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SOE (Special Operations Executive)

Asp9mmAsp9mm Over the Hills and Far Away.Posts: 6,654MI6 Agent
edited November -1 in General James Bond Chat
I was going to put this in the Off Topic forum, but in light of recent documents being Unclassified, it's quite clear that SOE was the basis for Ian Flemings Secret Service in which Bond worked. A grey building (almost) overlooking Regents Park, A head referred to as 'M' and even a Q-Branch dedicated to developing assassination and sabotage gadgets concealed as/in everyday items. Its branches in foreign countries were also labelled the same as Fleming's fictional Secret Service branches. Fleming was also a liaison officer between Naval Intelligence and SOE during the war and had top access to a few of their main operations and certainly their techniques and gadgets. He even trained with agents at one point.

It's something of a coincidence that I've been a huge admirer of SOE and its operations and tools used. My grandfather flew agents in and out of occupied countries in a Lysander until he was grounded by a fire in a hangar that damaged his eyesight. He took me to see my first Bond film in 1977, encouraged me to join the armed forces and prompted my collection of original SOE items, paperwork, library and dedication to all those brave men and wormen that served and suffered horrendously in WW2.

The Special Operations Executive was ordered by Winston Churchill to "set Europe ablaze". SOE's main task was to link up with resistance movements - primarily the French Resistance - to undermine the Germans in the countries they had occupied and sabotage everything and anything they could.

These are some of the items created and used by SOE. There's so much that I'll keep adding to it bit by bit.

The FS knife is pretty famous, and Fairbairn and Sykes both taught SOE agents CQB before they were dropped into occupied Europe. This example is a rare SOE 'sterile' example which has no markings whatsoever, so its country of origin couldn't be identified if discovered.

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SOE agents had a large array of concealable blades and daggers available to them. This example is a sleeve spike designed to escape detection during a search. A nasty assassination weapon about ten inches long.

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On a slightly smaller scale at around six inches long was this miniature version which was designed to be concealed in hems, collars and more commonly in hollowed out pens and pencils.

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One of the iconic knives given to SOE agents was the Jack Knife Dagger which had a blade designed for stabbing but that could also pass for a standard pocket knife. This now rare version with a secondary tyre slasher blade was designed to slash tyre walls so repair was impossible. It could also snip off the valve tube quite easliy. Not many of these knives survive now as they were very useful (and quite large at 9 inches opened), most showing regular blade wear and sharpening. My grandad used one for pruning. Unbelievable considering they are worth more than good FS knives now, even in well used/damaged condition. The bottom picture is from a copy of the original SOE catalogue of equipment.

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SOE also supplied agents with a smaller concealable tyre slashing blade. Designed to be slipped over a finger, these were also popular E&E (Escape & Evasion) tools smuggled into POW camps.

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Also designed for E&E was the button compassed, this example still with its waterproof shroud, so it could be swallowed or secreted in bodily orifices to avoid discovery.

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SOE also used and dropped into Europe, the PE #69 grenade designed to explode on impact and the famous Mills grenade.

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I'll continue a little later with explosives and sabotage equiment.
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Comments

  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,696MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    Fascinating stuff. {[]
    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
  • AlphaOmegaSinAlphaOmegaSin EnglandPosts: 10,924MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    Brilliant. Just brilliant {[]
    1.On Her Majesties Secret Service 2.The Living Daylights 3.license To Kill 4.The Spy Who Loved Me 5.Goldfinger
  • stagstag Posts: 2,083MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    Brilliant! Expect a PM for advice soon!

    BTW I just bought two SOE field manuals for research purposes. In one of them I noticed the exploding incendiary suitcase & briefcase which set me in mind of FRWL.
  • stagstag Posts: 2,083MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    I posted this elsewhere but think it's fitting to repost here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsDTZKbVZiw

    The people involved were actual SOE agents.
  • Asp9mmAsp9mm Over the Hills and Far Away.Posts: 6,654MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    stag wrote:
    I posted this elsewhere but think it's fitting to repost here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsDTZKbVZiw

    The people involved were actual SOE agents.

    You can buy the full DVD from the IWM (Imperial War Museum). It's called 'Now It Can Be Told'.
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  • stagstag Posts: 2,083MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    Asp9mm wrote:
    stag wrote:
    I posted this elsewhere but think it's fitting to repost here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsDTZKbVZiw

    The people involved were actual SOE agents.

    You can buy the full DVD from the IWM (Imperial War Museum). It's called 'Now It Can Be Told'.

    I've got it. A great watch!
  • AlphaOmegaSinAlphaOmegaSin EnglandPosts: 10,924MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    Out of Curiosity, did your Grandad have to follow The Official Secrets Act?
    1.On Her Majesties Secret Service 2.The Living Daylights 3.license To Kill 4.The Spy Who Loved Me 5.Goldfinger
  • Asp9mmAsp9mm Over the Hills and Far Away.Posts: 6,654MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    Here's a few sabotage devices developed by SOE.

    Pull switch designed to go off after a trip wire has been pulled. Used for a variety of targets from vehicles, trains and troops. the classic booby trap device.

