Agents were generally dropped by parachute, although some were transported by submarine. SOE also had a Naval Section, which used small boats to put agents ashore.
Working secretly behind enemy lines was extremely hazardous. Secure and well-
In an interview with IWM in 1987, Vera said agents were aware of these risks. 'I think we assessed the chances of coming through at no more than 50% and fortunately, the result was slightly more favourable I think', she recalled.
Successful operations include the destruction of the Norsk Hydro Plant in Norway in 1943, which was manufacturing heavy water for the Nazis’ atomic bomb programme.
By 1945, SOE had agent networks extending across Occupied Europe and the Far East. There were over 13,000 men and women in its ranks.
Although secret at the time, the stories of courage and skill of agents have become better known in recent years. Speaking more than forty years later, Vera said she remembered ‘absolutely every one’ of the agents she worked with.
Nearly a thousand men were killed in the campaign. Argentina’s brutal military dictatorship, the ‘junta’ led by General Leopoldo Galtieri that had ordered the invasion, fell soon afterwards.
Our museums may be temporarily closed, but we'll continue to send you handpicked
stories that resonate in remarkable times. Your support -
'SET EUROPE ABLAZE' Winston Churchill
Spies, covert operatives and elite ‘secret soldiers’ have helped Britain fight threats at home and abroad for decades.
Special Operations Executive (SOE) was a secret Second World War organisation created
in Britain to help tackle these threats in July 1940. It helped local resistance
movements and conducted espionage and sabotage in enemy-
Following the fall of France in June 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill tasked Hugh Dalton to form SOE, with the instruction to ‘set Europe ablaze’.
Originally hiring many staff from MI6, SOE later recruited from a wide range of military and civilian backgrounds.
Colonel Colin Gubbins, SOE's first head of training and operations, organised in-
Vera May Atkins joined SOE's F Section in April 1941. She started as a secretary but was soon promoted to become an intelligence officer and deputy to the head of F Section, Colonel Maurice Buckmaster.
She oversaw training and made sure that when her agents arrived in France they had full false identities and watertight cover stories.