World War 2 brought the capabilities of women as spies and resistance participants to the forefront…..these brave women were part of the war effort working for a section known as the S.O.E. (Special Operations Executive)….
There numbers were decimated by either incompetent leadership or a spy within the organization….I feel it was a little of both.
But let’s look at the brave women of World War 2……
After France signed an armistice with Germany in June 1940, Great Britain feared the shadow of Nazism would continue to fall over Europe. Dedicated to keeping the French people fighting, Prime Minister Winston Churchill pledged the United Kingdom’s support to the resistance movement. Charged with “set(ting) Europe ablaze,” the Special Operations Executive, or SOE, was born.
Headquartered at 64 Baker Street in London, the SOE’s official purpose was to put British special agents on the ground to “coordinate, inspire, control and assist the nationals of the oppressed countries.” Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton borrowed irregular warfare tactics used by the Irish Republican Army two decades before. The “Baker Street Irregulars,” as they came to be known, were trained in sabotage, small arms, radio and telegraph communication and unarmed combat. SOE agents were also required to be fluent in the language of the nation in which they would be inserted so they could fit into the society seamlessly. If their presence aroused undue suspicion, their missions could well be over before they even began.
Extensive training in resisting interrogation and how to evade capture underscored the gravity of their missions. Fear of the Gestapo was real and well-founded. Some agents hid suicide pills in their coat buttons in case they could not escape. They knew it was unlikely they would see their homes in the British Commonwealth again, but accepted the risk.
Irregular missions required irregular materiel. The SOE Operations and Research section developed unique devices for agents to use in sabotage and close-range combat. Their inventions, including an exploding pen and weapons hidden in everyday objects like umbrellas and pipes, would even inspire Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. Operations and Research also developed a foldable bike called the Welbike, but it was unreliable on rough terrain. Most of the groups’ inventions, like waterproof containers that protected agents’ supplies during parachute jumps, were more practical.
I have watched several documentaries on those women and their stories need to be told and told often.
Sadly their contributions to the war effort have mostly been overlooked or forgotten…..that needs to change.
I Read, I Write, You Know
“lego ergo scribo”
7 thoughts on “Women’s History #5”
Terrific stories like this will help shine a much-needed spotlight…thanks for sharing!
I am pleased that you liked it….and thanx for the read. chuq
I recommend the book “Mission France: The True History of the Women of SOE”. A great recounting of some of these exploits.
Fortunately, the exploits of the SOE are not forgotten in Britain, chuq.
Best wishes, Pete.
That is great news….do the women get credit for their service as well? chuq
Yes they do. Odette Sansom and Violette Szabo had films made about them, and those films are still shown on TV here.
There are also museum exhibits remembering them.
That is great….good to see they are getting the recognition they deserve. chuq