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Camp X


The unobtrusive sign at Camp X’s entrance belied its true purpose as a secret facility for sabotage, spy training and killing techniques, 1942.

Camp X was the secret commando and spy training installation on the shores of Lake Ontario, Canada, established by Canadian-British spymaster Sir William Stephenson, during World War II. The place today is called “Intrepid” Park in tribute to Stephenson’s code name during the war.

Camp X was opened expressly for training SOE (Special Operations Executive) saboteurs. There were only three such schools established by British Intelligence outside of Great Britain: one in Singapore, called STS (Special Training School) 101, one in Haifa, Palestine (STS 102), and Canada (STS 103). With the United States’ entry into the war, William Donovan began sending agents to Canada’s STS-103, or Camp X, to be be trained in what was dubbed “the school of mayhem and murder.”

These agents were schooled in a variety of special techniques, particularly silent killing without and with all types of weapons, sabotage, demolition, map reading, Morse code and ciphering, and environmental assimilation.

Foremost among the trainers was William Fairbairn, who was recruited by British Intelligence and known by his nom de guerre “Dangerous Dan”. Together with fellow close-combat instructor Eric Sykes, they trained hundreds of American, Canadian, and British commandos and agents for the SOE and OSS. His close-combat, pistol-shooting, and knife-fighting techniques were taught to “Get down in the gutter, and win at all costs … no more playing fair … to kill or be killed.”

William Donovan would later begin his own training grounds in the United States, mostly in Maryland and Virginia, as well as in Cairo, Egypt. The largest by far were in the present day Prince William Forest near Quantico Virginia, and Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland.


The training programs were meant to provide the candidate with stresses and demands that would simulate the environment where the trainees were to be sent; that is, to train only the best, and eliminate those who would be unable to complete the task ahead. There were training bouts in close combat and weapons skills, including intelligence gathering and sabotage.

Small-arms-trainingAfter completing the early training stage, the student would go on to parachute training and then move on to sabotage or guerrilla leadership training if selected (as in the SO, or Special Operations). Throughout all of the training, the emphasis was not only on skills and physical conditioning, but on developing the student’s confidence and resourcefulness, emphasizing practicality as much as possible.





Advanced training for Secret Intelligence (SI) involved Morse code, decoding and ciphering of messages, amongst deadly defensive skills.







Commando-type training or defensive training, was inspired by the master of close-combat techniques — William Fairbairn. He employed his ruthless style — learned during his stint as a Shanghai policeman — on many naive trainees, and went on to become the feared mentor to many instructors for both the SOE and OSS.



Read Doundoulakis’ compelling training story in TRAINED TO BE AN OSS SPY.




Camp X

OSS Training in the U.S. National Parks Service


The author wishes everyone to know that he is indebted to the countless OSS resources and documents available in the construction of this website and respects and honors the inclusion of these sensitive pictures. He, in turn, also wishes the same for his photos in the GALLERY.

Courtesy of Lynn Philip Hodgson, U.S. National Parks Service, John Whiteclay Chambers II.