The contents on this page remain on our website for informational purposes only.
Content on this page will not be reviewed or updated.


This book was written in 1993, as the culmination of research into secret intelligence activities within some 20 miles of Bletchley Park.
Most well known is the story of Bletchley Park during World War Two but within the immediate district many other clandestine activities were carried out, including the training of S.O.E. agents and the propagation of propaganda, both in printed form and by radio transmissions.
In the years after writing this book much new knowledge came to light. Primarily this concerned the Second World War and in the year 2000 the opportunity arose to encapsulate this information in a website. This was produced in conjunction with the Open University and provided information for a Channel 4 documentary.
In 2005 Bletchley Park’s Secret Sisters was published, ISBN 1-903747-35-X, and to include the content of the website told the detailed story of the secret intelligence activities during World War Two. Additionally, and including interviews with many of the wartime personnel, a companion DVD, The Secret Wireless War, was produced by Grindlewald Productions.
In 1945 the definitive history of the Political Warfare Executive, one of the propaganda organisations of World War Two, was written but being deemed too controversial for immediate release was retained in the Whitehall archives under the 50 year rule. Thus it only became available after the completion of this book.
In summary, this book contains an overview of the original findings on the realm of secret intelligence. The detailed story regarding World War Two is to be found in the sources previously mentioned.
Despite the title of this work the subject would not be complete without a mention of the incredible achievements of Bletchley Park, and so a condensed account is included as an addendum.

See Map of places mentioned below



Marston Moretaine

Shenley Brook End




Milton Bryan



Aspley Guise


North Crawley



Aston Abbotts




Woburn Abbey





Yardley Hastings


Little Horwood




Click on map for more details








Beginning with Roman times, led by the unlikely figure of the Emperor Claudius and spearheaded by his chief general, Aulus Plautius, the invasion of British shores, by a determined Roman force, took place in AD. 43. With the drive against the native defenders continuing apace, on the banks of the river at Thornborough is said to have taken place a fierce encounter between the foreign army and those forces led by the sons of Cymbeline, a British king (to be later immortalised by Shakespeare) who ruled much of South East England. The evidence of an entrenched Roman camp has indeed been found, together with contemporary human remains and weapons.

The Romans were triumphant in their conquest and the local area is rich in finds and excavations concerning their stay, throughout nearly five centuries, Not until 410A.D. were the Roman armies finally recalled, to deal with destructive forces disintegrating their western empire, and for Britain the defensive vacuum so formed drew opportunist incursions from across the North Sea by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. In the coming centuries their eventual settlement and integration resulted in seven independent kingdoms, the ‘Heptarchy’ and of these kingdoms Mercia became the most powerful. A royal palace for the kings was built at Winslow and also from that time remains the rare vestige at Wing of a Saxon church, built on the Roman inspired basilica plan.

Wing Church.
A rare vestige of Saxon times, constructed contemporary with a royal palace at Winslow for the kings of Mercia. In the foreground is seen the apse, the church having been built on the Roman inspired basilica plan.

Yet the new inhabitants were themselves soon to face invasion threats from the seaborne Vikings, or Danes, and for protection native communities would often construct the protection of a stone built refuge as at Marston Moretaine, where a two storied tower offered such a retreat. However, the present upper storey is a later addition, contemporary with the post Conquest portions of the nearby tower less church.

By A.D. 876 the Danes had fought and pillaged across great tracts of the English countryside and only through a determined resistance, rallied by Alfred the Great, were their fortunes reversed, culminating in the Treaty of Wedmore. But Alfred’s son. Edward the Elder, had further ambitions and his was the intention to recover additional lands settled by the Danes. In consequence, whilst Edward and his army pitched camp at Passenham the fortification of Towcester and Buckingham began and following an unsuccessful attack by the Danes against Towcester, Edward then returned to Passenham while the defences underwent repair. As for the eventual outcome, the Danes would submit their East Anglia kingdom to him.

The mound at Old Bradwell, from the fortification from Norman times.

In 1066 William of Normandy was crowned king at Westminster, sealing the fate of the native inhabitants after the Conquest, and for keeping the locals in line his rule then saw the construction of many fortifications throughout the shires. In fact the trace of many are still apparent within the Milton Keynes area - Old Bradwell, for example, on the modest scale and Castlethorpe on the more magnificent - and in addition the Normans also introduced a policy of church building, with their stone legacy at Stewkley being one of the most original left in the country.

With the gradual fusion of the races new conflicts arose and regarding that between the Houses of York and Lancaster the history of Milton Keynes and District can add romantic intrigues, being the situation for those amorous overtures between Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV. As for religious upheaval, Henry VIII’s break with Rome spelt an end to many local monastic orders and also an end to the lives of the many who opposed his ambitions including the last abbot of Woburn who, for ‘denying the King’s supremacy’, was hanged from a tree in the grounds. His ghostly presence is reputed to remain.

Gayhurst House.
Once the home of a conspirator of the Gunpowder Plot, which ‘failed by the vigilance of the Elizabethan S.I.S.’

In the following century Sir Everard Digby, of Gayhurst House, was amongst those prompted by the anti Catholic policies of James I to join in the Gunpowder Plot. However, in the aftermath of discovery he then paid for his involvement when gruesomely executed and it would be with historic irony that during World War Two Guy Burgess, who became closely involved in the intelligence activities of the local area, proposed the naming of his intended secret agent training college as the ‘Guy Fawkes College’, after the conspirator ‘who had been failed by the vigilance of the Elizabethan SIS.’

The vigilance of ‘the Elizabethan SIS’ also proved extremely dangerous for those Catholic priests evading religious persecution, and contemporary ‘priest holes’ were a feature not only of Gayhurst House but also grand houses at Wing and Weston Underwood, amongst others in the neighbourhood.

As for political, as opposed to religious upheavals, the devotion of a whole volume could be made to the role of the district during the Civil War. The cataclysmic events affected everyone and it was not only the noble families who suffered, such as those from such local seats of power as at Tyringham, Woburn and Chicheley, but also the ordinary country folk, for their fortunes were dire whichever faction held local control. Swanbourne was set ablaze by Royalist forces ‘for no other reason but because they were not willing to be plundered of all they had,’ and skulls, bones and weapons from those who perished in a skirmish between the warring sides at Olney may be seen in the town’s Cowper and Newton Museum. Of further dramatic and contemporary evidence, during road widening works came the discovery in the churchyard of Little Brickhill of the fully preserved body of a Cavalier, complete in period dress. Indeed, he was perhaps the victim of an isolated skirmish for in the church registers an entry of August 27th 1644 reads; ‘Mr. Williams, souldyer of the King’s Army, was slayne by the Parlimant souldyers and buried the same daye.’ Encamped on the nearby Brickhill ridge the Parliamentarians would send urgent missives to their headquarters requesting much needed reinforcements and a few years later an idea that might have assisted in such security was discussed by Robert Hooke in his ‘Micrographia’ of 1665, wherein he wrote; ‘if this manner of small writing were made easy and practicable, it might be of very good use to convey Secret Intelligence without any danger of discovery or mistrusting.’

Robert Hooke, with Willen Church, of his design, in the background.
His was the idea of small writing, which ‘might be of very good use to convey Secret Intelligence without any danger of discovery or mistrusting.’

Locally, Hooke, of scientific fame, enjoys an architectural renown from his design of Willen church, following the purchase of the manor of Willen in 1672 by Dr. Richard Busby. As a noted strict disciplinarian, as headmaster he had taught Hooke at Westminster School and it is an interesting connection that in more recent times this educational establishment spawned a more notorious character in the form of Harold ‘Kim’ Philby, who almost acquired a high level and influential post at Bletchley Park during World War Two - a candidate for Busby's birch if ever there was.

During the scares of Napoleonic invasion many local notables of a military eminence rose to the threat. Both the Mansell and the Fremantle families played a gallant role but the intended substance for this account is those counteractions to the German menace of the 20th century. This leads to the beginnings of the British Secret Service and in particular the role of an extraordinary man who would become the first head of MI5, Vernon Kell. After very many eventful and successful years in counter espionage, when sacked by Churchill in the early months of World War Two he would then sadly die in an enforced and possibly bitter retirement at his rented accommodation, Stonepits, in the local village of Emberton.

Concerns regarding possible espionage were heightened in early 1909 when a mysterious airship was seen by many people over all parts of England. Torpedo shaped, with two powerful searchlights, the vessel was glimpsed only at night, but according to the authorities; ‘In view of recent German activity in aerial navigation, it has been suggested that the airship is one from across the North Sea, but this can be discarded in favour of a wiser assumption that it is the property of an English inventor who wishes to keep his production a carefully guarded secret.” However, in the wake of a passage by the mysterious craft over the local cliffs, a resident at Clacton discovered a steel object with a rubber bag attached which, having apparently fallen from the vessel, bore the wording ‘Muller Fabrik Bremen.’ When contacted, the firm denied any knowledge of such an item, but privately the opinion of the British authorities was very different from their public pronouncements, for tensions between the two nations had been increasing for many years. Germany held suspicions that the British were trying to preclude its status as a world power, and there was no secret regarding the arms race to build the new class of battleships, the Dreadnoughts. As for the world of covert activities, it had been known, at least from 1909, that the Germans were making great efforts to establish a system of espionage in Britain.

Vernon Kell

Thus the direct consequence of this was the founding of the Secret Service bureau in 1909. Initially comprising a military section and a naval section, within a year these had been replaced by a home department for counter espionage, the forerunner of MI5, and a foreign department for espionage, the forerunner of MI6, and as a 36 year old army captain, Vernon Kell, widely travelled in Europe and competent in five languages, became the first head of the military section. Experienced since 1902 in German intelligence analysis at the War Office, he began his operation with just one clerk and the assistance of Special Branch, Scotland Yard. They were by now concentrating their attention on suspicious Germans operating in this country and in consequence Kell began the compilation of a secret register, listing those aliens from countries believed to be of a hostile intent. In fact following the chance overhearing of a conversation, on a train, he managed to keep a German spy ring under surveillance for a number of years before the outbreak of World War One,

Tyringham House.
At the outbreak of the First World War this was the home of Frederick ‘Fritz’ Konig, a banker of German origin. The dome surmounting Tyringham House was designed by Ernst von Ihne, architect to the German Emperor, a visit by whom it was perhaps intended to honour

A family of German origin well above such suspicion were the Konigs of Tyringham House, Frederick ‘Fritz’ Konig being a wealthy banker. Indeed, through the plans of Ernst von Ihne, architect to the German Emperor, the dome surmounting the House came into existence and a suggestion is made that the intention of this magnificence was to honour a proposed visit to Tyringham by Kaiser Wilhelm. However, forthcoming events soon made this impossible.

On the evening of August 3rd 1914, Vernon Kell secretly received 12 hours notice of the intent to declare war and via coded telegrams to the police he immediately issued instructions for the arrest of the 22 paid members of the German spy service. All but one, who had returned to Germany, were thereby netted and although this was not realised at the time the entire German spy network in Britain had been neutralised. For this achievement Kell’s staff had numbered just three officers, one barrister and seven clerks!


By the passing of the Aliens Restriction Act on August 5th 1914 the Home Office, as also the police, were given stringent powers to deal with aliens - especially enemy aliens - who could now be stopped from entering or leaving Britain. Those suspected of being complicit in covert activities were interned, and all districts of military importance were cleared by the local police of Germans and Austrians.

Due to the wartime situation, proprietors of cars for hire were not to let them to any ‘suspicious stranger of foreign aspect,’ and certainly not to the three men who, near Woughton, were seen early one Friday morning in August 1914 apparently making a sketch of the Three Arches railway bridge. Not surprisingly it was rumoured in Bletchley that they were spies, who had been detailed to blow up the bridge, and in view of such concerns barriers were erected that day at the canal bridge at Fenny Stratford whereby only one vehicle would be let through at a time. During the day the vehicles would be only observed by the police constable on duty, but at night all vehicles were to be stopped and papers inspected.

There was more excitement in the town on the evening of Wednesday, August 12th 1914, when a rumour arose that German spies had been arrested. During the afternoon two of the suspected men had visited the Bletchley Road Post Office, which was in the charge of one of the lady assistants, and because one of the men remained outside his presence attracted the attention of Mrs. Chadwick, who was in her garden. Curious as to what the men were doing, she went into the Post Office and found one man apparently in the act of walking round the counter, while the other was talking to the assistant. However, as Mrs. Chadwick approached both men walked out and the police were then called. After a search they found the men sitting on a gate near the Eight Bells Hotel, and on being taken into Mr. Clarke’s shop they were subsequently interviewed. Yet all that was found were season tickets between London and Brighton, and a considerable amount of notes and gold. Describing themselves as travellers in jewellery and antiques all the men were English, and subsequently left Bletchley by the next train for London.

Spy fever was now prevalent throughout the country and being formally reconstituted as sub section MO5g of the War Office in view of the hostilities in August 1914 Vernon Kell’s counter espionage department saw the staff increased to nine officers, three civilian assistants, four female clerks and three policemen.

Also due to the prevailing situation the dependents of internees could often suffer hardship, as in the case at Great Woolstone of the British born wife of an Austrian. She found that her nationality prevented her from gaining any employment, thereby creating the need to rely on parish relief. Those aliens in Britain who were not incarcerated were prohibited from owning any wireless or signalling apparatus (or pigeons) whilst at the same time the Post Office, under the powers of Wireless Telegraphy Acts, dismantled all private wireless stations (including that of Mr. Odell, at Newport Pagnell) and established a system to detect illicit transmitters. With the introduction of the Defence of the Realm Act, by which the state was given sweeping powers, even more stringent measures to deal with espionage were afforded, and in October 1914 police constable Miles was the armed escort when a German, named Alfred Jahr, aged about 35, was taken into custody at Castlethorpe, and transferred to His Majesty’s Concentration Camp at Newbury.

The police as also the special constables, who were now taking over the role of those members serving in the Forces, were increasingly vigilant about contraventions of the wartime regulations, and especially those which might involve signalling to the enemy. Thus at the Stony Stratford Petty Sessions, on Friday, July 2nd 1915 Harry Palmer and Charles McGill, chauffeurs of Stockport, answered their bail for having, in contravention of the Defence of the Realm Act, been in charge of a searchlight attached to a motor car at Stony Stratford on June 6th. Christian Mebes, of 156, Great Portland Street, London, was also charged, for aiding and abetting. Whilst patrolling the High Street of Stony Stratford police constable Adams had noticed two cars parked outside the Cock Hotel, and having a body of an unusual design one of the vehicles, a 9h.p. Morris Oxford, was equipped with a searchlight able to be manipulated from the driver’s seat. When questioned the drivers said they were taking the vehicles from the Talbot Garage, London, to Stockport, and in the witness box Mebes said that he was born in England, and his German father had taken out naturalisation papers about two years ago. He was fined £30 with £6 10s costs, and although the other two were discharged the car was confiscated. Police constable Adams was highly commended by the Bench, whilst as for the car, this was to be used for police duty by Superintendent Pearce, the chief of the North Bucks Divisional Constabulary. For a similar contravention, at the Stony Stratford Petty Sessions on Friday, October 8th 1915 Alfred Browning, a general engineer of Dudley, Staffordshire, was summoned for carrying on a motor cycle ‘a lamp capable of movement.’ Police sergeant Govier said that on September 20th he had seen a motorcycle with a sidecar outside the Victoria Hotel, and attached to the vehicle was a lamp which was able to move skywards but not sideways. The defendant, who was a special constable in his own district, claimed ignorance of the law, and pleading guilty said that had he known he would have had the lamp fixed. A fine of 15s was imposed.

January 1916 saw the name of Vernon Kell’s ‘spy catching’ department changed to MI5 and one of the contemporary spy scares involved an incident at Bletchley Station one night during the second week of February 1916. Suspicious persons had allegedly been seen on the railway line and although the police were quickly summoned by phone, when challenged the suspects bolted - although according to one rumour their accompanying dog was arrested! However it was eventually discovered that the commotion had only been due to a trespassing soldier. He had become entangled in the signal wires and received a severe shaking as he tumbled down the embankment.

