Sunday, December 31, 2023

Late Fall 1944: Uncle Paul Plays with Mines and Foreign Weapons (STS 47?)

After finishing school in Beaulieu, there is an entry in Uncle Paul's UKNA file dated 5 November 1944, that gave his final evaluation for a mines and foreign weapons course, but unusually, it was not labeled with a Specialist Training School (STS) number.  

The entry states that it is a "Group C" course, which means it was an operational school where SOE trainees received specialized training on specific topics.  

I had to dig a little to figure out what school it may have been, but I think it was probably STS 47. According to Denis Rigden in SOE Syllabus, "STS 47 gave advanced training on mines and the use of enemy weapons."  The Wikipedia list of SOE Establishments is less definite: "STS 47 - ??? - advanced training on mines," (the question marks are in the published article).   I found an ARSOF article (link below) about an early OSS agent trained by the SOE that stated that 47 concerned "Foreign Weapons, Booby Traps, Mines, and Sniper Course."  So, STS 47 seems as likely a location as any.

In Secret War, Nigel West states that STS 47 was at Anderson Manor, in the village of Anderson, Dorset County in southern England, and that it was commanded by Major R. J. Metherell.

By train, Anderson (red pin) is about
4.5 hours SW of London

Like all other SOE schools, the
location was in a fairly remote area

The town of Anderson is still very small; the population is about 60.

Contemporary photo of Anderson Manor

CC Attribute: Anderson Manor, Dorset. (2023, June 1). In Wikipedia. 

Charles Briscoe wrote in his article (link below) "Part III: SOE Training & Team HERMIT" about the American OSS agent Major Herbert R. Brucker described life at STS 47 like this:
In STS 47, they trained in British uniforms.33 After a hot tea and milk at wakeup, everyone ran a two to three–mile course through the moors that ended at a small lodge. On a table at the door were daggers. “Running up to the table, you had to grab a dagger and rush inside to attack a sand-filled ‘dummy.’ First, thrust at the face to cause the defender to shield his eyes. Then, with the chest exposed, you made your major knife thrust. Daily PT ended with ju-jitsu ‘chop chopping’ exercises to harden the heels of your hands,” explained Brucker. After cleaning up, they went to breakfast. Then, training began; classroom instruction preceded practical exercises and training was always progressive. Three constants in every course were CW, codes, and cipher practice; hand-to-hand combat, and explosives training. 

Uncle Paul got decent marks at STS 47, though not stellar. He was rated good or average in his instructor's report:


I'm not entirely sure how long Paul was at STS 47.  From the previous article, here are the dates I do know:
  • September 12, 1944: His STS 35 instructors gave him an evaluation.  While the wording suggests a final evaluation, that is not a certainty. And given the complexity and extent of the subject matter, I think the course may well have lasted longer than 3 weeks.
  • November 5, 1944: Paul was was given his final evaluation for a Group C mines and foreign weapons course (probably STS 47). 
  • November 7, 1944: There's an entry for this date: "SD Signed."  I believe SD is "Secrecy Declaration."  There is also a signed and dated copy of the Official Secrecy Act Declaration that Paul signed. I think this is associated with being given a new assignment.
  • November 20, 1944: Paul left the UK for Brussels. Belgium had already been liberated at this point, however, so this was probably just an errand of some sort - perhaps they needed a translator?
So, my best guess is that Uncle Paul was at STS 35 from August 27, 1944, to perhaps as late as the third week of October 1944 before being sent on for foreign weapons training.  I am guessing Paul was sent to STS 47 around October 22nd, and finished November 5th, so about 2 weeks.

Except for a refresher course in parachuting, this was the last of Uncle Paul's SOE training (that was recorded in his UKNA file, anyway).  Not long after his assessment at STS 47, he was sent to Belgium (on 20 November, 1944), but I have no details about the trip:

By November of 1944, Belgium had been liberated, so I suspect that this was simply some sort of errand. He was a linguist who had at least 5 languages (French, German, Dutch/Flemish, English, Polish and also a little Spanish), so maybe he was sent as an interpreter. Belgium's national languages are French, German and Flemish so there would have been lots of locals who knew those languages, so I suspect his being sent would have had more to do with his knowledge of those languages plus English or Polish.  Either way, by the spring of 1945, he was assigned to SOE Section X (Germany), and he began preparing for a field mission to Germany.


