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Late in the war, the unit acquired three fast Submarine chasers for such missions. In France, most agents were directed by two London-based country sections. Most native French agents served in RF. During the latter part of another section known as AMF was established in Algiers , to operate into Southern France. They served in a variety of functions including arms and sabotage instructors, couriers, circuit organisers, liaison officers and radio operators. Some networks were compromised, with the loss of many agents. In particular agents continued to be sent to the "Prosper" network for some time after it had been controlled by Germans.
To support the Allied invasion of France on D Day in June three-man parties were dropped into various parts of France as part of Operation Jedburgh , to co-ordinate widespread overt as opposed to clandestine acts of resistance. A total of men were eventually dropped, together with 6, tons of military stores 4, tons had been dropped during the years before D-Day.
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. SOE assisted the Polish government in exile with training facilities and logistical support for its special forces operatives known as the Cichociemni , or "The Dark and Silent".
Secret Army: the Auxiliary Units, Britain’s final line of WW2 defence in case of invasion
Members of the unit, which was based in Audley End House , Essex, 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 chose the title Baroness Ryder of Warsaw in honour of these operations. She ran several operations in Poland, Egypt , Hungary with Andrzej Kowerski and France, often using the staunchly anti-Nazi Polish expatriate community as a secure international network. Maciej Kalenkiewicz was parachuted into occupied Poland , only to be killed by the Soviets.
Joint Anglo-Polish operations provided London with vital intelligence on the V-2 rocket , German troops movements on the Eastern Front , and the Soviet repressions of Polish citizens. The rebellion was defeated with a loss of , casualties mostly German executions of Polish civilians after the nearby Red Army 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.
Due to the dangers and lack of friendly population few operations were conducted in Germany itself. The German and Austrian section of SOE was run by Lieutenant Colonel Ronald Thornley for most of the war, and was mainly involved with black propaganda and administrative sabotage in collaboration with the German section of the Political Warfare Executive. Several major operations were planned, including Operation Foxley , 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.
Several German prisoners of war were trained as agents, briefed to make contact with the anti-Nazi resistance and to conduct sabotage. They were then parachuted into Germany in the hope that they would either hand themselves in to the Gestapo 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. 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 '.
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SOE apparently ignored the absence of security checks in radio transmissions, and other warnings from their chief cryptographer, Leo Marks , that the Germans were running the supposed resistance networks. A total of 50 agents were caught and brought to Camp Haaren in the South of the Netherlands. Five captured men managed to escape from the camp. SOE set up new elaborate networks, which continued to operate until the Netherlands were liberated at the end of the war. From September to April , eight Jedburgh teams were also active in the Netherlands.
The first team, code named "Dudley" was parachuted into the east of the Netherlands one week before Operation Market Garden. The next four teams were attached to the Airborne forces that carried out Market Garden. After the failure of Market Garden, one Jedburgh team trained former resistance men in the liberated South of the Netherlands. In April the last two Dutch Jedburgh teams became operational.
Section T established some effective networks in Belgium , in part orchestrated by fashion designer Hardy Amies , 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. They did assist the Allies to bypsas German rearguards, and enabled the Allies to capture the vital Port of Antwerp intact. After Brussels was liberated, Amies outraged his superiors by setting up a Vogue photo-shoot in Belgium.
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,  when Mussolini 's government collapsed and Allied forces already occupied Sicily. He met with no response. During the first three years of war, the most important "episode" of the collaboration between SOE and Italian anti-fascism was a project of an anti-fascist uprising in Sardinia , which the SOE supported at some stage but did not receive approval from the Foreign Office. SOE helped the Italian Resistance send British missions to the partisan formations  and supply war material to the bands of patriots, a supply made without political prejudices, and which also helped the Communist formations Brigate Garibaldi.
This organisation had the codename "Force ". This later became "Force " , reserving 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 SOE's Cairo headquarters and was exercised directly by Gubbins. SOE established a new packing station for the parachute containers close to Brindisi Air base, along the lines of those created at Saffron Walden. In the aftermath of the German invasion in , the Kingdom of Yugoslavia fragmented.
