Remembrance Day, 2019. Ever since my days living in Dorset House, I became aware of the Special Operations Executive (SOE ) which was headquartered in London’s Dorset Square during the War. Television series such as Foyle’s War in Britain and Camp X here in Canada have belatedly brought the clandestine exploits of the SOE to a wider audience.
The Special Operations Executive (SOE), the brainchild of PM Churchill, was secretly formed for the purpose of recruiting agents, men and women of many nationalities who would volunteer to continue the fight for freedom by performing acts of sabotage in countries occupied by the enemy during the Second World War.
470 SOE agents were sent on sabotage missions to occupied France where they fought with networks of French Resistance fighters who played an important part in the liberation of France in 1944.
Violette Szabo ( 1921-45 ), who was posthumously award the George Cross and the Croix de Guerre, was among the 117 SOE agents who did not survive their missions to France.
The first Canadian built Lysanders rolled out of National Steel Car factory at Malton, Ontario in September 1939 and later were delivered to the RCAF at Rockcliffe, Ontario. The most daring use of Westland Lysanders in WW II was with the Special Operations Executive by flying in secret agents with supplies and picking up escapees. It was during these daring night operations, that the unarmed yet sturdy Lysander came into its own, using its remarkable Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) capabilities to fly into the small rough fields and pastures marked out by the Resistance.