Saturday, December 30, 2023

Late Summer 1944: Uncle Paul Goes to Finishing School ... For Spies (STS 35)

In the fall of 1944, after Uncle Paul finished up his main wireless training at Specialist Training School (STS) 52, he was sent to STS 35 in Hampshire to a place called "The Vineyards" (sometimes spelled "Vinyards") in a town called Beaulieu.  STS 35 was one of the Group B "Finishing Schools" where they were trained in security and "tradecraft" (how to be a spy), and this school seems to have had a focus on French radio and telegraphy.  It was commanded by Captain W. Clark.

Surprisingly, the students were not told until they reached the finishing schools that that they were in training to become agents.  Several sources indicate that they would have suspected well before this point what they were being trained for, but this is the point their instructors were open about it.

Beaulieu (red pin on the southern coast of UK)
is about 3 hours SW of London by train.

The Vineyards was in a fairly remote location,
on the outskirts of a small town, which was itself
on the outskirts of Southhampton

Today it's privately owned. Note the eponymous grapes (lower right).

How the building looked at the time.
Source: Beaulieu Historical Society

Modern stock photo. It hasn't changed much.

If I understand the SOE Syllabus by Denis Rigden correctly, the finishing schools had 5 main sections, each with its own syllabus and instructors, and I believe that whatever finishing school an SOE agent attended, they learned about all 5 sections.

  • Section A: Agent technique; clandestine life, organization, and communication; personal security; recruiting and handling agents in the field; maintaining cover; how to handle being surveilled, arrested, and interrogated.
  • Section B: Exercises relating to Section A above. It would have been like LARPing secret meeting with the resistance units, burglary, lock- and handcuff-picking.
  • Section C: Organization of enemy forces including covert, mainly Wehrmacht, Abwehr, SD, and Gestapo, though it also gave info on Italian, Japanese, and French Vichy groups.
  • Section D: Clandestine dissemination of Allied "morale warfare" propaganda, both "white" (sources came from the Allies, and "black" (sources came from the enemy, but were mostly forged by the Allies).
  • Section E: Codes, Ciphers, invisible inks, etc.

I don't know how long Uncle Paul was at STS 35, as the UK National Archives file isn't clear, and I don't know how long the training course generally lasted, so I cannot use that to draw any conclusions.  I know the following dates:

  • August 24, 1944: STS HQ indicated that Paul was scheduled to begin training at a Group B school on August 27th. Notes like this are sprinkled throughout the file, and they don't always match up with his actual start dates, though in this case, I think it was correct.  "STSHQ to Group B 24.8.44: Will attend course at STS 35 on 27.8.44."
  • August 25, 1944: There is a note in the file suggesting that Paul was approved to move on: "D/CEM.2 to T/TA 25.8.44: No security objection to the above."
  • August 26, 1944: STS 52 instructors indicated that he departed STS 52 as part of his final evaluation. "Sgt.Ronnfeldt STS 52-26.8.44. Departed 26.8.44. Previous impressions are confirmed. His morale is excellent. Furthermore, I believe him to possess certain qualities of leadership."
  • August 28, 1944: Paul received a cover identity. I think this was likely used as part of his spycraft training, and may never have been used in the field.
  • September 12, 1944: His STS 35 instructors gave him an evaluation.  While the wording suggests a final evaluation, that is not a certainty. And given the complexity and extent of the subject matter, I think the course may well have lasted longer than 3 weeks.

  • November 5, 1944: Paul was was given his final evaluation for a Group C mines and foreign weapons course (probably STS 47). 
  • November 7, 1944: There's an entry for this date: "SD Signed."  I believe SD is "Secrecy Declaration."  There is also a signed and dated copy of the Official Secrecy Act Declaration that Paul signed. I think this is associated with being given a new assignment.
  • November 20, 1944: Paul left the UK for Brussels. Belgium had already been liberated at this point, however, so this was probably just an errand of some sort - perhaps they needed a translator?
So, my best guess is that Uncle Paul was at STS 35 from August 27, 1944, to perhaps as late as the third week of October 1944 before being sent on for foreign weapons training.