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    Trip wires...

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    Push switch designed to go off when the pressure pad is activated...

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    Bakelite junction box used on rail demolitions to set numerous fuse wires...

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    Copper'match head' type fuses that were crimped on to detonation cord to start it off. Complete with striker which has been well used...

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    Percussion caps used to set off explosives...

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    SOE detonator crimping tool, used for crimping a detonator on to the fuse creating a firm and waterproof seal. This one is complete with its original wax paper...

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    The famous SOE Time Pencil. Designed as a time fuse. The end is placed in the plastic explosive and the copper part is crushed by the finger and thumb which crushes a vial of acid inside. This eats the wire retaining the striker over a set period of time and then... BOOM!!! The coloured safety pin was colour coded for delay times. Anything from two minutes to a day or so. They came in tins of five. Famously used during the Telemark raid amongst others.

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  • Asp9mmAsp9mm Over the Hills and Far Away.Posts: 6,654MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    Out of Curiosity, did your Grandad have to follow The Official Secrets Act?

    He must have done... yes.
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  • Asp9mmAsp9mm Over the Hills and Far Away.Posts: 6,654MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    A couple of miscellaneous items before I move on to a few firearms.

    Carrier pigeon container. Used by the SOE in Europe when wireless operation was too dangerous. This is a very rare item, and the only other one I know of in the UK is in the IWM.

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    Wire cutters, used by SOE saboteurs to cut fences when clearing land for Lysander landing strips, telephone line and perimeter fence breaching.

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    1939 French Michelin maps. These were issued to SOE agents before going in to their designated operational zones.

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  • Asp9mmAsp9mm Over the Hills and Far Away.Posts: 6,654MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    Pistols.

    During WW2 the US supplied us Brits with many weapons on a loan/lease programme in which we traded information and developments of our own. because of this, we had at our disposal many Colt pistols of the hammerless design. SOE most notably used the 1903 version..

    Colt_Model_1908_Pocket_Hamerless_AdamsGuns_1783_zpshkcq0vtl.jpg


    They also used the 1908 vest pocket version for added concealability. These were also available suppressed.

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    They also used many other models of small pocket pistol, such as Star and Bernadelli pistols. Two European pistols of note are of interest to us Bond fans. The first one is the Beretta 418 and its brothers...

    get-attachment%205_zpsapezmbzw.jpg



    The second was the .25 Browning which was used almost as much as the Colts. Ian Fleming himself was issued one of these to protect himself and Admiral Godfrey. He kept it when the war ended and took it to Jamaica for protection.

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    Possibly the most famous pistol invented and used by the SOE is the Welrod. A very silent pistol with a 7 round magazine and closed bolt so there is no mechanical sound when fired. It was as silent as a finger click and unidentifiable as a gun shot. Testers famously shot pigeons from the rooftops in Regent Street without anyone noticing. Designed specifically for concealment and assassination, it was still in use with the MOD until a few years ago and still classified. The US made its own for the OSS and was used extensively in Vietnam. Chris Ryan famously carried one during his famous escape and evasion from Iraq during the first Gulf War.

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    The muzzle was designed with a concave dip to aid in sound dampening when pushed into the person being shot. Effectively creating a further and final sound baffle.

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    A short but informative video on the Welrod can be found here...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzOU4vom2fs



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  • Charmed & DangerousCharmed & Dangerous Posts: 6,959MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    Fascinating stuff - thanks for sharing! -{
    "How was your lamb?" "Skewered. One sympathises."
  • stagstag Posts: 2,083MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    Asp9mm wrote:
    Out of Curiosity, did your Grandad have to follow The Official Secrets Act?

    He must have done... yes.
    The OSA is standard fare. For example I've signed it three times.
  • stagstag Posts: 2,083MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    Already this is shaping up to be one of the best threads on the forum. Great information.
  • AlphaOmegaSinAlphaOmegaSin EnglandPosts: 10,924MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    Agreed {[] I cant wait to see more.
    1.On Her Majesties Secret Service 2.The Living Daylights 3.license To Kill 4.The Spy Who Loved Me 5.Goldfinger
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,696MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    I think it also helps to show that although Bond sometimes gets criticised
    For gadgets. They were in fact a stable part of the service . -{
    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
  • stagstag Posts: 2,083MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    ASP will correct me if I'm wrong but the whole R&D section was based in the Natural History Museum. Indeed I saw a report on breakfast news only last week. Surviving SOE members went there for a special dinner & some of the equipment they used was put out on display for them.

    SOE had some amazing gadgets. Everything from exploding cowdung to submersible canoes! It's likely that IF heard of or saw some of these things.
  • Asp9mmAsp9mm Over the Hills and Far Away.Posts: 6,654MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    The NHM had an area that is now the mammals hall that used to have rows of cabinets that displayed SOE items. Almost like a supermarket for spies. Some small development took place there, but most of it happened in The Frythe at Welwyn (which is why we get the Wel -rod, Wel-pen, Wel-gun, Wel-bike etc), and at Aston House Stevenage (the famous Station XII). They had an Arms section at Bride Hall Hertfordshire and a camouflage section at The Thatched Barn at the Barnett Bypass. They kept the vast majority of the R&D departments well away from London and the large probability of them getting blown up.

