The precise nature of the buildings remained concealed; it had no entry in the telephone directories, and correspondence to external bodies bore service addresses; MO1 SP a War Office branch , NID Q Admiralty , AI10 Air Ministry , or other fictitious bodies or civilian companies. Production and trials[ edit ] The establishments connected with experimentation and production of equipment were mainly concentrated in and around Hertfordshire and were designated by roman numbers. It originally conducted research and development but from it became a production, storage and distribution centre for devices already developed. As the work expanded, it became the central forgery department for SOE and the Poles eventually moved out on 1 April The technicians at Station XIV included a number of ex-convicts. Agents destined to serve in the field underwent commando training at Arisaig in Scotland, where they were taught armed and unarmed combat skills by William E.
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The precise nature of the buildings remained concealed; it had no entry in the telephone directories, and correspondence to external bodies bore service addresses; MO1 SP a War Office branch , NID Q Admiralty , AI10 Air Ministry , or other fictitious bodies or civilian companies.
Production and trials[ edit ] The establishments connected with experimentation and production of equipment were mainly concentrated in and around Hertfordshire and were designated by roman numbers.
It originally conducted research and development but from it became a production, storage and distribution centre for devices already developed. As the work expanded, it became the central forgery department for SOE and the Poles eventually moved out on 1 April The technicians at Station XIV included a number of ex-convicts. Agents destined to serve in the field underwent commando training at Arisaig in Scotland, where they were taught armed and unarmed combat skills by William E.
Fairbairn and Eric A. Sykes , former Inspectors in the Shanghai Municipal Police. Those who passed this course received parachute training by STS 51 and 51a situated near Altrincham , Cheshire with the assistance of No.
They then attended courses in security and Tradecraft at Group B schools around Beaulieu in Hampshire. The backgrounds of agents in F Section, for example, ranged from aristocrats such as Polish-born Countess Krystyna Skarbek , and Noor Inayat Khan , the daughter of an Indian Sufi leader, to working class people such as Violette Szabo , with some even reputedly from the criminal underworld. In most cases, the primary quality required of an agent was a deep knowledge of the country in which he or she 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. 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.
Thirty-two of them served as agents in the field, seven of whom were captured and executed. Exiled or escaped members of the armed forces of some occupied countries were obvious sources of agents.
This was particularly true of Norway and the Netherlands. This could occasionally lead to mistrust and strained relations in Britain. The organisation was prepared to ignore almost any contemporary social convention in its fight against the Axis.
It employed known homosexuals,  people with criminal records some of whom taught skills such as picking locks  or bad conduct records in the armed forces, Communists and anti-British nationalists.
Some of these might have been considered a security risk, but no known case exists of an SOE agent wholeheartedly going over to the enemy. SOE was also far ahead of contemporary attitudes in its use of women in armed combat. Although women were first considered only as couriers in the field or as wireless operators or administrative staff in Britain, those sent into the field were trained to use weapons and in unarmed combat.
Pearl Witherington became the organiser leader of a highly successful resistance network in France. 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. From 1 June SOE used its own transmitting and receiving stations at Grendon Underwood in Buckinghamshire and Poundon nearby, as the location and topography were suitable.
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 , under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel F.
Nicholls R. Sigs who had served with Gubbins between the wars. Operators were forced to transmit verbose messages on fixed frequencies and at fixed times and intervals. This allowed German direction finding teams time to triangulate their positions. After several operators were captured or killed, procedures were made more flexible and secure. 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. 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 to announce the safe arrival of an agent or message in London for example, or could be instructions to carry out operations on a given date.
Other methods[ edit ] 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.
The crude and cheap Sten was a favourite. These were available in large quantities after the Tunisian and Sicilian campaigns and the surrender of Italy, and the partisans could acquire ammunition for these weapons and the Sten from enemy sources.
