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SOE Covert Broadcasting

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A report written by Ralph Murray of PWE's Middle East Mission outlining covert broadcasting by Special Operations Executive from Jerusalem to the Balkans. At the time this report was written in November 1942, SOE and PWE were locked in debate over which organisation should control and operate clandestine radio stations. PWE argued that they were responsible for all psychological warfare to enemy, satellite and enemy occupied territory. SOE maintained that they should be in charge of covert operational propaganda which directly supported their subversive activities.


Report to the Director General PWE for the Information of the Coordinating Committee

The following is my report on the SOE covert broadcasting unit:


1. The unit is run by a directing and supervisory officer, Lieut. Colonel Norman Smith who succeeded to this post about a month ago, and three junior officers, Captains Lyall and Haggard and F/Lt. Bosdari who supervise individual teams. Captain Lyall has a good knowledge of the Balkans and supervises Greek, Yugoslav and Rumanian output. Captain Haggard has a good knowledge of Germany and supervised German and Austrian output. Flight Lieut. Bosdari, who has good knowledge of Italy (and Spain) supervises Italian, Hungarian and Bulgarian output: he has however expressed a wish to leave the unit and is to be replaced. There is also secretarial staff. Lt. Colonel Smith informs us that the total personnel administered by SOE in Jerusalem, including drivers etc., was about 100. The offices are situated in a detached house on the fringe of Jerusalem, where all teams work.

2. The whole unit is under the SOE Director of Special Propaganda, Lt. Colonel Butler, in Cairo.


3. Two 7.5 kilowatt transmitters are housed in a protected and camouflaged building erected by SOE at Beit Jala. They appear to be efficient. Only one is working so far, carrying the programmes to the Balkans (Greece, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Rumania and Hungary), Italy, Germany and Austria, but both are expected to be brought into use in the near future. They are connected by landline to the studios in Jerusalem. The transmitters were built by Royal Corps of Signals Personnel from SOE's Communications Department, and are maintained by one officer and nine locally recruited Jewish maintenance engineers. The Head of the SOE Communications pays periodical visits. One transmitter was put together almost entirely from local material. The Hebrew University has contributed crystals.

4. SOE stated that the second transmitter would carry the overt Arabic service called Sharq El Adna, from the studio in Jaffa, whence a land-line is being run. This programme is at present being run from a local RAF transmitter.

5. The present aerial array is semi-directional, and improvements are planned which wait on equipment. These improvements would be calculated to strengthen the station's signals in the Balkans considerably.

6. The total transmitting time per day at present is about five hours. A third transmitter is expected. The Head of the SOE Mission stated that the capital value of the two transmitters and buildings etc., would be in the region of £60,000.


7. Programmes are broadcast in Greek, Serbo-Croat, Bulgarian, Rumanian, Hungarian, German (and Austrian) and Italian. The studios are in a wing of the Palestine Broadcasting Service building in Jerusalem, and are controlled through PBS Control Room. The studios are, however, entirely separate from those of the PBS and are subject to SOE's own security controls. They are managed by PBS civilian staff. New studios are planned in the unit's office building mentioned above; when this happens the connection with PBS will cease; this will involve slight increase of technical staff. There is also a small monitoring section in the office building referred to.

8. Security measures, including the employment of switch-censors, have been in force since last March and have recently been further tightened up.

9. The following is a detailed review of the propaganda involved.

10. Signals to agents are not transmitted through this channel in any programme, but through that of the SOE war station near Cairo.

11. GREEK. The station is called "The Free Voice of Greece" and broadcasts on 42 metres at 19.00 and 20.55 – Palestine Winter Time = Greek Time. But times are being altered gradually to winter conditions. A basic directive was given some time ago by consultation with Canellopoulos through the Anglo-Greek Committee in Cairo. It is understood, however, that Canellopoulos wishes to start another station in support of the Anglo-Greek's Committee's policy in Greece. No current directives are given at present. The broadcasts are principally general incitement to organise and resist, with some recent emphasis on the EAM and the usual personal attacks on Quislings. The station is rather hampered by its unfortunate past history, and the Officers responsible for it consider that its precise function and its basic and current directives need careful reconsideration. The intelligence on which its work is carried out is naturally superior to anything available in London, but is still considered very inadequate. The station provokes considerable reactions on the part of the Athens press and radio, and, apart from the lack of definition already mentioned, is a valuable element in propaganda to Greece and could, after the reconsideration as proposed above, be made more valuable. Its connection with SOE's operational interests lies in the support which it can lend to those elements with whom SOE is in contact in so far as they are politically crystallised. The personnel includes Doganis and a nephew of Cannellopoulos. Censorship of scripts is carried out by Mr. Halkias, a naturalised British subject, late HM's Vice-Consul in Salonika.

12. YUGOSLAVIA. The two stations known to us till recently were abolished three weeks ago, and have been replaced by one new one called Karageorge which began on November 20th, on 42.3 metres at 19.30 Palestine Winter Time = 18.30 Serbian Time. The function of this station is to support Mihailovic, indeed to pretend to be his station attached to his HQ: its output is based on his wireless communications and on such communications as SOE liaison officers with him can succeed in sending independently. The personnel of the station, two Serb diplomats, are paid by the Yugoslav Government and supervised by Djonovic. All instructions issued by them are passed to the team through the SOE Cairo office to ensure that they conform to the political requirements of HMG. The line of propaganda is thus almost exactly that of Sumadija, but based on quicker information, and more irrevocably committed to Mihailovic. The unit state that they contemplate transmitting in English and French to attract the attention of the press, and also direct feeding of this news to agencies, in order to build up Mihailovic, but this proposal needs careful consideration. Some publicity has already been released to news agencies. In addition to the wireless communications, the intelligence used is monitoring, newspapers and such scant material as emerges through Istanbul. The latter arrives very late. Audibility for monitoring is slightly superior to England.

13. The unit are considering beginning another Croat and a Slovene station. In considering plans, the relation of this proposal to existing PWE stations in England will clearly have to be considered.

14. RUMANIAN. There are two stations: first "Voice of Rumanian Conscience", has been established nearly a year, broadcasts on 27 metres at 13.30 Palestine Winter Time and at 21.45 on 40 metres. It professes no adherence to any party, but broadcasts general defeatist propaganda, incitement to sabotage and instructions thereto similar to those broadcast on some PWE stations, attacks on corruption, appeals to peasants, and nationalist incitement on the Transylvanian issue. The personnel of the team, with the exception of the leader, have come from Rumania during the last 18 months. Directive and suggestions are received from SOE Cairo.

15. The second station, called "Battle for Freedom" is an attempt to further the establishment of an SOE operational agency in Rumania by creating, through propaganda, a point of attraction in the mythical name of Vlaicu, who is stated by the station to be the leader of a national revolutionary activity. SOE hope to introduce agents whose task may be facilitated by this propaganda. The principle propaganda line is incitement to action against the Germans. The mainstay of intelligence is Rumanian police radio intercepts. Evidence of sabotage or incidents gained from them is used to allege the activities of the Vlaicu organisation. Intelligence, apart from these intercepts, is slightly superior to that available in London in that a considerable portion of it is fresher. A proportion of the scripts is written in Cairo by the SOE operational officer concerned.

