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How to be a Spy: The World War II SOE Training Manual Paperback – Apr 1 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Dundurn (April 1 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1550025058
  • ISBN-13: 978-1550025057
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.4 x 23.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 599 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #164,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


In the early years of World War II, Special Operations Executive (SOE) set up top secret training schools to instruct prospective agents in the art of being a spy. By the end of 1941, an international network of schools was in operation in secluded locations ranging from the Scottish Highlands to Singapore and Canada. How to Be a Spy reproduces the extensive training manuals used to prepare agents for their highly dangerous missions behind enemy lines. The courses cover a variety of clandestine skills including disguise, surveillance, burglary, interrogation, close combat, and assassination - everything needed to wreak havoc in occupied Europe.

Secret History Files is an exciting series from The National Archives that puts covert history in readers' hands. Dossiers previously classified as 'Top Secret' are now available, with an introduction and background analysis by expert historians.

About the Author

Denis Rigden was engaged in information and historical research for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for over 30 years. He is the author of Kill the Fuhrer: Section X and Operation Foley, and has in recent years made a study of the SOE.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9f783360) out of 5 stars 16 reviews
55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f6d6144) out of 5 stars SOE TRADECRAFT SECRETS Dec 15 2004
By T.A.L. Dozer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I would have given this 5 stars but, the description for this book failed to say that it is the soft cover re-titled, reprinted version of the 2001 hard cover book "SOE Syllabus - Lessons in ungentlemanly warfare, World War II" by Denis Rigden. I have bought so many books that have been reprinted and re-titled and it just fires me up. So be aware so you do not waste unnecessary money like I did. As for the content, the book is declassified training notes, outlines and instruction in the many facets of secret warfare. Some of the subjects are;

Irregular Warfare

Disguise Techniques


Agent recruiting



Agent Covers

Agent Cell organization





Codes And Ciphers

Secret Inks

Fieldcraft and Tracking


Hand-to-Hand Combat

Weapons Training

Physical Training

This is just a sample of the material covered. This book is ideal for researches, historians and military enthusiasts. This is the same program of instruction that the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner to the CIA and Green Berets) was trained with at Camp-X in Canada. Great historical source.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f6d6d8c) out of 5 stars A hidden treasure Aug. 3 2015
By George D. Kenney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is not for a general audience. You've already got to have an interest to find interesting things in it. In my case, after both my parents passed away last year, in their papers I discovered that my mom had worked for the CIA. Something, despite my having been a career US foreign service officer with plenty of exotic security clearances myself, I had not known about. Indeed, according to the form officially recording her separation from the service (an unclassified form) her position was described as an officer in operations. On that basis I filed an FOIA request but the Agency, rather stupidly in my view, reiterated the line that they can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any classified files relating to her. But of course I know they exist because I have a document that proves it!

Anyway, without going into all the gory details, one thing this book contains, which rather surprised me, is photographs of high explosives molded into various "popular Balinese carvings" which were to be pawned off on unsuspecting Japanese and exploded with delayed fuses. Imagine my surprise to find several of these absolutely identical "popular Balinese carvings" in the attic. Except mine are really made of wood. Perhaps a coincidence, but food for thought...

Reading the book or, perhaps more accurately, browsing through it, gives me a little glimpse of the life my mom had had that she never talked about. That's something to be cherished.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f6d6d44) out of 5 stars It is an excellent historical document Jan. 1 2013
By Chu Te - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a reprint of an actual manual used to train Special Operations Executive (SOE)and Office of Strategic Services(OSS)personnel during the Second World War.

This book is a look at espionage and sabotage training 70 years ago, and it reflects that era.

As a historian and military scientist I can recommend this book to individual World War II enthusiasts, and to students of military and espionage history as a reference and guide which accurately reflects the era and the training syllabus of the period. And I can recommend that every library buy a copy for its collection of accurate works on espionage and military history.

The course work would be similar to that taught by the NKVD and COMINTERN of the Soviet Union, similar to the training of German agents, and similar to that training of the Japanese Nakano Spy School. The book reflects the basics of being a 1930s-1940s spy trained in war time.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f6d63b4) out of 5 stars Own a piece of history (reprinted) June 29 2015
By Kent Barnard - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Exactly what I expected. I saw this on the documentary about the spy training camp, and thought it would be a great piece of history. The book is a scanned image of the original training manual and is printed exactly as it would have appeared in the 1940s. A fascinating look at a part of our history. I recommend it for anyone who is interested in the spy biz or history.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f6d6f24) out of 5 stars The title is misleading. Jan. 8 2016
By George Kirkman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To begin with the title is misleading. The SOE was not training spies. They were training what amounted to military advisors for resistant fighter. Yes, the book does have a lot of practical and useful information, like how to hide in trees and peek over walls, but it is also has a wealth of information and analysis of the German hierarchy,the German military. the economic and political situation of the world at that time.

Along with all the background information, there is training in leadership and managerial skills. "Everything I learned about business management, I learned from the SOE" :-)

This is not the type of book one sits down and reads cover to cover. This is to browsed, stopping to read topics of interest. It would be a valuable starting point for anyone interested in the wider picture of WWII and not just the battles.