SIX WEEKS TO LIVE
A radio: the most important accessory of the Résistance. The most prized capture of the Gestapo.
The Special Operations Executive (SOE) trained radio operators and sent them into occupied countries. The intelligence gathered by the ‘pianists’ as the operators were dubbed, was invaluable in preparing the landing of Allied troops.
A special training school for radio operators was set up at Thame Park in Oxfordshire, England. Radio communication was made with the use of Morse code.
The security of radio transmissions was of utmost importance. It depended on the quality of the sets and on the operators following correct procedures, as well as the use of ciphers. At first, ciphers used poems to code the messages. It was a relatively insecure method, until SOE developed techniques of cryptography and codes printed on silk handkerchiefs. The square of silk could be hidden inside a garment lining, and because it didn’t rustle, it would escape detection should the agent be searched.
Radio sets were being improved all the time. The earlier radios were heavy and clumsy and carried in a suitcase. At first operators were transmitting on fixed frequencies at fixed times. This soon would enable the German direction finding vehicles to triangulate the source of the emissions. Operators were too often captured and killed. Prior to sending them into the field, the trainers told radio operators the grim truth: survival in the field amounted to a scant six weeks.
It took a lot of courage to accept such missions. Many of the radio operators were women. At first, the SOE did not want to send women behind enemy lines, but relented early in 1942.
By Hanedoes (talk · contribs) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7187763