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Station 12:Aston House - SOE's Secret Centre


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I'm sure most of you will have a healthy disregard for anything ordnance labelled SOE but just in case anyone is interested in the subject I thought I would name five books worthy of study in my opinion. This arises because someone asked me about information on SOE devices.

The first read should be Stuart Macrae's 'Winston Churchill's Toyshop'. This is a book about MD1, an autonomous (until 1944) weapons development department that produced tiny booby trap devices (J switch)to oscillating mines (JW Bomb). It was not a part of SOE but worked closely with their gadgets division particularly on limpets, spigot weapons and barometric switches.

Number two is Des Turner's 'Station 12: Aston House' which reveals much about the personalities involved in Station 12 which was the production and development part of the SOE devices division. A must to understand the human backdrop of special devices evolution.

Turner's book is complemented by that of Fredric Boyce's 'SOE the scientific secrets' which covers a remarkably good number of ordnance projects by the technical staff of SOE. An exceptionally well researched book.

Fourthly read Don McLean's 'The Plumbers Kitchen' to understand the important part that the Americans played in the volume manufacture of British devices and the important part that British ingenuity played in the development of American devices for the OSS.

Lastly get up to date by reading Brunner's second edition of 'OSS Weapons' which catalogues the American special operations devices many of which found their way into SOE hands. A wonderfully illustrated volume.
Ive read Churchills toyshop and can throughly reccomend it .also the SOE Hanbook has been printed which shows some amazing devices.
Yes I've also read the Toy shop book and found it vey interesting.I'll take your advice Bonnex and try and get the others.
Dear Phoenix,

You won't be disappointed. I expect you can get hold of Turner's and Boyce's books easily enough; Boyce's book came out also in paperback I think. The Plumber's Kitchen is likely to be hard to get (try ABEbooks) since it has been out of print for 30 years or more. John Brunner's book is in print and should be easy enough to get, although I expect it is pricey because it is lavishly illustrated in B&W and colour.

The book Steve mentioned is a reprint of two SOE catalogues (bit like a shopping catalogue for the budding saboteur). The UK Public Records Office has copies for sale in their shop - they do mail order I expect. The OSS produced similar things and reprints of these can be found quite easily. These books are just catalogues though, they tend not to tell you much about the design, functioning or history of development. I have them and find them quite useful for reference.

Ian Jones' book ' Malice Aforethought' is a must if you have not already got it (it was reviewed on this site by Spotter some while back). It is brilliant read written by someone who knows his stuff. It covers more than just SOE material and in particular I found the World War One revelations very interesting which must have set the scene for the engineers and scientists working for SOE twenty years later.