, 1973.The narrative is set primarily in Europe at the end of World War II and centers on the design, production and dispatch of V-2 rockets by the German military, and, in particular, the quest...

     by Thomas Pynchon
    Thomas Pynchon
    Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr. is an American novelist. For his most praised novel, Gravity's Rainbow, Pynchon received the National Book Award, and is regularly cited as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature...

    .
  • Jackdaws
    Jackdaws
    Jackdaws is a World War II spy thriller written by British novelist Ken Follett. It was published in hardcover format in 2001 by the Macmillan. It was reissued as a paperback book by Signet Books in 2002.- Plot teaser :...

     by Ken Follett
    Ken Follett
    Ken Follett is a Welsh author of thrillers and historical novels. He has sold more than 100 million copies of his works. Four of his books have reached the number 1 ranking on the New York Times best-seller list: The Key to Rebecca, Lie Down with Lions, Triple, and World Without End.-Early...

    . Felicity Clairet, a female SOE agent leads an all women team into France to blow up a telephone exchange.
  • Night of the Fox, Cold Harbour and Flight of Eagles
    Flight of Eagles
    Flight of Eagles is a novel by Jack Higgins, set in World War II.-Plot summary:Jack Kelso, an American ace pilot in World War 1, is shot down and nursed back to health by a German nurse, Baroness Elsa von Halder. They marry and return to America after the war...

     by Jack Higgins
    Jack Higgins
    Jack Higgins is the principal pseudonym of UK novelist Harry Patterson. Patterson is the author of more than 60 novels. As Higgins, most have been thrillers of various types and, since his breakthrough novel The Eagle Has Landed in 1975, nearly all have been bestsellers...

    .
  • The Tiger Claw by Shauna Singh Baldwin
    Shauna Singh Baldwin
    Shauna Singh Baldwin is a Canadian-American novelist of Indian descent. Her 2000 novel What the Body Remembers won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize , and her 2004 novel The Tiger Claw was nominated for the Giller Prize. She currently lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin...

     features an SOE agent based on Noor Inayat Khan
    Noor Inayat Khan
    Assistant Section Officer Noor Inayat Khan / Nora Baker, GC, MBE , usually known as Noor Inayat Khan was of Indian Muslim origin...

    .
  • The Secret Army by Robert Muchamore
    Robert Muchamore
    Robert Kilgore Muchamore is an English author, most notable for writing the CHERUB and Henderson's Boys novels.-Prior to writing:...

     features Air Vice Marshall Walker who is the Head of the SOE.
  • Double Cross Blind by Joel Ross, an American helps a female SOE agent stop a Nazi plot that could turn the tide of the war.

Other Media

  • In the 2003 video game Secret Weapons Over Normandy
    Secret Weapons Over Normandy
    Secret Weapons Over Normandy or is a World War II-based arcade flight simulation video game released on November 18, 2003. Published by LucasArts and developed by Totally Games, the game is composed of 15 objective-based missions set in 1940s European, North African, and the Pacific theatres of war...

    , the main protagonist, James Chase, is a member of the Battlehawks, an elite RAF squadron assigned to the SOE.
  • The 2009 video game The Saboteur, which takes place in German-occupied Paris circa 1940, revolves around Sean Devlin, an analogue of real SOE agent William Grover-Williams
    William Grover-Williams
    William Charles Frederick Grover-Williams , also known as "W Williams", was a Grand Prix motor racing driver and special agent who worked for the Special Operations Executive inside France. He organized and coordinated the Chestnut network...

    . Devlin is depicted, however, as a member of the French Resistance
    French Resistance
    The French Resistance is the name used to denote the collection of French resistance movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and against the collaborationist Vichy régime during World War II...

    , who works unofficially for the SOE in exchange for information. In addition, supply crates from the SOE are hidden all over Paris and serve as an in-game "collectible".
  • A Secret Army Exhibition at Beaulieu in Hampshire, UK tells the story of the British and overseas members of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) who completed their secret training at the Beaulieu ‘Finishing School’ during World War ll

See also

  • List of SOE Agents
  • List of SOE establishments
  • Resistance during World War II
    Resistance during World War II
    Resistance movements during World War II occurred in every occupied country by a variety of means, ranging from non-cooperation, disinformation and propaganda to hiding crashed pilots and even to outright warfare and the recapturing of towns...

  • Cichociemni
    Cichociemni
    Cichociemni were elite special-operations paratroops of the Polish Home Army of the Polish Army in exile, created in Great Britain during World War II to operate in occupied Poland.-The name:...

  • Edmund Charaszkiewicz
    Edmund Charaszkiewicz
    Edmund Kalikst Eugeniusz Charaszkiewicz was a Polish military intelligence officer who specialized in clandestine warfare. Between the World Wars, he helped establish Poland's interbellum borders in conflicts over territory with Poland's neighbors....

  • John Dolphin
    John Dolphin
    John Robert Vernon Dolphin CBE was a British engineer and inventor who became the Commanding Officer of the top secret Second World War Special Operations Executive 'Station IX' where specialist military equipment was developed. During his time there his inventions included the Welman midget...

     CBE
  • MI5
    MI5
    The Security Service, commonly known as MI5 , is the United Kingdom's internal counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its core intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service focused on foreign threats, Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence...

  • MI6
  • British military history
    British military history
    The Military history of Britain, including the military history of the United Kingdom and the military history of the island of Great Britain, is discussed in the following articles:...

  • British military history of World War II
  • Special Allied Airborne Reconnaissance Force
    Special Allied Airborne Reconnaissance Force
    In February 1945, when the defeat of Germany appeared imminent, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force was provided with a mandate for dispatching troops whose mission would be to secure the safety of Allied Prisoners Of War and to provide for their early evacuation.As a result of its...

  • CIA's Special Activities Division
    Special Activities Division
    The Special Activities Division is a division in the United States Central Intelligence Agency's National Clandestine Service responsible for covert operations known as "special activities"...

  • Z Special Unit
    Z Special Unit
    Z Special Unit was a joint Allied special forces unit formed during the Second World War to operate behind Japanese lines in South East Asia...

  • Secret Army Exhibition at Beaulieu

Official publications / academic histories

Covers Commando and SOE training in the Highlands of Scotland. It describes the origins of the irregular warfare training at Inverailort House under MI(R) then the move of SOE training to the nearby Arisaig and Morar area.
SOE had its own laboratories and workshops inventing and developing new weapons, explosives and sabotage techniques.
Official history commissioned 1980, companion to Foot, SOE, with access to papers (though researched 20 years later than Foot's book, when many participants had died, see Preface)
The best book to read for an overview of SOE and its methods. Foot won the Croix de Guerre as a SAS operative in Brittany, later becoming Professor of Modern History at Manchester University and an official historian of the SOE. All his SOE books are well worth reading.
(orig. 1966, Government Official Histories, pub Frank Cass revised edition 2000, further edition 2004. Written with access to F Section files, (according to Ian Dear, see below) later revised
Written at the end of WW2 for the British Government's own use without any intention of publication—in effect a confidential "official history".
Authentic training manuals used to prepare agents covering the clandestine skills of disguise, surveillance, burglary, interrogation, close combat, and assassination. Also published as "How to be a Spy".
Professor David Stafford has written several books on resistance and the secret war, and contributed the foreword for MFD Foot's book.
First results of a research on the newly released Austrian SOE files of the Public Record Office Kew

First-hand accounts by those who served with SOE

  • Dorothy Baden-Powell. They Also Serve: An SOE Agent in the WRNS (Robert Hale Ltd 2004 ISBN 978-0709077152)
A first hand account of one woman's experiences during World War Two within the Special Operations Executive and the WRNS
Women's Royal Naval Service
The Women's Royal Naval Service was the women's branch of the Royal Navy.Members included cooks, clerks, wireless telegraphists, radar plotters, weapons analysts, range assessors, electricians and air mechanics...

.
  • Freddie Spencer Chapman
    Freddie Spencer Chapman
    Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Spencer Chapman, DSO & Bar, ED was a British Army officer and World War II veteran, most famous for his exploits behind enemy lines in Japanese occupied Malaya...

    . The Jungle is Neutral (Chatto and Windus 1949)
Chapman set up first jungle warfare school and operated in Malaya behind Japanese lines. Key figure in SOE in Far East.
  • Arthur Christie. Mission Scapula SOE in the Far East ISBN 0-9547010-0-3.
A true story about an ordinary soldier seconded into MI5 and sent on a mission to Singapore just before it fell. With Freddy Spencer-Chapman
  • Basil Davidson
    Basil Davidson
    Basil Risbridger Davidson MC was a British historian, writer and Africanist, particularly knowledgeable on the subject of Portuguese Africa prior to the 1974 Carnation Revolution....

