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Secret WW2 puts SOE on the map for the UK’s Heritage Weekend

Following the success earlier this year of our partnership with the Great Barn organisation at Wanborough Manor (formerly SOE's Preliminary School - STS 5) in Surrey, the charity was invited back to give four talks on French Section agents who trained at Wanborough during the barn's opening for Heritage Weekend - Saturday and Sunday 15 and 16 September 2018. As is now often the case with our presentations, it was standing room only as the four talks attracted some 200 attendees in total in the Great Barn's granary. On the Saturday, Trustee Paul McCue talked about Captain Michael Trotobas, killed in France in November 1943 and Captain Harry Rée, famous for having persuaded the owner of the Peugeot works in France to allow an SOE sabotage team to wreck his factory, thereby avoiding the need for aerial bombing raids with their attendant civilian casualties and damage. Harry survived the war and was a renowned post-war educationalist. On Sunday, the Charity's Information Officer, Carol Brown, gave presentations on Section Officer Yolande Beekman, captured in northern France in January 1944 and executed at Dachau concentration camp in September 1944, and on Flight Officer Pearl Witherington. Pearl, like Harry Rée, survived her service in occupied France during which, uniquely for a woman, she commanded her own SOE circuit and some 1,500 resistance fighters. An additional impromptu talk on STS 5 was given by Paul to several pupils from the nearby Aldro School.

The weekend also saw the unveiling of the Great Barn organisation's two pull-up banners depicting the 55 French Section agents who trained at Wanborough, but did not return. This Roll of Honour was also produced in booklet format and all 55 names are due to be read out in the Remembrance Sunday service in the church of St Bartholomew, adjoining the Great Barn and the Manor. Trustee Paul McCue had assisted the Great Barn's David Wilson in confirming those to be listed and had provided several photographs of the agents.

Louisa Russell, our Chair, was on hand to introduce Carol on Sunday and among the charity's supporters seen over the weekend were Yvette Pitt, Trevor and Anita Butterworth, Meryl Jones, Ann Palmer and Mark Brown.

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