Dutch Courage…and the Secret War in Cranleigh and Dunsfold, Surrey
Two years ago, The SWW2LN partnered with Cranleigh Arts Centre in Surrey in a joint fund-raising day for both charitable organisations. The topic was our developing knowledge of Winterfold, SOE’s Special Training School, STS 4, later STS 7, the Students’ Assessment Board (SAB), on the village’s outskirts.
On that occasion we had covered the Belgians of STS 4 which was the Preliminary School for T (Belgium) Section and N (Netherlands) Section, and the F Section and OSS trainees who passed through the SAB. We had pledged to undertake further research regarding the Dutch trainees at STS 4 and other nationalities assessed by the SAB, but C-19 had forestalled our return in 2020. Happily, the relaxation of restrictions in July 2021 meant we could go ahead with the day and we chose the theme Dutch Courage to include a presentation on the Dutch bomber squadron that was based at nearby Dunsfold aerodrome in 1944.
The first of four presentations by Trustee Paul McCue therefore covered the operations of 320 (Royal Dutch Naval Air Service) Squadron with their B-25 Mitchell medium bombers from Dunsfold, specifically covering their ‘secret war’ role in terms of: attacks on V-weapon sites in France; the attempted targeted assassination of a German officer commanding the V-1 unit; the secret stocking of mustard gas bombs for the possibility of chemical warfare as a result of the invasion; and a highly-successful attack on an important Panzer headquarters which resulted in the deaths of so many crucial officers that a three-division Panzer counter-attack against invasion forces was cancelled. The audience was also told of the use of Dunsfold by at least two operations involving clandestine flights returning from France by Lysanders of 161 (Special Duties) Squadron in 1944.
The Network then returned to the theme of the secret agent school at Winterfold, in the Surrey hills just outside Cranleigh. The three further presentations covered: the establishment and operation of Winterfold as STS 4; new information on the Belgians at Winterfold; use of Winterfold by the Dutch Section of SOE and their subsequent missions – resulting in das Englandspiel – the ‘England Game’ – one of the greatest tragedies of Britain’s secret war against the Nazis; and new research findings on the different sections that used the SAB, now known to be: F, RF, T, N and EU/P. Other relatively-local SOE establishments were also outlined including STS 2, Bellasis; STS 3, Stodham Park; STS 5 Wanborough Manor; STS 6, West Court, STS 50, Gorse Hill; and Station XXVIII, Tyting House. We were definitely in ‘SOE Land’.
The day finished with a showing, by kind permission of the Imperial War Museum, of the 1946 classic black and white film ‘Now It Can Be Told’, filmed using real-life SOE agents as some of the actors.
A sandwich lunch and wine reception at the end of the day were included in the ticket price and an almost sell-out audience of 91 ensured a healthy surplus.
Friends/Volunteers Carol Browne and Ian Titman contributed exhibitions while Marjorie James marshalled other alleged volunteers in the kitchen and eating areas, including Chair Louisa Russell, Carol Browne (temporarily released from exhibition duties) and Ashley Barnett. Among several other Friends and Volunteers who attended was Charles Ashton, our new Volunteer Research Coordinator who is now liaising with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission re amendments or additions to the records and memorials.
Co-founder Martyn Cox kindly assisted with input regarding the film.
All profits go to support the work of SWWLN (Charity No. 1156796) and Cranleigh Arts Centre (Charity no. 284186)
Credits: Paul McCue