What was the role of Special Operations Executive and what kind of people worked for it?

How to set up a resistance organisation in occupied France

Extracts from a film called "Now It Can Be Told" produced by the RAF Film Production Unit for the British Government in 1946 about the work of British agents during the war.

Catalogue ref: IWM RMY 78
Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London.

Male agent:Now the real work started, the real work of building up an organisation. The French were marvellous. I used to borrow everything from them. It was impossible to buy a bike and before I managed to get one on the black market I had to live on borrowed bikes. I say live on, it almost became that. My plan was to organise eight or ten resistance groups within a radius of 25 miles of the town. I had to do everything by personal contact. It was amazing how one good contact, a farmer, a wine merchant, priest led invariably to another. Broadly speaking there were three kinds of contacts and I tries to keep them separate. In the first group were the active ones; those I could rely on to a job work- sabotage or taking part in a reception committee. Then there were safe houses, usually older people who could be relied upon for hospitality and where I could go at any time of day or night and get a bed or meal no questions asked. Then, thirdly there were the letterboxes that is, people like caf proprietors or garage owners where I could leave messages or meet people by appointment without attracting attention. Of course, we couldn't use telephones, they'd be tapped, even internal letters were censored. I had to keep a good look out for controls on the roads and avoid them where possible.