16. BULGARIA. There are two stations run by teams "A" and "B", both partially on the same wave-lengths. Team "A" broadcasts at 13.30 Bulgarian Time on 27 metres and 21.20 on 40 metres. Team "B" broadcasts at 08.20 on 27 metres and 22.15 on 42 metres. Station "A" called "Free and Independent Bulgaria" runs a full-blown Stambulisky line of propaganda in support of the Agragrian party with whom SOE are in contact. The basic directive and current ideas are drafted by Dmitrov who is in Cairo. The team consists of Bulgarian Jews who according to all reports are excellent. Intelligence on which to base the propaganda is poor but superior to that available to London. Dimitrov also has a clearer head and is better informed than Matxankiev. The station is running exactly the same political propaganda as the London Vassil Lewski, and is doing it better, but according to Dimitrov, reception in Istanbul, which is a good criterion for Bulgaria, is infinitely better of Lewski than of Jerusalem. The two may be therefore complementary,  at least until technical improvements are made in Jerusalem.

17. Station "B" is not clearly defined and broadcasts general anti-Boris and anti-Government defeatist propaganda with the intention of appealing rather vaguely to the bourgeois elements. In the unit's own estimation the team's scripts are inclined to be academic. There is no direct contact with SOE officers of the station but they receive their instruction from SOE Cairo.

18. HUNGARIAN. There are two stations. One called "The Independent Democratic Station" and the other "The People's Station". The first broadcasts at 16.00 Palestine Winter Time on 27 metres and appeals to moderate Liberal opinion. The speaker and principal writer hitherto has been Stankovicz who was a well-known radio announcer in Budapest. A replacement is being found for him and the station's times are being altered. The second station broadcasts at 20.00 on 42 metres straightforward revolutionary class propaganda. It tries to create the illusion of a revolutionary organisation existing in Hungary. Intelligence is very much inferior to that available in London and is almost non-existent.

19. SOE informed us before the PWE Mission left London that they had no operational interest in either station.

20. ITALIAN. There is one station called "Radio Unita Anti-Fascista" transmitting three times a day, at 18.30 on 42 metres, at 22.45 on 42 metres (this is a new transmission) and at 20.15 on 40 metres. This station transmits general defeatist and anti-Fascist propaganda with no reference to any particular party or political organisation. Intelligence is extremely poor, consisting of such short-wave monitoring as can be carried out, and a little Prisoners of War censorship material and occasional secret intelligence which becomes available here. No MI9 material is used. Personnel is of mixed quality and the unit's officers have not very much confidence in the programme's effect. There is a suggestion on foot for a Sicilian transmission of a mafia sort, but in view of the lack of intelligence, it is difficult to see how this could be carried out.

21. SOE informed us before the PWE Mission left London that they had no operational interest in this station.

22. GERMAN AND AUSTRIAN. The unit's officers describe these transmissions as "semi-clandestine". The German transmission at 17.30 = 16.30 German Time on 25 metres is termed "uncensored news" and is written by the Austrian Professor Dobretsberger who speaks high German for the purpose of this transmission. Intelligence is practically non-existent. The Austrian station is on the same wave-length and consists of a high proportion of dialect material, songs and talks with the principal purpose of producing something which might make Austrian listeners homesick. It is addressed in theory to occupying troops and has no political definition. SOE informed us before the PWE Mission left London they had no operational interest in this or the German transmissions.

23. In addition to these stations, there are transmissions in place of the German station on the same wave-length at the same time on Sundays by the Roman Catholic, Father Eilers, from whom we have received memoranda about a year ago from Turkey. He is stated to be first class – a most sincere broadcaster and sincere anti-Hitlerian priest. He has broadcast openly on PBS medium-wave transmissions under his own name in the past. The unit suggest that he could be better employed where he could achieve a bigger audience.

24. In some of these languages the unit has run on is still running medium-wave transmissions on PBS transmitters to cover the unit's personnel. These are gradually being eliminated, however; in the majority of cases such medium-wave transmissions could not reach their destination.

25. Intelligence for all these stations is sent by bag from SOE's Cairo office and is sometimes sent by cipher to save time, either from Istanbul or from Cairo.

26. It is not possible at this stage to say how the intelligence available in the Middle East is planned and apportioned in relation to the best use of these covert broadcasts.



[Source: TNA redacted copy in FO 898/28 with other unredacted copies in FO 898/117 and 118, transcribed by]



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