|SOE camps in Britain and abroad were the model of all spy-craft for years|
Many books have been written regarding this one department, that it almost does not need repeating, and yet, although its influence cannot be calculated, the SOE manages to remain relatively obscure in the minds of most of the world’s population.
The SOE alone did not win the war, but its organization, training camps, instructors, training methods and gadgetry were used in every single theater of the war. Many of Churchill’s ‘Secret Armies’ were trained under SOE jurisdiction, and most of the world’s spy networks modeled on their mold.
Without doubt, the SOE was Churchill’s greatest creation.
|An examination of all of Churchill's 'Secret Armies'.|
Initially formed to combine all of Britain's fractured Military Intelligence Services, it did far more; it provided a training regime that served not only the allied spies and counter-espionage agents, but all Special Forces too. From its early days in July 1940 until the end of the war in 1945, the SOE schools in Britain and the training techniques they had developed were used on a massive scale. The Commandoes, the SAS, the Paratroopers, SBS, Cichociemni (Polish S.F.), US Rangers, Canadian Devil’s Brigade, Jedburgh’s and many others were trained in the SOE’s 50 plus locations in Britain.
Later coined as "the school for mayhem and murder", the deep-background preparation, the variety of subjects, the attention to detail, and the hardy regime were used as the blueprint of every single spy organization in the modern world today.
When Churchill came to power, at least four different intelligence agencies vied for power, and did not share techniques, information or personnel. It was Churchill alone on his first days in charge who set up the ambiguously titled Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.), and detailed their mission; ‘to set Europe ablaze’. You can see Churchill's footprint from the inception of Britain's structured military intelligence; had been in the cabinet when Britain’s first Military Intelligence agency was set up in 1909. In the landings at Gallipoli in 1915, he had personally witnessed the disaster that could strike the largest of military operations if the intelligence was not accurate or up to date.
When he took charge in 1940, he was determined not to make the same mistake twice; to beat the Nazi menace, Britain’s military intelligence service would have to be the best in the world, and would train and operate to standards far exceeding the expectation of both its founding members and the enemy.
|"If you have to search a prisoner, kill him first..."|
Of all the allied forces, the USA followed SOE guidelines more than any other. The Office of Strategic Studies (O.S.S.) continued Churchill’s penchant for ambiguous titles, and from its inception, the OSS trained their operatives in the SOE camps in Canada. Within months of entering the war in December 1941 they had begun construction of their own camps in Maryland and Virginia. The largest were at Prince William Forest, near Quantico (near the Marine base and FBI Headquarters) and Catoctin Mountain Park, (now the location of Camp David).
At the close of the war, the OSS went on to become the CIA, and is still active today.
Churchill's Special Operations Executive may not have won the war on its own, but it shortened it by many years, and saved millions of lives.
Take a look inside Churchill's Secret Armies...