SOE also adhered to the principle that resistance fighters would be handicapped rather than helped by heavy equipment such as mortars or anti-tank guns. These were awkward to transport, almost impossible to conceal and required skilled and highly trained operators. Later in the war however, when resistance groups staged open rebellions against enemy occupation, some heavy weapons were dispatched, for example to the Maquis du Vercors.
Ordinary SOE agents were also armed with handguns acquired abroad, such as, from , a variety of US pistols, and a large quantity of the Spanish Llama. 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.
Sabotage[ edit ] Audience in demolition class, Milton Hall , circa SOE developed a wide range of explosive devices for sabotage, such as limpet mines , shaped charges and time fuses, which were also widely used by commando units. Most of these devices were designed and produced at The Firs. Langley, the first commandant of Station XII at Aston  was used to give a saboteur time to escape after setting a charge and was far simpler to carry and use than lighted fuses or electrical detonators.
It relied on crushing an internal vial of acid which then corroded a retaining wire, which sometimes made it inaccurate in cold or hot conditions. Later the L-Delay, which instead allowed a lead retaining wire to "creep" until it broke and was less affected by the temperature, was introduced. SOE pioneered the use of plastic explosive. The term "plastique" comes from plastic explosive packaged by SOE and originally destined for France but taken to the United States instead.
Plastic explosive could be shaped and cut to perform almost any demolition task. It was also inert and required a powerful detonator to cause it to explode, and was therefore safe to transport and store. It was used in everything from car bombs , to exploding rats designed to destroy coal-fired boilers. On the other hand, some sabotage methods were extremely simple but effective, such as using sledgehammers to crack cast-iron mountings for machinery.
Submarines[ edit ] Station IX developed several miniature submersible craft. The Welman submarine and Sleeping Beauty were offensive weapons, intended to place explosive charges on or adjacent to enemy vessels at anchor. The Welman was used once or twice in action, but without success. The Welfreighter was intended to deliver stores to beaches or inlets, but it too was unsuccessful. They had tubular alloy skeleton stocks and were designed to be collapsible for ease of concealment.
The section had the responsibility both for issuing formal requirements and specifications to the relevant development and production sections, and for testing prototypes of the devices produced under field conditions. Some of these were weapons such as the Sleeve gun or fuses or adhesion devices to be used in sabotage, others were utility objects such as waterproof containers for stores to be dropped by parachute, or night glasses lightweight binoculars with plastic lenses.
Station IX developed a miniature folding motorbike the Welbike for use by parachutists, though this was noisy and conspicuous, used scarce petrol and was of little use on rough ground.
SOE had to rely largely on its own air or sea transport for movement of people, arms and equipment. It was engaged in disputes with the RAF from its early days. In , the flight was expanded to become No. In February , they were joined by No. Three Special Duties squadrons operated in the Far East  using a variety of aircraft, including the very long-range Consolidated B Liberator. RAF Tempsford[ edit ] Nos.
After final briefings and checks at the farm, the agents were issued firearms in the barn, and then boarded a waiting aircraft. Once the agent was in place and had selected a number of potential fields, Squadron delivered SOE agents, wireless equipment and operators and weapons, and flew French political leaders, resistance leaders or their family members, and downed allied airmen to Britain. It was flown by a single pilot, who also had to navigate, so missions had to be flown on clear nights with a full or near full moon.
Bad weather often thwarted missions, German night fighters were also a hazard, and pilots could never know when landing whether they would be greeted by the resistance or the Gestapo. Once the aircraft reached the airfield the agent on the ground would signal the aircraft by flashing a prearranged code letter in Morse.
Special Operations Executive
Notes Includes bibliographical references p. This heavily illustrated work includes actual training manuals used during World War II. Responsibility introduction ungentlemably Denis Rigden. Separate different tags with a comma. Physical Description p. In short, everything needed to wreak havoc in occupied Lessos. For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
LESSONS IN UNGENTLEMANLY WARFARE PDF