Operations Executive was ordered by Winston
Churchill in 1940 and was located in London,
United Kingdom. Their main task was to link up with resistance movements –
primarily the French Resistance to weaken
the Germans in the countries they had captured. As an organization, the SOE had many responsibilities:
through code breaking/wireless communication with the agents in the field.
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weapons and gadgets.
and recruited people to join the organization.
To become an SOE agent, there are many steps to go
through such as, 1: The initial interviews. Potential agents were recruited by
the SOE because they had some special quality or needed by the SOE, they might
have had a French background or could speak French fluently. The first interview was held at a hotel in
London and is just a conversation, in French or whatever desired language,
about basic things and the interviewee’s actual upbringing. Nothing about the SOE or the SOE’s work was
mentioned in this initial interview. During the second interview, future agent
was asked if he or she would volunteer on go on a mission with a small chance
of return back home. If they accepted
this high degree risk, then the person was commonly asked to attend the first
of the SOE’s specialized training schools like the SOE Basic Training school at
Arisaig in Scotland. 2: Training School, Arisaig House was a group of small
cabins where different groups of agents, depending on the country they were
assigned, were housed together. For most agents, the physical training at
Arisaig was challenging, learning hand to hand combat & how to handle
explosives. If they passed the training courses, then the agent would move on
to one of the advanced specialized schools for SOE agents. 3: “Specialization”
Schools, there were more than sixty of these advanced specialized SOE
schools. For example, the school at
Aston House taught agents the skill of silent killing. Some were taught to maim
the German agents, not kill them, how to find the most vulnerable parts of the
body, how to use leverage to exploit those vulnerable places and how to use
ordinary objects, like an umbrella, as a weapon. With this, the agents were
never at a loss for a weapon. Almost all schools focused on gun practice. Potential
agents continually drilled on shooting and how to assemble/disassemble both revolvers
and rifles. Many of these specialized schools featured specialized
“helpers.” The First Aid
Nursing Yeomanry, or the FANY, was a group of women devoted to helping run the
SOE schools. The women would sometimes
fellow agents to the potential agents located at the schools and some FANYs
worked as coders and translators. Finally: Finishing School, a final test
awaited most agents at Beaulieu. The
agents were exposed to someone like Noreen Riols. Noreen was a SOE secretary at Beaulieu. She also did special jobs at Beaulieu. For example, a SOE director would take an agent
out to a bar or such. Noreen would enter,
acting like a civilian, and the director would “convince” her into sitting with
them. After a few minutes, situation would happen which would cause the
director to leave the group. Noreen would then lead on the would-be agent
trying to get as much information out of them as possible. Agents had to deny giving out any information
to pass the Noreen test in order to be sent to Europe.
During the war, the SOE targeted areas that were
important to the German war effort like;
targeted German petroleum stocks first.
war was moved to the seas because the Germans built up a navy, the
agents changed their focus to the U-boat production facilities.
agents sabotaged the German railroads, it played a vital part in slowing down
the Germans and their allies. SOE focused on the weak spots that would be harder
to repair, such as turntables and rail switches.
Most of SOE’s success came in France, Yugoslavia, Greece, and
Italy, although it also conducted major operations in Albania,
Abyssinia, Belgium, Burma and
many more countries. In order to achieve its goals, SOE depended on almost 500
agents and a little over 100 of them died in action. The agents generally
parachuted behind the lines to teach unarmed combat, bomb building, and
espionage strategies to resistance fighters, but a number were pulled from the
criminal ranks to supply expertly forged documents. SOE’s greatest success had
been the 1942 bombing of a Norwegian plant that provided deuterium oxide to
Germany for use in creating an atomic bomb. It disbanded on January 15, 1946,
with many of its agents moving to MI9.