WWII S.O.E. Memorial at Beaulieu

Special Operations Executive Memorial at Beaulieu

WWII S.O.E. Training a Beaulieu

Visitors to the national Car Museum at Beaulieu in the New Forest, may have spotted a building close to Palace House which is a museum about the training that took place in WWII for the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.).

The Special Operations Executive was the subject of the latest talk at the Probus Club of Basingstoke by speaker Nick Saunders who is a part time archivist at the Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum in Winchester.

Undercover operations

The S.O.E. was set up in 1940 on instructions of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, to “Set Europe ablaze” by conducting espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in German occupied Europe and to aid local resistance movements. While the S.O.E. had its headquarters in Baker Street, London, all training took place around the country.

The organisation generated different unofficial names, The Baker Street Irregulars, Churchill’s Secret Army, Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare with the most apt Stately ‘omes of England as many country houses and private estates were requisitioned. Several such large properties existed around the Beaulieu estate and served as training bases specialising in the dark arts of guerrilla activities.

Suitcase Radio used during WWIIBurglary, silent killing, parachute skills, radios, morse code and weapons training were the main courses. It was imperative that their agents had a good knowledge of a particular country and that their language skills were sufficient to pass as a native. Although 13,000 agents underwent training, which included 3,000 at the Beaulieu Finishing School, there were many women who undertook the same training and had volunteered to assume roles in German occupied countries.

Spy WeaponsThe Germans knew about what was happening at Beaulieu and named it The Gangster School. Among the 175 staff at Beaulieu were Guy Burgess and Kim Philby, who later absconded to Russia, they taught mind games to undermine German morale.

Brave Individuals

The agents dropped into occupied countries should not be compared to the fictional TV series “’Allo, ‘Allo!” as many were captured, tortured and executed.


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