Beaulieu Palace in the New Forest is noted as a motor museum but in 1940 was commandeered for war service and became the ‘finishing school’ for agents being selected for service with the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Even students who passed the induction course followed by extensive training in Irregular warfare in the harsh terrain of the Scottish Highlands were rejected if they failed Beaulieu which taught tradecraft and security. Wireless operator Cyril Watney described the course as being equivalent to a modern-day university degree syllabus because it was so intense.
Tony Brooks who served with SOE remembered two students who did not take the training seriously and said, “I regret to say neither of those chaps survived… They were both caught, and both died. Beulieu, I think was the most important part of the training and I took it very seriously. That’s why I’m here.”
There were eleven schools deep inside the New Forrest, students were accommodated at three remote buildings so members of various European country sections never saw each other and approximately 3,000 students received their security and tradecraft training on the estate.
17 thoughts on “SOE Finishing School Beaulieu Palace”
Just came across this – you might like to note that Palace House wasn’t used by SOE. Their HQ were actually in The Rings on the estate, one of several Beaulieu Estate properties occupied by SOE.
Hi Pauk, The Palace was used by HQ staff. The Rings, Bormans and the House in the Woods were used for student accommodation by the country sections.
Alan you are correct and the three large house in the woods were demolished after the war. Using Beaulieu Palace to accommodate training and HQ staff allowed them to hide the identities from trainees they were not connected with.
Thanks Ben, this was confirmed through primary sources during my research.
I’ve posted the list of 10 Finishing Schools at Beaulieu. Please note – 10, not 3. They were not just for accommodation, they were training schools.
I’ve also quoted the National Archives files which list all SOE establishments, with not a mention of Palace House.
I’d be glad to be corrected, but in all my research I have never come across mention of Palace House, by trainee agents or staff – and I have covered hundreds of individuals. I note that Beaulieu’s own web site doesn’t claim that Palace House was used by SOE.
Hi Paul, if you give me a little time as I’m still writing my book on SOE, I will send you the file numbers from various archives. Regards Alan
I spoke to Beulieu during the research for my book and was told they have little information. I have referenced sources in my forthcoming book and will share these with you when I have time. Regards Alan
i can say categorically Alan Malcher is correct about Beulieu after having spoken to several former instructors who served there and as Mr Malcher said had been accommodated at the Palace among them my uncle. As far back as the early 1970s my uncle warned me of the large amount of false information being published about SOE and I am looking forward to reading Alan Malcher’s book which addresses much of the wrong information appearing in publications since 1963 and are now accepted for fact. Mr Malcher examined my uncle’s war journal and other private papers approximately six years ago as part of his research and look forward to reading his completed research.
Well….I use primary sources, too – the National Archives files and I have never seen Palace House listed.
And Ben – there were (at least) ten large houses used, not three, and I believe only one (The Rings?) was later demolished.
My primary sources:
HS7/15 (FANY list of SOE establishments) – Palace House not listed.
HS7/286 (SOE establishment lists) gives:
STS 31 The Rings
STS31a The House in the Wood
STS32a Harford House
STS33 The House on the Shore
STS37 Warren House
NB no listing of Palace House.
HS8/960 War Office SOE establishment does not show Palace House.
HS8/969 holds addresses, telephone numbers and Commandants – Palace House is not shown and it stipulates that all correspondence should be addressed to The Rings. That’s because it became the HQ of Group B – the Beaulieu establishments.
Of course, I stand to be corrected by Alan’s primary source(s). Please advise.
It’s listed in documents at the National Archives. If you give me time, I will forward you the file reference. Also, the above is not a full list of SOE establishments in the United Kingdom. Regards Alan
I didn’t say it was a full list of SOE establishments in the UK, I know of the many, many, more: preliminary schools/depots, Group A, the Ringway group, Group C operational schools, Stations rather than STS, etc.
I actually said it was a list of SOE training establishments on the Beaulieu Estate. This list of 10 is therefore at odds with the number of only 3 (in addition to Palace House) that Ben quoted, to which you agreed.
As I said earlier Paul, I will get back to you once the book is out as I don’t currently have time to go through the files.
I have read on other sites that Alan Malcher has research the French Section of SOE over the past 7 seven years and has also been learning about the section since 1963 when Foot first published his book. I also understand Malcher has challenged much of which has been published and appear on the internet. For those interested I would sucggest we wait until his book is published. Just a thought.
Sarah, naturally, as with all historians my research will receive peer-group review and when required will receive constructive criticism. Regards Alan
The comments so far reflect the problems of researching SOE in France. Much of the published material from the 1960s to the present time continue to be called into questions along with documents once regarded as fact, whilst other documents continue to be withheld from public archives. As new evidence becomes available and old documents are cross referenced, to mirror what another commentator said, its prudent to wait until new research is published and scrutinised through peer-group review. It is premature to insist Beaulieu was not used and from the little I know I believe it was used. Let’s wait and review the new evidence after publication. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Alan Malcher for the historical research appearing on here and on Linkedin which is drawing attention from military historians from several countries.
Thank you for liking my work.
Alain, comme je fais des recherches sur le SOE et la Résistance française, je suis d’accord avec vos commentaires. Il y a trop d’informations erronées qui ont été publiées. Cordialement. English – Palace was used