SOE in Greece

The secret or special intelligence service (SIS) now known as MI6, was created in 1909, and its job was to secure secrets from abroad, under the control of the Foreign Office. Also founded at the same time was MI5, which preserved secrets at home, and which came under the Home Office.

SOE, the Special Operations Executive, was a small fighting service formed in great secrecy in July 1940. It worked with resistance forces, and was quietly wound up in 1946, when its work was done. There is a file for “SOE Activities in Greece” at the National Archive under reference HS7/150.

Alan Ogden’s book “Sons of Odysseus – SOE Heroes in Greece” published in 2012 by Bene Factum Publishing Limited is the best book to date on the SOE in Greece. Ogden describes the history of SOE in Greece as “controversial and convoluted” and he notes that no official history exists. His book describes SOE officers who parachuted into Greece or came ashore by caique (small boat) or submarine. The two most important men are probably Brigadier Eddie Myers and Colonel Chris Woodhouse, who between them commanded SOE on mainland Greece from 1942-44. Ogden’s book arranges stories of SOE agents by the area of Greece they operated in. There were over 600 officers and other ranks who served with SOE in Greece.

What we have been able to find out about just a few of the extraordinary men mentioned in Ogden’s book (and others) is set out in the following pages, please click on the links below to read more.

Eddie Myers an officer in the Royal Engineers who was recruited in late 1942 by SOE to lead a team intent on blowing up three railway viaducts in the Brallos Pass area. 

Colonel Chris Woodhouse served most of his time during WW2 in Greece and in 1941 was one of the SOE offices sent to Crete to organise resistance forces behind enemy lines.

Captain Denys Hamson  took part in Operation Harling and wrote about his experience in his book “We Fell Amongst Greeks”.

Lieutenant Colonel John Mulgan  his book “Report On Experience” describes his time in Greece hiding out with partisans.

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Hammond was a prominent Classical historian, whose knowledge of Ancient Greece and Macedonia led him to a string of remarkable feats while assisting the Greek resistance during World War II.

Captain Peter Wand-Tetley was parachuted “blind” into Greece in 1943 and was awarded the MC for his part in an SOE operation to equip and train Andarte partisans.

Lieutenant Commander Mike Cumberlege was tasked with undertaking covert and disruptive action in Greece during and after the Battle of Greece.

Captain Conal O’Donnell  mission was to discover and construct isolated mountain airstrips which could be used to receive arms supplies for the Greek resistance in the Peloponnese.

Captain Richard O’Brian Mcnabb,  initially based in Athens, McNabb moved down to the Pelopponese just before Easter of 1941. His objective was to start guerrilla warfare against the axis forces.

Captain Mark Ogilvie-Grant had been with the 200 or so evaders in the Taygetos living under conditions of semi-starvation whilst undergoing tough mountain walks with searing heat by day, and freezing conditions at night.

Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Leigh Fermor described as “a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond and Graham Greene” Leigh Fermor led the capture of the German General Kriepe on the island of Crete.

 John Pendlebury (Crete)was an archaeologist working on the excavation of Knossos in Crete. He succeeded in convincing the British military authorities of the value of his unique knowledge and in 1940 became liaison officer between British troops and Cretan military authority.

Michael Ward SOE agent who endured a 500 mile trek in occupied Greece while gathering information on the enemy and divided partisans. (copyright The Times – taken from obituary column 11 April 2011)

Ronald Adolphus Haggar British NCO who served as wireless operator with Special Operations Executive in Palestine and Lebanon, 1941-1942; served aboard The Armadillo, No 14, Levant Fishing Patrol, Force 133, Special Operations Executive in Aegean Sea, 1943-1944. (Summary of Imperial War Museum Sound Archive interview)