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A lot of people forget that there was a time when archaic codes of warfare lived on modern battlefields. It's hard to believe, in our time, when unconventional warfare has become a very conventional concept, that soldiers used to operate with this mentality. Many WWII leaders, both allies and axis, fought with overly-romantic notions of frontline chivalry. It can be tough to win when you've created rules that work against you.
Enter the Special Operations Executive AKA The Baker Street Irregulars, AKA The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare. Most military units have a chain-of-command. If a private messes up, it goes to his sergeant. If a battalion commander does something great, he's rewarded by the regimental commander. And so on.
Well, they weren't called Irregulars by coincidence. Their boss was Winston Churchill himself. That's right, this ragtag group of ruffians reported directly to the Prime Minister of Great Britain. We don't have enough room to detail the insane missions these guys went on. Additionally, we don't have enough room to highlight their eccentric ways of doing things. But here's a quick list:
- Andy Lassen, their leader, petitioned the War Office to be able to use bows and arrows in combat. The War Office rejected, citing the inhumane nature of them when used in combat. Lassen used them anyway.
- Their first mission, in neutral Spain, was stealing U-Boats and capturing German officers by renting a party boat, getting the Germans drunk, and luring them away with women.
- They had beards.
- After being talked down to by a US Army officer, Lassen stole his Jeep and drove it into his hotel room so no one would know.
- A German commander once said that, "They come like cats and disappear like ghosts."
- Christopher Lee was among the troops who worked with them. Yes, the legendary actor Christopher Lee.
Do you get the point yet? These guys and gals (yes, they had a lot of women in their ranks) weren't just some of the best and brightest. They were, arguably, the craziest. And they needed to be. You can't have normal people doing work like that. You just can't. They changed the landscape of warfare. They were the cool-bearded-guy-hands-in-pockets-not-giving-a-damn-about-anyone-or-anything-outside-of-their-mission long before more popular forces came around.
They were The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.