Setting Europe Ablaze - Some Account of Ungentlemanly Warfare

by Douglas Dodds-Parker

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It was Winston Churchill who in 1940 faced with the problem of how Britain alone could possibly reconquer Europe, called on Britain's irregular forces to 'set Europe ablaze'. The instrument by which this was to be done was the Special Operations Executive, or SOE for short, whose role was to support the resistance to Hitler within Europe by all means, 'ungentlemanly' as well as orthodox. SOE attracted the most enterprising, the most eccentric, the most scholarly, and to judge from the enormous volume of memoirs by former SOE members, the most literate of the British ruling classes. Apart from one highly contentious volume on SOE in France it has not been dealt with by official historians. Many of its records were, according to Mr Dodds-Parker, deliberately destroyed at the end of the war. What remained has often been held under security rules; other records, War Office or Foreign Office which found their way into the Public Records Office have been systematically stripped of anything dealing with SOE, in some instances after the files were open to public research.

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