Unconventional Warfare: SOE-style

A reader from Australia posted some interesting comments to the “Normalizing Unconventional Warfare” article that I posted last week.  In fact, his comments directed my attention back to a new book I’ve just started reading – SOE Agent: Churchill’s Secret Warriors from the Warrior Series by Osprey Publishing. 

In many ways, “normalizing unconventional warfare” was exactly what the Special Operations Executive (SOE) tried to do in those dark early days of WWII when Britain and the Commonwealth stood alone against the Nazis in Western Europe. 

The book is loaded with period photographs and full-colour artwork, and recounts the unorthodox tactics and training methods that these agents, some of whom were women, were taught in order to prepare them for combat missions against incredible odds – for example, on average a Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent would be dead within three months of being parachuted into action. 

Their training methods and instructors were highly unorthodox, and their missions became the stuff of legends – including the famed “Heroes of Telemark” attack on a heavy water plant in Norway and many other sabotage missions; ranging from blowing up bridges to the raising of full-scale partisan armies.

The operational lessons learned, the training techniques employed and the tactics and equipment honed in combat by the agents and instructors of the SOE went on to form the backbone of post-war covert and special operations forces for years to come.  And also provided the emryonic material for fictional heroes like James Bond – but reality is so much more interesting than fiction, don’t you think?



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