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 in 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.
However, accounts vary dramatically between all historical works on the "Chetnik controversy". 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. So too did an attempt by Basil Davidson to incite a partisan movement in Hungary, after he made his way there from northeastern Yugoslavia.
Greece 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.
When an agent, "Odysseus", a former tobacco-smuggler, attempted to contact potential resistance groups in Greece, he reported that no group was prepared to co-operate with the monarchist government in exile in Cairo. In late , at the army's instigation, SOE mounted its first operation, codenamed Operation Harling , into Greece in an attempt to disrupt the railway which was being used to move materials to the German Panzer Army Africa.
On 25 November , Myers's party blew up one of the spans of the railway viaduct at Gorgopotamos , supported by 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, led by New Zealander Lieutenant Colonel Cecil Edward Barnes a civil engineer,  carried out the destruction of the Asopos viaduct on 21 June 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 occupied Athens and Piraeus 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. Several resistance groups and Allied stay-behind parties operated in Crete after the Germans occupied the island in the Battle of Crete. Some of the most famous moments included the abduction of General Heinrich Kreipe led by Leigh Fermor and Moss — subsequently portrayed in the film Ill Met by Moonlight ,  and the sabotage of Damasta led by Moss.
Albania had been under Italian influence since , and was occupied by the Italian Army in In , a small liaison party entered Albania from northwestern Greece.
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As the latter had collaborated with the Italian occupiers, Hoxha gained Allied support. They were ignored, but Albania was never a major factor in the effort against the Germans. Their initial raid in was Operation Archery , the best known raid was probably the Norwegian heavy water sabotage. Communication lines with London were gradually improved so that by , 64 radio operators were spread throughout Norway.
Most of the actions by the Danish resistance were railway sabotage to hinder German troop and material movements from and to Norway; however, sabotage on a much larger scale also occurred, especially by BOPA. In all the Danish resistance conducted 1, operations from and onwards.
In October 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. For example, SOE was able to obtain several shiploads of vital ball-bearings which had been interned in Swedish ports. In an SOE delegation was parachuted into Romania to instigate resistance against the Nazi occupation at "any cost" Operation Autonomous.
Abyssinia was the scene of some of SOE's earliest and most successful efforts. This force named Gideon Force 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 in Burma. On 14 January , while the ships' officers were attending a party ashore thrown by an SOE agent, commandos and SOE personnel led by Gus March-Phillipps boarded the two vessels, cut the anchor cables and towed them out to sea, where they later rendezvoused with Royal Navy ships.
Several neutral authorities and observers were impressed by the British display of ruthlessness. 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" —45 , which was ultimately aimed at protecting the economic and political status of Hong Kong. In late , as it became clear that the war would soon be over, Lord Selborne advocated keeping SOE or a similar body in being, and that it would report to the Ministry of Defence.
In view of the Russian menace, the situation in Italy, Central Europe and the Balkans and the smouldering volcanoes in the Middle East, I think it would be madness to allow SOE to be stifled at this juncture. But SOE is no base instrument, it is a highly specialized weapon which will be required by HMG whenever we are threatened and whenever it is necessary to contact the common people of foreign lands. Churchill took no immediate decision, and after he lost the general election on 5 July , the matter was dealt with by the Labour Prime Minister, Clement Attlee.
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 , and closed Selborne's network down at 48 hours' notice. SOE was dissolved officially on 15 January Some of its senior staff moved easily into financial services in the City of London , although some of them had not lost their undercover mentality and did little for the City's name.
Some of these had served as agents in the field, but MI6 was most interested in SOE's training and research staff. Gubbins, the last director, was not given further employment by the Army, but he later founded the Special Forces Club for former members of SOE and similar organisations. 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.
Foot , who wrote several official histories of SOE wrote:. The Irish [thanks to the example set by Collins and followed by the SOE] can thus claim that their resistance provide the originating impulse for resistance to tyrannies worse than any they had to endure themselves. And the Irish resistance as Collins led it, showed the rest of the world a way to fight wars the only sane way they can be fought in the age of the Nuclear bomb.
