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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 March, 2005, 11:07 GMT
Wartime school for spies revealed
Some of the gadgets and weapons British spies were taught to use
An exploding rat from a wartime finishing school for secret agents will be one of the many devices on display at an exhibition opening on Tuesday.

The Secret Army exhibition at Beaulieu in Hampshire focuses on the members of the Special Operations Executive.

Eleven country homes across the New Forest estate were used for secret training during World War II.

About 3,000 'students' learnt skills including arson, assassination and sabotage for use behind enemy lines.

The agents were taught by specialist instructors including a professional burglar, a librarian, a chartered accountant, a barrister, a pottery manufacturer and members of the Intelligence Corps.

The Beaulieu estate
There were 11 houses used across the estate
Among the trainers was Kim Philby, best remembered for defecting to Russia in 1963, who taught propaganda.

Lord Montagu, the owner of Beaulieu, said: "It has long been my wish to mount a permanent exhibition to highlight the valuable part Beaulieu played in the training of this secret army of agents and to honour the men and women who played such an important part in turning the tide of the Second World War.

"As a teenage boy at Eton, the secrets of these training establishments were kept from everyone, including me, so I am delighted that, with the assistance of the Special Forces Club, the story of these covert activities on my estate can now be revealed."

During the past six months, Beaulieu's education officer, John Smith, and Beaulieu archivist Susan Tomkins have researched the story of the school that was based at Beaulieu between 1941 and 1945.

More than 100 photographs and facsimiles and almost 80 artefacts have been gathered for the exhibition.

Interviews have also been recorded with a number of former SOE trainers and agents for use in a video presentation.

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