Elsewhere, 1916 witnessed the arrival in Britain of a young Canadian staff officer who, as a member of Lord Northcliffe’s renowned department, was destined to play an important role in propaganda not only in that war but also, when resident at Paris House in the Woburn Abbey Estate, in the Second World War as well. He was Colin Campbell Stuart, born in Montreal in 1885, whose direct ancestor, eight generations removed, had been William Smith of Newport Pagnell.

It was in 1696 that William’s son, Thomas, had married Miss Odell, from a wealthy Buckinghamshire family, and the couple emigrated in 1715 to New York, where Thomas became a prominent citizen.

As for Campbell Stuart, recently promoted from Captain to Major he had sailed for England ahead of his Irish Canadian regiment in 1916, with the ambition to compose the unit equally of Protestants and Catholics. The regiment would then tour through Ireland on a recruiting drive and when aware of these endeavours the proprietor of the Daily Mail and the Times, Lord Northcliffe, duly commended him with the phrase, ‘I like people who get things done.’

In America, having been appointed by Lloyd George as Chairman of the British War Mission, Northcliffe then again made Campbell Stuart’s acquaintance as Assistant Military Attache on the Ambassador’s staff and by this second meeting Campbell Stuart found a position confirmed for him as Military Secretary on the British War Mission, with a subsequent promotion to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel being made by the Prime Minister.

The job involved giving answers to those people wishing to see Northcliffe, so easing the ordeal of otherwise numerous interviews, but increasingly Northcliffe became convinced that to place him out of the way had been the real purpose of his American assignment. He wanted to get back to England where his talents, he considered, could best be employed in the possibilities of propaganda, and thus Campbell Stuart therefore accompanied him to England on his return in November 1917. In February, 1918 the Prime Minister then appointed Northcliffe as Director of Propaganda in Enemy Countries, responsible to the War Office, and as his deputy in addition to the recruitment of suitable staff the task of securing adequate premises fell to Campbell Stuart. His also was the responsibility of finding suitable accommodation, a situation resolved when the Marquess of Crewe disposed of his London residence, Crewe House, in Curzon Street.

Interestingly amongst the personalities of a local connection to staff the Department was the novelist Arnold Bennett who, residing with his ageing parents, at the turn of the century had rented Trinity Hall Farm, Hockliffe, where he wrote one of his few ‘flops’, ‘Teresa of the Watling Street.’

During the course of the war, whilst the Germans maintained an aggressive equilibrium the Propaganda Department achieved little but following the failure of the last great enemy offensive, in 1918, the paper borne and ceaseless tirade from the propagandists helped to cause such a collapse in enemy morale - propagating the message that the Germans could now only expect defeat - that the authorities decreed that airmen engaged on propaganda duties could, if captured, anticipate the same fate as spies. Leaflets had thereon to be disseminated by balloon but in no way did this lessen the effect. In fact both Ludendorf and Hindenburg came to attribute the propaganda effort as a major cause in the successful conclusion of the war by the Allies.

Apart from propaganda the hostilities also witnessed the embryonic and increased use of espionage through the interception of coded messages carried by radio traffic or electric cables. Indeed, many of the personnel to be so successfully involved in the Bletchley Park operation, of World War Two would learn their ‘trade’ in the First World War equivalent, ‘Room 40.’

During the first days of the war, by deliberately severing the German transatlantic cable the British cable ship ‘SS Telconia’ achieved the intention for the Germans to became increasingly reliant upon radio traffic and, thanks to Room 40, this single act later proved instrumental in causing America’s entry into the conflict on the side of the Allies.

As for the origins of Room 40, following the outbreak of the war Sir Alfred Ewing, then Director of Naval Education, had sought initial help from the naval colleges of Dartmouth and Osborne to deal with the growing amount of wireless intercepts but only four language teachers, to assist during their summer vacation, were loaned to him in response! Destined for a prominent role at Bletchley Park during World War Two, A.G. Denniston featured as the most able of these and by the end of 1914 five permanent staff, in great secrecy, found employment in Ewing’s department. All were carefully selected men, both naval and civilian mathematicians and linguists, and in Room 40 at the Admiralty Old Building their accommodation was arranged by as the Director of the Intelligence Division at the Admiralty (appointed as such in November 1914) ‘Blinker’ Hall, a nervous affliction being responsible for his nickname.

Having the brief to attempt ‘cracking’ the enemy ciphers, which at first were being changed every three months, then once a week and then once a day, the codebreakers received their raw intelligence through the interception of enemy signals by the Navy, the Post Office and the Marconi Co., and the inevitable expansion of the deciphering operation led to additional rooms being allocated at the Admiralty. However, the overall title remained ‘Room 40’ and with the operation becoming very successful some of the most able minds in the country would find employment in such activities. Indeed many would be re-engaged for their skills at Bletchley Park during World War Two, including Alfred Dillwyn Knox, who had joined the Room 40 operation in 1915.

The son of the Bishop of Manchester, he developed his cryptographic talents by the unorthodox technique of contemplating complex problems whilst lying in a bath in Room 53 swathed in the essential swirl of ‘soap and steam’. His secretary was Miss Olive Roddam, and she possibly also found the atmosphere steamy for they were married soon after the war. As for Alfred’s watery technique, whilst so indulged at his Bletchley lodgings during World War Two he, oblivious to all, nearly flooded the bathroom!

Olive had been a classicist from King’s College, Cambridge, and introduced to the Room 40 operation in 1916 in later years the King’s College historian, Frank Birch, would play a significant role at Bletchley Park, not least by turning down Kim Philby for a position of employment there, on the grounds that the pay would be insufficient!

The codebreakers of Room 40 had enjoyed a stroke of significant fortune on November 30th 1914, when a British fishing vessel, operating in the area of the Heligoland Bight, trawled up a large lead lined chest which had been jettisoned in haste by a doomed German destroyer. Amongst other documents the chest contained the one German naval signals book that Room 40 still required and this then enabled the team to finalise their understanding of the code. From thereon Room 40 had the ability to read signals sent from the German admiralty staff to the German naval attaches and this lead to the breaking of the German diplomatic cipher. As a consequence, in one of the more sensational episodes of the war the Zimmermann telegram was read, Zimmermann being the German foreign minister.

Of 155 coded groups, when deciphered on January 17th 1917, the telegram revealed that unrestricted submarine warfare would begin from February 1st and although if possible America should be kept out of the conflict, if this failed then an invasion of the U.S. would be attempted by a German, Mexican and Japanese alliance, with the states of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to be ceded to Mexico should the alliance prove successful. Suitably and subtly informed of these decrypts, the Americans swiftly entered the war against Germany in April.

As for other decodes issuing from Room 40, a German plan was revealed to infect cattle and mules supplied to the British Army with anthrax.

Officially incorporated in May 1917 into the Naval Intelligence Department as Section 25, Room 40 more than justified its existence by obviating the constant need for the Grand Fleet to patrol the North Sea. Indeed, due to the codebreakers the Admiralty knew the sailing intentions of the enemy in advance and thus received warning of the German fleet movements preceding the Battle of Jutland, the only significant sea battle of World War One.

Of this engagement, during the early afternoon of May 31st 1916, the British commander, Beatty, led his advance forces to make contact with the forward German strength, under Vice Admiral Hipper, off the Jutland coast. The Vice Admiral immediately fell back upon his main fleet with Beatty in full pursuit but as soon as the German vessels became apparent Beatty then swung north, drawing the enemy within range of the British battle force commanded by Jellicoe. The ruse proved successful until the welcome that awaited them dawned upon the Germans, whereupon under cover of darkness their commander prudently fled. Never again would the German fleet venture very far from base and a painting of the battle, by Wyllie, would lately hang in the Back Staircase of Chicheley Hall, a local mansion acquired by Beatty’s son in 1952. Many other relics were also displayed, including the desk used by Beatty aboard his flagship.

Amongst the fatalities of the battle was the brother of a young Second Lieutenant who was fighting in France, Anthony Eden. Eventually to achieve political fame, he became much involved with the local and secret aspects of the next war but as for the first, of the multitude of upheavals then taking place one of the most momentous would be the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia of 1917.

However, for Robert Bruce Lockhart, who in 1912 had been posted to Moscow as Vice Consul, later to become Acting Consul General, this was not an experience to be witnessed first hand for as a bon viveur, usually in debt and always fond of the ladies, he had been ordered back to London some six weeks before on ‘sick leave,’ in reality a term that covered the aftermath of some scandal or other!

Lockhart returned to Russia after the Revolution but now became much involved in covert activities, a field through which he would acquire a familiarity with the local area during World War Two. In fact by ancestry he already claimed an association with the district through a collateral forebear, James Boswell - Dr. Johnson’s biographer - whose family associations with Crawley Grange may be seen in the form of memorials in North Crawley church, including an ovoid tablet of note.

Whilst it had been thought that all German spies had been apprehended at the beginning of the war, several years after the conflict Mr. Arthur Bullard, of Newport Pagnell, would divulge a story that seems to contradict this, and the following is his version in his own words;

“I was in a gentleman’s house not many miles from Wolverton discussing a matter of business with the owner. As I was preparing to leave the daughter of the house came running up to me and said, “Can you tell us, Mr. Bullard, if there are any anti-aircraft guns kept at Wolverton?” I replied I did not know, but, I said, “You need not be afraid, the enemy airships won’t come to an isolated place like this.” They said, “Oh, we are not afraid in the least but we do so want to know.” I then thought they knew some young aircraft gunner. I said, “If you will tell me his name I will try and find out.”

“We don’t know anyone at all in it, but we promised to find out if there are any aircraft guns kept there.” I said I had some friends in Wolverton, and I would enquire. Then, to my surprise, they said, “What we promised particularly to find out was, are there any soldiers guarding the bridge that crosses the river.” I said, “Do you mean the viaducts?” “Yes,” was the reply; “do find out and let us know how many in the day time and how many at night.” I said, “Before I go to all that trouble you must tell me why you want this information.” The reply was, “We promised not to tell any one.” I said, “Then if you don’t tell me I shall not make enquiries.” “Well, if I tell you, you won’t know who it is - a particular friend of ours up in London.” I said, “Ask your father; he can find out.” “Oh, we promised not to mention it to him.”

I thought there was something very unusual and suspicious about these enquiries and I thought I would report it. Then I thought after all it is perhaps only a mare’s nest. However, I saw the housekeeper, who did not know anything of our conversation, and asked her if she could tell me where the young ladies had been staying. She readily gave me the address. I then thought I would go up to London and see if I could find anything out, intending to go and ask the trades people and shopkeepers if they could give me any information about the people at that particular address. But when I got there it was a residential neighbourhood, with good, large expensive houses. For a minute I was nonplussed. Then suddenly I thought I could go to the rating office and ask the rateable value of this particular house. This I did. The official turned over the papers and said it was rated so much gross and so much nett. I thanked him and, in an off-hand way, said, “Can you tell me anything about the people living in it?” He replied, “I cannot, but perhaps the rate collector could give you some information.” I said, “You can tell me if they have been there long?” “Oh, yes!” and turned back in the book; “They have been there four or five years, and by-the-by, they are Germans. Perhaps that is why they want to sell it.”

I thanked him, knowing I had all the information I required. I went straight to headquarters and reported the incident as I am relating it now. The official thanked me, and took my name and address. I did not expect to hear anything more about it, but thought I had done my duty by reporting it. Two days after a special messenger came to Newport saying he was sent to thank me for the information and would I keep it secret; it had been of the greatest value. Within two hours of my report the house was entered; all in it were placed under temporary arrest while a search and investigation was being made. The searchers found positive evidence that the persons in the house were in communication with the enemy. Further, they discovered that a chain of espionage was at work, of which the authorities knew nothing. Within 24 hours all the aliens in the house were deported to Germany and other arrests were imminent. I was also informed that evidently the Germans were intent on sending aircraft to blow up Wolverton Works, where munitions of war were being made. And the bridge over the viaducts spanning the Ouse was one of the most vital points on the whole of the L.M.S. railway. If the bridge could have been blown up there was no possibility of a loop line or a detour being made, and it would probably have taken longer to repair or reinstate than any other section of the line.”


The closing months of the First World War had witnessed those efforts by Campbell Stuart duly recognised by the award of a knighthood whilst, for counter espionage achievements, Vernon Kell received the same honour the following year. With the propaganda department being wound up following the Armistice, Campbell Stuart then returned to Canada to ‘demob’ militarily but in 1919 he returned to England and a position as managing director of the Times, as appointed by Northcliffe. As for Vernon Kell, by this period he presided over an empire of 844 employees but the strains of responsibility had taken their toll in the guise of asthma.

Perhaps inherent in the nature of the beast, for certain elements of the defeated Germans they began immediate plans for the next war and their realisation of the success of Room 40 proved a significant contribution in the development of Enigma, as supposedly a machine to render a secure means of enciphering.

For MI5, however, their main priority was concentrating on the hunt for Bolsheviks and with the perceived national threat now being Communism and Russia, at least Vernon Kell enjoyed the advantage of understanding the language, having spent two years in that country from 1898 to 1900. In 1920 the British Communist party was established and both MI5 and Special Branch now began to follow those couriers delivering propaganda and funds for British sympathisers. In the ensuing battle of wits Kell would play a significant role.

Having relinquished his position with the Times, in 1923 Campbell Stuart was appointed to represent the Government of Canada on the Pacific Cable Board. Laid across the Pacific Ocean and directly linking Canada with Australia and New Zealand, the cable so described had been opened in 1902 and passing only through British territory was jointly owned by the respective governments.

In 1923 Vernon Kell officially retired, confirmation duly appearing in the London Gazette. However, in reality he remained the head of MI5 for many years and, especially in view of the 25,250 persons now listed on his register as potentially dangerous to the National Defence, this seemed just as well, for code breaking would become one of the most potent weapons deployed against such hostile elements. In the aftermath of World War One the Room 40 operation had been incorporated into a cryptographic unit under Admiralty control in Watergate House, Adelphi. Then having been authorised by the Cabinet to continue the work of the department, in 1919 the formation of ‘G.C, & C.S’ took place and as a fount of Soviet intelligence this operation would prove invaluable. An abbreviation for the Government Code and Cipher School, the title resulted from a suggestion by Courtenay Forbes, of the Foreign Office, although the more irreverent of employees rechristened the enterprise the Golf Club and Chess Society! Alistair Denniston became head of the operation in 1919 whilst from April 1922 departmental control passed from the Admiralty to the Foreign Office.

Superficially the purpose of the enterprise was to advise the Government concerning the security of codes and ciphers but, under covert instruction, studies were also made of the ciphers of the other countries, with all decrypts to be directed to the Foreign Secretary. He would then decide which reports to be sent to Cabinet ministers.

By 1925 Denniston’s empire encompassed 10 senior assistants, including Alfred Konx, 20 junior assistants and 28 clerical staff and early in that year G.C. & C.S., in company with S.I.S., the Secret Intelligence Service, moved to adjacent offices in Broadway Buildings, 54 Broadway, Westminster. With MI5 having taken over the Scotland Yard intelligence, the period for the best progress against the Soviet codes would prove to be the 1920’s although endeavours during the following decade became increasingly hampered by a shortage of resources, there being only some forty MI5 officers to deal with perhaps 300 Russian agents, in and around London.

The tedium of political lunacy also proved a hindrance, for Stanley Baldwin, the Prime Minister, deliberately revealed the breaking of the Russian codes by reading out decrypted information in Parliament! The Russians then effected a swift remedy and not before the wartime alliance were the codes again broken, following which Churchill ordered a ban on all such espionage against the Soviets!

Handicaps of this political nature were well exploited by the Resident Director of the Soviet Secret Intelligence Service in Britain who, hoping to recruit those of an ideological inclination early in their careers and so, with patience, penetrate the highest levels of the British establishment, constantly monitored the realm of talented middle class dissidents, and from their ranks the first Communist cell appeared at Cambridge University in 1931. This attracted the attention of a Fellow by the name of Anthony Blunt, a member of the College since 1926, and he was duly recruited to the cause by his inseparable companion Guy Burgess, who further showed a corrupting interest in a fellow student, Kim Philby. Then completing the treacherous scenario Blunt ‘talent spotted’ the Glaswegian John Cairncross, whilst teaching him at Cambridge. Thus for British Security a veritable Pandora’s box was created, the lid of which would not be closed for many years to come.