Tuesday, December 26, 2023

June 1944: Uncle Paul Passes the Prostitute Test

I occasionally need help making heads or tails of what's in my uncle's UKNA file, and I shared this with a friend of mine:

"Temperate in his habits and not easily attracted to the opposite sex."

He read that phrase and responded, "makes me wonder if they threw women at them just to see how they would react."

I had wondered about that comment as well, but didn't know what the significance was. Why did they take note of that? 

But then I came across the following quote about SOE leadership in A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell (italics are mine):

Baker Street was also finally heeding her warnings about its choice of agents and, in truth, becoming less naïve. It now tested male recruits' suitability by targeting them with professional seducers during training to see how they behaved. A new assessment board of psychologists sought to weed out the uncontrolled egos that had so enthralled it in the early days.

 So yeah, they probably did throw women at the recruits.  There were a number of SOE agents who endangered entire resistance groups because they couldn't keep it in their pants.  

I also have to wonder about Uncle Paul's resistance to the prostitute.  Was he trying to stay true to the love of his life (who had been married off to someone else for her protection) or something else?

The friend offered this perspective: "As far as your uncle just being faithful by nature, it's possible, but men behave oddly when they think they may die without ever having sex again. Or maybe he was just smart enough to figure it was a setup."

Uncle Paul really was extraordinarily intelligent. He might well have spotted the setup (that seems entirely possible given what I know about him). And he might also have wanted to remain true the woman he loved.  And maybe he just felt awkward being approached by a prostitute. I've known plenty of heterosexual men who would have been like deer-in-headlights if sex worker approached them.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Late Spring 1944: Uncle Paul Learns W/T Security at Thame Park (STS 52)

After parachute training, Uncle Paul was sent to his second "other" school category: a six-week signals course at STS 52 for "W/T."

That abbreviation is all through his UK National Archives (UKNA) file, and I've seen it in many other historical sources as well. It means "Wireless/Teletype."

STS 52 was commanded by Major H. J. Byrne, and it was where recruits received "security training for wireless operators." 

In 1988, my grandfather described his brother to me:

In ‘45, I was thirty-five, and he was eight years younger, so he was twenty-seven. He was in uniform. I could tell his story of the war; very heroic, but let's not deviate too much. 

I suspect my grandfather described his brother as heroic for two reasons: Uncle Paul jumped out of airplanes, and he was a radio operator.
Grandpa was a radio operator too, but there was a significant difference: Grandpa used a receiver which was far harder (though not impossible) to track.

On the other hand, Uncle Paul used a transmitter, which advertised their presence to the enemy like neon signs, and the Germans were good at finding them, using a combination of advanced technology installed in snooper vans, and clever tricks to find transmitters, and it was just incredibly dangerous work. I read somewhere that the average life expectancy of an SOE radio operator in the field was about six weeks.

Let that sink in. Six weeks.  

They went into the field, and six weeks later (on average), they were executed by the Gestapo. So yeah, it doesn't seem surprising that Grandpa considered his little brother heroic.

STS 52 Location:

STS 52 was located at Thame Park in Oxfordshire, about 2.5 hours northwest of London by train. Note the red pins:

Like many SOE locations, the school was located
in a rural area, some distance from the nearest town.

STS 52 Thame Park Site:

Here's a contemporary aerial photo:

Source: Historic England

I found a floor plan (of the first floor, anyway) of Thame Park:

Source: Aston Rowant

The front of the building, labeled "Hall" along the left side of the floor plan:

Image Source:

I haven't been able to find any photos of the kitchen wing at the top/right of the floor plan, but here's the Abbot's Hall (sometimes called Abbot's Lodge), which is shown in the lower right of the plan.