    . Special Operations Europe: Scenes from the Anti-Nazi War. Irwin Pub, 1980 ISBN 0-575-02820-3
  • Basil Davidson
    Basil Davidson
    Basil Risbridger Davidson MC was a British historian, writer and Africanist, particularly knowledgeable on the subject of Portuguese Africa prior to the 1974 Carnation Revolution....

    . Partisan Picture. Bedford, 1946.
  • Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor
    Patrick Leigh Fermor
    Sir Patrick "Paddy" Michael Leigh Fermor, DSO, OBE was a British author, scholar and soldier, who played a prominent role behind the lines in the Cretan resistance during World War II. He was widely regarded as "Britain's greatest living travel writer", with books including his classic A Time of...

    . The 11th Day (Archangel Films 2006)
Firsthand documentary account of the kidnapping of Major General Heinrich Kreipe
Heinrich Kreipe
Karl Heinrich Georg Ferdinand Kreipe was a German general, who served in World War II. He is most famous for his spectacular abduction by British and Cretan resistance fighters from occupied Crete in April 1944....

, the German army commander on Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

.
  • Patrick Howarth. Undercover (Routledge, Kegan Paul 1980 ISBN 0-7100-0573-3, Phoenix Press 2000 ISBN 1-84212-240-1)
Covers the stories of a number of operatives, many known personally by Howarth, who was one of SOE’s founding members responsible for sevearl years for organising agent training in UK. Invaluable seven page bibliography of histories and memoirs.
  • David Howarth. The Shetland Bus. (Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd 1950)
Account of the Norwegian vessels which kept Britain in touch with the Norwegian resistance
  • Andre Hue. The Next Moon (Viking 2004 ISBN 0-670-91478-9, Penguin 2005 ISBN 0-14-101580-2) Foreword MRD Foot.
First hand story of agent dropped into Brittany to organise resistance activities before and after D-Day.
  • Fitzroy Maclean. Eastern Approaches
    Eastern Approaches
    Eastern Approaches is an autobiographical account of the early career of Fitzroy Maclean. It is divided into three parts: his life as a junior diplomat in Moscow and his travels in the Soviet Union, especially the forbidden zones of Central Asia; his exploits in the British Army and SAS in the...

     (Jonathan Cape 1949, Penguin 1991 ISBN 0-14-013271-6)
Author witnessed SOE’s campaign with Yugoslav partisans as Churchill’s representative to Tito.
  • Leo Marks
    Leo Marks
    Leopold Samuel Marks was an English cryptographer, screenwriter and playwright.-Early life:Born the son of an antiquarian bookseller in London, he was first introduced to cryptography when his father showed him a copy of Edgar Allan Poe's story, "The Gold-Bug"...

    . Between Silk and Cyanide
    Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's Story 1941-1945
    Between Silk and Cyanide is the title of a book by former Special Operations Executive cryptographer Leo Marks, describing his work during the Second World War. More fully, its title is Between Silk and Cyanide, The Story of SOE's Code War...

     (Harper Collins 1998 ISBN 0-00-255944-7)
Marks was the Head of Codes at SOE. He gives easily comprehensible introduction to codes, their practical use in the field, and his struggle to improve encryption methods. Engaging accounts of agents including Noor Khan
Noor Inayat Khan
Assistant Section Officer Noor Inayat Khan / Nora Baker, GC, MBE , usually known as Noor Inayat Khan was of Indian Muslim origin...

, Violette Szabo
Violette Szabo
Violette Reine Elizabeth Bushell Szabo, GC, was a Second World War French-British secret agent.-Early life and marriage:...

, and a great deal of information on his friend Yeo-Thomas
F. F. E. Yeo-Thomas
Wing Commander Forest Frederick Edward "Tommy" Yeo-Thomas, GC, MC & Bar, Croix de guerre , Commandeur of the Légion d'honneur, was the British Special Operations Executive agent codenamed "The White Rabbit" during World War II...

.
  • William Stanley Moss
    W. Stanley Moss
    Ivan William "Billy" Stanley Moss MC , was a British army officer in World War II, and later a successful writer, broadcaster, journalist and traveller. He served with the Coldstream Guards and the Special Operations Executive . He was a best-selling author in the 1950s, based both on his novels...

    . Ill Met by Moonlight
    Ill Met by Moonlight
    Ill Met by Moonlight , also known as Night Ambush, is a film by the British writer-director-producer team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the last film they made together through their Archers production company...

     (Harrap 1950)
Firsthand account of Moss and Patrick Leigh Fermor’s kidnapping of Major General Heinrich Kreipe
Heinrich Kreipe
Karl Heinrich Georg Ferdinand Kreipe was a German general, who served in World War II. He is most famous for his spectacular abduction by British and Cretan resistance fighters from occupied Crete in April 1944....

, the German army commander on Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

. Later turned into a film of the same title.
  • Jasper Rootham
    Jasper Rootham
    Jasper St John Rootham , was a civil servant, soldier, central banker, merchant banker, writer and poet.-Childhood and adolescence:Rootham was an only child....

    . Miss-Fire (Chatto & Windus 1946)
Account of the SOE's mission to Yugoslavia in support of Mihailović
Draža Mihailovic
Dragoljub "Draža" Mihailović was a Yugoslav Serbian general during World War II...

 and the Chetniks
Chetniks
Chetniks, or the Chetnik movement , were Serbian nationalist and royalist paramilitary organizations from the first half of the 20th century. The Chetniks were formed as a Serbian resistance against the Ottoman Empire in 1904, and participated in the Balkan Wars, World War I, and World War II...

.
  • David Smiley
    David Smiley
    Colonel David de Crespigny Smiley, LVO, OBE, MC & Bar was a British special forces and intelligence officer. He fought in the Second World War in Palestine, Iraq, Persia, Syria, Western Desert and with Special Operations Executive in Albania and Thailand.- Background :Smiley was the 4th and...

    . Albanian Assignment (Sphere Books Ltd. 1984 ISBN 0-7221-7933-2)
Account of SOE's missions to Albania.
  • Sweet-Escott, Bickham. Baker Street Irregular. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1965.
  • Nancy Wake
    Nancy Wake
    Nancy Grace Augusta Wake, AC, GM , served as a British agent during the later part of World War II. She became a leading figure in the maquis groups of the French Resistance and was one of the Allies' most decorated servicewomen of the war.-Early life:Born in Roseneath, Wellington, New Zealand in...

    . The White Mouse: The Autobiography of the Woman the Gestapo called The White Mouse (Macmillan 1986 ISBN 978-0333400999)
Account of a female SOE field agents' experiences in the F Section.

Biographies / popular books by authors without personal SOE experience

  • Nigel Perrin Spirit of Resistance: The Life of SOE Agent Harry Peulevé DSO MC (Pen and Sword 2008) ISBN 978-1844158553
Biography of the remarkable F Section agent Harry Peulevé
Harry Peulevé
Henri Leonard Thomas Peulevé DSO, MC was an agent of the Special Operations Executive , who undertook two missions in occupied France and escaped from Buchenwald concentration camp.-Early life:...

, who undertook two missions in France and was one of the few to escape Buchenwald concentration camp
Buchenwald concentration camp
Buchenwald concentration camp was a German Nazi concentration camp established on the Ettersberg near Weimar, Germany, in July 1937, one of the first and the largest of the concentration camps on German soil.Camp prisoners from all over Europe and Russia—Jews, non-Jewish Poles and Slovenes,...

.
  • William Stevenson (Canadian writer)
    William Stevenson (Canadian writer)
    William Stevenson is a British-born Canadian author and journalist.His 1976 book A Man Called Intrepid was about William Stephenson and was a best-seller...

     Spymistress: The Life of Vera Atkins, the Greatest Female Secret Agent of World War II Arcade Publishing (2006) ISBN 978-1559707633 biography of Vera Atkins
    Vera Atkins
    Vera Atkins, CBE was a British Intelligence Officer during World War II.-Early life:...

    , of whom James Bond
    James Bond
    James Bond, code name 007, is a fictional character created in 1953 by writer Ian Fleming, who featured him in twelve novels and two short story collections. There have been a six other authors who wrote authorised Bond novels or novelizations after Fleming's death in 1964: Kingsley Amis,...

     creator Ian Fleming
    Ian Fleming
    Ian Lancaster Fleming was a British author, journalist and Naval Intelligence Officer.Fleming is best known for creating the fictional British spy James Bond and for a series of twelve novels and nine short stories about the character, one of the biggest-selling series of fictional books of...

     said, "In the real world of spies, Vera Atkins
    Vera Atkins
    Vera Atkins, CBE was a British Intelligence Officer during World War II.-Early life:...

     was the boss."
  • Marcus Binney
    Marcus Binney
    Marcus Binney, CBE is a British architectural historian and author. He is best known for his conservation work regarding Britain's heritage.-Early and family life:...

     The Women Who Lived For Danger HarperCollins
    HarperCollins
    HarperCollins is a publishing company owned by News Corporation. It is the combination of the publishers William Collins, Sons and Co Ltd, a British company, and Harper & Row, an American company, itself the result of an earlier merger of Harper & Brothers and Row, Peterson & Company. The worldwide...

