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A note on The French Drop from writer Anthony Horowitz:

"The SOE - or Special Operations Executive - was created by Churchill on 16 July 1940. It was a Top Secret organisation whose aim was to undermine Hitler's Europe by means of sabotage and subversion. Or, as Churchill famously told Hugh Dalton (Minister for Economic Warfare) that day: "And now set Europe ablaze!"

"The early days of SOE, covered by this script, were not immediately successful. Based in country houses around Britain (one at Arisaig in Scotland, another at Beaulieu Manor in the New Forest), they were given very little co-operation. The SOE were frankly considered to be upstarts and amateurs with no experience and no discipline. The tension between Whitehall and the SOE is the inspiration for this story.

"In researching the SOE, I have been struck by the very colourful nature of its operatives (it's no coincidence that Ian Fleming, author of James Bond, was a strong supporter) and by its extraordinary inventiveness. It's a pity there was no space in the script for the submersible canoe, the exploding camel dung or the Spigot Gun…all devised by the scientists at Station 1X.

"Of all the Foyle's War scripts, this one may appear the most fanciful but it's worth stating that every character, every weapon and almost every incident are based on historical fact. Novelists and brothel keepers were sucked into the SOE. Experimental fuses were made out of sugar. A bar was kept deliberately well-stocked to test new agents. Carborundum powder was used to disable cars. And so on…

"For those who are interested, David Stafford's Secret Agent gives a good overview. SOE: the Scientific Secrets by Fredric Boyce has all the gadgets. MRD Foot wrote the classic history of the SOE. And I have quoted directly from the SOE Syllabus, published for the first time in 2001."

Behind the scenes with Production Designer, Martyn John

"The episode The French Drop is about the SOE, a secret organisation that sent agents into occupied countries. It was a great one to work on because we made all the gadgets ourselves including a remote controlled pen that exploded.

"We also had to blow up a book depository so we needed to find a huge number of books. They didn't have to look period as they were covered in fake blood after the explosion. We got a lot of out of print books from a supplier."

The episode begins with the disappearance of an agent in France.

"We had to land a parachute at night in the woods and that was a logistical nightmare. In the end, a man jumped off a raised deck and the parachute was suspended above him on ropes and we let it fall into shot. I'm pleased to say it works all right," says Martyn.

"For the episode we also needed 1940s maps but all the SOE's work was Top Secret so we couldn't get an accurate representation. We got maps from the Imperial War Museum, copied them and then invented our own."

Reading List
  • Secret Agent: The True Story of the Special Operations Executive; by David Stafford; ISBN:0563488115; BBC Consumer Publishing
  • SOE: The Scientific Secrets by Fredric Boyce; ISBN:0750931655; Sutton Publishing
  • SOE in France: An Account of the Work of the British Special Operations Executive in France (Government Official Histories); by MRD Foot; ISBN:0714655287; Frank Cass Publishers
  • SOE: The Special Operations Executive by MRD Foot; ISBN:0712665854 ; Pimlico
  • Six Faces of Courage by MRD Foot; ISBN:0850529654; Pen & Sword Books / Leo Cooper
  • The SOE Syllabus: Lessons in Ungentlemanly Warfare World War II (Secret History Files); Introduction by Denis Rigden; ISBN:190336518X; The National Archives