Catalogue description Ministry of Economic Warfare, Special Operations Executive and successors: Headquarters: Records

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Details of HS 8
Reference: HS 8
Title: Ministry of Economic Warfare, Special Operations Executive and successors: Headquarters: Records

This series contains the surviving records produced by Special Operations Executive headquarters sections supporting the work of the various country sections that ran active operations behind enemy lines, and also the private office papers of Lord Selborne who, from February 1942 as Minister of Economic Warfare, was the minister responsible for the work of SOE.

The headquarters files deal with administration, finance, personnel matters, policy and planning and political relations.

Subjects covered in this series include: minutes of various SOE committees, including the SOE Council and weekly progress reports to the SOE Executive Committee; general and operational policy and planning matters; SOE relations with United States organisations and activities in the Americas, including recruitment of agents; matters relating to airborne communications with agents in the field (supply drops and agent delivery and collection) and naval operations in support of SOE work; liaison with the regular armed services and government departments; the operation of clandestine communication lines into enemy-occupied Europe; honours and awards for SOE agents and the termination of agents' employment and contracts (known as 'liquidations'); SOE finances; security of communications with agents in the field and general security matters; recruitment and training; post-operation evaluations; SOE relations with other government departments; and histories of SOE operations and sections.

Lord Selborne's papers include files of correspondence with other ministers, officials and military personnel, with SOE agents and with various governments in exile.

There are also some records relating to the organisation of SOE and the symbols used to denote sections and individual officers and other aides-memoires created by post-war SOE advisers, and a small collection of specimen forged documents made by SOE for the use of agents in the field.

Date: 1935-1973

The records in this series are arranged first by the originating SOE section, and then by original file reference. Following the section files are Lord Selborne's papers, aides-memoires prduced by the SOE advisers, and finally specimen documents.

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English
Physical description: 1043 files and volumes
Access conditions: Subject to 30 year closure unless otherwise stated
Immediate source of acquisition:

In 2002

Selection and destruction information: Selected under Acquisition Policy criterion, showing the operation of SOE headquarters in support of activities in the field. All surviving records selected.
Accruals: No further accruals
Administrative / biographical background:

The Clandestine Communication Section handled communications other than by radio with agents behind enemy lines.

The Air Section liaised with and set tasks for the two RAF squadrons (138 and 161 Squadron) that were allocated to Special Operations Executive (SOE) for special duty operations, and also liaised with the RAF generally.

The Naval Section liaised with the Admiralty, and administered the SOE flotillas of small boats used to infiltrate and supply agents, and allocated naval operational resources.

Security Section was responsible for the physical security of SOE agents, premises and operations.

The Liquidation: Mediterranean Section was established to deal with the disposal of fishing boats (caiques) used by SOE in the Balkans and in Italy, and for the termination of agents' contracts.

The Americas Section formed a part of the British Security Coordination Office in New York. Until the entry of the United States into the war in December 1941, the section's responsibilities covered intelligence, recruitment, propaganda and counter-enemy activities generally throughout the Western Hemisphere, in cooperation with its counterpart American organisation, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). On America's entry into the war, many SOE responsibilities were passed to OSS, and the section concentrated on intelligence gathering and the recruitment of Canadian and American citizens for use as agents in occupied Europe.

Lord Selborne became the Minister of Economic Warfare, with responsibility among other things for the work of SOE, in 1942, having previously been the Director of Cement at the Ministry of Works and Buildings. He remained in post until the Ministry was wound up in May 1945.

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