Despite the fact that it was technically created in July 1940, the SOE (Special Operations Executive) had come together in 1938 with the combination of 3 active, top secret sections shortly after Germany annexed Austria. Churchill’s Secret Army was told to “Set Europe Ablaze”.
SOE agents were directed to several Nazi occupied nations to either cause havoc behind German lines and in addition make an attempt to locate local resistance groups they would quite possibly work with after the time for invasion arrived. Theatres of Operation involved France, Belgium, Poland, Germany, Yugoslavia, Greece, Hungary, Albania, Czechoslovakia, Norway, Denmark, Romania, Abyssinia and the Far East.
As agents operated deep in Nazi occupied countries and they were recruited from numerous social class and background. The fundamental prerequisite was that the would-be operative had detailed understanding of the place they would function in and Ä±n a position to pass as a native of that country. That is why, agents holding dual nationality were highly sought after.
The iconic aircraft used by the SOE in France was the Westland Lysander. It was a little plane which caused it to be much more tough to view and was robust enough to touch down on makeshift landing strips. It was used to ferry agents to and from the United Kingdom together with lifting individuals who needed to be interviewed in London. Pilots who had been shot down were also typically returned to the UK by Lysander.
Amongst the Special Operations Executive numbers were also female agents and in the region of 30% of the female agents dropped into France from Section F, did not survive. The nature of missions in every country varied. For instance, in Poland, there was little need to stir up the locals as there was already wide-spread hatred of the Nazis. This was in comparison to regions such as Vichy France where some locals worked with with the Germans and the threat of SOE operatives being betrayed was significantly increased.
Throughout World War II, the SOE had utilized about 13,000 people who directly helped or supplied somewhere in the region of 1 million agents.