This rare document is the original manual used to train special agents dropped behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II.
The Special Operations Executive (SOE), (sometimes referred to as"the Baker Street Irregulars" after Sherlock Holmes' fictional group of helpers) was a British World War II organisation. It was initiated by Winston Churchill and Hugh Dalton in July 1940, to conduct warfare by means other than direct military engagement. SOE directly employed or controlled just over 13,000 people and it is estimated that, worldwide, SOE supported or supplied about a million operatives.
It was formed out of three existing secret departments: Section D, a sub-section of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, aka MI6) commanded by Major Lawrence Grand; a department of the War Office known as Military Intelligence Research (MI R) headed by Major J. C. Holland; and the propaganda organisation called Department EH, run by Sir Campbell Stuart. The propaganda section would later be broken off from SOE to form the Political Warfare Executive.
The mission of the SOE was to encourage and facilitate espionage and sabotage behind enemy lines and to serve as the core of a resistance movement in Britain itself (the Auxiliary Units) in the possible event of an
Axis invasion, as seemed possible in the early years of the war. SOE was also known as Churchill's Secret Army or The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare and was charged by him to"set Europe ablaze".
An SOE agent needed a flair for diplomacy combined with a taste for rough soldiering, and they included Laurence Olivier, David Niven, the former diplomat Fitzroy Maclean, writer Noel Coward, actor Sir Anthony Quayle and scholar Christopher Woodhouse.