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SOE In The Low Countries [Hardcover]

M.R.D. Foot
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Dec 2001
The performance of SOE's Belgian and Dutch sections have always been considered highly controversial because of the notorious 'Englandspiel' run by the Germans which effectively took control of the entire resistance organisation in Holland. Skilfully manipulated by Colonel Herman Giskes, the enemy arrested dozens of Dutch agents and operated their wireless sets with suficient finesse to persuade SOE's headquarters in London that their networks were operating without interference. In reality, each consignment of agents and equipment fell directly into the hands of the Nazis. Was there a traitor in London? Was it incompetence in the field or hopelessly inadequate security procedures? Opinions have differed, but now, for the first time, the official records have been opened for independent scrunity by an acknowledged scholar who has specialised in studying SOE's operations. The story that emerges is a harrowing catalogue of Whitehall jealousies and infighting, blunders and ineptitude, combined with breathtaking bravery on the part of the agents who were captured.

Frequently Bought Together

SOE In The Low Countries + SOE in France: An Account of the Work of the British Special Operations Executive in France 1940-1944 (Government Official History Series)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: St Ermin's (6 Dec 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 190360804X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1903608043
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.2 x 5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 713,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


MRD Foot straddles like no other the jagged intersection of the historical and intelligence professions (Professor Peter Hennessey )

A lesser historian might have made of this no more than a depressing catalogue of failure, with a biiter edge to the comment. In Foot's hands, however, this no-punches-pulled account is lively and readable, presented with wisdom and understanding and ref (SPECTATOR )

Refreshingly candid. (SUNDAY TIMES )

Book Description

* The first authoritative published account of precisely what happened in a classic of counter-espionage.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
This book describes the work of the Special Operations Executive (henceforward SOE), the worldwide British secret service in charge of sabotage and subversion, into German-occupied Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg in the years 1940-5. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful account of SOE in Low Countries 1 April 2002
By A Customer
Professor Foot, one of the foremost authorities on Britain's Special Operations Executive, has written an excellent account of SOE's work in the Low Countries during the Second World War. This includes a fascinating and balanced look at the disastrous Englandspiel when German military counter-intelligence played back with considerable aplomb the SOE agent networks in Holland, including new arrivals, for 18 months.
Although much of the work of SOE is shrouded in mystery, due to the convenient destruction of much of its archive, the non-availability of that of some of its sister Secret Services, and the understandable reticence of many of its members, this book covers in significant detail the work of the various SOE sections involved in the Low Countries. It also gives a breakdown of the fate of the many agents and operations embarked upon, and deals well with some of the internecine rivalry between the various British Secret Services who were operating in the Low Countries.
Professor Foot writes in an easy conversational style, with a good turn of phrase. The book never loses its humanity, and the enduring feel of the fight against Nazism - something which many of us have no real feel or understanding of. It is clear that he has compiled the book as a work of love, and as a fitting tribute to the many brave agents who operated under the SOE banner. In that I firmly believe he has succeeded.
A thoroughly good read, and an excellent account of the difficulties of running a secret war. Very strongly recommended.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stuck In the Mud of Flanders? 16 Nov 2009
This is a tightly-clipped account by M.R.D. Foot, whose works have concentrated on Special Operations of various kinds. The style reminded me of his appearances in TV documentaries on the subject: clipped, a bit ruthless (?), a bit self-satisfied (?). He does not waste words, despite the nearly 700pp length of this book, which contains a long but enlightening 75pp introduction.

The author was a British officer, sometimes operating in occupied territory (notably around or in Rouen) in the early 1940's (modestly not mentioned in this book, I think; did not see anything) and has personal knowledge of some of which he writes, though of course, the necessity for wartime security cannot have given him firsthand experience of much of this.

Even those of us who believe that the British Empire should have either joined with the German Reich to administer the world better than it now is, or should have concluded an neutralist armistice with the Reich after Dunkirk, can salute the courage of most of the agents and officers dropped by parachute into dark unknown dangers. I met a few of these myself, though only in the 1970's, decdes after the danger stopped.

Not all "Resistance" persons were nice brave decent people, as per the usual propaganda. Some of the examples given, even in this fairly partisan book, show people not unlike the Provisional IRA in their behaviour.

Foot explains how it was that German counter-intelligence managed to completely baffle British intelligence and certainly SOE (SIS did better). He blames, in part, the terrain, despite admitting that the Germans did not bother to control much road or bridge traffic in the Netherlands. Foot goes on to say that at least a million Dutch people supported the Resistance idea, at least in principle.
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This is another authoritative work by Professor Michael Foot, extremely detailed and written in a style which, though academic, is easy to read and flows easily. His conclusions and personal commentary are, in my opinion, spot on.

For any serious student of the subject, this has to be 'the bible' on the bookshelf.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars not the definitive history of SOE 26 Nov 2011
It's all in, but that's all. Long on facts, with opinions sprinkled in. Short on thorough analysis. Tables, maps that make things clear, especially in the ongoing debate about Englandspiel.

Opinions extremely doubtful. now and then even callous: for instance when he compares the number of victims ("six score") of Englandspiel with the holocaust.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Last Word 16 Mar 2004
By Leatherneck - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
M.R.D. Foot has laid it all out for those interested in this lesser known arena of resistance against Nazi occupation. The many failures and far fewer successes are all detailed. The selfless courage of those who took part in this struggle well deserve this recognition. The courage of the Dutch and Belgian resisters should be an inspiration to a generation now far removed from WW2.
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