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SOE In France 1941-1945 (ePub)

An Official Account of the Special Operations Executive’s French Circuits

Military > Frontline eBooks WWII > Espionage & the SOE

By Robert Bourne-Paterson
Frontline Books
File Size: 15.1 MB (.epub)
Pages: 266
Illustrations: Illustrated with a central 8-page plate section. Maps included.
ISBN: 9781473882058
Published: 6th October 2016


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In the archives of the Special Operations Executive lay a report compiled by a staff officer and former member of SOE's French Section, Major Robert Bourne-Patterson, that until recently could not be published. Because of the highly sensitive nature of the work undertaken by the SOE, the paper was treated as confidential and its circulation was strictly limited to selected personnel. Now, at last, it can be made available to the general public.

Limited, also, was the time available to Bourne-Patterson in compiling his report in 1946 as the SOE was being wound up and many documents were being ‘weeded’ from the files. Nevertheless, the paper he wrote gives a good picture of the work of the SOE in France, the country where its operations were most extensive. It contains an overview of operations in France by the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War with detailed records of individual circuits from their inception onwards, containing much information concerning individual agents and their contacts, calendars of subversive activity against the Germans and the names and addresses of personnel connected with the circuits who had survived the war.

In writing his account, Bourne-Patterson drew heavily on personal interviews and wartime debriefings by agents.

As featured on World War II Today

WW2 Today

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was a great book on SOE’s operations in France. Deeply researched and detailed, this work could be used by many budding scholars for years to come.

NetGalley, Dylan Simon

5 star Amazon review "Great book for anyone interested in SOE"

Amazon reviewer

The book contains hundreds of original reports of a four year war, SOE's clandestine army waged against German occupiers: bridges blown, power stations and factories sabotaged, railway engines in a loco-shed booby-trapped. German military vehicles ambushed and railway lines destroyed.

Each incident would have a story to tell in the reader's thoughts. Its not a page turner but pages to be savoured over and a must have for researchers.

Richard Gough - Military Author and historian

If you are interested in WW2, and more in specific in the cloak and dagger and
resistance part of it, then this book is for you! Major Robert Bourne-Patterson
worked in the SOE in the war, and wrote down its history just after.
Or part of it at least, since much of the documents pertaining the SOE
activities were destroyed, and many things were still very secret right after the war.

In spite of all the missing information this book is probably the most accurate
as to the activities of the SOE in France, and a treasure cove of information
for those interested in the details.
Not only does it mention all those involved, their organisations and locations,
it also shows what they actually did! Long lists with sabotage results for
instance. Impressive.
Even more impressive if one takes into account that only about 15% of what
happened remained documented !

It is written 'by region' and lists all that happened for/in those areas,
including the missions, the people and the stores and material delivered to the
resistance fighters and supporting SOE personnel.

I read the book with 'We landed by Moonlight' by Hugh Verity next to it on my
desk. Verity's book is written from the perspective of one of the Lysander
pilots dropping agents in occupied France, and very much 'connected' obviously.
It is interesting to recognise the names mentioned in the 'Lysander book' and
read more about their actual activities in SOE in France! SOE in France gives
Hugh Verity's book the much needed background and detail from the organisational
and operatives point of view.

I will continue to 'use' this book alongside my Verity book to further research the Lysander and other aviation activities for one of my other hobbies; WW2 flight simulation and scenery building.

Silver Cloud Publishing

A full account of SOE operations is unlikely ever to be written because some events were never documented and documents were lost or destroyed at the end of the war. This book is likely to be the best and most comprehensive account possible, being based on the previously unpublished report by a staff officer and former SOE member at the end of the war. Highly Recommended.

Read the full review here.


Operations of the SOE in France, written by someone who was there and who was personally involved. Extraordinary stories of courage and determination.

Books Monthly, November 2016 – reviewed by Paul Norman

If you are interested in the work of the SOE in France this is an essential book, licensed by the National Archives at Kew under the Open Government Licence Scheme. For the casual reader this is an opportunity to access a source document normally only available from the National Archives, with all the sense of immediacy and detailed understanding that brings.

Robert Bartlett

About Robert Bourne-Paterson

A peacetime solicitor, Major ROBERT BOURNE-PATERSON became one of the Special Operation Executive's planning officers in F Section. His service in this organisation led to his involvement with some of its most famous operatives individuals such as Violet Szabo GC, whose will he was a witness to. He is described as being SOE's first historian.

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