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The 'real' Secret Agent Selection: WW2 - at Wanborough Manor

At Wanborough Great Barn near Guildford on Saturday 9th June, Secret WW2 staged Part 1 of a two-part programme of illustrated presentations and exhibitions, by looking at SOE’s preliminary school at the adjacent Wanborough Manor.

Its official name for security purposes had been Special Training School (STS) 5 and was established to identify potential agents to carry out Prime Minister Churchill’s order to “set Europe ablaze!”

Four well-researched and insightful presentations were given by Carol Brown, formerly of Guildford Museum, and Trustee Paul McCue, a Witley-based author on special forces and clandestine warfare. Between them they covered the training regime and staff of the School, plus case studies of three French Section agents who ‘graduated’ from Wanborough Manor - S/O Diana Rowden (WAAF/FANY), Capt Edward Zeff (Royal Signals) and Capt Brian Stonehouse (Royal Artillery). Diana Rowden, who was executed in Natzweiler concentration camp, came from a Surrey family background and is commemorated in Tilford church; Brian Stonehouse (l) and Edward Zeff (r) were also held in concentration camps, but were fortunate to survive the war.

This event took place a month after the last episode of BBC Two’s recent immersive history series, Secret Agent Selection: WW2 had been broadcast; and amongst the audience were three of the ’student’ secret agents who'd 'stayed the course' for all five episodes of this impressive and successful series - Debbey Clitheroe, Magda Thomas and Rohini Bajaj.

Even though the filming had been completed in July 2017 their passion for learning ever more about SOE and particularly the details of their real-life wartime counterparts has remained impressively undiminished; and so they'd each travelled a long way especially to attend the Wanborough event. This was much very appreciated by the organisers and audience members alike, and their presence was greatly enjoyed by all who had the opportunity to chat to them.

L-R: Paul McCue in action - Debbey (from BBC Two's Secret Agent Selection: WW2) with Ian Titman and Trevor Butterworth (Rohini is in the b/g) - Carol Brown during one of her presentations.

L-R: Carol in action - Debbey, Magda & Rohini with Secret WW2 co-founder Martyn Cox - Carol in action again

The event was held close to the Manor itself in the historic Great Barn of Wanborough, built in 1388 by the Cistercian monks of Waverley Abbey and believed to have also been used by SOE during WW2. Following the talks a number of the attendees took a short walk to the adjacent church where Paul McCue placed a wreath alongside the plaque dedicated to those who'd passed through SOE's training school at Wanborough Manor.


Those members of the European Resistance Movement

who trained at Wanborough Manor in World War II

and served behind enemy lines in special operations

facing loneliness and unknown dangers in the

cause of humanity

PHOTOS: Courtesy of Lousia Russell and Martyn Cox


SPECIAL THANKS: The event was supported by Ben’s Collectors Records of Guildford, Wanborough Great Barn, and Guildford Borough Council; and our thanks must also go to Ian Titman who provided a specially created Lysander display; Lewis Shelly for his display of WW2 artefacts; and Angela from the Royal British Legion.

FROM WANBOROUGH TO WINTERFOLD - PART 2: In 1943, SOE’s assessment process moved from Special Training School (STS) 5, Wanborough Manor, to STS 7, Winterfold, Cranleigh - and so a second event will be held soon at a venue in the Cranleigh area.

Details TBC so please check this web site from time to time.


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