Early in WW2, the school was evacuated from Belhaven Hill, and the building was requisitioned by the War Department. It became a special training school for the Special Operations executive (SOE). The SOE was established by Winston Churchill soon after Dunkirk, with the instruction to “Set Europe Ablaze”. Trained SOE agents would be dropped in occupied Europe to work with local resistance groups whilst gathering information. Belhaven Hill’s function was to train operators and agents in wireless telegraphy skills, and the site was chosen because it was 400 miles from the SOE base in Southern England, giving similar transmission distances to operational sites in Europe.
There were two types of trainee at Belhaven Hill. Women wireless operators were all recruited to the FANYs (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry) and were destined for listening posts in UK. The Jedburghs were the three person teams deployed into Europe. Although the true function of the School was a closely guarded secret during the War, the trainees were not quarantined, and mixed socially with the many uniformed service men and women in the town at the time. The true nature of SOE activities at Belhaven Hill did not become clear until well after the War.
George Robertson’s family befriended two young men from Belhaven Hill during their stay in Dunbar. They were deployed forward, and both survived the war. One of them, Eric Sanders, now aged 101 years, is a talented musician and a prolific author. We are privileged that Eric will join us for our on-line zoom talk to give his own account of his time in the SOE at Dunbar and elsewhere. This is a unique opportunity to hear some living history about wartime Dunbar.
A zoom link for the talk at 7.30pm on 8th April will be circulated nearer the time.