Monday, March 11, 2024

June-July 1944: Uncle Paul Gets a Promotion and Goes on Holiday

Some of the more interesting times in Uncle Paul's SOE training, happened while he was at Specialist Training School (STS) 52.  He was there far longer than normal, over 3 months, instead of the more typical six weeks.  Why was he posted at STS 52 for so long?  My best guess is that it's because D-Day happened, and the Allied forces needed all hands on deck, both in Normandy and also for the coordination of Operation Overlord back in England.

I have reason to believe that he was indeed being kept busy during that time. First of all, he was promoted to "Local Sergeant" on June 5th, 1944 (the day before D-Day).  From what I can tell, that would have been an unpaid, temporary position given to more senior/responsible individuals, to cover the group's needs at that time. In other words - they needed someone to step up and take on some sort of effort. Sometimes it was given to different students during training to see how they did with command responsibilities. Since there was formal paperwork existing, and that it happened immediately before D-Day, I favor the former.

Click to enlarge:

Paul's promotion to Local Sergeant.
"Lebeque" was the name Paul used as a trainee in the SOE.

Paul was also given several leaves during this period. Here's one dated June 1, 1944, at the height of pre-invasion preparation.  He was on a week's leave when the entry was made.  I believe that leaves during wartime and particularly during training, were very unusual.

June 1, 1944: "and is at present on a week's leave."

Also of note, there was a list of four 2-day leaves, and the address where he stayed during those leaves in 1944: June 10-11, June 24-25, July 8-9, and July 29-30. That last one is a guess due to an unfortunately-placed hole-punch. I can see that it's 20-something, and due to the fact that the other leaves were two days, I assume that one was too.

Scarsdale (not "Searsdale") Villas is a street in London 
and #60 is relatively near Kensington Palace.

I tried to construct a bigger timeline, and it looks something like this (all dates came from UKNA file):
  • May 19, 1944: Arrived at STS 52 (which is located a couple of hours NW of London by train)
  • May 30, 1944: Paycheck was authorized by Sûreté/SOE, and it mentions Major Amies and Lt. Ides Floor, both important people within the SOE organization.
  • June 1, 1944: Training record indicates: 
This student arrived on 19.5.44 and is at present on a week’s leave. I am at the moment unable to make a detailed report on this man his reaction to the initial security talk was satisfactory. As far as can be judged at present he seems to be quite a reasonable type.
  • June 5, 1944: Promoted to local sergeant
  • June 10, 1944: Training record indicates: 
Arrived 19.5.44. Keen and enthusiastic about his work. Is a quick thinker and should be able to take care of himself in an emergency. Temperate in his habits and not easily attracted to the opposite sex. He has common sense and should give no trouble with security.
  • June 10-11, 1944: On leave in London
  • June 17 1944: Training record indicates: 
Nothing to add to previous reports.
  • June 24-25, 1944: On leave in London
  • July 8-9, 1944: On leave in London
  • July 15, 1944: Training record indicates: 
This student is very keen and enthusiastic. He possesses plenty of common sense and his character is stable. His habits are moderate, he is a good mixer in a quiet inconspicuous way. His security is good and he understands its importance at all times.
  • July 29-30, 1944: On leave in London
  • July 30, 1944: Training record indicates:
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.

  • August 24, 1944: Training record indicates:
Will attend course at STS 35 on 27.8.44.

  • August 25, 1944: Training record indicates:

No security objection to the above.

  • August 26, 1944: Training record indicates: 

Departed 26.8.44. Previous impressions are confirmed. His morale is excellent. Furthermore, I believe him to possess certain qualities of leadership.

So my best guess is that Paul was essentially working two jobs, commuting regularly between Thame and London, helping with Operation Overlord coordination, and receiving advanced training in wireless security.  I suspect the 1 week leave mentioned on 1 June 1944, was a leave from school to help in London, and not time off. I think the Scarsdale Villa leaves were actual time off. I imagine he was working 18-20 hour days for weeks on end, and he needed time off to rest.

As for the 60 Scarsdale Villa address, I suspect the Allies kept places for their people to crash when they needed it - almost certainly easier to guarantee safety and security for the war effort, and this was probably one of those places, very temporary, short-term housing.

The address still exists, but it either wasn't built until the late 1970s or early 1980s (suggesting the original building was torn down at some point), or the outside is original, but the inside was completely rebuilt. The wording on the real estate page linked below isn't clear: "60 Scarsdale Villas, London is a 5 bedroom terraced house with 2,433 square feet of internal space built between 1976 and 1982."  Was the structure built 1976-1982 or was the internal space built in those years?  

Google Maps: 60 Scarsdale Villas, London W8 6PP, UK

Image source: The Move Market
At the MoveMarket URL, scroll to the picture, then use the slider
bar underneath it to see more pictures.

I didn't link to internal pictures because that space is fully modern, and photos can't reveal what he might have experienced when he stayed there. But if you want to see pictures of the inside, click on the Move Market URL above.

A friend pointed out some interesting possibilities though:
  • The Scarsdale Villas address was walking distance from nearly the entire Belgium government in exile.  
  • He was probably not really on leave, as he was sent to the same downtown London address that many times? He was doing something official with the Belgian government in exile, probably as a translator.

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