Saturday, October 12, 2019
Secret War - Not Just About SOE
When you have read about Special Operations Executive (SOE) operations in certain countries you might want to better understand the SOE in general - why it was created in 1940, how it began its existence and what became of it. Secret War by Nigel West answers such questions and has some parts of particular interest to Nordic readers.
Secret War: The Story Of SOE includes the original Cabinet memorandum, drafted by Neville Chamberlain in July 1940, which created SOE. West´s book has many details about the origins of SOE and the serious rivalry it from the start experienced with the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, also known as MI6). Nigel West even writes that an "undeclared war" existed between the SOE and SIS. West also makes it clear that he has studied not just the successful SOE operations, and that he wants to shed light on how the SOE tipped the resistance balance in favor of Communist groups in several countries, not only in Yugoslavia.
West does not devote many paragraphs to describe Operation Gunnerside, the successful SOE action in the Norwegian mountains to stop the German development of nuclear weapons, through the destruction of heavy water production and stocks. But that operation is well documented in several other books and West instead clarifies how Gunnerside was to the benefit of the status of SOE in general.
Early SOE activities in Sweden and Norway are covered rather extensively. One wishes West had written as much about the last activities, that interest me more. Still, one learns some important facts about the SOE in all of Scandinavia and regarding the Danes I learnt of something I had no idea of - how the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) had plans for a Danish Operational Group (OG). In fact, several pages of this book are very informative about the OSS.
If you are mainly interested in SOE and OSS activities in France, this book will be even more useful to you.
The edition of Secret War: The Story Of SOE that I have just reviewed is the one that was printed this year (2019). The first edition was published in 1992. I believe it remains a good investment.