For their Soviet masters, during World War Two Blunt and Cairncross would inveigle themselves into positions by which they could report on the activities of Bletchley Park. As for Burgess, he monitored the activities of the secret broadcasters of Woburn, associated with which was also Philby, who played his role by continually forestalling the efforts of the anti Nazi resistance in Germany. Of this elements would become involved with the propagandists at Milton Bryan and it was Philby’s sole intention, as the puppet of his Russian controllers, to prolong the war and so abet the westward spread of Communism across Europe. In fact by the bidding of his Russian masters he exposed Allied agents to deliberate Nazi danger but the rot really became apparent when, towards the end of the war, he would manoeuvre himself into the position as head of the Department dealing with Soviet counter espionage!!

All this however was some time in the future and thankfully the covert activities of the British against the Germans proved more successful, and it would be the decodes by Bletchley Park which confirmed that, in the Double Cross operation, the false information being supplied to their German ‘handlers’ by the German spies under British control was being treated as fact. Fuelled by the Nazi rearmament, a revived interest in German activities had been taken during the 1930s but even so voices trying to warn of the peril were woefully few and unheeded. Despite his position even Sir Robert Vansittart, in 1938 the Chief Diplomatic Adviser to the Foreign Office, had little by influence although through their Foreign Office employment his views were shared by Alfred Duff Cooper who ‘Van,’ thinking him ‘a clever young thing, eager as I had been for all experience but office work,’ had encouraged to enter the ‘cesspool’ of politics. Subsequently Duff Cooper became one of the M.P.s more vociferous in their warnings of the Nazi peril and indeed whilst on holiday in Germany with his wife he scandalised an audience by leaving before the end of a Nazi rally, at which Hitler was in attendance. During the First World War he had been decorated for his single handed capture of a German machine gun post and of his opinion of the enemy he said they were ‘charming and always surrender.’ Not that this was the view of Churchill who expressed the view that the Germans were ‘preparing for war with more general enthusiasm than a whole nation has ever before put into such preparation.’ Indeed by 1936 such opinions had not been lost on Robert Bruce Lockhart who, then working as a journalist, became well aware of the pro Hitler views of the Prince of Wales, Edward. It was not just his indulgence with Mrs. Simpson that caused the Secret Service to conduct a covert surveillance of the future King.

As for the Germans, learning the lessons of World War One they placed an increasing confidence in the Enigma enciphering machine, an electro mechanical device designed to render their more sensitive radio traffic secure. In a commercial form this had been launched onto the European market in the 1920s, being considered suitable for adoption by the German navy in 1926, on February 9th, the army on July 15th 1929 and the air force in 1934, this latter version having the addition of various interconnections between the keyboard and wheels. A variety of different ways to set the machine was possible and this enabled frequent changes to be made, within 24 hours if necessary.

The importance placed by the Germans on the Enigma system had encouraged the French to glean details of the military adaptations and towards this intention they made contact with an agent in the German army, Hans Thilo-Schmidt. Employed as a civil servant in the German Defence Ministry Cipher Office, he, walking into the French Embassy in Berlin, had indicated his willingness to co-operate during October 1931 and, codenamed ‘Asche,’ met with a senior officer in French Intelligence, Colonel Bertrand, at Verviers, Belgium, on November 8th 1931. He thereby supplied the Instruction Manual for Enigma Operators and the Operators Enciphering Procedures but despite such a prize the French Cipher Office decided that the system was unbreakable and the British, when shown the material in late November, declared a disinterest since they considered the source too expensive and the danger of a war remote, ‘the threat from Germany being neither certain nor immediate.’ Disheartened, in the following month the French officer made the documents known to the Poles and, having worked on the problem with insubstantial success since 1923, their response was encouraging. In fact now armed with the French information, and being fed new supplies from ‘Asche’ via French Intelligence, by 1933 they had entirely reconstituted the Enigma military variation and production of the machine began in Warsaw. Decoding of Enigma traffic would then follow, being greatly assisted from 1937 by the development of a cryptographic ‘bombe.’ This, to find an Enigma key, allowed the rapid testing of thousands of possible combinations and the Poles were now reading 75% of the German messages.

For their part the British, in view of an increasingly uncertain world situation, had at last began to underpin their measures for cryptology and with an extra 13 clerks having been taken on in 1935, in 1937 the Treasury then agreed to an increase in the number of permanent staff. Plans to recruit an extra 60 or so cryptanalysts in the event of war were made in 1938 and Alan Turing, then aged 26, would be one of those who underwent a consequent course at the H.Q. of G.C. & C.S. in the summer of that year, designed to equip the potential intake with a basic, if vague, notion of the work that would be required. In fact Turing became one of the key personnel in the codebreaking activities.

For the principal reason that the situation enjoyed good rail links between the cities of Oxford and Cambridge, these universities being the preferred source of selected graduates, Bletchley Park had been privately bought by Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair, ‘C’ of the Secret Service, following the death of Lady Leon. The cost was underwritten by the Chamberlain government and following a rehearsal at the time of the Munich crisis a move proper from Broadway to these premises at ‘Station X,’the Bletchley codename, took place in August 1939. Codenamed ‘Captain Ridley’s Hunting Party,’ the Broadway headquarters staff travelled down in three motor coaches, branching off at Heath and Reach for the final leg to their new Bletchley accommodation. Sinclair however would unfortunately not live to see the ensuing success of the codebreakers, for, being succeeded by his deputy, Stewart Menzies (pronounced ‘Mingiss’) he died on November 4th 1939. For additional accommodation, in the grounds of Bletchley Park many huts were erected by the local building concerning of Captain Hubert Faulkner, of Staple Hall Road, Bletchley, and as a keen horseman he could be often be seen about the site attired in his riding clothes!

Encircled by a high wire security fence the perimeter of Bletchley Park came under the constant patrol of men of the R.A.F. Regiment, to whom in an unlikely wane of diligence the threat might be issued by the N.C.O.s of a spell ‘inside the Park,’ implying it’s use as an asylum! However, as to be expected their vigilance never came under question and when challenges went unheeded shots were indeed fired on occasion, with at least one local bungalow destined to bear the mark of such an incident!

At a secret hideout in the concrete and underground bunkers of Pyry Forest, near Warsaw, on July 25th 1939 a meeting had taken place between the Poles and 38 French and British experts, including Knox and Denniston. During this the methods of breaking the Enigma code were explained and the Poles agreed to present the British with one Polish built Enigma plus technical drawings of the ‘bombe,’ a gesture, in view of Poland’s impending fate, which was to prove most opportune. Brought by a courier from the British Embassy in Paris the machine was subsequently smuggled into Britain by diplomatic bag, and Colonel Menzies, as head of S.I.S., met the cargo and bearer at Victoria station.

In one of his last messages in June 1939 Hans Thilo-Schmidt had written on a map in invisible ink ‘Watch out end of August,’ and the rest is of course history. Following Poland’s collapse the Polish experts then joined with the French at a secret location named ‘Bruno,’ 35 kilometres south east of Paris, and in December a returning British emissary bore the news that, an occasion, the army code had been broken. Until the Fall of France, G.C. & C.S. then worked closely with Bruno and continued with singular success at their Bletchley Park headquarters following the French capitulation.

Unfortunately the enemy’s capture of two British agents, Stevens and Best, at the notorious ‘Venlo’ incident led to the Germans becoming aware of both the nature and location of G.C. & C.S., and additionally their interrogations also revealed almost the entire structure and hierarchy of the S.I.S. Yet of all this the British remained in ignorance and at least the imprisoned agents had little knowledge of MI5 which, in the view of hostile eyes, therefore retained a veil of secrecy.

This proved less the case with those covert agencies cobbled into existence after the threat of a shooting war had penetrated the political mind and, established in 1938 after the annexation of Austria, amongst these was a section of the General Staff at the War Office known as GS(R). From about March 1939 this then became known as MI(R), for (Military Intelligence (Research), which under Colonel J.C.F. Holland studied techniques of irregular warfare, duly concluding in the summer of 1939 that if co-ordinated with regular operations, and if carried out by troops in uniform, a significant contribution could be made. As for the personnel, two would later gain a more widespread fame, being Dick Crossman and Colin Gubbins. Operating agents all over the world the organisation was affiliated with a body based in the Middle East Command known as G(R), which broke from close links with the later mentioned Section D in September 1939, when Section D went ‘underground.’

As another of those measures being taken for clandestine warfare, in March 1935 as the head of S.I.S. (now more usually known as MI6) Admiral Hugh Sinclair appointed a ‘tall and lean’ army officer from the Royal Engineers to create a new secret service operation. This was to investigate ‘non military’ means of attack - more precisely ‘every possibility of attacking potential enemies by means other than force’ - and would encompass such methods as general sabotage and ‘black’ printed propaganda. ‘Section D’ (the D standing for destruction) became the name by which it was known to those personnel acquainted with the department. For those not acquainted, the Statistical Research Department of the War Office sufficed as a cover!

Instructing on the use of plastic explosive two experts from the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, where the substance had been recently invented, greatly enhanced the organisation’s potential for sabotage applications, several of which would be devised by the fertile imagination of the head of the department, Colonel Laurence Grand. A Cambridge graduate, he was a professional soldier but never wore uniform, being distinguished instead by a heavy black moustache, the long cigarette holder perpetually in his mouth and the red carnation constantly in his buttonhole.

Intending to lay the groundwork for future operations, the policy during the first months of existence was to build up as many anti German and pro British contacts in Europe as possible. However, this stirred immediate disputes with S.I.S. because of the possible compromise of their parallel and covert operations, and all the while in a constant vigil the German espionage apparatus - the Abwehr, operated by the military, and the S.D. (Sicherheitsdienst) of the Gestapo - awaited inroads into such activities.

Set amidst individual grounds, and removed from the probabilities of heavy bombing, ‘The Frythe’ became the headquarters for Section D, being a large Victorian house situated between Hatfield and Welwyn just off the Great North road. Thus having been appointed as liaison officer between Section D and the propaganda department of the War Office, it was here that in January 1939 Guy Burgess came from a position at the B.B.C., an organisation that was at that time employing some 4,889 people. On the strength of journalistic experience from reporting the Spanish Civil War from the Franco side, he then introduced into the organisation his fellow conspirator, Kim Philby, who with Burgess as his boss acquired the codename ‘DUD’!

Laurence Grand had been given authority to send his agents into Central Europe from March 1939 and their clandestine effect would be much enhanced by a suggestion from Burgess a few months later to create a specialised training centre. Teaching the skills those operating undercover would find essential, this was eventually done and funds for such enterprises could well be provided in later months by the action of Section D officers, when just before the German occupation £7 million worth of industrial diamonds were seized in a raid on an Amsterdam mart.

Waged from various centres throughout the war, for the local area subversive activities would greatly involve propaganda, ranging from the printing of leaflets to the secret broadcasts of foreign nationals.

Under the guidance of Lord Halifax, following the German rearmament plans to establish and run a small section for the investigation of propaganda methods, plus their means of operation, had been made by the Foreign Office but for the purpose of contemporary intelligence the main source could be only that from refugees escaping Nazi persecution.

Amongst their number Dr. Klaus Spiecker, a former senior civil servant under the Weimar Republic, featured as one of the most prominent for from Paris he had run the anti Nazi ‘Deutsche Freiheits.’ In due course as ‘Mr. Turner’ he would then broadcast similar sentiments from the peaceful preserve of Woburn, as the headquarters of British propaganda.

The story of this organisation began in September 1933 when, by reason of his associations with Crewe House during the First World War, Campbell Stuart was asked by Sir Warren Fisher, on behalf of Chamberlain, to create a similar department for the next expected conflict. In consequence Campbell Stuart gathered a nucleus of staff together and amongst these was included Lieutenant Colonel Reginald Alexander Dallas Brooks, a ‘capable, tall and athletic’ Australian. At the age of 21, during World War One he had gained distinction and the D.S.O. with the Royal Marines at the Battle of Zeebrugge, and he first came to the attention of Campbell Stuart as a young intelligence officer in South Africa. The assistance of a friend, Admiral Sir Roger Backhouse, the First Sea Lord, then enabled Campbell Stuart to secure the service of his potential recruit and, with the effort proving well justified, Dallas Brooks became his chief staff officer.

‘That old man has today signed the death warrant of the British Empire and left it to us to fill in the date.’ So had said Ribbentrop to Hitler following the ‘peace in our time’ Munich agreement which caused the British government to apply an indefinite postponement of the propaganda department. Yet the appeasement had a more far reaching consequence, for in the absence of a strong response from Britain the large number of the German generals opposed to a war felt powerless to carry out their intention to arrest Hitler and his henchmen, occupy Berlin and be done with the menace once and for all. Thus Hitler’s support and the myth of invincibility grew and the plan to depose him withered.

Thereon, by the application of the usual terrors Hitler extended his manipulation of the people to such a degree that little opposition could become apparent. Nevertheless there were dissenting elements and one of those to become deeply involved with the movement, and to become familiar with the Milton Keynes district as a consequence, was Otto John, whose father had been awarded the Iron Cross during World War One. As a law student he viewed the Nazi excess with an increasing repugnance and although he wanted to leave Germany a lack of money and contacts prevented this.

Then as a friend from his schooldays a Lufthansa pilot suggested that, as an opportunity to escape abroad, he seek a position with the airline and so in the spring of 1936 Otto John became an unpaid night worker at Frankfurt airport, preparing the mail bags once a week for South America. This lead to a chance meeting with the head of Lufthansa who, learning in conversation of Otto’s studies, then suggested that he take his law finals. Replying that the law under Hitler was a farce, Otto remained unenthusiastic but a few weeks later the head made contact offering him, conditional that he passed his finals, possible employment as a Lufthansa representative abroad.

In consequence on being summoned to Lufthansa’s head office on November 1st 1939 Otto arrived at the legal department of the administration headquarters in Berlin, where the head of the department revealed himself to be anti Nazi. He also had similar contacts in circles acquainted with Hitler and now amongst those of like intentions, and having been appointed as a lawyer, supervising Lufthansa’s subsidiary companies abroad, Otto thus occupied an ideal position by which to establish contact with the Allies, without arousing suspicion.

Meanwhile in Britain, on the European situation the Prime Minister’s pronouncement regarding Czechoslovakia would be that of ‘A far away country of which we know nothing,’ although by one less than flattering comment he was regarded as being ‘rational within the limits of his ignorance.’ As for the President of that country, Eduard Benes, at the cession of the Sudetenland he said of his predicament that ‘One of them put a pistol to my head and the other a knife to my throat.’ As for Churchill, surmising the choice between shame and war of his own Government he concluded; ‘They chose shame, and they will get war, too.’

In fact Benes held few doubts about the prospects of war and indeed plans for military action against the Czechs had been secretly made by Hitler in January. Yet despite appeasement Benes remained optimistic, being sufficiently optimistic to confide that ‘if war comes, I know that where England is there is victory.’ Less optimistic was Hillaire Belloc’s opinion of Chamberlain’s policy, of which he penned;

Dear Czecho-Slovakia
I don’t think they’ll attack yer
But I’m not going to back yer.

After Munich, Duff Cooper had become the hero of the hour for having resigned from the Cabinet, so emphasising his displeasure at Chamberlain’s course. Yet in the defence of Chamberlain it should be said that his advice from the Secret Service was to gain time for a build up of Britain’s military potential by conceding all or part of Czechoslovakia. Biplanes would have been of little use against the might of a modernised Luftwaffe and indeed the year gained by appeasement would prove vital to allow the introduction of Hurricanes and Spitfires into R.A.F. squadron service.

With Prague being occupied by the Germans on March 15th 1939, the prospects for war became inevitable after Hitler’s seizure of Czechoslovakia and it was now fortunate that Campbell Stuart had been asked to hurriedly revive his propaganda activities. Having the prime responsibility for all such aspects, initially his ‘Department of Propaganda in Enemy Countries’ reported to Lord McMillan, the Minister of Information, but a small ministerial committee sanctioned the propaganda literature to be produced and stocked for use in the early days of any conflict.

