In a war of secrecy, spies, and destruction, Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) was on the leading edge. Formed in July of 1940, under Minister of Economic Warfare, Hugh Dalton, the SOE’s mission was to conduct espionage, sabotage, intelligence gathering, and support resistance organizations in an effort to defeat the Axis powers.
The SOE operated across occupied Europe and into Southeast Asia. The Executive employed over 13,000 people, 3,200 of them being women. Winston Churchill had been the catalyst for the inception of the SOE. After the organization was created, Churchill told Hugh Dalton, “And now go and set Europe ablaze.” Dalton used the Irish Republican Army that fought in the Irish War of Independence, as the framework for setting up the SOE.
All parties were not in support of the SOE, MI6, in particular, had an issue with it, claiming it was “amateur, dangerous, and bogus.” MI6 feared the SOE would interfere with its intelligence gathering missions due to the SOE’s inherent destructive nature. RAF Bomber Command didn’t appreciate the SOE either, due to the fact that they had to dedicate their aircraft to SOE missions. But, the SOE had the only supporter that mattered — Winston Churchill. The SOE wasn’t going anywhere.