Beset By Secrecy And Beleaguered By Rivals: The Special Operations Executive and Military Operations In Western Europe 1940-1942 With Special Reference to Operation Frankton
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The intention of this thesis is to investigate the circumstances and background surrounding the early development and deployment of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), Britain's clandestine secret service created by Winston Churchill in 1940 to 'set Europe ablaze.' It will examine the climate in which SOE was created, the feasibility of the tasks it was expected to perform and the relationships it established with Churchill, the Cabinet Office, the Chiefs of Staff, the Foreign Office, the Admiralty and Army, the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and Combined Operations. It will examine how these organisations succeeded or failed to work towards a common wartime objective. The focus of the thesis is concerned primarily with the political moves and counter-moves in London that dominated the early years of SOE's six year existence. It will concentrate therefore upon 1940-1942, the critical early years before planning for the Second Front 'militarised' SOE's clandestine role. There is thus little reference to SOE in The Balkans, in Holland or the Middle East or to the actual deployment and modus operandi of SOE agents in the field. Their stories of courage and betrayal, of penetration, capture or evasion are mentioned only in so far as they illuminate the struggle to establish a wider SOE credibility in London. The single exception to this is Operation Frankton, the 'Cockleshell Heroes' raid on Bordeaux shipping in December 1942. The planning, execution and result of this raid were determined by Combined Operations' relationship with SOE and led to an outcome that was shaped by SOE's sense of secrecy, rivalry and political encirclement. This thesis will attempt to unravel those critical and complex relationships.
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