Major GTR Thompson

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1943 gtrt 02.jpg NOTES ON S.O.E. 1941 TO 1943 With special reference to the Belgian Country Section Written by Major G.T.R. Thompson

Foreword by his son, Michael Thompson

The following notes were prepared by my father, Major G T R Thompson, in 1963 following a letter from Major Bryan Lewis on 31st January 1963 asking him if he would be so kind as to assist him "from the Belgian point-of-view" in the preparation of a book to be called "The S.O.E Story". The letter went on:

"I must make it clear that the book is not intended as a history - rather more as a very compressed but representative digest of the S.O.E's work during the last war. No exaggeration, no dramatisation and, certainly, no frills! And all, so far as Europe is concerned, within the covers of one or, possibly, two large volumes.

...... So far, Maurice Buckmaster, Claude Knight, Colonel J.S. Wilson, and Hollingworth (in conjunction with the Official Danish War Historian) either have already commenced their contributions or will be doing so very shortly. In addition, I am in the process of contacting the remaining obvious people, all with the object of providing the most adequate coverage available.

...... Publication date is to be not later than 1st Sept. this year - and I have already made suitable arrangements for The Special Forces Charity to benefit (I hope, substantially) from the royalty proceeds.

......I do look forward to hearing from you in the near future."

My father prepared a precis of his notes and sent them almost by return of post to be followed up two weeks later on 14th February 1983 by his "bit of Home Work", the Notes that follow, amounting to 36 pages of type written script. Bryan Lewis responded on 20th February by saying "Without any attempt to be polite your material is absolutely first class and I only hope that the other Country Sections will be as factual and comprehensive. .... As I said in my telegram and on the basis of your notes you ought to be writing this book - not me."

Further exchanges took place to clarify certain points.

The last communication from Bryan Lewis was on 7th December 1964:

"Dear Gay,

Please excuse the brevity of this note - I am in haste for the next London train which I invariably miss.

Am at present clearing up the S.O.E Story (Final title probably "25 Years After" with suitable sub-title - issue next Spring, I hope). My main concern is the collection of photographs for inclusion - have you any you would allow me to use. Say, of yourself, of a group, or of an actual operation, or result thereof? I would be most grateful if you have.

Have written to Claude similarly.

Hope you are well and, again, please excuse my rush.

Yours ever,

Bryan Lewis"

My father noted on the letter that he had replied that he was unable to help.

So far as I know, the book was never published.

About GTR Thompson

Graeme (Gay) Thomas Roe Thompson was born in Penarth to Tom Roe and Dorothea (née Handcock) Thompson on 31st August 1909, was educated at Repton School and went into the army after leaving school which he left at the age of 22 on marrying Dora Bridget Gladstone.

They lived in Menton in the south of France near his parents from 1931 to 1938 during which time he gathered a good working knowledge of the French language while working their as an Estate Agent. They left in the shadow of the start of the War. He worked in S.O.E between September 1942 and September 1943 and then fought in North Africa and Italy.

After the War, he dabbled in small farming until he retired to East Devon in 1952.

He died in October 1968.

NOTES ON S.O.E., 1941 TO 1943



Major G.T.R. Thompson


My recruitment to what afterwards became S.O.E. was quite a matter of chance.

In September 1941, I was temporarily commanding one of the London District Field Security Sections in the absence of a sick officer - a job that was drawing to a close.

Major Knight of the Belgian Section met my superior: Major Walker, London District Security Officer, and asked him if he knew of a suitable French-speaking officer for employment.

As a result, I was summoned to Fitzmaurice Place, where under cover rooms were reserved for the interviewing of outside military and civilian personnel, the Headquarters building in Baker Street being maximum security with entry forbidden to non-members.

Here I was interviewed by Mr. Dadson, Head of the Belgian Section at that time, and Major Knight. I knew before hand that the job was a highly secret one, and I was told very little at the interview beyond the facts that I might be placed in charge of some rather temperamental men in a country house, and that parachute training might be involved.

Some weeks elapsed, during which I was presumably thoroughly screened, and then I received official joining orders to report at Room 055, the War Office. This room was another cover address, used only for interviewing military personnel, and I found there instructions to report to Major Knight at Norgeby House, Baker Street.

On arrival I was taken to the Security Section to sign the "Poison Book" (Official Secrets Act), and later I was taken to Dorset Court to be introduced to Colonel Wilson, who was at that time second-in-command to Major-General (then Brigadier) Gubbins, Head of the very large Training Section of the Organisation.

Shortly afterwards I was introduced to Sir Charles Hambro, who was at that time, as far as I can remember, the Director in charge of the Country Sections for Western Europe, which included the French, Free French, Dutch and Belgian Sections.

By the end of the first day my brain was in a whirl, for there was so much to learn and absorb, and the Section was so understaffed that other members had little time to instruct me.

The sub-section of the Belgian Section, in which I worked, was under the charge of Major Knight, with one other officer, a civilian woman Secretary and myself. The scope of the work covered was that which was later spread among three sub-sections employing six or seven officers with adequate staff or P/A's and Secretaries.

The second afternoon of my new job I was left in charge of the office and the telephone, and had to try and deal with baffling enquiries, such as: "This is ----- speaking, I want to know how many containers you need for Zebra next Moon."

This was at a time when I did not even know what containers were or what the Moon, in the S.O.E. sense, meant.

I spent long hours dashing about London, meeting our opposite numbers in the Belgian Service, interviewing unknown Belgian agents at rooms in Fitzmaurice Place, conducting them on various errands, and supervising their clothes for their missions.

Within a week of my joining I was taken down to our Holding School at Newport Pagnell, where I met a very tough, commando-type bunch of trained saboteurs under the command of Colonel Roper-Caldbeck and looked after by Lieut. Ivor Dobson, one of our Section Conducting Officers.

These men, mostly Flemish-speaking, were all fully trained and anxious to go into the field, but it was not the policy, at that stage in the war, to embark on extensive sabotage in occupied Europe, so the men had to be kept in a Holding School, given some routine training, and generally kept occupied and amused. I believe that later some of them were employed on special tasks in the Dieppe Raid.

I think that I was originally intended to be an Accompanying or Conducting Officer (these terms will be explained later), but the Section Headquarters was so understaffed that I was kept on there, and shortly other reasons arose for my remaining.

A week or two later I was told one afternoon: "------ is leaving this Moon; arrange to see him; discuss his life with him and prepare a new identity, cover, and papers for him.

This was my first introduction to the preparation of the Cover Story, and at that time I had nothing to go on but my own imagination, a knowledge of Western Europe, and a knowledge of the French language.

Later, and gradually, the Cover Story was to become a much more organised and scientific affair. Discussions with the agent would be started as soon as he left the preliminary Training School, and a long and pains-taking build-up would continue right through his training, until the results met with his and my satisfaction, and finally with the satisfaction of an examining interrogator immediately before his departure. This subject will be elaborated in more detail later in my notes.