The activities were funded from the Secret Vote by the Foreign Office but on the strict understanding that all departmental matters were conducted at all times away from Foreign Office premises! Sometimes the organisation was referred to as C.S. but more often went by the name of E.H. This referred to the place of actual accommodation, Electra House, on the Victoria Embankment, and in fact the official address of the Department became ‘Room 207, Electra House, Victoria Embankment.’ The building was the headquarters of Cable and Wireless of which Campbell Stuart was chairman and in April 1939 he set down his three perceived principles for British propaganda; it must be truthful, it must be related to a clearly defined policy, it must never be self contradicting.

Close co-operation with the French being the intention in the event of war, Paris became the consequent home for the Anglo French Propaganda Council in May, 1939, Admiral Fernet representing the Consell Superieure de la Guerre, Yet Campbell Stuart reported the attitude of his French colleagues as 'suspicious and superior' and found better assistance from his French Canadian relations, in particular his cousins, the banking Beaulieu family, of Montreal, who owned a banking house in Paris,

Despite their respective attitudes, the joint Anglo/French arrangements for the printing of leaflets, to be carried by balloon, nevertheless went ahead although to criticisms by the French of the early British performance, to include complaints not only of grammatical mistakes but of words wrongly employed as well.

As the prospects for war increased, so a relocation of Campbell Stuart’s headquarters to a safer region became necessary and due to a suggestion by a member of the staff, the Hon. Leo Russell, advertisement director of Illustrated Newspapers, a move to Woburn Abbey took place, he being a kinsman of the Duke of Bedford.

With E.H. veiled in semi secrecy, the Political Intelligence Department, of origins during World War One, served as an overt branch of the Foreign Office, monitoring the conditions within enemy and enemy occupied territories. In fact it had been during the crisis of September 1938 that Reginald Leeper at the Foreign Office had begun reviving and reorganising P.I.D., and, having first made his acquaintance in 1917, in consequence he sent for Robert Bruce Lockhart, informing him that his international experience, in the event of a conflict, would warrant him being claimed by the organisation.

Born in Australia, the son of a distinguished Greek scholar, Reginald ‘Rex’ Leeper had been appointed to a permanent position at the Foreign Office in 1920 and although now as head of P.I.D. he had wanted Lockhart to take control of the Russian section, when the proposed candidate for the Central Europe and Balkans section became ineligible Lockhart took that role instead. He duly became much involved with the wartime activities whilst of other personalities to be associated with the local propaganda effort, indeed to become Lockhart’s superior, was Anthony Eden, of political fame, whose acquaintance he made in 1939 when both were weekending (13/14th May) at Ascott House, the home of Anthony de Rothschild, near Leighton Buzzard. In 1935 Eden had been appointed as the youngest Foreign Secretary since the 18th century, and despite the re-occupation of the Rhineland by German troops in the following year he declared ‘There is no reason to suppose that the present German action implies a threat of hostilities.’ However, in February 1938 he then resigned, after disagreements with Chamberlain over the extent of the Mussolini/Hitler threat! During the First World War, Eden had been awarded the M.C. during active service and towards the end of the conflict had written ‘…you will never get me to have anything to do with any German ever again.’ Yet forthcoming events were to soon prove otherwise, for he would became one of the very few privy to the secrets of both the propaganda effort and the activities of the Bletchley codebreakers.

Such was the general scene on the eve of World War Two. Bletchley Park, gaining steady experience with the German codes, had a staff established and billeted in the local area. The propaganda machinery of Electra House lay awaiting activation by the twenty or so personnel at Woburn Abbey, whilst as for P.I.D. adjacent accommodation stood ready to receive their members. In addition clandestine arrangements had been made to house those foreign nationals engaged for secret broadcast duties and thus all was set for the district to play its forthcoming important and secret role.


This was the main period of secret intelligence activities and encompassed the evolution of several different organisations:

Political Intelligence Department (Sep. 1939 - April 1942)
Department Electra House (April 1939 - July 1940)
SO1 (Special Operations Executive) (July 1940 - December 1945)
Political Warfare Executive (August 1941 - November 1946)

Separate sections deal with the importance of the role of Sefton Delmer and his first ‘black’ radio station, GS1, and also the purpose built propaganda studio at Milton Bryan.


Heralded by the dropping of six million leaflets over Western Germany, on September 3rd 1939 the trials of five long years of war began. “We now know how to start a World War,” had said Goebbels at the start of hostilities, “What we do not know is how to stop one.” The propagandists and the codebreakers of the local area would help to provide much of the answer.

At the outbreak of the war MI5 had moved accommodation to within a well known London prison but for Vernon Kell his long and distinguished career was drawing to a close. Asked to vacate his position by Churchill, perhaps with an inevitable degree of bitterness he retired at the age of 67 and moved from London with his wife and two servants to Emberton, where, including duty as a special constable, he lived an active existence amongst the local community at ‘Stonepits,’ a house alongside West Lane. Following his death in almost a semi-state occasion his funeral then took place at Emberton church and in a consequent obituary a leading newspaper was moved to record; ‘Though his name was probably not well known to the general public, few men were better known to the official world … his powers of deduction amounted almost to genius.’

Throughout the war, all in radio contact and all, when asked to investigate, well placed to report upon any aspect of the war effort, the Germans believed they ran a well established network of spies within Britain. Indeed there were many German spies feeding intelligence back to their masters but the information they transmitted was especially selected by the British, who had the entire spy ring under their control. In fact it is said that every German spy had been captured, to then be confronted with a simple choice - either work for British Intelligence or be shot. One faced with such a dilemma was agent 3719, who in the late afternoon of September 4th 1940 arrived by parachute near the Northamptonshire village of Denton. Unfortunately for him his descent had been witnessed by a farm worker and swift arrest and eventual imprisonment in Aylesbury jail followed. During interrogation he then revealed his mission, to send radio reports concerning activities on the area bordered by Oxford, Northampton and Birmingham, and to avoid execution he further provided details concerning a second agent who, when parachuted into the same area four days later, was duly arrested by a farmer at Yardley Hastings. He was taken to Bozeat police station and transmitted for the British for the rest of the war.

Despite such an obvious advantage the achievement, only tarnished a little by the fact that in this ‘Double Cross’ system a probable Soviet agent played a key role, the road to final victory lay a long way off and much work still had to be done by the various intelligence agencies.

Regarding Section D, in the winter of 1939 they moved their headquarters to above St. Ermin’s Hotel in London, next to Caxton Hall, and there worked on the fourth floor from ‘a few shabby rooms.’ The propaganda members, however, were to be found accommodation at Woburn with the Department Electra House team but with Campbell Stuart having little interest in the ‘black’ side they duly moved to a house in Hertingfordbury where they would remain for almost a year. A few then transferred to the Woburn ‘white’ operation.

Almost all of the contacts established by Section D in Europe were overrun by the speed of the German advance and now, with a staff of some 300 officers, at the Fall of France little could be done except leave 10 dumps of sabotage stores, situated at points along an arc from 240 km north from Paris to the German border. These at least could be of later use to the French resistance. As for their home activities, the immediate threat of invasion prompted Section D to organise ‘left behind’ parties across the country which, intended to lie low during any period of invasion, would then emerge to harass the enemy using dumps of supplies, laid down at various locations in subterranean and well concealed brick rooms.

As a member of Section D, at the beginning of July 1940 Guy Burgess produced a draft scheme for the training of agents in underground sabotage techniques. This would be at a special school and working for him Kim Philby provided such details as the training syllabus, procedures for selection and security. The Chiefs of Staff duly approved the idea and the centre began in a former private school at Brickendonbury Hall, near Hertford. Responsible with his wife for the housekeeping and cooking, an art dealer, Tomas Harris (the spelling of his Christian name reflecting his half Spanish descent on his mother’s side) had been introduced to the position by Guy Burgess, as a friend, and the commandant, F.T. Peters, had also been a family acquaintance, as an associate of Burgess’ father. Whilst Section D made arrangements for military action, Department Electra House now continued their preparations for propaganda and if his relations with the French had been sometimes frustrating, Campbell Stuart experienced similar difficulties with Chamberlain who, if finally persuaded to make a decision on policy, more often than not then revoked it!


Four days after the outbreak of war, as per his instructions Robert Bruce Lockhart reported to the Foreign Office to commence duty with the P.I.D., the Political Intelligence Department, although in keeping with the rest of the staff this would be on a somewhat insubstantial salary. However he was not actually required until September 10th, on which day he received the details of his employment and the news that he was to be accommodated ‘in the country.’ Consequently he took the afternoon train to Dunstable and from there was collected by car by Reginald Leeper. He then explained something of the nature of the work as they drove to the P.I.D. quarters, a small red brick villa on the Woburn estate close to one of the gates of Woburn Park, and the situation had been dictated by Leeper’s additional role as Foreign Office adviser to the secret propaganda organisation at Woburn Abbey, which he had to be near.

Froxfield Lodge.
The initial home for members of the Political Intelligence Department. - J. Taylor.

Leeper had arranged the service of many experts for each country or group of countries with which P.I.D. was to deal and amongst these Lockhart now made the acquaintance of E.L. Woodward, the Oxford historian, George Martelli and Chris Warner of the Foreign Office. However the house, which had once been the home of Lady Ampthill, was hardly of suitable proportions and Lockhart had to endure the confines of an attic bedroom cum study which lacked even the provision to store his clothes. As yet no domestic staff had arrived and towards that first evening Leeper took him for a stroll around the ducal park, which held a special interest from the many exotic animals that roamed the extensive acreage. Amongst these were hundreds of deer, including the only European specimens of Pere David, and also a collection of the ostrich like rheas which, although common in South America, were rare for the depths of Bedfordshire! In a special field were the equally unusual European bison.

At Foxgrove, as the P.I.D. house was named, Lockhart learned that Woodward was to be the German expert although in time he would resign through a dislike of what he perceived to be an almost total merger with Electra House. Martelli, who had written a book on the Mediterranean, was deemed the Italian expert whilst Warner would be Leeper’s Foreign Office assistant, acting for him in his absence. Sir Kinahan Cornwallis later joined the staff as the expert on the Middle East.

As for Lockhart, he was expected to maintain regular relations with the embassies and legations of his countries in Central Europe and the Balkans, excepting Germany and Austria. This entailed preparing special memorandums for the Foreign Office plus the writing of a weekly review of his countries for a secret Political Summary, which, Leeper hoped, would serve as official guidance to other departments. For the weekly intelligence summary Lockhart’s contribution had to be delivered by a fixed time and usually comprised some 2,000 words, with the finished report going to the relevant Foreign Office political departments for approval.

Originally this was built in 1903 as a cottage hospital for the Duchess of Bedford. It was to here that members of the Political Intelligence Department transferred from the confines of Froxfield Lodge in September 1939.

From the restrictions of Foxgrove, within a week P.I.D. had transferred to the more spacious Marylands, just outside Woburn, which although ‘not bad as a building, for it is well lighted and well situated’ still held problems of accommodation. ‘We will be an awful scrum, and there will be about 6 wives, daughters, etc. Unless I can get a writing table for my bedroom I shall go mad.’ Each morning Lockhart arose early, made his own tea and did most of his written work before breakfast, the rest of the day being taken up by meetings and planning.

Having so many countries to administer, for convenience in liaising with his various contacts he took a room at his London club and thereon spent 3½ days in London and 3½ at Marylands. After the round of the Balkan ministers, on his London visits for an exchange of information he would then call at the Foreign Office where, both strongly disapproving of a Foreign Office department so remote in Bedfordshire, the superintending Under Secretaries of the two departments that controlled Lockhart’s work, the Southern and the Central, were Sir Orme Sargent and William Strang. Apart from his P.I.D. duties, on Leeper’s recommendation he was appointed as the Foreign Office liaison officer with the exiled Czech government in Britain, for the head of which, Eduard Benes, who had been recognised as such by the British on July 3rd 1940, accommodation was arranged at a villa in Gwendolen Avenue, London. Yet with the threats of bombing Lockhart obtained a house for him at Aston Abbots, near Wing, which had once been a home for the Polar explorer Sir John Ross. This then became Benes headquarters for planning resistance and sabotage.

Constant communications were maintained with General Elias, the Czech Prime Minister under the Germans, until on Heydrich becoming German Protector of Czechoslovakia, Elias was taken to Berlin and condemned to death. As Hitler’s Security and Intelligence Chief, Heydrich manipulated Benes into sparking a purge in which hundreds of Red Army officers and other Russians were murdered. He had ensured that Benes became aware of a faked report stating that the Chief of the Red Army’s General Staff was collaborating with the German High Command to overthrow the Stalin regime. Thus when Benes, as Heydrich had planned, leaked this false information to Stalin the great purge followed.

As for P.I.D., apparently harmonious with the mood of the staff moves were now being made to transfer the organisation back to London and consequently on August 19th 1940 Lockhart wrote his last Marylands summary. He was to leave on the Thursday, the same date as the heavy luggage, whilst the rest of the staff were to follow the next day. ‘Sunless’ was the description duly applied to the new office, situated in Lansdowne House, Fitzmaurice Place, London Wl, but at least some of the staff, including Reginald Leeper and Valentine Williams, had armchairs! Yet despite this move, on Wednesday, September 18th 1940 Leeper went to see Hugh Dalton regarding approval for his scheme to return P.I.D. to ‘the country,’ which he deemed more conducive ‘for thinking.’

However, for Lockhart, London would become his place of permanent residence since in the previous month he had accepted Hugh Dalton’s invitation to become the British Representative with the Czech Provisional Government. For this reason he took a small flat in Duke of York Street and when this was bombed out then moved to the East India and Sports Club. Despite his new role Lockhart still continued to write the Balkan section of the P.I.D. weekly summary and also attended the Saturday meetings of the propaganda organisation at Woburn.

As for P.I.D., following Leeper’s suggestion in March 1942 a decision abolishing the post of a B.B.C. Liaison Officer with the department was made, and a year later came the disbandment of the organisation itself. Most of the members were transferred to a new Foreign Office research department at Balliol College, Oxford, although as a cover the Political Warfare Executive continued to use the name and initials until some months after the war, now operating openly.


Sefton Delmer.
Gustav Siegfried Eins, abbreviated to G.S.1. became the first truly effective black broadcast station and was the idea of Sefton Delmer.
Denis Sefton Delmer, always known as Sefton Delmer, or ‘Tom’ Delmer to his friends, had been born on May 24th 1904 in Berlin, being registered as a British citizen by the British Consul General. At the outbreak of the First World War his father was interned but his mother remained at liberty, with the family being repatriated in May 1917.
Having won a scholarship to Lincoln College, Oxford, Tom read modern history and by the time he left university his father was working as a local correspondent for a number of British publications. Thereby he had connections with Lord Beaverbrook’s Daily Express and a chance encounter between Sefton and Lord Beaverbrook led to him being employed by the newspaper, becoming the Berlin correspondent in 1923.

Bilingual in English and German, there he spent five years and during this period met many of the leading Nazis, including Hitler. Transferred to Paris in 1933 he rose to the position of Chief European correspondent in 1937 and having for three months covered the Spanish Civil War he then travelled from Spain to Berlin. For a year before the outbreak of war he then witnessed most of the European trouble spots and was in Warsaw when it was first bombed by the Germans. Escaping to London, for his next assignment he became a British war correspondent attached to the French army.

Forced to flee at the Fall of France he returned to England and now aged 36 and weighing 17 stone hoped to make a big impression on British Intelligence. However, the fact that he had been born in Berlin, together with his acquaintance with the Nazis, precluded such an ambition and he therefore continued as a Daily Express correspondent. Additionally his knowledge of German, plus a familiarity with the country, enabled him on occasion to contribute to the German broadcasts of the B.B.C. and indeed he caused a minor flurry by his unauthorised and definitely blunt reply to Hitler’s ‘final peace appeal.’

