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.


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