However the British military historian John Keegan wrote:. We must recognise that our response to the scourge of terrorism is compromised by what we did through SOE. The justification That we had no other means of striking back at the enemy Futile to argue that we were a democracy and Hitler a tyrant. Means besmirch ends. SOE besmirched Britain. Yet the moral contribution of secret war, which would have been impossible without the sponsorship of SOE and OSS, was beyond price.
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It made possible the resurrection of self-respect in occupied societies which would otherwise have been forced to look back on the successive chapters of their experience of the conflict through a dark prism; military humiliation, followed by enforced collaboration with the enemy, followed by belated deliverance at the hands of foreign armies.
As it was, and entirely thanks to Resistance, all European nations could cherish their cadres of heroes and martyrs, enabling the mass of their citizens who did nothing, or who served the enemy, to be painted over in the grand canvas cherished in the perception of their descendants. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Main article: List of SOE establishments. See also: List of Special Operations Executive operations. See also: Yugoslavia and the Allies. Main article: Force Main article: Special Operations Executive in popular culture. Chapters Christopher Long. Retrieved 23 August Jonathan Cape. Retrieved 1 June Foot, SOE in France , p. Retrieved 20 April The Guardian. Archived from the original on 22 September Bognar Regis Observer.
Retrieved 1 August Royal Air Force. Archived from the original on 13 August Retrieved 11 August Tempsford Memorial. Yad Vashem. Retrieved 24 August The Telegraph. London UK. Lo Special Operations Executive e l'Italia ". Italia Contemporanea. Italy: 7— QF Quaderni di Farestoria. Studi e ricerche di storia. Retrieved 8 June BBC Radio 4 - Today. Commando Country. National Museums of Scotland.
Bailey, Roderick Detailed account of operations from beginning of hostilities to fall of Mussolini. La Gran Bretagna e l'Antifascismo italiano. Diplomazia clandestina, Intelligence, Operazioni Speciali — Italy: Le Lettere. Boyce, Frederic; Everett, Douglas Sutton Publishing. Crowdy, Terry SOE Agent: Churchill's secret warriors. Oxford UK : Osprey Publishing. Cruikshank, Charles SOE in the Far East. Oxford University Press. Official history commissioned , companion to Foot, SOE , with access to papers though researched 20 years later than Foot's book, when many participants had died, see Preface.
SOE in Scandinavia. Foot, M. The Special Operations Executive — Contains an overview of SOE and its methods. SOE in France. Frank Cass. Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword. Hooiveld, Jelle Dutch Courage: Special Forces in the Netherlands — Stroud: Amberley Publishing. Mackenzie, William BPR Publications. Written at the end of WW2 for the British Government's own use without any intention of publication—in effect a confidential "official history".
Orpen, Neil D. Airlift to Warsaw: The Rising of Rigden, Denis Secret History Files, National Archives. Authentic training manuals used to prepare agents covering the clandestine skills of disguise, surveillance, burglary, interrogation, close combat, and assassination.
Soldiering On Buy. Scapa Flow Buy. The Final Innings Buy. Women of the Home Front Buy. Fleet Air Arm Handbook Buy. Slim's Burma Boys Buy. Britain's Greatest Warship Buy. D-Day Buy. I need help to locate memories and pictures of all of them, wartime vintage, or earlier, to present day. It is not important what job you did at the establishment, if you have a story, please send it in for inclusion. The project is potentially quite massive, too big for one person. Your help is needed. Inevitably, those of you who served are now elderly, but many will have memories, supported perhaps by a diary or maybe some personal photographs.
I am finding it difficult to locate SOE veterans so have taken this major step via the world-wide web, in the hope of locating you. You are invited to contact me via e mail, desturner aol.
If this is technically difficult for you, maybe a relative or friend will assist? The information and pictures that you send will be archived for use by SOE researchers. You will be identified by name only. No address or other details will be supplied. My best source of information and photographs is from the descendants of SOE veterans.