The Early Conflict between MI6 and SOE

The following document was written by the British Director of Naval Intelligence in April 1941. It shows the conflicting priorities between the collection of intelligence on the one hand and the organisation of sabotage and subversion on the other. From the point of view of the Naval Intelligence Department (NID), the intelligence gathering abilities of the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6 as they are more commonly and incorrectly known as, was of more importance than the subversive activities of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in wartime Europe. The strained early relationship between SIS and SOE is well known but it is interesting to see it spelt out so directly by the DNI in this document.

Special Operations Executive Covert Broadcasting

A report written by Ralph Murray of PWE's Middle East Mission outlining covert broadcasting by Special Operations Executive from Jerusalem to the Balkans. At the time this report was written in November 1942, SOE and PWE were locked in debate over which organisation should control and operate clandestine radio stations. PWE argued that they were responsible for all psychological warfare to enemy, satellite and enemy occupied territory. SOE maintained that they should be in charge of covert operational propaganda which directly supported their subversive activities.


SOE Military Establishment 42


War Establishment consisted of:-









Outstations (at Military District HQs, British Zone)









The unit was formed at M.E.65 on 16 December 1944.

Major E.H. Van Maurik was appointed C.O. in the rank of GSO2 pending the appointment of a GSO1.


Charter for M.E.42 - Counter-Intelligence Liaison Mission

  1. Trace missing SOE agents believed to be still in Germany. Identifying and clearing with C.I. anybody claiming to be an SOE agent.
  2. Collect by means of liaison with interrogating authorities and scrutiny of interrogators' reports and other documents all available information about the impact of SOE on the German security services, and vice versa.
  3. Maintain contact with a rear link at SOE H.Q. to obtain information from it as required by SHAEF G-2, C.I.
  4. To get in touch with any SOE sub-agents and contacts resident in Germany and use them as may be required by the C.I. for countering any Nazi Underground Movement.
  5. Communicate to SOE H.Q. any requests that may be made by C.I. for unacknowledgeable work in countries outside Germany in which SOE is represented.
  6. Give any advice requested by C.I. on the methods likely to be adopted by German Underground Groups in the light of SOE experience.


The unit, under command of Major E.H. Van Maurik, reached Germany on 8 May 1945 and then proceeded to Süchteln, Rheinprovinz. (50% establishment).

SCI directed that M.E.42 devise a scheme for infiltrating agents into the Prisoner of War camps in Belgium and into such POW Labour Companies as were being formed from amongst the occupants of those camps. Major Betts and Captain Leeper, the SOE Bonzo Recruiting Officers, cooperated. Thus B Detachment was formed for this scheme and located in the vicinity of Brussels (Chateau les Chenes, Fourstraat, Humbeek, Brabant Province). B Detachment comprised of Major O'Bryan-Tear and a party of three ORs and was joined by Major Betts and Captain Leeper.

5 June 1945, M.E. 42 moved to Bad Salzuflen.

With the stabilisation of British Military Government in Germany, it soon became evident that there were several danger points which demanded the closest surveillance if civil order was to be maintained. The foremost of these was provided by the Concentration Areas into which the defeated German forces had withdrawn in accordance with the terms of surrender. These areas were in Schleswig-Holstein and along the North West German coast. Here, it was felt large numbers of dangerous Nazis might well be hiding in the disguise of ordinary members of the Wehrmacht.

Accordingly SCI requested that M.E. 42 instigate an operation to penetrate these Concentration Areas in order to weed out undesirable elements and to report generally upon the activities of the formations located therein. Operation Battleship was, therefore, devised to penetrate the Concentration Areas in Schleswig-Holstein and Operation Dreadnought to cover the Concentration Area in Cuxhaven peninsula.

Operation Battleship was organised from "A" Detachment and was begun with the infiltration of six agents on 3 July 1945. In the course of the operation, which lasted throughout the months of July and August, ten agents in all were employed.

Operation Dreadnought, organised from H.Q. M.E. 42, was begun on 13 August 1945. Ultimately three agents were employed...

[Notes compiled by Lee Richards from SOE X section history, Part II. TNA: HS 7/147]