SOE Agents

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Index of first names

List of agents in the Special Operations Executive, 1 January 1939 - 31 December 1946

Isabel Bridget DOUGLAS, - born 05.09.1922;
James Barrington DOUGLAS, MC - born 02.08.1914;
John DOUGLAS, - born 16.12.1906;
Peter Frederic Sholto DOUGLAS, DSO - born 24.08.1916 His wife, Ursula Rivers, was also in the SOE
Phoebe Mary DOUGLAS, - born 28.03.1917;(1)
Robert Henry DOUGLAS, - born 07.07.1901;  also known as Robert Henri NEIKE
Roderick Walter Sholto DOUGLAS, - 16.07.1908

SOE plaqueThe Special Operations Executive (SOE) was a British World War II organisation. Following Cabinet approval, it was officially formed by Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton on 22 July 1940, to conduct espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe (and later, in occupied Southeast Asia also) against the Axis powers, and to aid local resistance movements.

It was initially also involved in the formation of the Auxiliary Units, a top secret "stay-behind" resistance organisation which would have been activated in the event of a German invasion of Britain.

Few people were aware of SOE's existence. To those who were part of it or liaised with it, it was 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.

SOE operated in all countries or former countries occupied by or attacked by the Axis forces, except where demarcation lines were agreed with Britain's principal Allies (the Soviet Union and the United States). 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 just over 13,000 people, about 3,200 of whom were women.

The total number of female personnel supporting SOE in the Far East by July 1945 was 723. A great deal of their work was concerned with Burma, as that was where SOE’s largest operational commitment to the war against Japan was focused. Of the 723 women employed by SOE, 449 belonged to the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, or FANY; 274 remained civilians. At 368, just over half of the 723 were employed by the Signals establishment. During 1945, they were responsible for 1,422,356 cipher groups going into and coming out of the field from approximately 183 operational W/T sets across Southeast Asia. There were over 50 W/T sets in Burma alone. Women working as cipherettes often worked 12 hour shifts, ensuring that messages to and from operations were sent and received 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The remaining 355 women were distributed on clerical and secretarial roles.

After the war, the organisation was officially dissolved on 15 January 1946. A memorial to SOE's agents was unveiled on the Albert Embankment by Lambeth Palace in London in October 2009.

1.  Phoebe Mary Douglass  (nee Douglas) was the daughter of John William Edward James Douglas, 16th of Tilquhillie and Olga Edith de Reuter.  B/B375: born 28 March 1917 in Brighton, Phoebe was 'put through the cards' and recruited for overseas service (Far East) in May 1943 as a secretary. Her National Archives file consists of just two papers, which includes an unusually sparse background trace.

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Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024