Special Operations Executive
In July 1940 the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, tasked Hugh Dalton to create an organisation to carry out sabotage and subversive operations and to organise resistance groups in enemy-held Europe.
The result was SOE - the Special Operations Executive. The best summary of its remit was Churchill's now famous instruction to Dalton '...now set Europe ablaze!'
The impressive museum display, donated by Mr Julian Barnard, features male and female SOE operators, newly arrived by parachute into occupied France, along with a parachute canister, brimming with weapons and equipment.
They are on their guard and preparing for the arrival of the resistance party there to help spirit them away to safety or, potentially, the arrival of the Germans!
Interactive panels explain the SOE story and provide details of the many genuine SOE artefacts inside the display case, the weapons and explosives as well as communications equipment and much more.
Amongst the range of intriguing objects is a lump of exploding coal, very useful for sabotage in a time when many things were powered by coal, which sits alongside a covert hiding place which is camouflaged to look like a rock. Very handy when you have something you want to hide such as money or false identity documents!
A second display lists the names of many of the Intelligence Corps personnel who were known or believed to have been members of SOE.
Beneath this is a further display of artefacts along with an interactive screen giving information about the weapons, signal code sheets, exploding rocks, a miniature camera, covert hiding places and other fascinating items that feature in the display.