Win­ston’s war­riors

Churchill’s Se­cret Agents: The New Re­cruits

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - TV GUIDE -

April BBC Two

On 22 July 1940 the Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Ex­ec­u­tive (SOE) of­fi­cially came into be­ing. Its pur­pose was to con­duct es­pi­onage, sab­o­tage and re­con­nais­sance in Nazioc­cu­pied Europe, and later in Asia. This was dan­ger­ous work, and its agents needed to be highly trained.

Just how highly trained is ex­plored in a new ‘liv­ing his­tory’ se­ries in which 14 peo­ple who have a his­tor­i­cal par­al­lel with in­di­vid­u­als who served in the SOE, or in some cases a fam­ily con­nec­tion, put them­selves through the same phys­i­cal, psy­cho­log­i­cal and men­tal as­sess­ments as 1940s can­di­dates.

Along the way, the hope­fuls get in­struc­tion in weapons, ex­plo­sives and cod­ing, en­dure mock in­ter­ro­ga­tions, and learn to use gad­getry wor­thy of James Bond. The 14, who in­clude a maths grad­u­ate, a doc­tor, a drag queen and an ex-sol­dier who lost his leg while serv­ing in the army, wear Sec­ond World War-era garb through­out and live on the kinds of dishes that were pre­pared dur­ing ra­tioning.

The train­ing is tough from the off, as the can­di­dates first face the Stu­dent As­sess­ment Board, a four­day course aimed at find­ing out who has the raw tal­ent re­quired to go for­ward to full train­ing. Those who pass both this stage of the process and weapons in­struc­tion are then dropped in the mid­dle of the Scot­tish High­lands, where they have to learn the sur­vival skills re­quired for life in the field. This in­volves con­tend­ing with a freez­ing Scot­tish lake and a sheer rock face, plus school­ing in the tech­niques used by a team of SOE agents charged with halt­ing Nazi ef­forts in Nor­way to de­velop nu­clear weapons.

For those that get through the dif­fer­ent stages, and not ev­ery­one does, there’s the chance to take part in a 24-hour prac­tice mission aimed at bring­ing to­gether all of the skills they’ve learned. The se­ries also traces the his­tory of the SOE. Jonathan Wright

This memo­rial to the SOE in Lam­beth fea­tures a bust of Vi­o­lette Sz­abo, who earned a post­hu­mous Ge­orge Cross

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.