Behind enemy lines

Gender, passing and the Special Operations Executive in the Second World War

By Juliette Pattinson

Behind enemy lines


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8509-3
  • Pages: 256
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £15.99
  • Published Date: April 2011
  • BIC Category: History, Second World War, European history, HISTORY / Military / World War II, Humanities / Second World War, Humanities / British & Irish history
  • Series: Cultural History of Modern War


Behind enemy lines is an examination of gender relations in wartime using the Special Operations Executive as a case study. Drawing on personal testimonies, in particular oral history and autobiography, as well as official records and film, it explores the extraordinary experiences of male and female agents who were recruited and trained by a British organisation and infiltrated into Nazi-Occupied France to encourage sabotage and subversion during the Second World War.

With its original interpretation of a wealth of primary sources, it examines how these ordinary, law-abiding civilians were transformed into para-military secret agents, equipped with silent killing techniques and trained in unarmed combat. This fascinating, timely and engaging book is concerned with the ways in which the SOE veterans reconstruct their wartime experiences of recruitment, training, clandestine work and for some, their captivity, focusing specifically upon the significance of gender and their attempts to pass as French civilians.

This examination of the agents of an officially-sponsored insurgent organisation makes a major contribution to British socio-cultural history, war studies and gender studies and will appeal to both the general reader, as well as to those in the academic community.


[a] meticulously researched and fascinating study. Behind enemy lines offers new insights into the complexities of gender relations during the Second World War.'


List of plates, figures and tables
1. Introduction: Reconstructing the Special Operations Executive
2. 'To pass as a native': Recruiting for operations in France
3. 'Taught how to play a part': Training agents for undercover work
4. 'A jittery business'?: Representations of anxiety in personal and filmic accounts
5. 'Living a different life': Performing 'heroic' and 'stoic' masculinities
6. 'The best disguise': Performing femininities for clandestine purposes
7. 'Pretending at once': Passing performances in captivity
8. 'So many happy memories': Demobilisation and the return to civvie street
Appendix: Biographies of interviewees


Juliette Pattinson is Reader in History at the University of Kent

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