Source: Aston Rowant

Thame Park as a Filming Location:

Like Highclere Castle, which generates income by serving as the setting for Downton Abbey among other shows and movies, Thame Park has been used as a filming location, too. According to the Dicamillo Site, Thame Park has been the setting of quite a few movies and TV shows:

  • Lady Chatterley (1993)
  • The Madness of King George (1994)
  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1996)
  • Emma (1996 - TV mini series, as Abbey Mill Farm, Hartfield interiors, Donwell strawberry beds, derelict cottages, gypsy camp, and the sea at Weymouth)
  • Midsomer Murders (1997 - TV series, hunt scenes in the episode "Death of a Stranger", 1999 - as Tye House in the episode "Death's Shadow")
  • The Governess (1998)
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998 - in the following scenes: storming the machine nest, all the shots of large fields, and the half-track ambush)
  • The Wyvern Mystery (2000 - TV mini series, as Carwell Grange)

Thame Park and Sir Isaac Newton:

Thame Park has one other bit oddball history: part of Isaac Newton's personal library was located there, and in 1919, when the family that owned the house could no longer support two big estates, they auctioned off a bunch of Newton's books at bargain prices (evidently neither the buyers nor the sellers knew the significance of the books!).  Fortunately the larger portion of Newton's library remained intact, and according to

In 1943 the Pilgrim Trust bought the remainder of the Newton collection from the Wykeham-Musgraves, thanks to the detective work of Lieutenant-Colonel de Villamil, and placed them in Trinity College Cambridge, where Sir Isaac Newton had originally collected some of them over 200 years before.


Anyway, what did the training look like? It was longer than many of them, usually lasting six weeks. I was unable to find what the structure of the course as a whole looked like.  SOE Syllabus by Denis Rigden simply said "STS 52 provided security training for wireless operators," though the book did have the outline of one lecture that Uncle Paul must have attended.  I've reprinted the outline at the very end of this article if you'd like to read it.

Uncle Paul's Experience:

Uncle Paul arrived on 19 May 1944, but on 1 June 1944, he was on leave for a week.  The file said he left the school on 26 August 1944, so he was there for more than three months. There is nothing in his file to suggest why the training took more than double the usual time, and his evaluations were very positive (see below). I suspect that D-Day on 6 June 1944 interrupted things and he and his fellow trainees were put to work doing other things (and his UKNA file says he got a promotion to local sergeant on 5 June). Here's what they said about him at STS 52:

He had continued to improve in the eyes of his instructors. They describe him as: "a quick thinker and should be able to take care of himself in an emergency." Or that he has "plenty of common sense" and that he possesses "certain qualities of leadership."

But my absolutely FAVORITE quote is this one: 

Always in a good humour. Takes a few drinks now and again and when he is a little merry sings obscene songs in French, of which he has a huge repertoire. This he does only in the School canteen. When in the village, he is well behaved.


W/T Security Lecture:

September 1943

Lecture deals with special aspects of security for WT/ Operators apart from general principles laid down in "Individual Security".


    a) Choice depends on:

        i) Security considerations.

        ii) Technical considerations.

        iii) Combination of i. and ii. and district.

    b) Security.

Safer to have number of sets dispersed over wide area with owners or occupants of premises recruited (see further below)

    c) Technical.

Avoid steel-framed buildings. Key click easily audible in next room or if radio receiver working off same circuit. Consider aerial camouflage.

    d) District.

i) Thinly populated country districts, possibility for isolated buildings, e.g. farms, etc. 
ii) Towns - private house or place of occupation. 

    e) In case of d) ii) above, consider following factors:

        i) Accessibility.

Operator must be able to get to and from premises without arousing suspicions of neighbours or passers by.

        ii) Cover.

Must have "genuine" reason for frequent visits (e.g. doctor). Use existing household.

        iii) Facilities, defensive.

For concealing self and set. 
For escape (exits). 
Vulnerability to surveillance.

iv) Control of Access. 
Limit to number and type of people with possible access to premises. 
To be taken in any premises including place of residence.  
a) Precautions against search during absence - tidiness, leaf in keyhole, hair, etc.

b) Minimum incriminating material, coded writings destroyed, etc.

