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The Special Operations Executive, SOE

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Janet H
1358071.  Wed Sep 09, 2020 4:02 pm Reply with quote

Established by the Churchill National Government in July 1940, to 'set Europe ablaze'. gives a comprehensive account. Here are some excerpts:

" SOE also revived some medieval devices, such as the caltrop, which could be used to burst the tyres of vehicles or injure foot soldiers and crossbows powered by multiple rubber bands to shoot incendiary bolts. There were two types, known as "Big Joe" and "Li'l Joe" respectively. They had tubular alloy skeleton stocks and were designed to be collapsible for ease of concealment."

"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. The case of Henri Déricourt is an example in which the conduct of agents was questionable, but it was impossible to establish whether they were acting under secret orders from SOE or MI6.

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. Most were commissioned into either the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) or the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. Women often assumed leadership roles in the field. Pearl Witherington became the organiser (leader) of a highly successful resistance network in France. Early in the war, American Virginia Hall functioned as the unofficial nerve center of several SOE networks in Vichy France. Many women agents such as Odette Hallowes or Violette Szabo were decorated for bravery, posthumously in Szabo's case. Of SOE's 41 (or 39 in some estimates) female agents serving in Section F (France) sixteen did not survive with twelve killed or executed in Nazi concentration camps."

Alexander Howard
1364390.  Tue Nov 10, 2020 11:43 am Reply with quote

I'll let someone else look this up, but there was an SOE operation to destroy a bridge (it might have been Monty Woodhouse at the Gorgopotamos bridge). The charges were set, the team withdrew and detonated the charges.

As they could not go back to have a look at the result without being spotted, the commanding officer sent a local shepherd boy into the gorge to draw a picture of the bridge. He was dismayed to receive back a picture of the bridge completely intact. Then the boy explained that the bridge was all gone now, but he had drawn it as he remembered it.

1366894.  Tue Dec 01, 2020 11:46 am Reply with quote

I've been trying to look that up, Alexander, and I think it must refer to the demolition of the Gorgopotamos bridge, but I can't find any record of the shepherd boy - any idea where you got that from?

1366926.  Tue Dec 01, 2020 3:35 pm Reply with quote

There's a reference here Jenny (second-hand account by Dr Noble Frankland of the Imperial War Museum):

Alexander Howard
1366927.  Tue Dec 01, 2020 3:51 pm Reply with quote

Beat me to it!

1366978.  Wed Dec 02, 2020 8:59 am Reply with quote

That sounds a bit unrealistic. They could have got the boy (or other locals) to simply tell them what damage they saw, not sit there and do a drawing.

1366995.  Wed Dec 02, 2020 12:10 pm Reply with quote

Thanks guys.


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