Then as a friend of Delmer, and from having connections with the Secret Service, Leonard Ingrams, nicknamed the ‘Flying Banker’ from his self piloted financial activities around Europe, suggested in September 1940 that Delmer should leave the Daily Express and begin work for secret broadcasting. Meeting a favourable response Ingrams duly arranged an interview for him with Valentine Williams, Reginald Leeper’s secret broadcasting deputy director, but although the outcome was successful the security agencies for the reason of his German background still turned him down.

Then in November 1940 an oblique invitation arrived from MI6 offering him an undercover role in Lisbon. He would use his Daily Express position as a ‘front’ and his task was to question those German Jews who, having bribed the Gestapo, were leaving for America. From these interviews, including one with Hitler’s doctor, a valuable insight would thus be hopefully gained regarding conditions within contemporary Germany.

Then a telegram suddenly arrived from Ingrams suggesting that Delmer should resign from the Daily Express and return to England, where an important job now awaited him. Accordingly he returned to London around January 1941 but although told both of the Woburn operations and his intended role he could at first do little, except attend a few Woburn meetings and continue with the B.B.C. German talks. Soon however he was given authority to establish a new right wing broadcast station, partially to counter that of the German ‘Workers Challenge,’ and his would be the vision that realised the advantage of talking to the mass of the German people, and not to just a few dissenters.

The first of his consequent and highly effective propaganda stations would be Gustav Siegfried Eins, (GS1), signaller’s German for George Sugar One, with the title deliberately chosen to suggest a military aspect. The scripts revolved around ‘Der Chef,’ (The Chief) and under the direction of Sefton Delmer at last black broadcasting began to take a positive direction.

The part of ‘Der Chef’ was to be played by a corporal in the Pioneer Corps named Peter Seckelmann and in mid May 1941 he, as the only member of the GS1 team to have arrived, settled in at ‘Larchfield,’ a discrete redbrick villa in the village of Aspley Guise. This was the top secret home of Sefton Delmer and his wife, Isobel, and here Peter, who would now be known as ‘Paul Sanders,’ would rehearse Delmer’s GS1 scripts.

Born in Berlin in 1902, Peter had become a journalist in that city but grew increasingly sickened by the outrages against the Jews. Leaving Germany in 1937 he arrived in London where he started a small literary agency. Following the outbreak of war, in March 1940 he then enlisted in the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps and undergoing initial duties in France volunteered as an SO2 commando, to be parachuted into Germany. This then came to the attention of Leonard Ingrams, the ‘Flying Banker.’ He duly told Delmer, who on first making Peter’s acquaintance found him employed in a bomb disposal squad.

Wavendon Towers. - E.D.S. Ltd.

Against Delmer’s desire, initially no ‘adjutant’ was available to announce the broadcasts of Der Chef, since the intended candidate still had to clear security checks. Nevertheless, rather than lose the opportunity to capitalise on the defection of Rudolf Hess, some days earlier, on the afternoon of May 23rd 1941 Delmer and ‘Der Chef,’ in Pioneer Corps battle dress, were driven in a black limousine to Wavendon Towers where upon arrival a blonde, aware of the purpose of G3, as the codename for the unit, led them into a billiard room. Here with the windows shuttered and curtained three chrome plated R.C.A. microphones set beneath fluorescent lights awaited use. One was mounted on a stand, another was suspended from the ceiling whilst the third was positioned on a desk, before two chairs.

That evening Der Chef began his first broadcast, announcing the call sign and then various code signals which, in a low grade cipher, were intentionally meant to be ‘cracked.’ Thereby it was hoped that agents of the Gestapo would be sent around the occupied lands on futile hunts, looking for imaginary suspects.

After the initial announcements Der Chef spent awhile answering questions, as if these had been posed by a previous broadcast, and then pronounced a prior awareness of the Hess flight, explaining that he had been compelled to lie low as a consequence. Next he gave a ‘list’ of those deemed complicit in the incident and some were actually true. The whole broadcast had been recorded and just as Delmer and Der Chef were about to leave one of the recording engineers, Jim Dougherty, suggested that the programme should have an identifying signature tune, for the benefit of potential listeners. As its call sign Hitler’s own ‘Deutschlandsender’ featured the first bars of an 18th century folksong by Ludwig Holtz, ‘Always practise troth and probity,’ and thus it was arranged to respond with the answering phrase ‘Until your cool, cool, grave.’

A minute dated May 27th 1941 decided that Delmer should now have joint responsibility with Richard Crossman for Woburn’s German department, with Delmer being responsible to Reginald Leeper for the ‘special operations’ side and Crossman, answerable to the Minister of Information, having the ‘open’ B.B.C. aspects.

During the early days of the GS1 station the corporal had not entirely grasped the broadcasting concept envisaged by Delmer who therefore had to rewrite much of the material. Therefore he was greatly relieved when the security checks were cleared on Johannes Reinholz, who thereon performed the writing task to Delmer’s satisfaction.

Being prominent in the right wing opposition against Hitler, at the last moment Johannes and his Jewish wife had fled to the safety of England where Johannes was directed to play the part of Der Chef’s aide de camp, or adjutant, in the propaganda transmissions. At Aspley Guise he joined the GS1 team with his wife on June 5th 1941 and duly began introducing Der Chef in the broadcasts, additional to announcing the coded messages. In fact he seemed to have a beneficial effect on Der Chef, who now more comfortably assumed the mantle of the role and would eventually write the scripts.

The sole intent of the GS1 station was to dishearten, demoralise and convince the German audience that there was a growing underground resistance deep within Germany. Upon this belief hinged the whole credibility of the operation and without qualms pornography was employed in the earlier stages to ensure the attention of the enemy soldiery. Language offensive in the extreme against the British supposedly heightened the illusion, to such a degree that Churchill was described as ‘a drunken, flatfooted old Jew.’

From Larchfield, Delmer and his increasing entourage transferred to The Rookery, a more spacious villa near Aspley Guise church. With Mr. Maddy as the gardener, here his wife, Freda, the housekeeper, was taught French cooking by Delmer’s wife, Isabel, whilst as for more traditional fare mushrooms were plentiful in the surrounding fields, free range chickens roamed the region and from the ducal estates venison could be had.

The Hellschreiber. - Mr. I. Murray.

By the arrival in August 1941 of the third man to join Delmer’s team, Max Braun, the scarcity of intelligence material became somewhat eased. A socialist leader who had led the anti Hitler front in the Saar, he had escaped from Germany across the border to France in December 1933, from the simple motivation that the Nazis were trying to kill him. Together with his lawyer brother, Heinrich, at Aspley Guise he now took charge of the intelligence department and scouring obscure German newspapers for information, and assisted by contacts in Europe, he began a card index on thousands of Germans. Other intelligence came from a radio operated teleprinter, a Hellschreiber, left behind by a fleeing German journalist. This tapped the transmissions of the Berlin based D.N.B. (Deutsches Nachrichtenburo), the official German news agency, and thus press releases and Propaganda Ministry directives were often received and relayed by Aspley Guise before they reached their intended recipients! Additional intelligence came from intercepted mail, the interrogation of prisoners, bugged P.O.W. camps and probably heavily scrambled decodes from Bletchley Park.

A close coordination between the Admiralty and Naval Intelligence assisted the operation and after only a few weeks evidence became apparent that the station was being sought for news or amusement by not only U boat crews but also figures in the highest of army circles.

Of the personnel attached to Delmer’s operation ‘Renee Halkett’ had joined in November 1941. A thin, middle aged man, taken to wearing an eye glass, his real name was von Fritsch, a cousin of the Commander in Chief of the German Army, but having been an ardent anti Nazi he emigrated to England and assumed the name of his Scottish grandmother. Of the more notorious of characters associated with the programme, at the end of 1941 the future of GS1 was put at risk by the outspoken Freddy A.Voight, who had been recommended by Campbell Stuart. Born in1892, the son of a naturalised German father, he became the Manchester Guardian’s correspondent in Berlin and when involved with the wartime propaganda unfortunately leaked the truth about the operation to the ‘National Review.’ The paragraph was duly monitored by the Germans who subsequently ridiculed the station in the weekly ‘Das Reich.’ Nevertheless the station came back on the air after a few weeks and continued to make an impression on the German listeners. As for Voight, no action was taken and later in the war he would again write articles which ‘gave joy to Haw Haw.’

In early 1942 Johannes Reinholz left GS1 and Frank Lynder, the son of a Bremen bookseller, took over his role as Der Chef’s adjutant, having been interviewed by Delmer in November 1941. His mother being Jewish, he had fled from Germany in 1938 and after his interview in January 1942 he travelled to Bletchley Station, from where he was taken by car to the Aspley Guise headquarters.

Not until September 1942, when the time was judged appropriate, did Der Chef begin to attack Hitler, albeit obliquely since much of the German population, although to a lesser degree, still shared his ambitions. Therefore to avoid the backlash of antagonism the policy of GS1 was to portray him as a victim of corrupt, self seeking, party parasites who swayed his decisions for their own ends, and especially targeted were high party officials and the S.S.

Being the best for music and news, according to an S.O.E. report from Sweden GS1 eventually attracted a larger audience than the official German radio stations. In fact knowing as well as Delmer that the best forms of propaganda lay in entertainment Goebbels was led to comment of his rival, ‘his very close acquaintance with German conditions enabled him to invest his vulgar attacks with great verisimilitude.’ As for the Gestapo they became so alarmed that individual reports were investigated, fuelled by suspicions of close collusion with the German armed forces. Indeed, in December 1942 the capture of an anti Nazi prisoner, General Von Thoma, of the defeated Afrika Korps, revealed that he thought the secret station was in Germany, further disclosing that the Gestapo had tried to discover its location but failed. Yet on occasion basic errors could have revealed the truth for at least in one instance after GS1 had closed another British station came on air employing the same frequency.

With new British propaganda stations now in operation, or being planned, a decision to fade out GS1 was taken and in consequence when ‘caught’ by the Gestapo, Der Chef dramatically broke off in mid transmission at the end of October 1943. However, he actually ‘died’ twice, since a non German speaking technician erroneously repeated the broadcast after the last episode!


During the period of the ‘phoney war’ Campbell Stuart, together with his private secretary, Anthony Gishford, and Dallas Brooks, paid many visits to Paris in connection with the duties of Department Electra House with Gishford’s fluency in French and German, having lived as a young man in those countries, proving extremely beneficial.

Being in Paris on the very day that the Germans invaded Poland, having the opinion that his duty now lay with the department in England Campbell Stuart immediately reserved places on the 4 o’clock train. He therefore made arrangements to finalise his business in France and at the Hotel Matignon, as the Ministry H.Q., a 9:30 a.m. appointment with M. Giraudoux, the Minister of Information under Daldier, the Prime Minister, enabled him to brief his French counterpart on the activities of the propaganda department, these being his potential responsibilities. Via the Hotel des Invalides, where he was brought up to date on the latest news by Admiral Fernet, Campbell Stuart then returned to his hotel, the Crillon, at noon although increasing doubts began to emerge as to whether the 4 o’clock train would actually run. Hurriedly he despatched his staff to secure a car instead but their efforts proved in vain until the chance discovery of a black Hispano in the Place de la Concorde.

In the knowledge that a telephone message confirming the Department’s mobilisation at Woburn had been received, and that the London house was closed, the party climbed into their newly acquired vehicle and made for the coast. However, nearing the port the car suffered a puncture and with the last boat from Boulogne having left at 7:30 p.m. a frantic telephone call to Dieppe revealed the imminent passage of a night boat. They duly drove off at full speed and just in time made their connection to England and eventually Woburn.

The surroundings of Woburn were not entirely unfamiliar to Campbell Stuart for as a small boy he had spent the summer of 1892 with two great aunts who lived in Aspley Guise. Indeed as a special treat he had been taken through Woburn Park to see all the unusual animals, and now at his more prolonged stay these were still a feature.

By his position as the head of the organisation, Campbell Stuart, together with two or three close associates, occupied quarters at Paris House whilst the other personnel lodged at twelve or so lesser dwellings in Woburn or the immediate district. Visually stunning, a late nineteenth century reproduction of a sixteenth century style, Paris House had been transported direct from the Paris Exhibition (hence its name) of 1878, having taken the fancy of the contemporary Duchess of Bedford. Yet despite the architectural grandeur as a place of accommodation Campbell Stuart was little impressed, finding the building ‘inconvenient, dark, and depressing and in winter desperately cold.’

For his recruitment officer Campbell Stuart had been fortunate in the choice of Valentine Williams. He was an author whom he had known many years earlier at the Daily Mail, and it was through the efforts of Noel Coward, who left for France in the second week of the war, that his services were secured for the Department’s Paris office.

Woburn Abbey.
The Riding School, seen in the top centre, was demolished after the war. - Duke of Bedford.

As for those personnel recruited for the British headquarters, which was always referred to as C.H.Q., ie Country Headquarters, and never as Woburn, the Electra House Department duly settled in, including Michael Gibbs-Smith as Campbell Stuart’s administration officer. The stable wing and the Riding School, which provided accommodation for offices, were both occupied and flats above the stables served as sleeping quarters although upon mobilisation bedrooms were still being readied and bathrooms installed. The outbreak of war then saw 24 small cubicles partitioned off along the 150 yards length of the Riding School, with a corridor running along the centre. Nevertheless this basic accommodation attained an air of grandeur through the presence of several important works of art, since the Riding School had been formerly used as an overflow picture gallery.

To witness the uncharacteristic activity the Duke of Bedford had paid an early visit and with the some sixty personnel now preparing to go about their duties they were catered for initially by J. Lyons and Co. but later by A.B.C., with almost 10% of the departmental salary bill regularly passing through the till of the canteen bar!

With a message from Chamberlain, ‘A Warning to the German People,’ even on the first night of the war leaflets were dropped by British bombers over Germany and this was repeated on the following night and the night of September 7/8th. As and when the opportunity arose R.A.F. Bomber Command continued this exercise but only when conditions proved favourable. Additionally ‘Truth Raids,’ flown by high flying single aircraft, caused the Germans particular irritation, since A.R.P. precautions still had to be applied lest the intruders were carrying bombs instead of leaflets. As for other means of leaflet delivery, the first release was made of leaflet carrying balloons in the depths of the French countryside on September 30th 1939.

Department Electra House was transferred to the Foreign Office in mid October 1939 and the following month Campbell Stuart arranged for a Services Consultative Committee to be formed with his Department, explaining his organisation ‘as the fourth arm of offensive warfare.’ However this enjoyed only a lukewarm reception and although it ceased to meet early in 1940 contacts were nevertheless maintained with the services at a lower level.


Wolkiger Beobachter.
A two page imitation Nazi newspaper, produced by the British propagandists. - Imperial War Museum.
About the first edition.

In Germany now, where everyone has a story to tell,
Where journals themselves only deceive, Where everyone is forced into making confessions.
Where humiliation and shame grow hand in hand with lies,
Where many whisper who obeyed obediently,
Where man and wife and children are left to plead,
Where wail and door are spying with their horrid ears,
Where people may lose courage.
Who would not be pleased in times like
these. -
To see us bring the truth - and all that's new!

Germany - the "Observer in the Clouds" will write about it.

From the Clouds.
Therefore, keep up your spirit, the "Observer in the Clouds" will continue to flutter down to you from high up in the sky.

Short News

Every week 2-4 German submarines are sunk!
Finnland insists on keeping its neutrality intact.
Russia remains neutral.
During an air raid on an English convoy on 21 October, 7 out of 12 aeroplanes were shot down.

Between you and me.

To bring news of world affairs to the German people is an undertakmg which does not in any way require an explanation or excuse. People abroad have for years been watching with heartfelt regret how-such a great nation has become increasingly isolated under the Nazi terror rule. The "Observer in the Clouds", however, believes nonetheless that our readers will appreciate a real newspaper, even if it is not delivered into your letter box, but dropped from the sky instead.

Winter Aid

In the main, Germany needs raw materials, such as fuel, manganese, wood, rubber, butter - and a new government and peace. As is reported by the Russian TASS-agency office stationed in the Reich's chancellery, the Bolsheviks promise that they will, in all probability, be able to supply fuel, manganese and wood. All other goods will have to be procured in Germany itself and through the Germans' own efforts.

