Wellcome Unit Seminars, 18/11/13

‘Structures of Medical Knowledge’
Conveners: Drs Erica Charters and Elise Smith

Coffee is available from 2.00pm – Seminars begin at 2.15pm prompt

Week 6 – 18 November
Roderick Bailey, University of Oxford
“My Oath! My Oath! I can’t do that kind of thing!” – Doctors and the Special Operations Executive: A Case Study of Medicine and Clandestine Warfare.
The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was a secret British organisation set up early in the Second World War to encourage resistance and carry out sabotage behind enemy lines. Drawing on recently declassified files and private papers, this paper discusses the various forms in which professional medical personnel assisted with SOE’s unique line of unconventional warfare. Those who contributed ranged from psychiatrists employed in the selection of prospective agents, to surgeons who performed identity-altering facial surgery, to military medical officers dropped into enemy territory to work beside resistance movements.

This week’s seminar is given by the Unit’s own Roderick Bailey. Roderick is a military historian specialising in the study of resistance, intelligence and clandestine warfare.

Funded by the Wellcome Trust, his current research examines how Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE), a clandestine Allied organization set up in the Second World War to encourage resistance and carry out sabotage behind enemy lines, addressed the impact of the psychological stresses to which its operatives were exposed. It explores the processes by which candidates were recruited and screened for this high-risk, high-strain, unconventional employment, which included the application by professional psychologists and psychiatrists of pioneering procedures of testing and assessment, and the degree to which those processes were effective in identifying personnel able to cope and work well in the field. It also examines the procedures in place for diagnosing and treating survivors who returned with psychological problems.

Selected publications

SOE and Mussolini’s Italy (Faber & Faber, 2014) (forthcoming)

The Wildest Province: SOE in the Land of the Eagle (Jonathan Cape, 2008)

‘Communist in SOE: Explaining James Klugmann’s Recruitment and Retention’ in N. Wylie (ed.) The Politics and Strategy of Clandestine War: Special Operations Executive, 1940-46 (Routledge, 2007) pp.66-89. Also in Intelligence and National Security 20/1 (2005) pp.72-97.

SOE Logo

SOE Logo

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