By Bernd Horn
An exam of the detailed Operations govt (SOE), its accomplishments, and the Canadian connection to the organization.
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Additional resources for A most ungentlemanly way of war : the SOE and the Canadian connection
In the tranquility of the dark French countryside, Gabriel paradoxically felt as if he had all the time in the world. Then, as he began to tug at a container that was dangling a few feet from the ground, suspended from a tree by its parachute lines, the night erupted in a violent, angry outburst of noise. Several small explosions were followed by the distinctive retort of small arms, German, as well as British. The smooth, rhythmic staccato of a German MG 42 machine gun cut through the darkness, accentuated by its tracer as it stitched through the air.
The Allies had apparently learned nothing in the period after the First World War, or from the German invasion of Poland and the Scandinavian countries. They still clung to their First World War experience and doctrine as they prepared for a replay of the Great War. The majority of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), approximately four hundred thousand strong, along with their French allies, stuck to the “Dyle Plan” and waited for what seemed the inevitable German sweep through northern Belgium and Holland.
The Canadian connection was not long in coming. Very quickly, it became evident that there was a lack of British personnel who were not only thoroughly acquainted with the target countries to which they were to be sent, but who also possessed the necessary cultural and linguistic skills. Moreover, those who would serve in the SOE would also need extreme levels of courage and tenacity as they were required to live the lives of fugitives, constantly on the alert, always hunted, and with the threat of torture and death always at their shoulder.