'The Gestapo kept me three days in this interrogation house. They especially wanted to know what I did after my escape, and precise things on the organisation of the SOE. And just for fun I suspect, because I had really not much to tell them, they pulled one of my toenails out...' - Robert Sheppard, SOE agent. The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was a secret British organisation created early in the Second World War to encourage resistance and carry out sabotage behind enemy lines: in Winston Churchill's famous phrase, 'to set Europe ablaze'. Drawing on the vast resources of the Imperial War Museum Sound Archive and featuring a mass of previously unpublished personal testimonies, "Forgotten Voices of the Secret War" is the definitive oral history of a remarkable organisation, showing how in the face of extreme danger and personal risk this select band of men and women helped tilt the conflict in the Allies' favour.As the Second World War unfolds, we hear the voices of secret agents and HQ staff, of diplomats, aircrew and naval personnel.
We learn of parachute drops into enemy territory, of code names and cover stories, of capture and torture by the Gestapo, of nerve-wracking sabotage missions, and of guerrilla fighting alongside groups as varied as the French resistance, partisans in Yugoslavia and tribes in the Burmese jungle. Throughout, lives hang constantly in the balance as seemingly ordinary people summon extraordinary reserves of daring and endurance. "Forgotten Voices of the Secret War" is both an incredible account of a unique clandestine force and a fitting testament to the efforts and sacrifices of a dedicated group of courageous men and women.
Born in 1974, Roderick Bailey is a graduate of Cambridge and Edinburgh Universities and a former Alistair Horne Fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford. His PhD explored the history of SOE operations in the occupied Balkans and in 2003 he was appointed to run a major project to acquire new material for the Imperial War Museum's SOE collections.