SOE: Setting Europe Ablaze

SOE: Setting Europe Ablaze

Winston Churchill – “Set Europe Ablaze”

During the Second World War, the allied forces were supported by an ultra secretive initiative called the SOE (Special Operations Executive). 

These male and female agents were trained in espionage, sabotage and resistance, before being dropped behind enemy lines to, in Churchill’s words, set Europe ablaze. 

In this topic day, investigate how they set about their tasks, explore the training they underwent and discover their incredible stories of pure bravery.

Codes and Ciphers


Setting Europe Ablaze

In this session, discover how the allied agents set about achieving their directive from Churchill. Through archaeological artefacts, historical sources and personal stories follow in the footsteps of a group of individuals who paved the way for the allied forces.



Code Breaking

Work together to crack the code

All SOE agents were taught to both code and decode messages. All communications with London needed to be top secret, as agents lives were constantly in danger. Coded messages were then relayed using Morse Code transmissions.

In this session, students will learn basic codes used by new SOE agents. They will find out how long their would have had to transmit messages, and have a go at tapping out their own Morse Code messages.

Resources Cost 

There is no extra charge for this activity. 



Fake Documents

Every SOE agent was deployed under an assumed identity. They had both a new name and a code name for communicating with London. Even within their own network their real name was not known. 

In this session, students will explore the range of fake documents produced for SOE agents, discover how they were forged and how accurate they could be. 

Then they can have a go at creating their own SOE identity, complete with papers to prove it.

Resources Cost 

There is no extra charge for this activity.



Evade and Capture

The Ultimate Hide and Seek

At the hight of SOE operations new agents were being parachuted into occupied territory as quickly as they could be trained. 

The Gestapo was keen to catch as many as possible and was constantly on the look out. Radio Operators were particularly vulnerable as they had to carry and hide their radio and transmission equipment. 

In this session, students will learn about the tricks of SOE evasion and the consequences of capture. The will hear accounts of SOE agents and try out some of their skills in the ultimate game of hide and seek. 

Who will be brave enough to risk all?

Resources Cost 

There is no extra charge for this activity.



Mapping and Compass Skills

Follow in the footsteps of an SOE agent. 

Maps and compass skills were a key part of SOE training. It was imperative that agents were able to navigate at all times of the day, in all weathers and under pressure. They also needed to be able to adapt their planned route to avoid detection. 

In this session, students will study the ingenious ways SOE agents hid their maps and compasses. They will learn how to read and follow a basic map, plot courses and find ways around obstacles in their path. 

They will then use all of their skills to follow an orienteering course to a final target.

Resources Cost

There is no extra charge for this activity. A map of the school grounds will need to be provided to resource the final orienteering challenge.