Book Chapter

Introduction: Politics and strategy in the clandestine war - new perspectives in the study of S.O.E



Wylie N (2007) Introduction: Politics and strategy in the clandestine war - new perspectives in the study of S.O.E. In: Wylie N (ed.) The Politics and Strategy of Clandestine War: Special Operations Executive, 1940-1946. Studies in Intelligence. Oxford: Routledge, pp. 1-14.

Buried amongst the Australian War Memorial’s impressive photographic collection is a series of photos taken by W. Mulford, who saw service with Lysander squadrons in Burma at the close of the Second World War. To a casual observer, Mulford’s photos might seem unremarkable. Lysanders were a regular sight for British and Commonwealth servicemen during the war, and were found in all theatres in which British troops were engaged. Closer inspection, however, suggests that Mulford’s photographs depict scenes that were anything but ordinary. The make of the aircraft itself should at least give us pause for thought. For, although initially designed as army reconnaissance aircraft, Lysanders quickly became a firm favourite in RAF ‘special duty’ squadrons. What the aircraft might have lacked in space and speed, it made up for in its range and agility. It was found to be particularly well suited for infiltrating and exfiltrating agents from occupied Europe. Good visibility from the cockpit enabled pilots to spot the faint, flickering lights of their reception parties, while the plane’s remarkable manoeuvrability meant that it could be safely landed on the unploughed fields or pastures that invariably doubled-up as makeshift airfields for resistance movements during the war. Had the markings of Mulford’s aircraft been rather more visible, it would become evident that the Lysanders were IIIAs and belonged to No. 357 Special Duty (SD) squadron. The squadron operated out of Mingaladon airfield in Burma, and was primarily responsible for servicing members of Force 136 – the Special Operations Executive’s nom de guerre in the Far East – and their allies among the Karen tribes in Burma.

Title of seriesStudies in Intelligence
Publication date31/12/2007
Place of publicationOxford

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Professor Neville Wylie

Professor Neville Wylie

Deputy Principal