Suttill's book on SOE

Discussion in 'SOE & OSS' started by Hazel Clark, Feb 12, 2015.

  1. Hazel Clark

    Hazel Clark Member

    Seem to have switched some what from WW1 to WW2 at the moment, and have been re reading books relating to SOE. However, I just finished reading Francis Suttill's book "Shadows in the Fog", and I found it interesting although confusing because of the large number of people involved as well as the number of circuits and sub circuits. It appears to be largely an attempted vindication of his father's work during the war, although I can't for the life of me see why it should be necessary. In fact, I ended up feeling sorry for Norman Gilbert.

    In the book, Suttill suggests that somehow the official history (which I have ordered) does not credit his father with his achievements, and in fact may have been critical of his management of the circuit. He also makes the point that for some reason his father is not commemorated on the local memorial but is mentioned on one in Holland.Why would that have been done?

    Was S.O.E. really worth while? After what I have most recently been reading, I am starting to feel that it wasn't. Some of the participants, especially some of those in control in London, seem to have been totally incompetent.

    Hazel C.
  2. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hi Hazel

    There are members on here who specialise in SOE, and will know a lot more than I about the organisation and the 2 gentlemen you refer to. It does seem though that both are indeed mentioned on the Valençay SOE Memorial link -

    The reference to Holland is for Francis Suttill (Snr) war grave :
    Francis Suttill is honoured on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial at Groesbeek in the Netherlands and also on the Roll of Honour on the Valençay SOE Memorial in Valençay, in the Indre département of France.

    Gibert Norman:

    This particluar episode may not have worked out as it was planned but in my view SOE undertook an overall mission in WW2 with little or no experience and had to learn as it went along. Unfortunately it cost brave people their lives but greatly helped in the liberation of Europe.

  3. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Francis has done fine work in pulling together the threads of research, clues and theories surrounding the demise of the PROSPER circuits, SOE was worth while if only we look at what it achieved in total in both Europe and the Far East. Partisan and Guerrilla warfare is as much about keeping the spirit of resistance glowing however feebly at times, as it is about engaging in battle with the enemy - that comes when the time and opportunity is right. SOE's efforts kept large numbers of Axis troops away from the front lines delayed key reinforcements to major battles and disrupted supply lines gave crucial intelligence in the V Weapons and gave a huge amount of goodwill towards Britain in the post-war period at a grass-roots political level in Europe.
    Smudger Jnr and Tricky Dicky like this.
  4. Hazel Clark

    Hazel Clark Member

    Thanks both of you for your responses.

    I suspect that I should have started my reading on the subject with the official histories instead of the individual experiences. I think that I found Suttill's book quite depressing as he emphasised the incompetence and the chennanigins ( thinking of Derricourt) that brought about the demise of the Prosper circuit. "The White Rabbit" and "Between Silk and Cyanide",had the same effect. I felt that London was playing "fast and loose" with the lives of courageous and patrotic people.The other book which I read recently, which made me wonder about the overall effectiveness of SOE was Lett's book about the Small Scale Raiding Force. I also have the American version of Jack Evans' book "Face of Death" to read following Lett's comments about Evans.

    I had not realised that SOE was so active in other theaters, and can see that I have a lot of reading to do!

    I think the point that Suttill was making was that his father has not been commemorated locally although he is in Holland.

    Thanks again for your responses. The subject seems to have taken a hold on me.

    Hazel C.
  5. Gage

    Gage The Battle of Barking Creek

    I want to read this book.
    Andree Borrel also came in for some flak for not taking her personal security seriously enough. It's only in hindsight we know how successful the Germans were in this sphere of operations in France.
  6. Hazel Clark

    Hazel Clark Member


    For some background and context for all that security stuff, (codes) you may want to read Leo Marks'book "Between silk and Cyanide" if you have not already read it.

    Gage likes this.
  7. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Seems appropriate for the SOE discussion that there was a dinner the other night for SOE survivors.a little late after all these years after the majority have passed on.

    The venue was at the former SOE Station 15B (Demonstration Room ) now part of the Natural History Museum.Of those attending were an American,a John Siglaub and Lois Watson.

    Without looking up these individuals,I have to say that I know nothing of their SOE service.
  8. Hazel Clark

    Hazel Clark Member

    Like you Harry, I didn't recognise the names, but did think it was a good thing to do before ALL of them are gone. I have been really getting into the subject lately, and must say that one needs to look at some of the things that went on from a variety of perspectives. An action that may be condemned from one angle, may look perfectly legitimate from another when looking at the overall picture. Nightmares, for many.

  9. Gage

    Gage The Battle of Barking Creek

    Thanks Hazel. I do own it but have yet to read it.
    Flames in the Field is worth reading as is A Quiet Courage if you can find a copy.
  10. Hazel Clark

    Hazel Clark Member

    Thanks for that Gage. Have now ordered both. One was available for Kindle and the other is a hard copy.

    Gage likes this.
  11. Over Here

    Over Here Junior Member

    I seem to recall reading that some SOE networks in occupied Europe were deliberately "blown" by one of the other secret services. Hopefully done to establish the credibility of agents used for more important work rather than merely in the course of inter-service rivalry.
  12. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    John Singlaub was a Jedburgh Team member who rose to the rank of Major General in the US Army having spent much of his career in Special Forces.

    In NW Europe during WWII from 1943/45 SOE and OSS were basically one organization working under the umbrella of SFHQ Special Forces Headquarters.

    Many SOE Agents with no known grave were commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial - Francis Suttill's name is not listed there
  13. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Francis Suttill (Snr) is amongst the group of Special Forces commemorated at Sachsenhausen on a Special Monument paid for by the relatives of those executed at Sachsenhausen. It is situated outside the camp, to the left of the main gate.

    As Chairman of the RBL Berlin Branch, our Branch attends every International KZ Day (Usually April) Laying a wreath at the Special Memorial mentioned and also at Station 'Z'

    Last year I met Francis Suttill Jnr who attended together with several other relatives of those deceased Special Forces.


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