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December 24, 2014


Chris Williams

And remember that under the 'Basic plan of allied propaganda to occupied countries', one of the five main headings is:

"(B) Hatred of the German
Today primarily a ‘unifying’ theme. (See objectives: I.A.1.)
1 Expose German ‘Divide and Rule’ policy.
2 Expose Germany’s present tendency to conciliate Ruritania. Despite isolated acts and frequent promises of kindness due to:
(a) Germany’s pre-occupation with Russian war and defence of ‘Festung Europa’;
(b) Germany's need for Ruritanian economic collaboration;
(c) German’s fear of Ruritanian hostility."

SOE Syllabus (TNA 2004 reprint). Merry Christmas.

Dan Hardie

Merry Christmas and a good 2015 to all.

I mentioned it before, when I was part-way through reading it, but Sarah Helm's book 'A life in secrets' is an absolutely excellent biography of Vera Atkins, who was deputy head of SOE's F Section (ie dealing with non-Gaullist networks) and, as Helm discovered, rather more besides.

Some of those 'a biographer goes in quest of the truth about a mysterious subject... reads like a thriller' books are pretty awful, but in this case the hype is justified. Atkins really was very mysterious, and it was going to take someone with a lot of tenacity, very good research skills, and several European languages to dig out some of the truth about her. What Helm found is of genuine relevance to the history of both SOE and of the post-1945 war crimes trials.

The other really good book I've read on SOE in recent years was Leo Marks's memoir 'Between silk and cyanide'. Marks was the twenty-something prodigy who was rejected by Bletchley Park and became SOE's head of agents' cyphers. He later wrote the screenplay for 'Peeping Tom', which effectively ended Michael Powell's film directing career. His is the only book I've read that deals in detail with SOE's communications with agents, which one could see just had to be a key part of the history, but which most previous books just ignored. It's extremely idiosyncratic but worth it- stick with it if you find the early chapters annoying.

Barry Freed

A belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New year to the B&Tariat.

The other really good book I've read on SOE in recent years was Leo Marks's memoir 'Between silk and cyanide'.

As my bad luck would have it I'm getting rid of a ton of books in preparation for an overseas move and I donated that one - still unread - to a charity shop about a week ago. If only...

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