Goebbels and his boys.
The gunslinger journalist Goebbels and his green youths may have destroyed the proud profession of German journalism, but the very natural yearning for news of the thinking person cannot be quashed so easily.
A real newspaper.
So we are sending the number one edition of the "Observer in the Clouds", convinced that there are millions of upright German readers who will happily welcome a new newspaper, even if it's small; it will make a change to the usual stuff full of pathetic lies turned out by Jupp Goebbels and his ink splurging gang of weedy looking smart guys.

Our German readers want to know about the state of war — we will report on it. They want to know what the world says and thinks about

By now those agencies dealing with propaganda were the Ministry of Information, concerned with ‘white’ aspects and the semi secret Electra House, charged with propaganda inside enemy territory. Indeed, during the period of the so called ‘phoney war’ the main efforts of the Department were employed in the production of three or four varieties of leaflet for distribution over Germany and dropped for the first time on the night of November 6th/7th 1939 over Hamburg, Bremen and Dusseldorf, the most prominent of these was a two page imitation Nazi newspaper entitled ‘Wolkiger Beobachter.’ Translating as ‘From the Clouds’ this was a play on the name of the genuine German newspaper, Voelkischer Beobachter.

For the manufacture of such productions within a hanger in the grounds of Woburn Abbey, where the aeroplane of the ‘Flying Duchess’ had once been housed, two compositors from University Press at Oxford set up a composing room in September 1939. Here they were employed to typeset the propaganda leaflets, with the early versions being set by hand in old fashioned German Fraktur type. These were then printed by rotary letterpress at H.M. Stationery Office in Harrow.

Printing equipment was installed in a hut in the grounds. Also in the grounds an underground air raid shelter was provided. - Mr. B. Cairns. J. Taylor.

The German occupation of most of Western Europe plus the entry of Italy into the war greatly increased the demands for propaganda and accordingly the Woburn print unit was relocated to Marylands, near Woburn. Here, with Monotype equipment installed in a hut in the grounds, the staff of the composing room were augmented to allow working around the clock.

The recruitment of expert typographers and graphic artists caused a consequent improvement in the quality of the work and printing was now carried out by the Sun Engraving Co. at Watford and also Waterlows at Dunstable, who were specialists in photogravure. Their facilities allowed the use of colour and the ability to reproduce photographs and also employed from the beginning of the war were the Luton based printers, Home Counties Newspapers, who were to make a significant contribution.

Imperial War Museum.

Daily the print blocks would be collected from Woburn Abbey by car with the original commission of the newspaper group being for half tone and line blocks of print. Long hours of work ensured impressive results and their endeavours directly led to the request for a new weekly ‘white’ publication for distribution over France. Entitled ‘Courier de L’Air’ this was written in French and with Luton News, as a part of the Home Counties Group, being awarded the typesetting contract, the production took place at another printers by gravure.

The work was completed in the evenings, the text being set at four times normal size with the proofs reduced photographically. Eventually staff would be setting papers in five languages and this entailed the need for two evening shifts to cope with the demand.

When necessary the printing expertise could also be employed for specialised one off requirements and the defection of Rudolf Hess in May 1941 provided such an occasion. Produced at Luton News under conditions of the tightest security, faked versions of Voelkischer Beobachter were planted for him to read and as an intriguing aside eight days after his landing two German agents parachuted into England near Luton Hoo. Found to be members of the S.S. they were interrogated and executed at a secret establishment, with the nature of their mission never being revealed.

Apart from printed matter, shortly before the war the B.B.C. had commenced news broadcasts on medium wave to Italy and Germany but the strain placed on the technical resources meant that an extra short wave transmitter had to be ordered in April 1939, to reinforce the existing five of between 50 and 30 kw in power. Then, dictated by the worsening international situation, in the summer the Government put up the money for four more, with these coming into use by the end of 1940. At first operations were closely supervised by the Foreign Office but later they only needed to maintain a regular contact when the B.B.C. was eventually allowed a freer hand. As for those listeners for whom the output was intended, they risked severe penalties if caught for in September 1939 German law forbade all reception of foreign stations. He who disobeyed, declared the Nazis, ‘cripples himself spiritually and intellectually.’ Even so there were 225 convictions by March 1940.

As a measure against individual British transmitters becoming a beacon for enemy bombers, in September 1939 the B.B.C. engineers synchronised both the medium and long wave transmitters on a single Home programme and thereby released a few medium wave transmitters. Three of these were allocated for external use shortly after the outbreak of hostilities whilst another started in November and another, of 200 kw power, in February 1940, the month in which the Forces programme started. Indeed, this became the forerunner of the Light programme, launched at the end of the war.

In France the probability of individual transmitters in the north of the country becoming beacons for hostile aircraft had been a great worry for the British Air Ministry, not least since they did not come under a single control as with the B.B.C. The French were thus encouraged to plan synchronisation as soon as possible and towards this aim Patrick Ryan, the liaison officer between Department Electra House and the B.B.C., and Bill Wilson, an engineer, played a significant role. As for the finance of the B.B.C. Overseas Services, including the German service, this was provided by an overt grant voted annually by Parliament.

In the early days of the war the broadcasting policy was to oppose brutal or facetious attacks on Hitler and thus not unduly antagonise the German population, who were believed to be unenthusiastic for a great offensive in the West. A truthful approach to the news, as adapted by the B.B.C., also held lessons for the German propaganda machine, as acknowledged by Goebbels in the wake of Churchill’s stance following the evacuation from Dunkirk; “At that time Winston Churchill displayed admirable frankness in drawing the necessary conclusions and telling the British people the absolute truth. At the time, we did not understand this.”

Richard Gambier Parry.
Born in 1894 at Cirencester, Gloucestershire, Richard Gambier Parry was the second son of Grace and Sidney Gambier Parry, an architect. Educated at Eton, during World War One Richard served with distinction in the Royal Welch Fusiliers, being wounded three times and mentioned in despatches twice. He later joined the Royal Flying Corps and after the war between 1926 and 1931 found employment in the Public Relations Department of the B.B.C. Whilst working for the Philco Company, just before World War Two he was recruited by the Secret Intelligence Service to organise their radio communications. Twice divorced, in 1944 he married his secretary, Lisa Towse, daughter of Colonel H. Towse of the Royal Scots Guards. After the war Richard was appointed Director of Communications at Hanslope Park and retired at the end of 1955, being knighted the following year. He then played an active role in local affairs as well as running a successful casino in Malta. After a long illness he died at his home in Abbots Close, in the village of Milton Keynes, on June 19th 1965 and a well attended memorial service took place in the village church. Floral decorations by Mrs. D. Smith recalled his First World War associations with the Royal; Welch Fusiliers and the R.F.C. and in the address Canon Curtis aptly likened him to Falstaff, ‘ever a quick and witty companion, with a gusto for life and living.’ - Mrs. R. Healey.

Meanwhile, being the subject of a row when the Ministry of Economic Warfare became aware, the need for ‘black’ radio transmissions of propaganda, as opposed to the ‘white’ variety of the B.B.C., steadily became apparent and here the 48 year old Colonel Richard Gambier Parry, an extrovert old Etonian, entered the scene. A veteran of the R.F.C., he had been recruited just before the war by the Secret Service to improve the S.I.S. radio communications and so became responsible for providing the transmitters for the black broadcast requirements.

Milton Bryan studio was designed by Squadron Leader Edward Halliday, an architect and talented artist. He was responsible for the day to day administration and in this group, taken within the grounds, is seen on the left. - Mr. S. Halliday.

Towards this end, with the property having been taken over by the War Office he moved into Whaddon Hall with his wife, she having originally been his personal secretary, at the end of 1939 and shortly to join him was the Oundle educated Harold Robin. Throughout the war he would hold responsibility for the technical side of all the secret broadcast operations whilst pre war he and Gambier Parry, as sales manager, had worked for the Philco Company. As for the longstanding occupants of Whaddon Hall, the locally famed Selby Lowndes family, they moved to Winslow although in Whaddon church may be seen a memorial to Richard Selby Lowndes, who ‘failed to return from an air raid over Cologne’ on the night of June 18th 1943.

Gawcott radio station.
These photos show the wartime site and staff. Gawcott remained in use as a Government communications centre until recently. The premises now accommodate a number of small business concerns but several original buildings survive. - Mrs. R. Mottram.

Early in 1940 Harold Robin undertook the task of constructing a short wave transmitter not far from Whaddon and after surveying the immediate area he selected a site in a large field at Gawcott. Here two American 7.5 kw transmitters were installed to where, having been recorded at Whaddon Hall, the first propaganda broadcasts were sent via Post Office lines. Played at 33 1/3 r.p.m. the broadcasts were recorded on 16 inch American glass based discs but this limited the duration to about 20 minutes. However at this period the Germans were more advanced and for their own propaganda had the significant advantage of early tape recording using the ‘Tonschreiber,’ as a military version of the pre war ‘Magnetofon.’ This enabled a greater ease of editing and was totally exempt from such giveaways of the recorded disc as needle jumping.

Whaddon Hall, a wartime aerial view.
The administration section was accommodated in huts behind Whaddon Hall and the three huts seen in the top right were respectively a teleprinter hut, radio hut (linked to the transmitting station at Tattenhoe Bare, a mile or so away), and a rest room for the operators, who worked shifts. Reputed to be the finest clandestine communications system in the world, the S.I.S. transmitting station at Whaddon Hall - in fact a general term for a multitude of hutted operations in that vicinity - provided the ideal base from which Bletchley Park decodes could be transmitted to field headquarters abroad. In fact known as Whaddon Main Line the centre handled all of Churchill’s correspondence, the transmissions of British diplomatic and secret agents throughout the world and all the Ultra communications at home and overseas. Nissen hut accommodation was arranged for the operators, and brick huts in local fields provided the site for staff working Morse code communication with agents in Occupied Europe. In the outbuildings of Whaddon Hall technical staff were engaged on advanced clandestine communication devices.

‘Windy Ridge.’
Behind Whaddon Church, early in the war ‘Windy Ridge,’ more correctly known as Church Hill, was the site for the construction of two brick huts. One received information via landline from Hut 3 at Bletchley Park. The other sent this coded information to overseas military commanders via the nearby radio transmitting station at Tattenhoe Bare. Only the concrete bases of the huts now remain.

The expansion of the propaganda operation soon caused the need for new premises to be sought for the British black broadcasters and the actual recording centre, which in emergencies could be used for live broadcasting, came to be accommodated at Wavendon Towers, as chosen by Harold Robin and a colleague. This was known as ‘Simpsons,’ from the proximity to the village of that name, and probably a first use occurred in late 1940. The owner, Major Marler, was away in the army and his dependents had prudently opted for a safer accommodation in Scotland. For Whaddon Hall a new purpose was found by the Foreign Office in connection with the activities of Bletchley Park.

Sir Ralph Murray K.C.M.B., C.B.
Born in Partney, Lincolnshire, the son of an Anglican clergyman, Ralph Murray studied modern languages at Oxford before embarking on further language studies at various universities on the Continent. In 1934 he joined the B.B.C. and as European Correspondent covered the Nazi occupation of Czech Sudetenland and Austria. At the outbreak of World War Two he joined the planning service of Department Electra House and later became involved with SO1 and the subsequent Political Warfare Executive. He ended the war as Assistant Secretary, Press and Public Relations, for the Allied Commission for Austria. Shortly afterwards he was appointed as the first head of a department set up to counter Soviet propaganda and in his continuing career held several diplomatic posts including H.M. Ambassador, Athens, in 1962, this being the year in which he was awarded the K.C.M.G. He retired from the Diplomatic Corps in 1967 and was appointed as a Governor of the B.B.C. He retired from this in 1973 and eventually moved to Whaddon Hall, where he died in 1984. - The Executors of Sir Ralph Murray.

Under the charge of Ralph Murray four recording studios were organised, one being situated in the billiards room, and as soon as the operation neared readiness Robin and later Gambier Parry moved to the ‘Towers’ from Whaddon Hall. Also accommodated were two recording technicians and three well spoken young ladies who supervised the arrival and departure of ‘The Funnies,’ as the secret broadcasters were unofficially known. In small teams they were resident at requisitioned private houses in the villages of the Woburn area and functioning in independence of each other these ‘freedom stations’ were given the cover name of Research Units, for the reason that unwelcome neighbours calling at a house were told that the new arrivals were engaged on secret research work. Even tradesmen carrying out routine maintenance at the properties were always kept under escort. The various small teams were not allowed to divulge their work, visit the local pubs or use the telephone or telegrams without permission, and their work and daily life was under the control of a British housemaster, whose wife normally attended the domestic duties.

Of the early effect of the secret broadcasts, one result of a Rumanian station was a house to house search by the Germans in Bucharest, trying to locate the clandestine transmitter! A letter usually identified the country to which a particular team broadcast. Thus F stood for France (an example being F4 as Radio Gaulle) Y Yugoslavia, Belgium B, Bulgaria X and Italy W for Wop! First broadcast on November 17th 1940, to cease on May 15th 1942, ‘Radio Italia’ thus became Wop 1.

Potsgrove radio station.
This site plan was drawn by one of the wartime operators, Philip Luck. Several of the original buildings remain. The long building housed the ’Pansy’ transmitter and the shorter building the diesel generator. In between is seen the U.H.F. hut. - Mr. P. Luck. J. Taylor.

Similar to the set up at Gawcott, at nearby Potsgrove brick huts were built to house a second transmission centre to where, for increased security, the discs were transported by road. The tall poles for the aerials were erected by the Post Office but finding suitable wooden posts had been somewhat of a bane since the pacifist Duke of Bedford had denied permission to fell any fir trees on the estate! However, the day after the Duke died in August 1940 Gambier Parry sent out workers at dawn to cut down all the timber they needed!

Altogether in the order of 60 black stations operated at one time or another during the course of the war and the first to broadcast in German, beginning on short wave on May 26th 1940, a day of National Prayer, was primarily run by Herr Spiecker, known at Woburn as ‘Mr. Turner.’ An ardent opponent of the Nazis, on Campbell Stuart’s instructions he had travelled from France to England via the French and British Secret Service and although in the following autumn he left for America the programme continued under a former centre member of the Reichstag. When he died the station then closed on March 14th 1941.

Dawn Edge, where the housemaster was Richard Crossman.
This was one of the several local houses requisitioned to accommodate ‘Research Units,’ groups of foreign nationals engaged in secret propaganda broadcasts.

Richard Crossman, later to become a famous Labour politician, played an important role in the early propaganda activities. Without revealing his actual duties he gave a lecture at Bletchley in January 1940, at an event arranged by the Senior School headmaster, Mr. E.C. Cook, who had covert links with Bletchley Park.

Followed by four others within a fortnight, a station that would start on October 7th 1940 and continue until June 26th 1942 was the ‘Sender der Europaischten Revolution,’ the ‘European Revolution Station,’ run by a group of German socialist operators associated with the ‘Neu Beginnen’ movement. Settled at Dawn Edge, Aspley Guise, their housemaster was the later politically famous Richard Crossman, an Oxford don, who when Department Electra House initiated the regular commentator idea in March 1940 agreed to test the concept by becoming a morning speaker to the German workers, his first talk taking place on April 4th. (In August 1940 Crossman became head of the German department at Woburn and there he stayed until May 1943, when assigned for duties in Algiers at Eisenhower’s headquarters. His place was then taken by Sir Duncan Wilson.)

For the administration and other needs of the Woburn operation many typists were recruited, mostly from the Imperial Communications Advisory Board and Thos. Cook and Son. The eight telephone operators came from such establishments as Keith Prowse Ltd., Derry and Toms and the Dorchester and Grosvenor House hotels and for all the staff nobody was allowed to give their address or say what they were doing. Letters had to be sent to London for posting, as with the secret broadcasters.

Paris House.
Whilst head of Department Electra House this was the accommodation for Sir Campbell Stuart. He shuttled between the Woburn and London aspects in a Rolls Royce, accompanied by three personal assistants and a filing cabinet.

