What if I told you there existed a secret military task force comprised of James Bond and Saruman who operated out of Sherlock Holmes’ headquarters on Baker Street and saved the world from Nazi annihilation. Would you believe me? Well, you should. Allow me the pleasure of introducing the Special Operations Executive, a secret branch of the British military tasked by Winston Churchill himself to ‘set Europe ablaze’. And boy did they ever.
Bond creator Ian Fleming, and Christopher ‘Dracula’ Lee were among the ‘Baker Street Irregulars’ who trained in sabotage, espionage, reconnaissance, and all types of guerrilla
warfare. The recruits in the program were as varied background as the techniques they trained in. From Indian royalty (Noor Inayat Khan) to working class tradesmen, to hardened criminals. The only requirement was a deep knowledge of the country and language in which they were to operate. Oh, and they couldn’t be bogged down with simple things like moral or social convictions because they do not come in handy when fighting the Axis of evil. A trait which earned them the moniker The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare. Pretty catchy.
At Preliminary school the recruits’ character and potential were assessed without knowing what the SOE did. Those deemed unsuitable were sent to the ‘cooler’ where they were encouraged to forget the little they had learned. Those lucky enough to pass received commando training in the rough hills of Scotland where they were taught armed and unarmed combat skills, demolition techniques, Morse code telegraphy, and parachute training. Should an agent ever have his or her identity compromised a plastic surgeon was on hand to alter their features. Yep, that’s right. I said her. There were 55 female agents who did some pretty awesome stuff like Nancy Wake. 13 of the 55 were KIA or died in Nazi concentration camps.
SOE was dissolved after the war with its remaining operatives going back to their ordinary jobs or merging into MI6.