centercenterSpecial Operations Executive
Joel De Ieso
8820090900Special Operations Executive
Joel De Ieso
With Adolf Hitler poised to invade Britain in 1940, the nation was facing its darkest hour?— so Winston Churchill realized it was time to fight dirty.
The Special Operations Executive was ordered by Winston Churchill to “set Europe ablaze”. The Special Operations Executive’s (SOE) main task was to link up with resistance movements – primarily the French Resistance – to undermine the Germans in the countries they had occupied.
Few people were aware of SOE’s existence. To those who were part of it or liaised with it, it was sometimes referred to as “the Baker Street Irregulars”, after the location of its London headquarters. It was also known as “Churchill’s Secret Army” or the “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare”.
Acts of sabotage were difficult to verify – especially their success. Communication was invariably slow – so good news took time to arrive. There were many in the military who saw the SOE as a distraction from the ‘proper’ fighting that had to be done.
SOE faced three major problems in Europe:
1) Confirming that worthwhile resistance movements existed
2) How to maintain contact with these movements once contact had been made
3) How to help these movements fight against the Germans
38385751821815Lysander plane used to transport SOE operatives to and from occupied Europe
00Lysander plane used to transport SOE operatives to and from occupied Europe
right12065The only way that SOE could overcome these three problems was to get agents on the ground in occupied Europe. This provided SOE with its next problem – suitable candidates to be SOE agents. Once trained, the most common way of getting agents to mainland Europe was by plane. Parachute drops could be made by Whitley and Wellington bombers. However, these were obvious targets from the ground. SOE needed a smaller plane that was difficult to see but tough enough to land on crude runways. The Lysander was the perfect plane to get the job done.
By mid-1941, SOE agents were beginning to land in Europe. All manner of problems was experienced. This included contacting the ‘reception committee’, informing them that a drop was going to take place, poor weather at the last minute which may of stopped a flight etc. The so-called reception committees were very much at risk. By simply being out at night they were breaking curfew regulations imposed by the Germans and informants were a danger that put everybody at risk.
1333501657350B MK II receiver and transmitter (also known as the B2 radio set)
00B MK II receiver and transmitter (also known as the B2 radio set)
75565952500Most of the resistance networks which SOE formed or liaised with were controlled by radio directly from Britain or one of SOE’s subsidiary headquarters. All resistance circuits contained at least one wireless operator, and all drops or landings were arranged by radio, except for some early exploratory missions sent “blind” into enemy-occupied territory.
2076450299085Chocolate Bar Explosive
00Chocolate Bar Explosive
201866524193500There’s some really cool 007 like gadgets that were used during WWII. One of their inventions was a chocolate bar made of steel with a coating of real chocolate which would explode seven seconds after a piece was broken off it.
Other inventions were exploding rats, books and wine bottles and hollowed out turnips or sugar beets with explosives hidden inside.
Some of the gadgets were invented by the Special Operations Executive scientists at a top secret research facility known as Station IX in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire
However, the ingenuity of the British in producing explosive devices concealed in everyday household objects was matched by their German counterparts. The German agents hid explosives in car batteries, tins of food, frozen eggs and firelighters.
Some Interesting Facts about SOEs
– Unlike the military, the SOE readily recruited women for front-line duty. The majority of women worked as secretaries or typist while a large number also worked as wireless transmitters and operators. In addition to these positions, women served as covert agents behind enemy lines. There were forty-nine female agents in France alone. The Germans captured fifteen of those agents and twelve dead in concentration camps after brutal interrogations.
– Ian Fleming, the creator of the infamous spy James Bond, has close connections with the SOE. His brother, Captain Peter Fleming worked with the SOE on a couple of missions. It has been asserted that a few Bond characters were shaped from real SOE members. In Casino Royale, the character of “Vesper Lynd” was modeled after Krystyna Skarbek, a Polish SOE agent known more as Christine Granville. Also, it has been stated that a part of Fleming’s inspiration for “Miss Moneypenny” came from Vera Atkins. Atkins was an intelligence officer in the SOE and recruited female agents. She was second in command of the French section of the SOE.
– During the war, the United States created the Office of Strategic Service (OSS) in partnership with the SOE and it was common for both agencies to carry out missions together. The OSS was the predecessor for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and had recruited a number of famous people such as Julia Child (before she became a famous cook), baseball player Moe Berg, film director John Ford and German actress Marlene Dietrich.
“SOE’s effect on the war was important for the success of the invasion of Europe.”
This statement is accurate, as the Special Operations Executive Operative’s main task was to link up with resistance movements to undermine the Germans in the countries they had occupied. SOE’s sabotage missions effected the war by destroying German economy through the destruction of railroads, electrical and chemical plants. SOE’s subversion, on the other hand, supplied the underground resistance fighters with weapons and equipment. The SOE and the French resistance fighters (the Maquis) carried on a wartime relationship that combined both sabotage and subversion campaigns. This, in turn, was very imprtand for the success of the invasion of Europe.
Military Wiki. (2018). Special Operations Executive. online Available at: http://military.wikia.com/wiki/Special_Operations_Executive Accessed 17 Sep. 2018.
Trueman, C. (2018). Special Operations Executive – History Learning Site. online History Learning Site. Available at: https://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/world-war-two/resistance-movements/special-operations-executive/ Accessed 17 Sep. 2018.
En.wikipedia.org. (2018). Special Operations Executive. online Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Operations_Executive#Equipment Accessed 17 Sep. 2018.
Morris, N. (2018). BBC – History – World Wars: The Special Operations Executive 1940 – 1946. online Bbc.co.uk. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/soe_01.shtml Accessed 18 Sep. 2018.
Joseph, A. (2018). The ingenious gadgets used by both Allied and Nazi spies in WWII. online Mail Online. Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5771291/The-ingenious-gadgets-used-Allied-Nazi-spies-WWII.html Accessed 19 Sep. 2018.