With the military wing of Department Electra House still retained in London, Campbell Stuart duly shuttled between the two centres in his Rolls Royce, accompanied by three personal assistants and a filing cabinet! This problem of distance also tended to dilute the Department’s influence on the B.B.C. German Service in London which was further weakened because the channel for conveying the Department’s wishes and suggestions consisted of two officers, provided by and paid for by the B.B.C.!

For effective propaganda it was imperative that Department Electra House knew the state of mind of the enemy and towards achieving this a large supply of German daily newspapers was organised through agents in the neutral countries. By spring, 90 German newspapers, trade and labour journals and periodicals, more than 100 allied and neutral newspapers from 16 different countries and a large number of the publications of refugee groups in Britain could be referenced, all having reached facilities in London soon after publication. Five linguists employed by the relevant intelligence division then studied the content to decide that which might prove useful.

From the European capitals the British missions telegraphed any news of importance and the B.B.C. monitored all significant broadcasts from enemy held territory, providing transcripts to E.H. Many other sources also contributed information but the availability of such intelligence disappeared abruptly with the speed of the German advance. Thereon the British Legation in Stockholm received orders to buy every newspaper possible and have them flown to Britain by the R.A.F. once a week. Elsewhere, only German newspapers from Spain and Portugal could be obtained in anything like a plentiful supply but often these would be out of date by the time they arrived for scrutiny.

Having been of the opinion that ‘since Electra House had had difficulty in getting the B.B.C. to do many things that they wanted, it should be determined who had the deciding voice in such matters,’ Campbell Stuart saw control of Electra House returned at the beginning of June 1940 to the Minister of Information, Alfred Duff Cooper, who had been offered the position at Churchill’s accession to power.

Hugh Dalton.

As for the position of Minister of Economic Warfare, with which Leonard Ingrams was the liaison officer for Department Electra House, in the previous month Churchill had urged the socialist Hugh Dalton to accept the role and having agreed to this Dalton asked Hugh Gaitskell, then in charge of Intelligence for Enemy Countries at the Ministry, to be his Principal Private Secretary. In the immediate future both men would come to have very close links with the Woburn operation, as also Dalton’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, John Wilmot.

Liaising with Duff Cooper, the Foreign Office, Clement Attlee (the deputy Prime Minister) and, as the new Minister of Economic Warfare, Hugh Dalton, Campbell Stuart now began discussions on the importance of broadcasting British propaganda from overseas. In consequence the various parties agreed that he should travel to North America as soon as possible to explore the possibilities and, accompanied by his private secretary, Anthony Gishford, he left ten days after the Fall of France. The mission duly secured the consent of the Canadian Government for the B.B.C. to build a shortwave station in Canada plus an option from the United States for materials to enable immediate construction. Plans were also laid to broadcast direct from America to Germany, through either Newfoundland or Bermuda, but damping this optimistic news on his return Campbell Stuart found that many factors had changed. The B.B.C. showed little enthusiasm and Duff Cooper had little influence for, opposed not least by Beaverbrook, his position as minister was destined to be short lived.

On July 16th 1940 Churchill had invited Hugh Dalton, now the Minister of Economic Warfare, to take charge of the Special Operations Executive, a new and overall organisation for sabotage and subversion. This had come into being as the result of a meeting on July 1st in the Foreign Secretary’s office, where a decision to appoint ‘a controller armed with almost dictatorial powers’ had been reached. As confirmed at a War Cabinet meeting on July 22nd 1940, S.O.E. duly incorporated Section D, MIR and Department Electra House and for his new role Dalton acquired the additional but secret title of Minister of Special Operations. For his Assistant Under Secretary, responsible for his contact with S.O.E., he selected Gladwyn Jebb, Private Secretary to the Permanent Under Secretary of State at the Foreign Office, whilst Philip Broad, also from the Foreign Office, acquired the title of Counsellor. However, now being surplus to requirements Campbell Stuart resigned on August 17th and being Chairman of the Imperial Communications Advisory Committee thereon devoted himself to this duty. (Completing the story, following the recommendation of the Commonwealth Telegraph Conference the body was renamed the Commonwealth Communications Council and at a meeting in London in April 1944 this witnessed Campbell Stuart’s appointment as the chairman by all the Governments concerned. He finally resigned from such duties the following year, when Cable and Wireless was nationalised. In total his wartime employment had entailed his crossing of the Atlantic eighteen times, three by perilous sea passage and fifteen by air but during one of his air journeys he suffered ill effects when the aircraft climbed to above 10,000 feet without oxygen.)

At Campbell Stuart’s departure Reginald Leeper, who Dalton viewed with some suspicions as to loyalty, had taken charge of ‘the country’ operations of E.H. whilst as for Leeper’s deputy, Valentine Williams, he would leave in late July 1941 to represent the activities at the S.O.E. office in New York, his place being taken from November by David Bowes Lyon. Of the new secret operations amalgam only an offshoot of the previous MIR was retained, known as MIRc (Research). Operating from The Firs, a large house in Whitchurch, Oxfordshire, the team was headed by an explosives expert who spent the rest of the war conceiving explosive devices suitable for use by regular and clandestine forces.


At Churchill’s suggestion Robert Vansittart, the Chief Diplomatic Adviser to the Government (at least in titular form) now became Chief Adviser to the newly formed Special Operations Executive which, having selected Gladwyn Jebb as the Chief Executive Officer, Dalton divided into SO1, the secret propaganda element of E.H., SO2, the combination of Section D and MIR, dealing with sabotage, and SO3 which, run by a Brigadier, dealt with planning. However, within a few months the latter became suffocated by self generated paperwork with the staff being found other jobs in Whitehall.

As one of Vansittart’s first recommendations Reginald Leeper was confirmed as head of the propaganda arm whilst of the other local appointments a driver by the name of Prothero became the S.O.E. chauffeur at Woburn. The responsibilities of the former Section D were now to be shared between the 57 year old Frank Nelson, who had worked for the Foreign Office in Switzerland until the Fall of France, and Laurence Grand. However, after a few days Grand was returned to the army and the reason for his going indicated the new personalities at work. Asked by Dalton to arrange a mission and fetch a fellow socialist politician, Leon Blum, from France, Grand replied that he would have to seek War Cabinet approval before risking lives on such a non priority assignment. Dalton refused but Grand reaffirmed the position whereupon, by a letter of September 18th 1940 ‘Dalton sacked me and I was damned glad to return to ordinary soldiering.’ Subsequently Grand enjoyed a distinguished army career and eventually reached the rank of Major General, as director of the War Office Department of Fortification and Works.

The departure of Grand allowed Nelson, a successful if humourless businessman, to purge the old Section D organisation by his position as ‘CI5.’ As for the previous MIR, Colonel Colin Gubbins D.S.O., M.C. would be promoted director of operations in SO2. This appointment arose through the influence of Dalton, for Gubbins had made a favourable impression on him when the two had met at a dinner given at the Polish Embassy on November 18th 1939. A hard taskmaster, burnt out by his efforts Nelson would retire in May 1942 with his position as head of S.O.E. to be taken by the ‘aggressive’ Sir Charles Hambro, of the bank of that name. When in 1943 Hambro left for a position in Washington, Gubbins took over the role.

On the disbanding of Section D, Guy Burgess and Kim Philby had reported to the S.O.E. headquarters at 64, Baker Street, London, above Marks and Spencer, but only Philby found employment. With no position offered him Burgess went back to the B.B.C. as a producer in the Talks Department and reporting to his boss, George Barnes, became a link man with the black propagandists at Woburn, who he not surprisingly tried to influence into promoting pro Soviet causes! He would leave Broadcasting House in June 1944 for a position in the press department of the Foreign Office. As for Philby, assigned to the teaching staff of the S.O.E. sabotage school, at Beaulieu, Hants., he was tasked with the propaganda aspects of the curriculum and thereby had links with Woburn, where he consulted the propagandists for ideas before the Beaulieu staff assembled.

With the open propaganda element of E.H. left temporarily with the Minister of Information, Dalton initially returned most of the Department of Enemy Propaganda from Woburn to Lansdowne House, London, to be near his own ministry in Berkeley Square. However except for the small military wing headed by Dallas Brooks, within a month the onset of German bombing caused a transfer back to Woburn where at Woburn Abbey the propaganda section, now as SO1, continued to deal with the ‘white’ aspects such as policy guides for the European Service of the B.B.C. and leaflets dropped by the R.A.F. In fact one of the early problems had been the question of leaflets delivered over enemy territory. Were they avert or covert? Eventually they were ruled to be covert and so became the responsibility of Dalton, of whose clandestine activities few were aware since with SO1 being secret no parliamentary questions could be allowed or published.

6, Leighton Street, Woburn.
This was the local accommodation for Hugh Gaitskell, Principal Private Secretary to Hugh Dalton, the Minister of Economic Warfare and the first head of the Special Operations Executive. He exercised supervision of the Woburn activities whenever Dalton was absent. - J. Taylor.

Set in the ‘Snob Home Counties,’ as he termed them, whenever absent from the Woburn operations Dalton exercised supervision via his capable secretary, Hugh Gaitskell, who had first attracted his notice as a young socialist at Oxford. Born in 1906, Gaitskell had joined the Ministry of Economic Warfare as a temporary principal in September 1939 and thereby found good fortune when Churchill appointed Dalton as the Minister in May, 1940. As for his accommodation at Woburn, after his London quarters were almost bombed out Gaitskell acquired the tenancy of 6, Leighton Street.

Despite his many responsibilities Dalton would often visit Woburn and in later months this regularity caused Robert Bruce Lockhart to report to Brendan Bracken that ‘there is the particular danger of an intolerable situation being created if Dr. Dalton makes a practice of sending for and questioning subordinates of the Executive Committee and of paying constant visits to Woburn and the B.B.C. … He seems to have more time at his disposal than either yourself or the Foreign Secretary.’ In fact Bracken, the Minister of Information from July 1941, and thus in charge of overt propaganda, had little affection for Dalton, considering him to encourage left wing bias in the Woburn output.

Sir John Anderson.

Yet even earlier the confusion and ill feeling surrounding the various interpretations of propaganda had lead to many a squabble between the powers involved and on May 16th 1941, Eden, Dalton and Duff Cooper had attended a meeting with the Lord President, Sir John Anderson, to seek his arbitration. The ‘Anderson Award’ duly gave Dalton responsibility for secret propaganda, Duff Cooper responsibility for that deemed overt and for joint control of the co-ordination these two - as heads of the Ministries of Economic Warfare and Information respectively - would consult with Eden as the Foreign Secretary. By this agreement each party would appoint an official to provide co-operation at the working level, and having offered him the job on June 16th Eden appointed Robert Bruce Lockhart. He accepted the offer on the 19th but only on the proviso that he was made a Deputy Under Secretary. Reginald Leeper became the representative for the Minister of Information whilst as for Dallas Brooks, a key figure in SO1, he fulfilled the role for the Minister of Economic Warfare. In all matters Eden was to have the final word.

Notwithstanding this agreement, urged by elements of his staff to attempt the full control of all propaganda Duff Cooper had written to Churchill and on June 24th put his case to the Cabinet - whether the Head of the Ministry of Information should have the Cabinet importance of controlling all aspects of propaganda and publicity or be simply a high official, carrying out the wishes of other departments. He lost the argument and the following month Churchill proposed him for an ‘important mission’ to the Far East. This he accepted, and duly departed the Ministry of Information with the view that ‘I cannot pretend that I am very sorry to leave.’ On the evening of his last day at the Ministry in celebration of his new appointment he dined at the Dorchester Hotel with Robert Bruce Lockhart who, for very good reason, had been astutely observing the battles to gain the control of propaganda.

As now the person in control of SO1, Reginald Leeper was given accommodation with his wife and daughter at the Old Rectory at Woburn by Dalton, who had blocked attempts to gain possession by the pacifist Duke of Bedford’s equally pacifist housekeeper, Mrs. Samuel.

It was not unknown for his department to be known in Whitehall and Fleet Street as ‘Leeper’s Sleepers,’ whilst as for Leeper he was described as ‘languid,’ by Philby. SO1 now had an office in London at Lansdowne House, Berkeley Square although since Woburn remained the main centre of operations it was here that Leeper spent most of the week, his home on Saturday nights usually hosting a tremendous house party. After an excellent dinner events would conclude with cigars and brandy, with the assembled company, to usually include Gaitskell and Jebb, then listening to the views of Dalton or Dallas Brooks on the war. The following day Dalton, ‘a great booming bully,’ would delight in taking, perhaps coercing, members of his immediate entourage on a long country walk, sometimes breaking into a jog, but ‘Some responded better than others to this form of recreation.’ However, although often cast as a bully, given to aggressively shouting at subordinates, in fact if he was genuinely unreasonable and the minion shouted back he would back down with good humour.

Woburn was now such an important centre that many notable figures came to visit including Attlee, who, having travelled down with Dalton, stayed for 24 hours.

The ballroom, Woburn Abbey.
At a meeting on June 6th 1941 it was here that Reginald Leeper announced to the propagandists that Germany could be expected to attack Russia on June 22nd.

Apart from important personalities, on occasion Woburn also witnessed important news, perhaps the most momentous being that announced at a suitably sized meeting on June 6th 1941. Having been authorised by the Prime Minister, here Leeper announced that Germany could be expected to attack Russia on June 22nd although neither he nor those assembled could know the basis for this revelation had been provided a few miles away by the codebreakers at Bletchley Park. Four months later German radio then announced that the Russian armies had been annihilated and being so far from the truth this declaration proved a gift for the propagandists, who on every subsequent anniversary arranged for leaflets to be dropped re-emphasising this ‘claim.’

On a visit to Woburn Abbey in 1941, when Eden asked about the merits of the 7½ kw transmitters in use by the Wavendon studios he was told they were hardly of sufficient power. Therefore on learning that an ultra powerful transmitter lay idle in America he discussed the matter of purchase with Dalton who, having responsibility for all the secret broadcast operations, sent a paper to Churchill. He gave his sanction to the idea on May 17th 1941 and in consequence Gambier Parry travelled to America and secured the option. During the summer months Robin also made the journey, to become familiar with the technicalities of the radio apparatus.

The equipment had been constructed by R.C.A. for the W.12 New Jersey commercial station but at 500 kw was too powerful to comply with American law. Unrestricted by the native legal system Robin then suggested modifications that raised the power by 100 kw! Following Robin’s return plans for the purchase and preparation began and although an original site for the installation had been chosen in the neighbourhood of Woburn, the Air Ministry raised concerns regarding the height of the aerials, which would pose a hazard for aircraft on training flights from the local airfields. Indeed from the contemporary Gracie Fields song the facility gained the nickname of ‘Aspidistra,’ from being the biggest of its kind in the world!


After much discussion in the Cabinet and often bitter argument in the House of Commons, Winston Churchill initialled a new agreement about the arrangements for propaganda warfare in August 1941. This provided for regular meetings between Anthony Eden, as the Foreign Secretary, Hugh Dalton, the Minister of Economic Warfare, and Brendan Bracken, the Minister of Information (a position he had acquired in July 1941) and under the chairmanship of Robert Bruce Lockhart, this being a Foreign Office appointment, the institution of an operational committee would correspondingly be made. At the end of August 1941 the three ministers then duly agreed to act as a trinity.

Brendan Bracken.

Under them they established the agreed Executive Committee of three officials who, in addition to Lockhart, were to be ‘Rex’ Leeper and, as Lockhart’s deputy, Dallas Brooks, the head of the military wing. Accommodated initially at 2 Fitzmaurice Place, off Berkeley Square, London, the latter would hold responsibility for liaising with the Chiefs of Staff, Joint Intelligence Committee and the Services in general. This position he then maintained throughout most of the war and although of undoubted competence Bracken was of the opinion, “He’s too slick, that fellow.”'