N.B: Traces on blotting paper and writing blocks.   

c) Hiding places prepared, particularly for set. 
i) Inside House - advantages and disadvantages. 
ii) Outside House - advantages and disadvantages. 
Possibility of working set from hiding places. 
d) Preparation for destroying incriminating material.

e) Where possible room with 2 doors and light switch near while operating.

f) Guard while operating, e.g. possibility of hall porter.

g) Al clear and danger signals, visual and/or oral.

h) Check on surveillance of premises, or when entering or leaving.

 i) Alternative premises in case of emergency.

j) No casual visitors at premises - only possible ones are cut-outs.


a) Definition.

Intermediary. Link between two agents. May only carry messages, knowing nothing about Organization, or act as liaison officer.
Should undertake no other subversive activity.

b) Reason for employment (In case of W/T Operator).

i) Dangerous for operator to be seen with Organizer.

ii) May not want another member to know him.

iii) Barrier between himself and authorities, e.g. telegram, official enquiry, hiring flat.

iv) Transfer of suspicion, delayed or prevented.

c) Cover.

Must be able to contact inconspicuously people of different social positions, e.g. doctor, dentist, priest, waiter, postman, etc.


a) Must never undertake other subversive activity. Danger of over enthusiasm.

b) Must not attempt to find out more about Organization than he is told, nor know one or two members.  
c) Christian names only should be used. Numbering dangerous.

d) Never carry arms unless in situation for which no cover story (e.g. working the set). 

e) Must report suspicious incident immediately, e.g. if followed.

f) Emergency measures, e.g. warning signals, hide-out, contacts to drop, how to re-establish contact.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

1945: Uncle Paul's SOE Uniform

I've got a couple of photos of my Uncle Paul, taken in December of 1945, and he was wearing a uniform. 

Click on the images to enlarge:

Paul Lubinski with his niece Liliane and sister-in-law Roma

That's my grandmother on the right. She was almost certainly about nine months pregnant with my mother in this photo. 

Note Lieutenant Lubinski's uniform insignia

Under his left lapel, there is a patch: two wings with a parachute between them. That indicates he qualified as a parachutist.  

The parachute badge with wings is still in use today:

Given the sepia tones, I can't tell what color the coat or his shirt and tie were, but I did find this page at the UK Imperial War Museum site: Jacket, Service Dress: Major, Special Operations Executive (SOE). Note the second photo on the IWM page that focuses on the left shoulder.  Same parachute insignia and similar styling.  The right front pocket flap might be different in shape, though. Unfortunately, it doesn't answer the question of what color the shirt and tie or his trousers were.  

And yes, I wrote to the museum to ask about that. :-) 

1940s: WW2 Bibliography (Books, Movies, TV, URLs)

I've consumed a fair amount of WWII stuff in my lifetime, but I'm only counting things I've read, watched, or consulted since I started this project in the fall of 2021.

* Red asterisk indicates an important source. I either finished the entire work, or consulted it a LOT. The rest were used primarily for reference and looking up details.



Movies and TV:

Monday, December 18, 2023

1920s-1960s: Biscuit (AKA "Grandpa Arthur's Story")

Arthur and Roma Lubinski, 1970s

    Arthur Lubinski was my grandfather.  He was a well-known petroleum engineer based in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the United States, but before that, he was a maquisard, fighting to rid France of the Nazis.

    Grandpa was born 30 March 1910 in Antwerp, Belgium, the son of two Polish-born naturalized Belgian citizens.  His family went to Poland to see family in the summer of 1914, and when WWI broke out, they were stranded in Poland for thirteen years.  

    My grandfather fell in love with my grandmother when they were teenagers in Poland. After he went back to Belgium in 1927, they continued their relationship via letters and the occasional visit. Eventually, my grandmother moved to Belgium to attend the university (unusual for the time - most women did not pursue higher education). They married in 1935.

    In 1939, Grandma Roma fell pregnant with my Aunt Lilly, who was born May 8, 1940, two days before the Nazis invaded Western Europe.

    Some of the articles are early drafts of chapters I wrote for the book. I've marked those with "(chapter)." I've since revised them, and the revisions are not reflected here. In some cases I had to change them significantly due to discovering new information about what happened after I wrote it.

    Here is a list of my articles about my grandparents:

My Uncle Paul's stories intertwine with my grandparents:

    Here is a list of other articles of mine that are related:


Outside links about my grandparents and family: