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SOE

Discussion in 'Special Forces' started by Rover, Apr 18, 2018.

  1. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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    This is the sort of test that could be thrown at the volunteers during training, whilst under pressure. The lecture interrupted by an armed attack/explosion then asked to give a description of the incident/attacker.

    The agent being expected to think on their feet and remain calm under pressure.

    Mention is made by @Fibonarchie of the Boy Scouts. Many instructors and agents had a background in the Scouts. Such things as map reading, outdoor activities being second nature. How many have ever played Kims Game?

    Scouts were also very active in occupied Europe within the Resistance.

    An interesting book being ‘The Left Handshake’ covering the Scout movement between 1939 and 1945.

    A number of aspects of SOE training being found in todays SF Selection.
     
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  2. Chelonian

    Chelonian Moderator

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    Just to add to Rover's comment about Boy Scouts, my pa was a Boy Scout 'runner' for his local Home Guard detachment. Platoon level radio comms as we know them were almost unknown for Home Guard so he and other boys would deliver written or verbal messages.

    Later he did the same for what was known as an Auxilliary Unit in his Somerset home town. The AUs were designated to conduct resistance and guerilla warfare against the enemy had it invaded the UK. My pa and his young friends had no idea what the AUs even were until after the war!
     
  3. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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    As started by Baden-Powell at Mafeking during the Boer war.;)

    Could start a whole new thread on the British Resistance!
    'The Last Ditch' by David Lampe. Well worth a read.:cool:
     
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  4. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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  5. Old Man

    Old Man Ex-Matelot

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    And if his net is behind the tent, what's he catching butterflies with now?
     
  6. arny01

    arny01 Ex Pongo.

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    He’s using the Force.:)
     
  7. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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    09M5VYGCF.jpg

    May the Force be with you.:cool:
     
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  8. Chelonian

    Chelonian Moderator

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    A useful resource, thanks.
    Interesting to note that Maj Gen Sir Colin Gubbins was such a key figure in both SOE and Auxilliary Units.

    Funnily enough, even in the 1960s when I was a boy and the AUs had been stood down they were shrouded in secrecy. Old chaps who lived locally and who might well have been involved would just chuckle and say "Nothing like that went on around here, boy" when pressed by us. :)
     
  9. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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    Late 60's early 70's a farmer in Norfolk phoned the local Police to say he had some munitions from WWII in a field and could they send someone to collect them.:cool:
    Local Panda car despatched, assistance then requested.o_O

    Turned out the elderly farmer had been the area logistics officer for the local AU. Three four tonners and the EOD later, area made safe. :)

    Although sworn to secrecy the farmer getting old and thought it best to have everything removed as he was getting too old to keep maintaining the stores.:(:)
     
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  10. Chelonian

    Chelonian Moderator

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    Apparently, one of the privileges of being a Boy Scout runner during WW2—in Somerset at least—was that the lads carried an official pass which stated that they were not to be detained, delayed, nor searched while on despatch service. Strictly speaking the privilege applied to the despatch itself but this didn't stop the twelve-year-old lads on bicycles cheeking PCs and Home Guard NCOs at the numerous vehicle check points. :)
     
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  11. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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    Perhaps of interest......

    Gladio.jpeg
     
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  12. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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    The Special Operations Executive 1940 - 1946

    By Nigel Morris
    Last updated 2011-02-17


    upload_2019-1-18_10-8-34.jpg

    What was the foundation of the underground army that helped turn the balance of power during World War Two? The agents of the SOE demonstrated tremendous courage, and enjoyed many successes, in their guerrilla war against Hitler's forces. This is their amazing story.

    On this page

    · Recruiting and training

    · The 007 factor

    · Behind enemy lines

    · Lonely courage

    · Find out more

    Recruiting and training

    In the dark days that followed the fall of France a new volunteer fighting force was hastily improvised to wage a secret war against Hitler's armies. This force was called the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and their mission was sabotage and subversion behind enemy lines.

    Sabotage meant blowing up trains, bridges and factories whilst subversion meant fostering revolt or guerrilla warfare in all enemy and enemy-occupied countries. On July 16, 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill appointed a civilian, Hugh Dalton, to be SOE's political master and then promptly ordered him to 'set Europe ablaze!'

    Bold words indeed from Churchill considering that SOE only had a few agents in the field and no effective wireless communications.

    In mansions that stretched from the Highlands to the New Forest agents were taught how to kill with their bare hands...

    In November 1940, as the Luftwaffe pounded Central London, SOE set-up its first headquarters in two family flats off Baker Street. From this unlikely venue SOE began to recruit men and women to fill their ranks.

    Senior staff in SOE were invariably ex-public school and Oxbridge, but the agents came from all walks and included a former chef, an electrician, several journalists and the daughter of a Brixton motor-car dealer.

    At the same time SOE's new head of training and operations, Colonel Colin Gubbins, began to requisition properties across the country to act as agent training bases. In mansions that stretched from the Highlands to the New Forest agents were taught how to kill with their bare hands; how to disguise themselves; how to derail a train; and even how to get out of a pair of handcuffs with a piece of thin wire and a diary pencil.

    If an agent survived these tests and a gruelling parachute course they were ready to go.


