Catalogue description Special Operations Executive: Africa and Middle East Group: Registered Files

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Details of HS 3
Reference: HS 3
Title: Special Operations Executive: Africa and Middle East Group: Registered Files

Contains material relating to the organisation, administration and activities of the Special Operations Executive in Africa and the Middle East during the Second World War. It includes sections on East Africa, West Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, Malta and Cyprus.

Date: 1938-1969
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English and Greek
Physical description: 245 file(s)
Access conditions: Subject to 30 year closure
Administrative / biographical background:

SOE activities in East Africa commenced with the Abyssinian campaign in 1940, although its involvement in the latter was minimal. SOE played a major role in the invasion of Madagascar (Operation IRONCLAD) and, when it seemed possible that Spain and Portugal would be forced to enter the war on the side of the Axis, it became involved in monitoring the Portuguese colony of Mozambique in order to detect and disrupt any Axis attempts to use it as a base for operations against the Allies.

In West Africa, SOE was engaged in monitoring Spanish, Portuguese and Vichy-controlled French possessions in order to detect and disrupt any activity threatening Britain's West African possessions; and in preventing the smuggling of diamonds from West Africa to the Axis powers (Operation MALPAS). The most noteworthy of SOE's West African operations was POSTMASTER, the capture of three Axis vessels from the harbour of Santa Isabel on the Spanish island of Fernando Po.

In the Middle East the inability of three commanders of SOE in Cairo to retain the confidence of some or all of the C-in-C Middle East, Minister of State Cairo, Foreign Office and SOE Headquarters London, led to frequent re-organisations.

In Turkey, SOE operations into the Balkans were mounted from Istanbul and the SOE caique base at Egriler. No offensive operations could be carried out against Turkey, a neutral country, but a propaganda organisation was set up; plans were made for countering a German invasion (blocking the tunnels through the Taurus mountains and the destruction of oil and industrial installations); wireless (W/T) stations and dumps of explosives were established to support operations should Turkey be occupied by the Germans; and schemes were drawn up for the disruption of Turkish trade with Germany in strategic goods, in particular chrome.

SOE involvement with Vichy Syria comprised the smuggling of propaganda material from Palestine; planning for sabotage, which was put into effect during the British invasion of Syria in summer 1941 (though the veracity of some of the claims made was later questioned); and planning for sabotage in case the Germans should thrust south from the Caucasus and occupy the territory.

In Palestine, SOE dealt with the Jewish Agency; acted in support of the Free French in liberating their prisoners from a Vichy prison in Syria; and established a sabotage organisation in case of German invasion and occupation.

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