Saturday, December 30, 2023

Fall 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.

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, but he appears to have done very well in the course:


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