The Special Operations Executive was ordered by Winston Churchill to “set Europe ablaze”. The Special Operations Executive’s (SOE) main task was to link up with resistance movements – primarily the French Resistance – to undermine the Germans in the countries they had occupied. Little thought had been given to helping those civilians who not only wanted to fight back at the Germans, but also wanted to help out the British.
In 1940, after the fall of France, Britain had a rudimentary approach to assisting civilian resistance movements in Europe. Section D existed as part of the Secret Service. Its task was to support subversive movements in occupied countries. MI (R) also existed. It was part of the War Office and its job was to support irregular operations conducted by personnel in uniform.
Both Section D and MI (R) proved relatively ineffective in supporting the resistance movements in western Europe due to too much inter-departmental rivalry. One further disadvantage SOE had was convincing those in the military hierarchy that what they planned to do was worth supporting.
Acts of sabotage were difficult to verify, especially their success. Communication was invariably slow; so good news took time to arrive. There were many in the military who saw the SOE as a distraction from the ‘proper’ fighting that had to be done.
The presentation covers the following:
Special Operations Executive
Dalton in Charge
Convincing the Military
Getting Agents on the Ground
Learning the Ropes
Captain Henry Rees
End of Presentation
This is one of several "companion" power point presentations that I offer on... World War II.