    Fleming would have had access to all of these items. The commando unit he set up himself - 30 AU would have had an interest in using many of these items and would have been fully briefed on their development and potential for use in their own intelligence gathering raids. Operation Postmaster a joint SOE and NID operation meant Fleming was a regular visitor to SOE HQ and would certainly have deep inside knowledge of the whole set-up due to his involvement in that alone.
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  • TecoloteTecolote Mississippi,USAPosts: 119MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    Great start, Asp. I hope you keep it going.I have seen photos of the displays at the NHM, so I guess those of us who've been there can can say we've Been to the real "Q Branch" :) .
    The M1903 Colt was also available in .380, but in addition to the easier availibilty of the .32/7.65mm I've read an article which stated the .32 shot to point of aim better than the .380. Have you got any SOE holsters or lapel daggers,by the way?
    I'd really like to know more about those suppressed .25 Colts and Brownings.

    Regards,

    Tecolote
  • Asp9mmAsp9mm Over the Hills and Far Away.Posts: 6,654MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    Cheers guys.

    They also used a 1911 model that was chambered for .38, but for the most part they used the .32 calibre pistols. I have a couple of holsters and loads of SOE blades including the lapel daggers which I'll be posting up in time.

    Webley pistols were also used, and some of these were suppressed too. As the small pistols like the Browning, Colt, Stars etc were issued as last minute defence weapons, not many were suppressed. In fact most agents cached their pistols as soon as they arrived in enemy territory as they felt the risk of discovery through searches was too great. Many found their way into the hands of the Marquis or local partisan groups.
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  • AlphaOmegaSinAlphaOmegaSin EnglandPosts: 10,924MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    Keep this up {[]
    1.On Her Majesties Secret Service 2.The Living Daylights 3.license To Kill 4.The Spy Who Loved Me 5.Goldfinger
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 24,948Chief of Staff
    edited November -1
    Fascinating thread - {[]
    YNWA 96

    The Unbearables
  • SpoffSpoff Posts: 244MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    Very nice, interesting stuff.

    I also remember reading that Christopher Lee was in the SOE or the "Ministry of ungentlemanly warfare". I don't know if that is true or not.

    But it's interesting as he is a cousin of Fleming and was Scaramanga too :)
  • superadosuperado Regent's Park West (CaliforniaPosts: 2,553MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    Thank you for posting, Asp9mm. What's more amazing than those artifacts is the honored privilege of your grandfather to have been involved in the defense of Great Britain during WWII, most specifically with the SOE. Would you by chance have actual specimens or photos of authentic mission folders from the period?
    "...the purposeful slant of his striding figure looked dangerous, as if he was making quickly for something bad that was happening further down the street." -SMERSH on 007 dossier photo, Ch. 6 FRWL.....
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 17,390MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    Great thread!

    The SOE has facinated me since my early teens. The Norwegian section was informally known as Company Linge after the actor and reserve officer who started up an led the unit until he was killled in the Måløy raid. Some SOE agents are household names in Norway, including Gunnar "Number 24" Sønsteby, and some of the most seen movies and TV series in my country are about them.
    I wonder if your grandfather flew missions to Norway?
    Did you know there is a Special Forces Club in London? It's a very descrete membership club for people who served in special operations units. I believe it's open to families too, but I'm not sure.

    They do have an internet site:
    http://sfclub.org/
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 17,390MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    Crown prince Magnus and some of the better known members of Company Linge at the Special Forces Club. Gunnar "Numbe 24" to the left, Ragnar Ulstein stands third (a unit historian whom I've met), number four is Erling Lorentzen who served in the SOE as a teenager and later married a princess, then the Crown Prince and at the end Joachim Rønneberg (I met him, but didn't have the courage to talk to him)who commanded the heavy water mission. A fantastic set of characters!

    Haakon.jpg
  • stagstag Posts: 2,083MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    I know of the Special Forces Club. It is open to Military Intelligence types (MI5 & 6) as well as SAS & SBS & SOE veterans. Perhaps Bond would have been a member? Indeed IF himself would have qualified for membership.
  • stagstag Posts: 2,083MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    The Lysander was well suited to special duties primarily for its STOL abilities. A Docile handling aircraft, it was used to great effect by the RAFs Special Duties Squadrons.
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 17,390MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    stag wrote:
    I know of the Special Forces Club. It is open to Military Intelligence types (MI5 & 6) as well as SAS & SBS & SOE veterans. Perhaps Bond would have been a member? Indeed IF himself would have qualified for membership.

    True. Also members of foreign special forces and inteligence organisations can be members. I understand it's a great place to hear old war stories for young spies and commandoes.
  • stagstag Posts: 2,083MI6 Agent
    edited November -1
    British TV ran two drama series about SOE agents in occupied France in the eighties called 'Wish Me Luck'. They were repeated recently. I watched them all again & they were still good.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muB4CtE_Ur4
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