A Jedburgh Team was a special forces unit typically consisting of three men (two officers and a wireless operator) whose purpose was to parachute into enemy territory and contact the local resistance groups. Dropped slightly in advance of the front line they were to act as liaison between the Allied military and the resistance fighters, either organizing supply drops of arms and equipment to these forces and offering instruction in their use, or harnessing their strength to hinder the enemy in direct support of nearby Allied military units. The Jeds were a part of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), however their role was strictly paramilitary and in contrast to SOE's established role this did not include any element of espionage. As a consequence all the teams went into action wearing their military uniforms, but in the event of their capture they could expect similar treatment to that of spies.
The concept began in May 1942, a month after the British and Americans had met to decide upon their strategy for the liberation of Europe, and the Jedburgh's were one of a number of proposals of how the SOE's resources could be employed to assist an invasion. The raising of this new formation was entrusted to Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Wilkinson, who had recently returned from the Middle East where he had commanded SOE's Central and Eastern European operations, and official recognition was given to the Jeds in July 1943. Up until this time it had been a British operation, but the arrival of US forces led to the formation of their own equivalent of SOE, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). As was the case in so many other areas of the Allied machine where interests clashed there followed a dispute as to who was in overall control, however a compromise was reached whereby the Jedburgh's became subject to a joint command.
It was intended that each of the three-man teams should have either a British or American officer in command with either a French, Belgian, or Dutch officer included depending on which country the team was to be deployed, though this structure was not strictly adhered to. The vast majority of the Jedburgh's were British, American, and French, but in addition there were 8 Dutchmen, 2 Canadians, and a Belgian. Officers of all nationalities were selected by SOE and OSS recruitment officers as they toured regiments, however not wishing to deprive commanding officers of all their best men there was a policy of drawing only one candidate per battalion. Whilst the Americans acquired their wireless operators from a variety of sources, including airborne, their British kin were almost exclusively recruited from armoured formations as it was found that these men possessed a wide range of necessary fighting and field craft skills, but also had extensive knowledge of their sets, and as tank crew were accustomed to operating as a close-knit team.
The team used at Arnhem was Jedburgh Team Claude and it consisted of two Americans, Lieutenant Harvey Todd and wireless operator Technical Sergeant Carl Scott, and a Dutchman, Captain Jacobus Groenewoud. Their task was to liaise between Major-General Urquhart and the Dutch resistance, and to gather and pass on any Intelligence that these groups acquired. Todd and Groenewoud accompanied the 1st Para Brigade HQ to Arnhem bridge, where they performed with great distinction, however Groenewoud was killed and Todd was eventually captured. Scott was separated from his officers shortly after landing and spent the remainder of the battle at Oosterbeek. He was safely evacuated across the Rhine, but was killed in action on the 2nd November 1944 whilst on patrol with members of the US 101st Airborne Division, north of the Rhine, near Wageningen.
In total there were 101 Jedburgh Teams, and an equal number of operations were carried out in Europe during their brief history. Most teams were designed for deployment in France, and so when that country was liberated the scope for future missions was substantially reduced. Relations between MI6 and SOE had been bitter from the outset, and the former wasted no opportunity to shut its rival down piece by piece. However the Jedburgh's still had a role to play in the Far East with SOE's Force 136, and a further 30 or more operations were carried out with great success behind the Japanese lines. When the war came to an end the American Jeds returned home, the British were either demobbed or scattered amongst the various British Regiments stationed in India, but the French Jedburgh's continued to function under their own command in Indo-China.
Offsite links: The Jedburghs