     (2003) ISBN 0-06-054087-7
  • Beryl Escott A Quiet Courage: The story of SOE's women agents in France (Patrick Stevens Ltd 1991) ISBN 978-1852602895
  • Norman Franks
    Norman Franks
    Norman Leslie Robert Franks is an English writer who specialises in aviation books on the pilots and squadrons of World Wars I and II.-Biography:...

     Double Mission: Fighter Pilot and SOE Agent, Manfred Czernin (William Kimber, London, 1976) ISBN 0 7183 02540
  • Liane Jones Mission Improbable: Salute to the Royal Air Force Women of Special Operations Executive in Wartime France (Bantam Press 1990) ISBN 978-0593016633
  • R.J. Minney.Carve Her Name with Pride
    Carve Her Name with Pride
    Carve Her Name with Pride is a 1958 British drama film based on the book of the same name by R.J. Minney. Set during World War II, the film is based on the true story of the heroism of Special Operations Executive agent Violette Szabo, with Virginia McKenna in the lead role.The film includes the...

     (1956), tells the story of Violette Szabo
    Violette Szabo
    Violette Reine Elizabeth Bushell Szabo, GC, was a Second World War French-British secret agent.-Early life and marriage:...

    .
  • Jerrard Tickell
    Jerrard Tickell
    Edward Jerrard Tickell was an Irish writer known for his novels and World War II historical books.Tickell was born in Dublin and educated in Tipperary and London. He joined the Royal Army Service Corps in 1940 and was commissioned in 1941, when he was appointed to the War Office...

    . Odette: The story of a British agent (1949), tells the story of Odette Sansom-Hallowes
    Odette Sansom
    Odette Sansom Hallowes GC, MBE, Chevalier de la légion d'honneur was an Allied heroine of the Second World War.-Early years:...

    .
  • Jean Overton Fuller
    Jean Overton Fuller
    Jean Overton Fuller was a British author best known for her book Madeleine, the story of Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan, GC, MBE, CdG, an Indian heroine of World War II....

    . The Starr Affair, tells the story of John Renshaw Starr
    John Renshaw Starr
    John Renshaw Starr , was one of two sons of Alfred Demarest Starr and Ethel Renshaw . He was a grandson of William Robert Renshaw. He was an artist and a soldier during the Second World War. His story is told in a book, The Starr Affair, by Jean Overton Fuller.-Military career:When war broke out...

    .
  • Ian Dear. Sabotage and Subversion (Arms and Armour 1996, Cassell Military Paperbacks 1999, ISBN 0-304-35202-0)
General chapters on origins, recruitment and training, and then describes in detail thirteen operations in Europe and around the world, some involving the OSS.
  • Bruce Marshall. The White Rabbit (Evans Bros 1952, Cassell Military Paperbacks 2000, ISBN 0-304-35697-2)
Famous biography of Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas who made secret trips to France to meet senior Resistance figures. Epic story of capture, torture and escape, written as told by 'Tommy' to Marshall (who was himself on the HQ staff of RF section).
  • Mark Seaman. Bravest of the Brave: True Story of Wing Commander Tommy Yeo-Thomas - SOE Secret Agent Codename, the White Rabbit (Michael O'Mara Books 1997) ISBN 978-1854796509
  • Mark Seaman. Special Operations Executive: a new instrument of war. Routledge, 2006. ISBN 0415384559
  • Ray Mears, The Real Heroes of Telemark: The True Story of the Secret Mission to Stop Hitler's Atomic Bomb, ISBN 0-340-83015-8, Hodder & Stoughton 2003
Associated with a three part BBC TV series, Ray Mears followed the route taken in 1943 along with some present day members of Royal Marines and Norwegian Army.
  • Inside Camp X by Lynn Philip Hodgson, with a foreword by Secret Agent Andy Durovecz (2003). ISBN 0-9687062-0-7
  • Joe Saward
    Joe Saward
    Joe Saward is a British Formula One journalist. He was educated at Haileybury College and attained a degree in history at Bedford College, University of London. In 1984 he joined Autosport magazine in London. He began reporting on Formula One in 1988, working alongside Nigel Roebuck and remained...

    . The Grand Prix Saboteurs (Morienval Press 2006, ISBN 978-0-9554868-0-7) Gives tangential account of SOE's operations in the Mediterranean and its quarrels with other intelligence agencies

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