SOE operations in France.

For interest and ref aforementioned Reserved Occupations in WWII: there is a (1939) Schedule of Reserved Occupations (Provisional) up online, at http://anguline.co.uk/Free/Reserved.pdf.

The list of official reserved occupations in the UK during WWII was continually updated as the needs of the country changed.
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
How do you make the value judgement, though? If slaughtering a bunch of civilian villagers shocks the resistance into backing off their attacks for 48hrs or so, allowing your strung-out Division to exit the area without further casualties, then, in the eyes of an average German soldier, it was probably well worth it.

You could make the value judgement - purely on the grounds of logic - that mass shooting of hostages by the Germans in Western Europe prior to the Normandy landings had the desired effect. It cowed most of the captive populations into passive resistance only - passing intelligence and helping escapees. Communist movements were more active in sabotage, but that seems to be as much to do with taking the pressure off the Russian front as in resisting the Germans in the specific country they were in.

However, Normandy was a game changer. It was better to get to Normandy fast, and with a few more casualties, than cowing the French population. There was plenty of time to return later if the invasion had been defeated.

And indeed if the invasion had been defeated, I suspect acts of resistance would have fallen away to a very low level anyway. If D-Day failed, it was going to be at least a year and probably two before the UK and US tried again - if indeed they did.

Wordsmith
 
The behaviour of the Channel Island's populations is often brought up in these sorts of discussions but does overlook some salient points;

Firstly the islands are just that and small, Jersey is a tad over five miles by ten, with no large areas to hide out in or borders to escape over.

Secondly as the only part of the UK captured by the Germans it was a trophy for Hitler and more heavily fortified than the French coast.

Thirdly the ratio of occupying troops to inhabitants was in the region of one to seven.

Combine that with the fact that most of the local population knew each other by sight if not personally.

This makes it a lot harder to infiltrate strangers to organise resistance.

If the area had been, say the size of Wales it might have been different. Who knows?

ETA @Ho2331 It would be interesting to see a book like Deighton's 'SSGB' set in the Channel Islands. 'Kramer's War' by Derek Robinson is a good read on the subject.
Glad that you mentioned the Channel Islands. Guernsey is even smaller. I went there on a day trip three years ago and there was a service bus that went around the island. Going around all the back roads at a snails pace and covering most of the beaches it took less than an hour. Even if you were a local, where could you hide?

Add to that the fact that almost every able bodied male of fighting age had been evacuated, where were the personnel to man an armed resistance?
 

diverman

LE
Book Reviewer
Glad that you mentioned the Channel Islands. Guernsey is even smaller. I went there on a day trip three years ago and there was a service bus that went around the island. Going around all the back roads at a snails pace and covering most of the beaches it took less than an hour. Even if you were a local, where could you hide?

Add to that the fact that almost every able bodied male of fighting age had been evacuated, where were the personnel to man an armed resistance?

And there was the concentration camp at Sylt on Alderney as well, which was a sub camp of Neuengamme near Hamburg.

Neuengamme concentration camp - Wikipedia

Many many atrocities commited here
 

4(T)

LE
Don't think it was a blanket thing. It certainly wasn't for Customs


I think the minefields, destroyers and Sunderland patrols probably did for smuggling during the war, so perhaps Customs were allowed to thin out. Weren't quite a few of them later rolled up into the occupation forces in Germany to help police the recovering economy? (In fact, isn't that where the later IGB border patrol - the British Frontier Service - was derived from?)

I imagine Police were indispensable in wartime. IIRC the police still had primacy over the armed forces for security and law & order across the country inside a 3-mile coastal strip and, IIRC#2, there was a significant crime wave during the Blitz and its aftermath.
 
I think the minefields, destroyers and Sunderland patrols probably did for smuggling during the war, so perhaps Customs were allowed to thin out. Weren't quite a few of them later rolled up into the occupation forces in Germany to help police the recovering economy? (In fact, isn't that where the later IGB border patrol - the British Frontier Service - was derived from?)

I imagine Police were indispensable in wartime. IIRC the police still had primacy over the armed forces for security and law & order across the country inside a 3-mile coastal strip and, IIRC#2, there was a significant crime wave during the Blitz and its aftermath.
Two things obtain here, Customs was derived from the Navy in the first place. Given war time conditions, the navy became de facto a guard against blockade runners.
But customs operatives did go into post war Germany by virtue of their original calling. They mesh mesh with intelligence.

In terms of Police during the war they retained primacy. The Military acted as aid to the civil power when required, but DORA delineated separate responsibilities. But any number of police volunteered for active service and IRC customs were not exempted from it. There was still a functioning Customs service.
 
This is the biography of one of the officers involved in tracking down the murerers ofthe 'Great Escape' escapee's.

Frank McKenna (RAF officer) - Wikipedia
I always felt that was one too far. It was every soldier’s duty to escape, but every one knew the penalties to enemy combatants trying to escape. Escaping soldiers posed a threat and remained enemy combatants. We also had that instruction in basic as I recall. I know that sounds contrarian, but again it’s a fine line as to the use of pragmatism. Hundreds of people were dying in raids which sorta did away with the empathy side. War does that.
 

