RAF and the SOE, Special Duty Operations in Europe During WW2, An Official History

b2399

Based on AIR 20/8459, this is an Official History that provides the 
most accurate and detailed review of RAF/SOE operations during WWII. 
This is a fascinating review that reads well and contains rare images 
in its photo-plate section – a very worthwhile book opening up a 
previously obscured period of history.

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NAME: RAF and the SOE, Special Duty Operations in Europe During WW2, An 
Official History
FILE: R2399
AUTHOR:  preface, John Greham
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword, frontline
BINDING: hard back 
PAGES:  309
PRICE: £25.00
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: SOE, MI6, MI5, Special Operations, Resistance Movements, 
supplies, training, air-drops, STOL, Lysander, Halifax, Whitley, 
Special Duties, Occupied Europe, SDP, Gestapo, Maquis, World War Two, 
Second World War, WWII, WW2
ISBN: 9781-47389-413-6
IMAGE: B2398.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/j36cpu8
LINKS: Current Discount Offers http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/sale 
DESCRIPTION: Based on AIR 20/8459, this is an Official History that 
provides the most accurate and detailed review of RAF/SOE operations 
during WWII. This is a fascinating review that reads well and contains 
rare images in its photo-plate section – a very worthwhile book 
opening up a previously obscured period of history.

After Dunkirk, Great Britain and the Commonwealth stood alone against 
Nazi oppression and occupation. The deprivations of the politicians' 
obsession with spending 'peace dividends' and appeasing the Nazis had 
placed land forces in a perilous position in 1939. The small numbers 
of serving soldiers and reserves was grossly inadequate to fight a 
land war in Europe and their equipment was even more seriously 
neglected. When the BEF went to France in 1939 it was even less 
prepared to face the Germans than its noble predecessor in 1914. It 
lacked modern armour and artillery but, most seriously, it lacked 
effective air cover. The RAF was unable to send adequate numbers of 
modern fighter aircraft across and those squadrons of Hurricanes that 
did arrive were not supported by an effective command and control 
system. The evacuation from the beaches of Dunkirk may have been a 
miracle, but it meant that the hundreds of thousands of British and 
French troops plucked from the beaches had to leave behind all heavy 
equipment, and even small arms.

Post-Dunkirk the inadequate number of trained troops and an almost 
total lack of heavy equipment placed the burden of defence on the 
RAF. Together with RN Fleet Air Arm pilots and pilots from Poland, 
Czechoslovakia, France and other over-run countries, supported by an 
advanced radar-based command and control system, fought off an enemy 
of numerical superiority, denying German air superiority over the 
British Isles and making a German invasion impractical. However, 
there was no prospect of a counter-invasion to liberate Europe and 
the option of RAF Bomber Command mounting a credible strategic 
bombing campaign was not available in mid 1940.

Great Britain and the Commonwealth only had two viable options. One 
was to launch small hit and run commando raids on Occupied Europe. 
Commando units, inserted by air or by sea, could carry out surgical 
raids on carefully identified targets and create an impact far beyond 
the actual material damage and the small number of Special Forces 
troops involved. The second option was to contact, train, equip and 
support the growing number of Resistance groups that were being formed 
by patriots in the invaded countries to fight the third attempt to 
force a Union of Europe with a view to World domination.

The challenge facing both options was in insertion, support and 
extraction across the Channel and the North Sea. The Shetland Bus 
Service was remarkably effective in supporting Scandinavian Resistance 
Forces, using small fishing vessels to evacuate people and return 
trained agents. Further South, submarines and Coastal Forces warships 
were able to provide some support, more frequently in extraction of 
commando troops and Resistance fighters, but aircraft had to accept a 
heavier responsibility because of the greater defences against vessels. 
Even in Norway, it was necessary to employ aircraft for weapons drops 
and even insert commando units by glider and parachute.

The level of effectiveness of RAF Special Duties squadrons was so 
strong that readers may be very surprised to learn how few squadrons 
and aircraft were available for three of the five years. Only three 
squadrons bore the responsibility, being joined in 1943 by a forth 
squadron. For flying agents in and out of France, the extraordinary 
Westland Lysander proved a mainstay of the operations. Its incredible 
short take off and landing abilities enabled it to fly out of small 
remote airfields in England to equally primitive fields in France. The 
limited cabin space was augmented by a canister mounted under the 
fuselage.

Some of the efforts of the Special Duty Squadrons have been made 
public before in books and films, fiction and non-fiction, but little 
coverage has been accorded the Bomber Command aircraft that 
participated in clandestine operations. This books benefits from the 
official record compiled at the end of WWII. This contribution became 
increasingly important in the preparations ahead of the Normandy 
landings, as larger and more numerous cargoes had to be delivered to 
Resistance Forces and insert agents, both to acquire intelligence and 
prepare a sabotage program to cut communications to prevent German 
reinforcements arriving quickly to counter the D-Day beachheads.

This is a detailed account of an extraordinary story, opening a 
window into what has been a darkened room of WWII history.