The head of the secret intelligence service in 1938 was Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair,(Quex) Known by the pseudonym C .
In March of that year he had a Major L.D. Grand seconded from the Army to M.I.6
Major L.D. Grand was then ordered to form a new section within M.I 6 , Its Mission was to devise and formulate plans by which an enemy Country could by any means be adversely affected . Thus section D of the Secret Intelligence Service came into being .
At approximately the same time another secret department was in the process of being set up by the foreign office. This was known as EH an acronym for the building in which it was based , Electra House. EH was headed by Sir Collin Campbell' Stuart - an acknowledged media expert and former managing director of The London Times . Its brief was to devise and plan all forms of propaganda .
A small research department based in the war office and headed by Major J.C.Holland , an expert on all forms of irregular warfare, formulated its own plans for clandestine & covert warfare .This section later became known as M.I.R.
These three departments were more or less integrated at a meeting held in the Foreign Office between (C) The head if MI 6 . Major L.D.Grand , Section D . Major J.C.Holland Section G5 (R) . Lord Halifax and his permanent under secretary .
Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair died on November 4th 1939, He was succeeded by Lt. Colonel Stewart Menzies as C Head of M.I.6 .
A full and highly detailed account of the formation , organisation , history , and political intrigue involved in this organisation (SOE)will be found in Professor M.R.D.Foot's book . Special Operations Executive 1940-46 . Published by The BBC 1984.
Headquarters 64 Baker St London .
By 1946 The organisation occupied virtually all of Baker St .
Personnel employed at its height 13,300
Of this figure, more than one third were active agents .
This website is dedicated to the memory of all S.O.E. field officers and their respective resistance groups
These brave men and woman provided the necessary leadership, training and support to isolated resistance groups , In many cases resistance groups were set up by SOE officers after parachuting or landing by small boat or submarine, blind , i.e. Unsupported and alone in enemy held territory .These brave people were not superhumans but ordinary decent young people in the main ,who were carefully selected for their linguistic ability and general aptitude to the rigors of clandestine and covert operations .They were recruited generally from the Military services of Great Britain , the countries of the Commonwealth and the United States and were to operate in over seventeen countries of the world including all of occupied Europe, the Balkans, Greece, Yugoslavia, Africa China, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Burma, Indochina (Now Vietnam ) Java , Sumatra , Portuguese Timor, New Guinea , Borneo, All of south east Asia and in many neutral countries of the world .
Some Baker Street Personalities.
Executive Head , Major-General Sir Collin Gubbins.
Colonel Jo Holland Colonel L Grand Colonel M J Buckmaster Vera Atkins.CBE. CBE.1997
Link to Obituary 25 June 2000
Leo Marks. Cryptographer Extraordinaire. Link to Obituary 28 Jan.2001
Selection and Training
F Section .
Candidates for initial interview were selected on the basis of a personal recommendation by SOE staff of friends and former associates whom they thought might prove an asset to the organisation , Others were gleaned from the Military Services Some from newspaper job advertisements seeking French speaking nationals .
The first interview would be carried out in a bare room at the Northumberland hotel ,( the hotel had been requisitioned for the duration by the war office which was close by ) the only furnishings being a deal desk and two chairs even the light bulb was bare .
The interviewer would then have a general conversation with the applicant in French if he thought that his or her French was good enough for the applicant to pass of as a French national he would close the Interview and say he would be in touch .The applicants file would then be passed to MI5 for a security check .
Following security clearance the candidate would be recalled, to a second interview at which the true nature of the job was outlined , No punches were pulled the applicant was told that he or she would have only a 1in2 chance of surviving their mission
They were given a few days to to think about it before coming to a final decision to their eternal credit many accepted .
Post war statistic . Out of 418 agents sent to France 118 failed to return , one vanished , odds of 1 in 4 .
Wandsborough Manor , 4 weeks , physical fitness , small arms training . map reading etc .
Parachute training at Ringway Manchester 2 weeks
Graduates then moved on to to Arisaig on the on the western coast of Inverness-Shire Scotland , there SOE had taken over a group of big houses in the deserted and beautiful countryside , declared the area prohibited and got on with the task of teaching all forms of Commando & clandestine warfare . Radio operators then went on to Thame Park in Oxfordshire for fourteen weeks radio and cipher training .
Special Operations Australia. S.O.A.
SOE was known or not known as the case may be by many different cover names , for instance in Australia SOE was known as the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD) Or I.S.R.B (Inter Service Research Bureau ) or Inter Service Signals Unit . (ISSU) Or the Joint Technical Board , or Inter Allied Service Department , and as Force 137 & Z Force.Z Force being the administrative name for Australian personal inducted into SOE/SOA in Australia
In Baker Street the branch was simply called S.O.A. It launched 81 missions into Japanese held territory from its bases in Australia . Link to Roll Of Honour
For a full and highly detailed history S.O.A.
Read Silent Feet.
The History of 'Z' Special Operations 1942-1945.
ISBN. 0 646 12903 1
Lt Col G.B. Courtney. MBE , MC.
WHO NEEDS ENEMIES?
"Thou Whoreson, Zed, thou unnecessary letter" Wm Shakespeare -
King Lear and GHQ SWPA?
Z Special Unit (SRD) was suspected (not unreasonably) of being a British Trojan Horse planted in a US theatre of war to regain lost British colonies, and to restore her pre-ww influence in the Far East. In consequence, GHQ would tolerate SRD out of political politeness., to an ally but render it impotent until it could be safely ignored, and diverted into side-show., in company with the rest of the Australian Army.
In addition to an inherited dislike of British colonialism, as distinct from the American. variety, by the US Government at the highest level, was the personal prejudices of the senior staff at GHQ SWPA. They were described, on good authority, as being somewhat anti-British and jealous of the 'English'.
So "every project of SRD had to receive approval of GHQ and even if it were, at long last grudgingly approved, then the necessary air and sea transport had to be obtained from the appropriate Air and Naval Commander, who had the right of refusal". GHQ also had indirect but vital control over SRD's finances, and any proposed operation of which it did not approve would die stillborn of 'financial anaemia'.
1 am not questioning the enormous value to Australia of American protection during the war, which was accompanied on the personal level by much goodwill. But 1 am citing their treatment of SRD, and through it of their British ally, as an example of the undoubted truth that nation states have no friends but only interests. 1 am convinced that we in Australia must bear this in mind when planning our country's future in the inherently unstable area that is modern South East Asia. There will probably be no 'great and powerful friend' to come to our rescue next time in an emergency and we must be prepared to stand on our own feet, or at least become a credible part of any cooperative regional defence arrangement.
"Let him who desires peace, prepare for war." Vegetius, 4 -5th Century AD.
Lt Col G B Courtney, MBE, MC.
STS . Special Training Schools .
Wanborough Manor Thame Park Radio School Arisaig House STS 21 Inverailort Castle STS
Camusdarrach House. STS 25b Traigh House STS 25c Garramor House STS 25a
Overseas Special Training Units .
Camp X ,Whitby , lake Ontario Tanjong Balai STS 101
Canada . STS 103. Singapore. Link to A. Christie's website.
Return to home Page Link to SOA Honour Roll Link to Burma Star. Website