Ned_Seagoon

War Hero
Not off topic at all Ned - thanks, good post.

Good to know that in some parts of France ( outside la peripherique) the role of SOE is remembered.
Very firmly and proudly remembered. Interesting dilemma for French friends and colleagues here in Western France. They struggle to accept that their nation capitulated before they even saw German troops in this region. The Germans moved in largely unopposed and ran things until they withdrew tactically ahead of the Allies approaching from the North and the West in the summer of 45. The only active “fight” was from the Resistance backed up and to a large extent led by the SOE network. I have yet to meet an Free French veterans locally (I did in Normandy) but there are many proud veterans of post WW2 service, most notably the Algerian campaign.
 
That said, I remember the appocryphal story form my home town of an airman who came down and crashed into some local greenhouses. Oldenburg is not too far from Holland and the people are of the same ilk as their Dutch neighbours. I've never known whether the story is true but the one I heard was that the Dutch underground had links there and that the Airman in question was swifted down it. If anyone could confirm that I'd be grateful.
 

Chef

LE
wasn't it one of the Kray twins who said that war was the best time for Criminals

Frankie Fraser I believe.

There is a series on the freeview channel 'Wartime Crime' I think which is not bad.

Also for a general view of wartime Britain, 'The secret history of the blitz' by Joshua Levine is worth a read.
 

Awol

LE
How do you make the value judgement, though? If slaughtering a bunch of civilian villagers shocks the resistance into backing off their attacks for 48hrs or so, allowing your strung-out Division to exit the area without further casualties, then, in the eyes of an average German soldier, it was probably well worth it.

Although most of us here have probably been part of bloody violence at one or more stages in our lives, its still impossible for any of us to comprehend the environment and mind-set of men who have experienced years of total war and seen hundreds of thousands of dead. For many of those in Europe - particularly the East - during WW2, human death was entirely inconsequential and usually devoid of emotional response.

Indeed, there may well be an actual physiological response in humans that switches off the emotional response to mass casualties. E.g. two or three killed in a road accident create an enormous mental trauma in an individual, whereas 50k dead in a natural disaster becomes more of a public health and logistic problem.
Oradour, which is less than ten miles from where I currently sit, wasn't even responsible for the assassination of the German officer which had occurred a few days before when the battalion was considerably further south. Oradour was just chosen at random as an example of pure, evil retribution.
 
Not off topic at all Ned - thanks, good post.

Good to know that in some parts of France ( outside la peripherique) the role of SOE is remembered.

There is an annual commemoration at the SOE Memorial in Valençay. The Princess Royal has attended. There is usually a FANY delegation, as well as HMA or the DA.

Annual Commemoration of F Section, SOE, Valencay, France - WW2 Escape Lines Memorial Society

Last weekend SOE was finally given recognition by the French and invited to the annual commemoration at Mont Valérien, where many resistants were shot. I was asked to be a standard bearer at the ceremony but it conflicted with the Ryder Cup where I was a volunteer. I'm rather gutted as it was a very special occasion.

Future Events – Libre Resistance

Libre Résistance keeps the memory of SOE alive. Most of the agents are no longer around but their children and grandchildren play an active role.
 

Ned_Seagoon

War Hero
There is an annual commemoration at the SOE Memorial in Valençay. The Princess Royal has attended. There is usually a FANY delegation, as well as HMA or the DA.

Annual Commemoration of F Section, SOE, Valencay, France - WW2 Escape Lines Memorial Society

Last weekend SOE was finally given recognition by the French and invited to the annual commemoration at Mont Valérien, where many resistants were shot. I was asked to be a standard bearer at the ceremony but it conflicted with the Ryder Cup where I was a volunteer. I'm rather gutted as it was a very special occasion.

Future Events – Libre Resistance

Libre Résistance keeps the memory of SOE alive. Most of the agents are no longer around but their children and grandchildren play an active role.
I had the honour to attend Mont Valerien a couple of times, 20 odd years ago when l worked in that neck of the woods. An amazing and humbling experience to speak to the veterans and families of some of those who were detained and shot there.
 
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4(T)

LE
Oradour, which is less than ten miles from where I currently sit, wasn't even responsible for the assassination of the German officer which had occurred a few days before when the battalion was considerably further south. Oradour was just chosen at random as an example of pure, evil retribution.


Makes no difference in terms of "sending a message", though, does it?

Such atrocities on both sides often had tenuous or no connection to a particular "provocation".
 

Poppy

LE
That said, I remember the appocryphal story form my home town of an airman who came down and crashed into some local greenhouses. Oldenburg is not too far from Holland and the people are of the same ilk as their Dutch neighbours. I've never known whether the story is true but the one I heard was that the Dutch underground had links there and that the Airman in question was swifted down it. If anyone could confirm that I'd be grateful.

may be worth contacting ELMS via their website to ask
 

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