SOE (Special Operations Executive) was a secret British WWII espionage and sabotage organisation.
Latest hand-picked WWII news.
Meet the SOE: The British special operatives who stalled the Nazis on the eve of D-Day
Britain's Special Operations Executive carried out secret operations across Europe, with the help of local resistance fighters, throughout World War II. On the eve of D-Day, SOE operatives and members of the French Resistance pulled off what might have been the most important secret mission of the war, stalling Germany troops throughout France as Allied troops hit the beaches.
British commandos blew up Nazi shipyards in this crazy daring op
The French port as St. Nazaire held one of the largest drydocks in the world. The British decided to destroy them with a commando raid. There was just one problem, the Special Operations Executive believed the mission would require more explosives than they could carry into the dock. And all the Navy ships that could destroy the facility were too heavy to get into the Loire Estuary. So they decided to make one giant floating bomb. The SOE decided to strip a Royal Navy destroyer, making it light enough to slip into the estuary and up the River Loire. After stripping it for weight, the ship would be packed with explosives. The plan was for the commandos to board smaller ships and disembark. Once in the facility, they would set explosives elsewhere in the complex, then blow them up.
SOE Heroines: New Book tells of Heroic French Female WWII Spies
A new book tells the story of French women who worked as spies for the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), who were captured by the Nazis in France and executed for their actions. The women knew when they volunteered that their chance of survival was only 50 percent. Still, they were willing to be parachuted into France to work behind enemy lines on behalf of the Allies. The women served as couriers. They carried weapons, helped to select bombing targets, scouted German defensive positions, located places airplanes could land to bring in additional agents and supplies, and helped to set up safe houses. They also took part in operations to sabotage power stations and other targets.
Heroine of SOE spy network executed in a concentration camp after her colleague's betrayal
The heinous betrayal of a heroic Second World War woman spy who was executed in a German concentration camp has been revealed in a new book. Diana Rowden, an agent with the Special Operations Executive (SOE), was dropped into occupied France in June 1943 and worked for the French Resistance. She and a fellow agent planned the destruction of the Nazi-requisitioned Peugeot factory, where tank turrets and aircraft engine parts were made. Hunted at every turn by the Gestapo, Rowden worked tirelessly for the Allied war effort, providing the British military with vital intelligence via secret radio messages.
Here Are Three Of The Best WWII Spies Operating In Europe - And They Are All Women
During World War II, the Special Operations Executive (SOE) was a thrown-together conglomeration of amateurs and spies that President Eisenhower credited with turning the tide of the war in favor of the Allies. There were quite a few women who worked for the SOE. They were trained to handle guns, explosives, secret codes, and harsh interrogation. They arranged for ammunition and supplies to be dropped where needed. In some cases, they were in charge of thousands of men. Here are the stories of some of them.
WWII resistance heroine Violette Szabo's George Cross could fetch £250,000
A George Cross awarded to an Anglo-French World War Two resistance heroine is to be auctioned off. The medal, the highest honour awarded for bravery to civilians and military personnel in non-combat roles, could fetch up to £250,000. Violette Szabo was just one of four women to be awarded the George Cross. As a member of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), Violette Szabo twice parachuted into occupied France to aid the Resistance movement. On her second mission shortly after D-Day, she was captured, interrogated and tortured by the Gestapo. In early 1945, she was executed.
Inside story of the abduction of Nazi general Freidrich-Wilhelm Müller in Crete
Appalled by the ruthless reprisals of Major-General Freidrich-Wilhelm Müller against the resistance in Crete, the British Special Operations Executive was ordered to kidnap him. On the night of April 26, 1944, Major Patrick Leigh Fermor, Captain ‘Billy` Moss and a handful of Greek soldiers carried out a daring and successful abduction — except that they brought back Major-General Heinrich Kreipe, a principled classicist who had replaced Müller shortly before the SOE operation. In an exclusive extract from a new book, Abducting a General, Leigh Fermor reveals for the first time how they did it.
SOE agent Margaret Spencer, who parachuted into Nazi-occupied Europe dressed as a NUN to spy for the Allies, dies at 94
The incredible story of a spy who parachuted into Nazi-occupied Europe disguised as a nun has been revealed after she died aged 94. Just before her death Margaret Spencer wrote of her days as a Second World War spy, being shot in the back by a German sniper and caught by the Gestapo. She had been silent for 50 years after signing the Official Secrets Act - and her account was a shock to all but her closest friends and family in her village near Eastbourne, East Sussex.
Pearl Witherington: British female SOE spy in charge of 3,500 French resistance fighters
Few WWII enthusiasts are familiar with Pearl Witherington's story. Perhaps that is because for decades she refused to tell it. Born and raised in Paris, Witherington fled Nazi-occupied France only to parachute back in as part of Churchill's secret army, the Special Operations Executive. Witherington was trained as a courier but took charge of 3,500 French resistance fighters when her network's leader was arrested. "I don't consider I did anything extraordinary. I did it because I wanted to, because it was useful, because it had to be done." Kathryn Atwood, the editor of Witherington's memoir Code Name Pauline, relays her remarkable story.
The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets And Lives Of Christine Granville by Clare Mulley
In 1963, Peter O`Donnell created the comic strip Modesty Blaise in which a brave, intelligent, resourceful woman who is irresistible to men routinely used her sexual allure to further her aims. Few real-life characters match up to her, but Christine Granville, the daughter of a Polish aristocrat who became Britain`s longest-serving WWII female spy, came closer than most. Born Krystyna Skarbek, she volunteered for Special Operations Executive (SOE) in 1939, and her courage was legendary. For example, she skied from Hungary into Nazi-occupied occupied Poland as part of a network called The Musketeers. For her feats of bravery she was awarded the George Medal and the OBE by the British and the Croix de Guerre by the French.
Documents about Operation Foxley, WWII British plan to assassinate Hitler, published by PaperlessArchives
PaperlessArchives.com has announced the publishing of the British SOE (Special Operations Executive) report on Operation Foxley, The British plan to kill Hitler. In 1944, the office of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), reduced plans to assassinate Hitler, that formed Operation Foxley, to a report. The plan was drawn up by a SOE agent code named LB/X, whose true identity is still kept a secret. The report gives details of Hitler`s daily routine and eating habits; aerial photos, drawings of Hitler's Alpine retreat at Berchtesgaden in Bavaria, details of assassination methods, sketches of SS Guard uniforms, agents' disguises and "guest" workers.
WWII SAS intelligence officer and military historian MRD Foot passes away at 92
Michael Richard Daniell (MRD) Foot, SAS intelligence officer and the official historian of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), who has died aged 92, enjoyed the rare distinction of being the only person to be referred to by his real name in a John le Carré novel.
How two sisters and their brother wrought havoc behind Nazi lines during Second World War
The tale of three spies - two sisters and their brother - who all went undercover behind enemy lines during the Second World War to disrupt Nazis operations has been revealed in a book called "The Heroines of SOE: Britain's Secret Women in France". It reveals the heroics of Eileen Nearne, her sister Jacqueline and older brother Francis, who all worked for Special Operation's Executive (SOE).
France is only belatedly accepting the fact that Britain masterminded French resistance
Captain Robert Maloubier was an agent of the French section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), created to "set Europe ablaze" by carrying out espionage and sabotage behind enemy lines. Maloubier took part in a string of daring missions in Nazi-occupied France as a weapons trainer and demolitions expert, helping blow up a power station, a steel plant, and a submarine tender as well as preparing the ground for D-Day. "The French ... think they freed themselves all alone. One always hears about the French resistance. The influence of the SOE, experts who came over to train the French, has had very little coverage in France." For decades the number of French who joined the resistance has been exaggerated in France.
Indian WWII heroine: Noor Inayat Khan was the first female radio operator SOE sent into Nazi-occupied France
The WWII heroism of Noor Inayat Khan, one of Special Operations Executive secret agents, has remained mostly forgotten. She was the first female radio operator sent into Nazi-occupied France, where she ran a cell of spies for 3 months until she was betrayed. For 10 months Khan was tortured by the Gestapo, but she refused to reveal anything and was executed at Dachau on September 13, 1944. Now, because of the efforts of her biographer Shrabani Basu, Khan's bravery is finally to be recognized in England with a bronze bust in London.
The Heroines of SOE: Britain's Secret Women in France by Beryl Escott (book review)
The most famous of the SOE agents are the women: the adventures of Violet Szabo, Noor Inayat-Khan, Odette Sansom, Nancy Wake and Pearl Witherington have been covered in many books and WW2 films. "Heroines of SOE" tells the story of some women whose feats are not widely known. 3 female agents who served in the Special Operations Executive's F Section – Yvonne Baseden, Nancy Wake and Sonya Butt – are still alive today.
Pulp History book series: Shadow Knights - The Secret War Against Hitler
Daredevil saboteurs of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in Nazi-occupied Europe went to extremes to help the Resistance movement. Their adventures are recounted in "Shadow Knights: The Secret War Against Hitler" - a WWII book illustrated with historical material like period photographs, maps and propaganda posters - plus extremely violent art that evokes 1950s pulp book covers, which hopefully lures new audience into reading history books.
SOE agent John Farmer recalls operating in the Nazi-occupied France
Seeking adventure, Major John Farmer switched from an anti-aircraft unit to the Special Operations Executive. On April 29, 1944, under the codename Hubert, he parachuted into the Auvergne to organize the Freelance Resistance circuit and get supplies to Maquis in the area. Life was never easy, avoiding the Germans and the Milice (Vichy Militia) was very difficult. With the help of SOE agents Britain send 650 tons of explosives, 723,000 hand grenades, and 500,000 small arms into France to arm the Resistance groups.
SOE spy school at Beaulieu: Planting explosives, burglary, forgery, sabotage and silent killing
"It was a life of lies", says WW2 agent Noreen Baxter-Riols, who was trained by the Special Operations Executive at Beaulieu. Experts were brought in to pass on skills in specific areas, for example Hong Kong police experts developed a special type of commando knife. At one stage, radio operators were surviving for an average of 6 weeks: "They were very brave people who knew the risks, there was a 50% chance of coming back."
Leonard Ratcliffe, who flew SOE agents into Nazi-held Europe, guest of honour at the opening of a new museum
Wing Commander Leonard Ratcliffe is to be guest of honour at the opening of a new museum - the Musee de la Resistance et de la Deportation du Cher (Cher Museum of Resistance and Deportation) - in Bourges in France.
Secret SOE files about World War II female spy Eileen Nearne released
Newly released classified documents about Eileen Nearne reveal she was assessed as "scatter-brained" only two months before she was sent in Paris in March 1944 - just before her 23rd birthday. Nearne (aka Jacqueline Duterte, Alice Wood, Rose, Pioneer and Petticoat) worked as a radio operator for the Mitchell Mission (Wizard). She was arrested by the Gestapo, tortured (only revealing misinformation) and taken to the Nazi camps. Nearne escaped before the end of the war, avoiding SS men she ended up being jailed by the Americans, before she was handed to the British authorities and repatriated in May 1945.
Woman who lived alone in her Torquay flat was WW2 SOE agent, who fooled Gestapo despite torture
The life of an unsung WWII heroine - who died alone in her Torquay flat at 89 - has come to light after investigations. Neighbours said Eileen Nearne was a hermit, but during the war she was a member of the SOE, serving in Nazi-occupied France as a radio operator under the codename "Rose". Her early SOE work was at listening stations in Britain. On March 2, 1944, she was dropped near Les Lagnys in France to work as a wireless operator for the Wizard network as part of Operation Mitchel. Gestapo caught her using radio set but, even after torture, she persuaded the Nazis that she was just an innocent girl.
Weapons of World War II hero and SOE agent Geoffrey Hallowes found in house clearance
Firearms linked to WWII hero Geoffrey Hallowes have been given to the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen after being found at a house in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey. Firearms specialists linked them with Hallowes, who served with the Gordon Highlanders in the Far East before joining the Special Operations Executive (SOE). He helped to set up the French Resistance after D-Day, receiving a number of military medals like the Croix de Guerre and Legion d'honneur. Weapons included American M1 carbine; German MP40 sub machine gun; British Enfield .38 revolver; American Colt .32 pistol; and German Luger 9mm pistol.
Colonel George Lane fought with SOE winning an MC for his service with the Commandos
George Lane joined SOE (Special Operations Executive, a British World War II covert military organisation) in the 1930s - mastering unarmed combat, weapons and explosives, parachuting and small boat handling. Later he joined X Troop (3 Troop), and for one mission he parachuted into France to loot a safe in a German brigade HQ for important papers. Captured on a secret mission, he was invited to tea by Field Marshal Rommel, who, Lane always believed, prevented him from being shot by the Gestapo. He was granted a Military Cross for his service with the Commandos during World War II.
A memorial to secret agents who worked for the Allies in World War II unveiled in London
A memorial to Allied secret agents is unveiled in London, featuring a sculpture of captured and executed Violette Szabo. The memorial commemorates all members of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) - Their methods were controversial and described by some as downright brutal. Official papers on the SOE are still being held back on grounds of sensitivity. It was the SOE that carried out one of World War II's most famous commando operations, the raid on Telemark. This destroyed a factory in Norway where the Nazis were attempting to produce heavy water, a key ingredient in atomic bombs.
Churchill, wanting to take the fight to Hitler, send thousands of special forces men to needless death
He is accused of arrogance and a blind faith in his own ability. But without Winston Churchill's will, Britain would have fallen to Nazi Germany. Unlike the Americans, who thought in terms of large armies, Churchill used small raids to annoy the enemy. "His Majesty's government can't have its troops standing idle. Muskets must flame." As a result special forces used up a huge percentage of Britain's best warriors. The Special Air Service (SAS), Special Boat Squadron (SBS), Long Range Desert Group, SOE and other elite groups and their secret missions of little strategic value ill served the British Army, chronically short of good infantrymen for the major battles.
World War II SOE agents failed the honey trap test at their training centre
Trainee secret agents were tested for their resilience to the 'honey trap' at a Surrey manor house, reveals an analysis of the role Britain's country properties played during the war. But few managed to keep their secrets to themselves. Tests of Special Operations Executive (SOE) spies only proved how unreliable most of them were. Historian Marcus Binney wrote: "Elizabethan Wanborough Manor ... was one of the houses where trainee agents were plied with drink to see if they would talk when light-headed. The glamorous girls employed to extract details... were so successful that the tests were abandoned as ever more brave, painstakingly trained young men succumbed."
Special Operations Executive, Churchill's secret army, lived on after it was "disbanded"
Files at the National Archives in Kew reveal that the Special Operations Executive was not disbanded at the end of World War II, as is commonly believed. Officially SOE, set up to run resistance in Nazi occupied areas, was "liquidated" in Jan 1946. But in reality 300 agents were brought into the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, later MI6). SOE agents were trained for all kinds of clandestine operations. They organized sabotage, guerrilla warfare, black propaganda operations. Training schools, like the one at Beaulieu in Hampshire, taught agents all manner of spy techniques, for example how to kill a man with their bare hands.
Event remembers World War II heroine Violette Szabo
The daughter of a World War II heroine will be guest of honour at a screening of the film about her mother's life. Violette Szabo was a war widow who helped the French resistance as a secret agent for the British SOE. Szabo, who was caught days after D-Day and killed at Ravensbruck concentration camp by the Gestapo, was posthumously awarded the George Cross. The film, Carve her Name with Pride, is 50 years old and the Royal Armouries in Leeds is marking the anniversary with screenings in a ticket-only event dedicated to remembering the lives of those who served with the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during World War II.
Winston Churchill was begged to keep SOE going to counter Russian menace
Winston Churchill was recommended, by the head of Britain's World War II secret espionage unit going in peacetime, to counter "the Russian menace", files released by the National Archives reveal. But the wartime PM unknowingly signed the death warrant of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) by holding up a decision on it until after the 1945 general election, which he lost to Clement Attlee. Lord Selborne, who as Minister of Economic Warfare headed up the service, argued against placing the unit under the control of the Foreign Office, which wanted to combine it with the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS).
Female Agents - WW2 movie based on a true story [video clip]
Based on a real-life story, Female Agents follows a band of women, headed by Louise (Sophie Marceau), who are recruited by SOE (Special Operations Executive) to enter Nazi occupied France and save an English geologist who has secret information about the Normandy landings. Then they head to Paris where they must assassinate the chief of German counter-intelligence Oberst Heindrich (Moritz Bleibtreu). Its original title "Les Femmes de l'ombre" ("women of the shadows") gets closer to the essence of this fascinating synthesis of spy thriller and tribute to forgotten wartime heroines.
Pearl Cornioley: Sharpshooter, paratrooper: the woman who set France ablaze
The secrets of female spy Pearl Cornioley who helped lead the resistance in Nazi-occupied France have been revealed at Britain's National Archives. She outwitted the Nazis by hiding secret messages in the hem of her skirt and aiding airmen escape to safety. The files detail her training as a special agent, her activities and her battle to be recognized by the govt. She obtained a slot as a SOE (Special Operations Executive) agent - one of about 40 women to serve. "She is of average intelligence... Outstanding shot with pistol and other weapons. Probably the best shot (male or female) we have had yet."
Special Operations Executive used astrologer Louis de Wohl to beat Hitler
German astrologer Louis de Wohl claimed he could foretell the Fuhrer's war plans. Secret documents show that de Wohl was hired by the SOE so he could tell them what German astronomers would be telling the tyrant. After the start of war he was made a captain in the British Army and put in charge of the Psychological Research Bureau. De Wohl claimed that Hitler had been counseled by astrologers since 1923, but later Hitler's secretary confirmed that Hitler had no interest in horoscopes. The papers reveal that de Wohl had also began to write horoscopes for "high-placed British intelligence officers".
Maj. Gen. John Singlaub tells of OSS days - Office of Strategic Services (Article no longer available from the original source)
Fayetteville: The theater at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum was almost full as soldiers turned out to listen to Army Maj. Gen. John Singlaub. Speaking about his book "Hazardous Duty," he focused on the early days of the Office of Strategic Services. OSS derives from Franklin Roosevelt’s WWII request for the creation of an information unit. Incited by military intelligence that showed Hitler was unstoppable, Roosevelt wanted an organization that could put an end to the propaganda being circulated about the war. The first director of OSS was General Bill Donovan, who - according to Singlaub - told Roosevelt that Wehrmacht was taking over North Africa.
Briton killed by Nazis outside Rome was a top secret agent
An "Unknown Englishman" murdered outside Rome by Nazis was a secret agent who had been landed by submarine to organise anti-Fascist resistance on Sardinia, a historian claimed. The officer was named as Captain John Armstrong. But they cautioned that this could have been an alias. Now it was claimed that "John Armstrong" was Gabor Adler, a Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent code-named "Gabriel", who was landed in Jan 1943 in Sardinia. He was captured soon, together with Salvatore Serra, an Italian Carabinieri (paramilitary police) officer who had defected to British forces. The pair were found to be carrying a list of Sardinian antiFascist activists.
Tinker, tailor, soldier, spymistress - The story of Vera Atkins (Article no longer available from the original source)
Spymistress: The Life of Vera Atkins, The Greatest Female Secret Agent of World War II by Bill Stevenson, re-activates many of the key figures involved in WWII's covert war against the Nazis who appeared in the original Intrepid book. All the big spy names in his new book are now dead and unable to tell the tale of Vera Atkins, who did pre-war intelligence gathering in Europe for Stephenson, and in WWII became the highest ranking woman of Special Operations Executive (SOE). She was ruthless and realistic to send agents on missions where torture and death outweighed chances for success. Of 480 agents sent into France, 130 were captured.
The secret agents tortured and killed discovered after 60 years
A graveyard for secret agents recruited by British and US intelligence has been discovered in Italy. For more than 60 years, their remains have lain in an military cemetery at Bolzano. The 23 men's identities were known, but no one knew why they were there or why they had been killed together. They were Italians infiltrated into the German-occupied part of Italy after Italy's withdrawal from the world war II in 1943. "They worked either for the forerunner of the CIA, the American Office of Strategic Services OSS, or for the British Special Operations Executive SOE."
Guerrilla operations against the Nazi occupiers
From 1943 Francis Cammaerts was one of the star performers of the "independent French" section of Special Operations Executive (SOE), which run guerrilla operations against the Nazi occupiers and Vichy regime during the second world war. His brother Pieter's early death as an RAF pilot changed his mind about violent opposition to Nazism. Through his friend he secured an entry to SOE in 1942, where F, the independent French section, took him on and sent him on their paramilitary training courses. Training staff reported that he would make a competent sabotage instructor, but did not appear to have leadership qualities.
Escape maps and stamps for PoWs were hidden in prunes
An extraordinary collection of materials used to help prisoners of war and French Resistance fighters in occupied Europe is to go under the hammer. It includes two prunes of the original thousands used by the Special Operations Executive, Churchill's secret army of undercover agents, to smuggle miniature documents into PoW camps. The documents included intricate maps of continental railway networks, allowing PoWs to plan their escape. There were also accurate forgeries of official German rubber document stamps and elaborate plates used to forge "camp money" used by PoW officers to buy a limited range of goods.
Noor Anayat Khan: The princess who became a spy
This is the story of a young Indian Muslim woman who joined a secret organisation dedicated to acts of sabotage across Europe. She was the first female radio operator sent into Nazi-occupied France by the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Through the terrifying summer of 1943, the untried spy found herself virtually in charge of Resistance communications in the Paris area as the Gestapo arrested cell after cell around her. Captured, she proved impenitent and uncontrollable. She died a horrific death in custody, kicked into a "bloody mess" on the stone floors of Dachau concentration camp, and then shot.
Documentary series: Secret Agent - SOE in World War II (Article no longer available from the original source)
If you are really interested in SOE (Special Operations Executive) you may want to get into your hands a documentary film series called "Secret Agent - SOE in WWII." The series, while not dazzling, includes several interviews and overviews of some of the mission SOE carried out during the Second World War.