SOE's Belgian and Dutch operations in the Second World War have always been considered highly controversial because of the notorious Englandspiel (`the English game') run by the Germans, which effectively took control of the entire resistance organisation in Holland. Skilfully manipulated by Colonel Hermann Giskes, the occupying force arrested dozens of Dutch agents and operated their wireless sets with sufficient 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? The Belgian experience, equally complicated, was for a time almost as disastrous as the Dutch. Opinions have differed, but here the official records are opened for independent scrutiny by an acknowledged specialist in 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.
M. R. D. Foot CBE was the official historian to the SOE. In 1942 he was serving at Combined Operations Headquarters, but wanting to see action he joined the SAS and was parachuted into France after D-Day. He became a prisoner of war and was severely injured attempting to escape. For service to the French Resistance he was awarded the Croix de Guerre. After the war Foot taught at Oxford University before becoming Professor of Modern History at Manchester University. His experiences during the war gave him a lifelong interest in intelligence matters and the experiences of prisoners of war. Becoming the official historian of SOE, with privileged access to its records, he wrote the definitive accounts of its wartime work. Nigel West is an author specialising in security, intelligence and espionage issues. He is the European Editor of the 'World Intelligence Review', published in Washington DC. He was voted 'The Experts' Expert' on intelligence by the Observer. He writes regularly for Spears Wealth Management Survey and works with the Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies.