The best books on Special Operations Executive 📚

Browse the best books on the Special Operations Executive as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

Coming Fall 2022: The ability to sort this list by genre (signup here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books).

Book cover of Flames in the Field: The Story of Four SOE Agents in Occupied France

Flames in the Field: The Story of Four SOE Agents in Occupied France

By Rita Kramer

Why this book?

The story of four women agents from the SOE’s French section and their journey to a death camp in France is movingly told. They travel from different directions and come from different backgrounds but meet their tragic fate together. The book captures the spirit of resistance and their heroism.

From the list:

The best books on secret agents and espionage in WW2

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Mission France: The True History of the Women of SOE

Mission France: The True History of the Women of SOE

By Kate Vigurs

Why this book?

Special Operations Executive had the directive to “Set Europe ablaze” and from 1942 began recruiting women as field operatives. 39 were sent into France (of which 26 returned), and Kate Vigurs tells their stories in Mission France. Superbly researched and well written, this book is a really good all-rounder. Broken into 3 sections (Foundations, War, and Death & Deliverance), it tells each woman’s story, from their recruitment to either their death or demob. I loved the fact that she covered the lesser-known agents as well as the big names. Be prepared to be moved – these women’s exploits are…

From the list:

The best books about the real-life, kick-ass female agents of WW2

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Jungle Fighter

Jungle Fighter

By John Hedley

Why this book?

This book was published after Tom Donovan, the bookseller, came across the manuscript in a boot fair. It’s a brilliant depiction of Hedley’s experience fighting in Burma in 1942 at the height of Japanese ascendancy, through to the Chindits in 1944, and then finally in Burma behind enemy lines with Special Operations Executive (SOE) in 1945. The book engagingly recounts the extent of Hedley’s experience between 1942 and 1945: few officers were involved in the fighting at every stage of the campaign as was he. His role in helping raise the Karen levies against the Japanese in 1945 is a…

From the list:

The best books about the war in Burma, 1941-45

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville

The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville

By Clare Mulley

Why this book?

This is the biography of female spy, Christine Granville, originally born Maria Krystyna Janina Skarbek in Poland. As the daughter of a Polish Count and a Jewish mother she always felt she was not totally accepted by members of the family and sought a different life. That opportunity came after Nazi forces invaded Poland on 1 September 1939 and she was engaged as a spy in Poland. Fiercely brave, Skarbek eventually escaped to Britain and was recruited by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and returned to Poland several times on spying missions. Under the false name Christine Granville, she became…
From the list:

The best books on spies and their greatest stories

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII

A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII

By Sarah Helm

Why this book?

Sarah Helm’s biography of Vera Atkins is perfectly titled. On one level, Vera was the 2nd in command of SOE’s French Section, responsible for recruiting, training, and deploying SOE operatives into France. On another level, there were the closely guarded secrets of her own life.

Sarah Helm’s biography revealed a workaholic, an immigrant who became more English than the English, and whose loyalty to her charges, and the Allied cause, was unswerving. After the war, when 118 SOE agent didn’t make it home, Vera launched a personal crusade to find out what happened to them – a mission that…

From the list:

The best books about the real-life, kick-ass female agents of WW2

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War, 1941-1945

Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War, 1941-1945

By Leo Marks

Why this book?

A thrilling personal account by the brilliant cryptographer, Leo Marks, who was only 22 when employed by the SOE. It was Marks who gave the special codes to famous SOE agents like Violette Szabo, Noor Inayat Khan, and Nancy Wake before they left for the field. An insight into how the code war between Germany and England played out, often with disastrous consequences.

From the list:

The best books on secret agents and espionage in WW2

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Or, view all 11 books about the Special Operations Executive

New book lists about the Special Operations Executive

All book lists about the Special Operations Executive

Bookshelves related to the Special Operations Executive

Browse books by…