Considering the number of books that have been written about SOE, very little has been revealed about the most frequently mentioned of its training establishments, the Finishing School on Lord Montagu’s estate at Beaulieu in Hampshire.

So secret were the activities that even the Montagu family whose home was in the middle of the school complex, were unaware of what was in fact taking place.

Virtually nothing was known about who designed the courses and did the teaching, how the students were taught or where the instructors had obtained their knowledge of spycrafts.

Wishing to find out more, Lord Montagu commissioned local historian, Cyril Cunningham, to undertake the necessary research, unaware that Cunningham was a former Intelligence officer.

This book is the outcome of a difficult investigation, and a very remarkable story it is too.

Large numbers of agents from Britain and the Nazi-occupied countries of Europe were trained at Beaulieu in the delicate arts of secret inks, coding, clandestine communications and black propaganda, along with such nefarious skills as silent killing, housebreaking, safe-blowing, forgery, unattributable sabotage and survival techniques.

They were taught by some extraordinary characters including former spies, a professional burglar and the infamous double-agent Kim Philby, who played a significant role in the design of the curriculum.

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