Special Operations Executive
(1940-1946)

group and secret service

c. 6

The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was a secret British World War II organisation. It was officially formed on 22 July 1940 under Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton, from the amalgamation of three existing secret organisations. Its purpose was to conduct espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe (and later, also in occupied Southeast Asia) against the Axis powers, and to aid local resistance movements. Few people were aware of SOE's existence. Those who were part of it or liaised with it were sometimes referred to as the "Baker Street Irregulars", after the location of its London headquarters. It was also known as "Churchill's Secret Army" or the "Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare". Its various branches, and sometimes the organisation as a whole, were concealed for security purposes behind names such as the "Joint Technical Board" or the "Inter-Service Research Bureau", or fictitious branches of the Air Ministry, Admiralty or War Office. Notable members of SOE included Sir Christopher Lee and Ian Fleming. SOE operated in all territories occupied or attacked by the Axis forces, except where demarcation lines were agreed with Britain's principal Allies (the United States and the Soviet Union). It also made use of neutral territory on occasion or made plans and preparations in case neutral countries were attacked by the Axis. The organisation directly employed or controlled more than 13,000 people, about 3,200 of whom were women. After the war, the organisation was officially dissolved on 15 January 1946. The official memorial to all those who served in the SOE during the Second World War was unveiled on 13 February 1996 on the wall of the west cloister of Westminster Abbey by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. A further memorial to SOE's agents was unveiled in October 2009 on the Albert Embankment by Lambeth Palace in London.The Valençay SOE Memorial honours 104 SOE agents who lost their lives while working in France.

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Commemorated on 2 plaques

Marvin Barretto on Flickr
Nick Harrison on Flickr

SOE 1940-1946 This was the HQ of the Special Operations Executive A secret service which supported resistance in all enemy-occupied countries

Baker Street, London, United Kingdom where it was headquartered (1940-1946)

In this building S.O.E.'s Norwegian section planned the Telemark raid to disrupt development of Nazi atomic weapons, 1942 - 1944

Baker Street, London, United Kingdom where it sited (1942-1944)