Spies, basically (but see below), working for the UK in WW2. Formed by Churchill and variously known as "Churchill's Secret Army", "The Baker Street Irregulars", the Pythonesque "Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare" or the deliberately dull-sounding "Joint Technical Board" or "Inter-Service Research Bureau". 117 SOE agents did not survive their missions to France. There is a plaque outside St Paul’s Church in Knightsbridge which gives the names of the women SOE agents who died in WW2. Culture 24 gives some detail of the SOE activities around Baker Street.
Parachuted into France the women operatives had a life expectancy of only 6 weeks, due, according to current thinking, to the incompetence of the SOE.
The organisation was officially dissolved on 15 January 1946.
2019: Francis Suttill (who interestingly shares a name with a member of the SOE, 1910 – 1945) contacted us via Facebook to question our use of the word 'spy' to describe members of the SOE rather than 'special agent'. From what he writes he knows much more about this subject than we do so we accept his correction.