The Special Allied Airborne Reconnaissance Force was created in March 1945 in order to safeguard the many thousands of prisoners of war (PoWs) held by the Germans. There were concerns that the prisoners might be ill treated or even killed in the event of a German defeat. The SAARF was made up of 120 French, 96 British, 30 Belgian and 18 Polish personnel, formed into teams of three, two officers and a radio operator, all of the same nationality. The British and French were drawn from SOE and other special forces units, the Poles from the Polish Independant Grenadier Company and the Americans from the OSS (their SOE equivalent) and the Airborne Divisions. The aim was to train all the personnel in parachute insertion though in the end not all were. Some were female agents with SOE, but they were not permitted to join the parachute teams.
The unit was based at Wentworth Golf Course in Surrey, previously used by the Headquarters of 21st Army Group before their move to Europe. SAARF was under the direct command of SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force), though training was provided by SOE and OSS.
The plan was to drop teams close to PoW camps where they could make contact with the prisoners and transmit messages back to Allied High Command. They might be able to arrange to drop supplies to the camps as the German supply system collapsed.
In practice the situation moved even faster than expected and only a limited number of teams went into action. Some of those were captured, but remarkably still carried out their mission from captivity!
On 1st July 1945 the Force was disbanded.
Note: The insignia of the SAARF are often seen for sale, but are invariably faked. The real items are exceptionally rare as so few were produced and worn for such a short period.
|John Rupert Hunt Thouron|