Briggens House, near Harlow in Essex, was one of the most important of the establishments requisitioned by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the Second World War. Its mission was to accomplish Winston Churchill’s directive to ‘set Europe ablaze’, and, initially, the house was used as a finishing school for the Cichociemni, elite Polish saboteurs, to prepare to parachute into Nazi-occupied Poland. In need of false identity documents to avoid the arrest, interrogation and execution of its agents, SOE gradually built up a printing department on site and Station 14 became the organisation’s False Document Section.
This is the true story of the house and its highly skilled wartime personnel, including British officers, Polish agents and the women of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. For the resident staff it was a relatively safe posting, but tension built as the Poles, fighting their own battle for Polish independence, competed for scarce resources in wartime Britain.
SOE historian Des Turner uses first-hand accounts, memoirs and official records to reveal long-forgotten stories of tragedy, humour and frustration, giving long-overdue credit to the men and women of Briggens House who were prevented by the Secrets Act from ever speaking about their wartime work.