    The 007 factor

    upload_2019-1-18_10-8-34.jpg A hollow fake tree trunk, one of many devices created at 'The Thatched Barn' © To give agents an edge in combat SOE employed budding scientists to invent unique weapons of war.

    At The Frythe, a secluded house near Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire university graduates invented devilish devices such as the single-shot cigarette pistol and the Sleeping Beauty - a submersible canoe. SOE workshops also created carborundum - an abrasive grease when smeared on the right spot could bring a locomotive to an immediate standstill.

    In North London, The Thatched Barn, a former roadhouse, became the headquarters of the ingenious Camouflage Section run by film director Elder Wills. Here an army of ex-prop makers were put to work creating countless illusions out of papier maché or plaster - many of them deadly!

    One tree trunk mould might conceal radio equipment but another shaped like a piece of camel dung hid a booby trap that could blow the tyre off an enemy truck.

    Other branches of this backroom operation included the False Documents Section where agents collected their bogus identities and even a fashion company that outfitted agents with suits and dresses cut to the Continental style.

    Enemies within
    SIS did not want SOE disrupting their agents intelligence-gathering operations by blowing up bridges and factories.


    The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) - now known as MI6 viewed SOE with great suspicion.

    Head of the SIS, Sir Stewart Menzies, stated repeatedly that SOE were 'amateur, dangerous, and bogus' and took it upon himself to bring massive internal pressure to bear on the fledgling organisation. SIS did not want SOE disrupting their agents intelligence-gathering operations by blowing up bridges and factories.

    Bomber Command also despised SOE and resented having to loan aircraft for 'unethical' clandestine missions. They wanted to win the war by bombing Germany to its knees.

    But with Churchill as their guardian SOE survived and lived to fight another day.

    Behind enemy lines

    upload_2019-1-18_10-8-34.jpg SOE agents destroyed the heavy water plant at Vemork, ending the Nazi atomic bomb programme © SOE's first headline success came in June 1941 when agents blew up the Pessac power station in France with a few well-placed explosive charges. The precision blast crippled work at a vital U-boat base in Bordeaux, and brought the all-electric railways in this region to an abrupt halt.

    News of this triumph reverberated throughout Whitehall and put SOE firmly on the map - proving that you did not need a squadron of bombers to disrupt the German war machine.

    This operation led to hundreds more in Europe and in the Far East against the Japanese.

    • Czechoslovakia 1942 - an SOE hit squad assassinated Himmler's deputy, Reinhard Heydrich, with a grenade.

    • Greece 1942 - SOE agents blew up the Gorgopotamos rail bridge, which carried vital supplies for Rommel's desert army.

    • Norway 1943 - SOE agents destroyed the heavy water plant at Vemork, ending the Nazi atomic bomb programme.

      Often SOE operations resulted in reprisals against the local population. After the killing of Heydrich, the SS exterminated 5,000 men women and children in two villages near Prague.

      To avoid retribution, SOE carried out 'invisible sabotage', which left no trace and implicated nobody. One example is the sending of a supply train, loaded with tanks, to the wrong destination - using only a forged document.

      Lonely courage

      upload_2019-1-18_10-8-34.jpg Captured agents faced interrogation, torture and execution at the hands of the Nazis © The life expectancy of an SOE wireless operator in Occupied France was just six weeks...

      Complicated coding and decoding procedures left Wireless Telegraph (W/T) operators with no choice but to transmit for long periods of time. This gave German military intelligence, the Abwehr, ample time to find their quarry using radio detection vans.

      In Genoa, 600 partisans took the unconditional surrender of 12,000 German troops, with SOE at the centre of the negotiations.

      The Germans knew that W/T operators were the weak link in the chain of any agent network. In Holland the Abwehr played the Englandspiel - 'the match against England' - by controlling the wireless traffic of a captured SOE operator. Dozens of agents fell straight in to enemy hands as result - most were eventually shot.

      The Abwehr were a deadly foe, but not as ruthless as the Gestapo or the SS Sicherheitsdienst, who tortured their victims before execution.

      Finest hour

      By D-Day on 6 June, 1944 SOE had become a feared organisation that could strike the enemy anytime, anywhere.

      Agent networks now stretched across Occupied Europe, linked to an army of resistance fighters. When the Allies landed, SOE struck with venom.

      One immediate target was the 'Das Reich' 2nd SS Panzer Division, which began to march north through France towards the Normandy beaches. SOE agents siphoned off all the axle oil from the division's rail transport cars, and replaced it with abrasive grease - all of them seized up.

      On the roads Das Reich columns were constantly ambushed, allowing the RAF to wreak havoc. This crack division was delayed for 17 days, by which time the Allies had a firm foothold in France.

      SOE kept the pressure on the enemy in the mountains of Yugoslavia and northern Italy. In Genoa, 600 partisans took the unconditional surrender of 12,000 German troops, with SOE at the centre of the negotiations. The price of freedom was high, but SOE accomplished their mission to the letter.

      In May 1945 General Eisenhower wrote that 'the disruption of enemy rail communications, the harassing of German road moves and the continual and increasing strain placed on German security services throughout occupied Europe by the organised forces of Resistance, played a very considerable part in our complete and final victory.'

      With no war to fight, SOE survived until January 1946 before being disbanded forever.?


     
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  13. Chelonian

    Chelonian Moderator

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    My highlight of the question mark.
    Subtle ambiguity there. :)