6 Pages

Introduction: Mark Seaman


The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was only in existence for less than six years from July 1940 to January 1946 but its frequently controversial contribution to the Allied victory in the Second World War has continued to exact enduring attention amongst British and foreign scholars and the general public. A great deal has been written about the organization ranging from official histories and memoirs to biographies and journalistic investigations into its major causes célèbres. However, the quality of many of these works has, to say the least, been highly inconsistent. Much of the reason for these shortcomings has been the fact that, even though arguably the least secret of the United Kingdom’s Second World War secret services, a great deal of SOE’s history remained classified for decades after its demise. As a secret service, SOE’s files stayed closed long after other mainstream official papers from the Second World War had been released to the Public Record Office (now The National Archives).