On September 10th 1941, the day that the formation of the new organisation was approved, Robert E. Sherwood, a playwright and personal friend of President Roosevelt (indeed being his speechwriter) visited Woburn as head of the Foreign Information Service and with due deference to secrecy the day after its approval the formation of the organisation was announced to the House of Commons. The name had been the invention of one of the members, David Bowes Lyon, brother in law of King George VI, who offered the title of the Political Warfare Executive in preference to the first intended Political Warfare Organisation. Nevertheless despite the grandiose title very soon the nickname became ‘Pee Wee’ for the organisation and ‘Peawits’ for the officials!

From late employment at the Ministry of Economic Warfare, David Bowes Lyon was a brother of the Queen and the sixth son of the 14th Earl of Strathmore, who had married the daughter of the Vicar of Ridgmont, a village near Woburn. In succession to Valentine Williams he was Leeper’s local deputy and by his influence an official visit was made by the King and Queen to the Woburn organisation on November 19th 1941, during which, as a great boost to morale, for some three hours they were shown the propaganda activities.

By the very nature of the work little could be made generally known about the organisation and indeed from the autumn of 1941 P.W.E. assumed the title P.I.D. (for the Political Intelligence Department) as a cover, employing P.I.D. notepaper and advising the address as ‘P.I.D., of the Foreign Office, 2 Fitzmaurice Place, WI.’ Having close links with the intelligence service, Leonard Ingrams, as an Under Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Warfare, became that department’s principal liaison officer with P.W.E. and David Stephens fulfilled the position as the Executive’s secretary.

The Locarno Room at the Foreign Office, allocated for the use of Robert Bruce Lockhart on his appointment as chairman of the Political Warfare Executive. The name arose because it was here that the Locarno Pact was signed on December 1st 1925.

As chairman, Lockhart became responsible for the whole of the work of the organisation and also for keeping in touch with the Foreign Office, who had the final say on all aspects of foreign policy. In this new appointment he therefore set himself up in the Locarno Room of the Foreign Office in London but his opinion of Leeper, his former Foreign Office boss at P.I.D., was somewhat unflattering, thinking him ‘already overpaid, though I would be prepared to pay him more as a pension.’! In fact the observation perhaps carried some worth for even in October 1941 Leeper had a free house, car, petrol, entertainment allowance and £3,750 p.a. whilst Lockhart, as the chairman, had to find his own rent, had no car or entertainment allowance and a salary of £2,000 p.a. The fact that Leeper sent his Rolls Royce four miles every day to fetch milk may also have added to the bias!

As the Executive Committee, the first meeting of the three ministers and the three officials took place at the Foreign Office on Wednesday, September 17th 1941 and the establishment of P.W.E. and the appointment of the Ministerial Committee did much to end the infighting amongst the ministers and senior officials. However there were no winners, for Dalton had given up SO1 (the propaganda arm of the Special Operations Executive), Bracken had transferred part of the Foreign Publicity Division of the Ministry of Information whilst as for the B.B.C., their relevant European sections had gone to the new organisation. Yet problems of administration would continue to cause trouble and mainly because the Woburn personnel were fighting a protracted battle against central control. Indeed on his first visit as chairman of the Executive Committee, Lockhart met with threats of revolt and resignations and not surprisingly regarded himself as little more than a link between the Ministers and his lieutenants.

By early 1942 P.W.E. was still in a bad shape. The Woburn organisation, backed by Dalton, harboured a reluctance to relocate whilst as for Bracken, he tried to establish both a geographical and ministerial control. He even considered resigning, to let Stafford Cripps take over P.W.E. and ensure single ministerial control, but in the event P.W.E. was soon to be given a new charter by the Prime Minister, reducing the number of ministers from three to two. Cripps in a reshuffle of the Government became leader of the House of Commons whilst on February 21st 1942 in a neat extraction Dalton was removed from the propaganda scene, by his appointment as the President of the Board of Trade.

The news reached him whilst attending a Warship Week engagement at Shildon in his constituency and asked to telephone Whitehall 4464 he did so in driving snow from an air raid shelter close to the U.D.C. offices. Speaking directly to Churchill, on receiving the assurance of the Prime Minister regarding his competence he duly accepted the position.

Dalton’s contribution to the sabotage organisation had been considerable, for from a position where there had been no agents in Western Europe by the time that he left scores were in place. Thus Dalton departed for duties anew, taking Wilmot and Hugh Gaitskell with him. As for the vacancy of Minister of Economic Warfare, and therefore head of S.O.E., this was filled by R.C. Palmer, Lord Wolmer (a personal friend of Churchill) who on the death of his father became 3rd Earl of Selbourne in February 1942. (A high Anglican, he had once been Assistant Postmaster General, until making a speech in which he referred to the postmen as slackers!) However he lacked enthusiasm for either special operations or propaganda and in consequence would opt out of ministerial control.

Under P.W.E.’s new two minister arrangement Anthony Eden became responsible for policy and Brandan Bracken for administration. As for Lockhart, now answering to the Foreign Secretary on foreign policy and the Minister of Information on operational matters, he hardly enthused about his own role as Director General, stating “So now I am sole boss of the whole show; I feel an exhilaration.” His main priority would be to assemble the skilled propagandists from Woburn in London, thereby providing a singular accommodation for the department, and with the lessened threat of bombing this had been first recommended in November 1941. The proposal then intended that staff engaged in secret broadcasting and the production of white leaflets, typesetting and design, would remain at Woburn whilst those concerned with other aspects and with the B.B.C. would be moved to London, with the suggestion that the P.W.E. headquarters should be accommodated on the three upper floors of Bush House. Here the building already accommodated the European Service of the B.B.C. and most of the P.I.D. staff who had previously worked at Woburn, except for those in secret intelligence and black broadcasting.

Bush House, to where in 1942 some elements of P.W.E. were transferred.

At Woburn, in the press cutting and filing library P.W.E. had by now amassed so much information on the Germans, through a variety of sources, that a significant reason for a move was to facilitate the use of the library by the B.B.C., which had a separate News Information Bureau in Bush House. Thus at the end of February 1942 Brooks and Lockhart moved their sections from Fitzmaurice Place and the Foreign Office to accommodation directly above the European service of the B.B.C. in Bush House, where for the first fortnight the staff existed mainly on menus of ‘coffee and kippers.’ More precisely, the move by Lockhart to Bush House had begun on Friday, February 27th 1942 such that he could begin work the following Monday at 9 a.m. His new offices proved far more spacious than the Locarno quarters and consisted of a few small rooms and one large central hall, in which all the staff could be under the watch of the management. This space Lockhart converted into cubicles and to meet the requirements of the security officer the entrances from the lifts were wired with heavy netting. In this new situation Lockhart would remain until the end of the war, conducting most of his work by telephone of which he later had two on his desk - a house phone with switches to all the chief officials of his department and a private line to his bedroom in his club in St. James Square.

By the move to Bush House, P.W.E. now had better control over policy as agreed by the B.B.C. governors and in order to win the confidence of the B.B.C. in March 1942 Lockhart made Ivone Kirkpatrick a member of the P.W.E. Executive Committee. He had been appointed Foreign Advisor to the B.B.C. in February 1941 and through his first hand knowledge of the German leaders, having been First Secretary in Berlin before the war, he was the person sent to identify and interview Rudolf Hess in May 1941.

Under the new P.W.E. structure the former fortnightly meetings of the two committees of ministers and officials were abolished. Instead, Lockhart now dealt directly with Eden and Bracken and although Lockhart gave political guidance and situation forecasts, the actual propaganda was planned and executed by his regional directors and by the planning section. ‘Special occasions’ were also organised, such as a Berlin raid by fast, light bombers on the tenth anniversary of the Nazis coming to power. Celebrations were thereby delayed for over an hour!

Soon after settling in at Bush House, in the company of Bracken, Ronald Tree, of the Ministry of Information, and Lord Birkenhead, Lockhart travelled to Woburn in Bracken’s Bentley on Tuesday, March 31st 1942. This was in accordance with Bracken’s desire to visit the establishment and being a wet and miserable morning their inspection began with Woburn Abbey where, with Reginald Leeper as the guide, in the large rooms and picture galleries were accommodated the main offices of the ‘country section.’ However, Bracken showed decidedly more interest in the art treasures but became more enthused at Marylands, near Woburn, in the production unit and the black broadcasting activities at Wavendon Towers. He was particularly impressed by the quality of the voices of the various announcers, which he thought more effective and virile than those of the B.B.C. Dinner was then taken at the Old Rectory of Woburn and being concerned about the distance from London, and the consequent high petrol consumption, on the way back in the car he voiced his views to Lockhart, saying that all the country establishment, except the officials in the really secret activities, must be brought back to London. This would reduce the use of fuel by a half and, promising to do all that he could by way of providing accommodation for the returning officials, he instructed Lockhart to arrange an immediate enquiry into the transport situation.

As another of the V.I.P.s to be shown the Woburn activities, Eden, on one of his several visits, travelled down in his car with Lockhart on June 25th 1942. Accompanying them were Eden’s chauffeur and detective but both were so trusted that no soundproof partition separated the parties in the vehicle. Having inspected the freedom stations Eden then concluded Delmer to be ‘an artist.’

On November 7th 1942 Bracken not only reaffirmed his views to Lockhart regarding the petrol consumption but also wanted to further impose another 50% reduction, by withdrawing from Woburn such persons as were non essential. Accordingly, on December 24th 1942 the chief administration officer for P.W.E., Meikle, who had been appointed to the role in August 1942, strongly recommended to Lockhart the acceptance of a P.W.E. report on this subject by Brigadier Eric Sachs. Thus on that date Lockhart spent a long day at the office with the administration officer going over the details and by the end of the year most of the staff had been brought back from Woburn to Bush House, excepting that section engaged on secret work.

However, being of the opinion that ‘the country’ gave more time for thinking and planning, Reginald Leeper had bitterly opposed the move, but anticipating the outcome he sent a personal and secret letter to Lockhart, saying that he had now decided to go back to the Foreign Office. In view of this on December 29th 1942 Lockhart discussed with Eden a proposal to appoint Leeper as Ambassador to Greece, for he knew that if the new intelligence scheme was adopted Leeper would resign. Thus as expected, on January 7th 1943 Leeper sought an appointment with Eden and resigned. Afterwards he then met with Lockhart to draft the circular that he wished to be issued and this would place the blame on the ministers, explaining to the Woburn personnel that, in his opinion, his reason for going was a result of the ministerial decision to move the intelligence centre, so leaving him without a job. On March 4th 1943, Lockhart, who had been recently knighted, gave a farewell dinner for Leeper in honour of his appointment as Greek ambassador but in reply Leeper became rather patronising and facetious, from no longer having any interest in P.W.E.

At this period another farewell had to be said but of a rather more enforced variety. On January 20th 1943 Lockhart had been summoned to Broadway Buildings by ‘C,’ head of the Secret Service, who, saying that he would take an option on all P.W.E. buildings and staff, then declared that whilst Colonel Gambier Parry would be kept on an agency basis, for Air Commodore Blandy, who had been jointly responsible with Gambier Parry for supervising P.W.E. communications, there would be no position.

In the 1942 reorganisations a three man committee had been set up to investigate the existing P.W.E. structure and they decided in favour of the regionalisation principle. Each area would be concentrated under a specific director and his would be the responsibility for all the propaganda work relating to that region. The B.B.C. Intelligence Section and the B.B.C. Overseas Research Unit were therefore to be disbanded with suitable people from each transferred to P.W.E. The B.B.C. proved unenthusiastic, however and so although the ‘regionalisation’ aspect still stood, for the needs of the B.B.C. a Central P.W.E. Intelligence Unit was to be formed in London, staffed mainly by B.B.C. personnel. Yet with the arrangement proving somewhat unsatisfactory, the intelligence service underwent a new enquiry and amongst the changes this strengthened the intelligence staff attached to the Regional Directors and the Central Directorate and confirmed that the majority of the intelligence staff should work in London.

Seven regional directorates duly became the backbone of P.W.E., and until 1943 Richard Crossman was in charge of the most important of these Germany and Austria (originally the German Section.) The other directorates were France, Italy, Scandinavia (under T.G. Barman), the Low Countries, Balkans, Poland and Czechoslovakia, the latter two being until September 1943 under the same regional P.W.E. director. At first all the directorates, except for Germany and Austria which had their own service, relied for intelligence on the Foreign Office but eventually all acquired responsibility for their own.

As an addition to the Central Intelligence Directorate, a Central Planning Section became established. This was for the purpose of forward planning and weekly analysis of the quality of the propaganda and on August 17th 1942 Ritchie Calder was appointed as the Director of Plans and Campaigns, P.W.E., working from ‘the ducal china closet’ of Woburn Abbey. A bed-sit in the village provided his off duty accommodation.

Open propaganda was the province of the B.B.C., with the general lines of policy laid down by the central authority at weekly meetings with its own regional directors, supported by the regional information offices. In fact the B.B.C. European Service maintained a substantial degree of independence both from P.W.E. and Broadcasting House whilst for the P.W.E. Regional Directors they were allowed considerable freedom within the general structure of the policy, working closely with the corresponding regional sections of the B.B.C. which, as recounted, were housed in the same building. The Regional Directors of the Executive then submitted their weekly directives to Ivone Kirkpatrick for approval.

For the actual propaganda produced by P.W.E., reliable means and mechanisms were essential to deliver these increasing amounts over enemy territory. After some experimentation this was eventually achieved but not until after earlier bundles had caused a few adventures. One had sunk a German barge by plunging straight through the vessel whilst an unintended message from the heavens was delivered by another, which crashed straight through the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral! Conversely, if those bundles intended for the Paris area were released too early they invariably ended up in North Africa and Turkey!

In the early years of the war few aircraft could be spared for dedicated leaflet drops and in fact even during 1941 the distribution of airborne propaganda to France was limited to Operational Training Units of the R.A.F. on five British stations. Indeed, the R.A.F. were hardly keen on their postal duties, prompting P.W.E. at the end of 1941 to prepare a booklet for their benefit, stating the achievements so far. This, however, received only a tepid reception, being cooled even further by the declaration of ‘Bomber’ Harris that leaflets were just ‘pieces of bumph.’! However P.W.E. sometimes had assistance from No. 138 Squadron which, formed in late 1941 at Tempsford for S.O.E. and S.I.S. operations, shared these responsibilities with No. 161 Squadron. (One of the pilots acquired the nickname ‘Whippy’ for crash landing his Lysander in Whipsnade Zoo!)

Before other means of dissemination were found, the aircrew involved were definitely unenthusiastic about their propaganda role for, at least until April 1942, the arrangement for dropping their paper cargo involved the rear gunner leaving his position for several minutes to release the bundles. In hostile skies over enemy territory this was hardly desirable and in the first months of 1942 the average weekly air release of material, mainly Le Courier de L’Air, was under 400,000, as compared with the two million that P.W.E. required.

Then in April came a proposal to form a specific P.W.E. squadron and although this did not occur S.O.E. aircraft could sometimes be employed on special P.W.E. missions. Additionally, American help proved of great benefit and throughout the war General Fred Anderson, deputy to General Spaatz, remained sympathetic to the needs of P.W.E., often providing aircraft for propaganda use. Also he became involved in the American experiments to produce a ‘leaflet bomb,’ and the dividends reaped following its perfection well justified the effort. A laminated paper cylinder formed the structure of the first successful example, blown apart at a predetermined height by a fuse.

In America, Professor J.W. Wheeler-Bennett was a member of the P.W.E. New York office whilst being given the title of ‘Head of the Political Mission,’ from 1942 until 1944 David Bowes Lyon was the representative in Washington of P.W.E., which kept the Americans well briefed. Indeed, to discuss matters of common interest from mid 1942 representatives of the American equivalent had begun weekly meetings with P.W.E. in London, and in August members then went to Woburn to study the methods of leaflet production.

About that time ‘Bomber’ Harris gave agreement for his signature to be carried on a leaflet threatening the Germans with bombing every day until they sued for peace. The wording ran on the lines of; ‘We are bombing Germany, city by city in order to make it impossible for you to go on with this war. Let the Nazis drag you down to disaster with them if you will. That is for you to decide …’ but additionally, and causing P.W.E. much embarrassment, Richard Crossman made an unauthorised broadcast. Enraged, Churchill demanded an immediate enquiry and only with the greatest of difficulty was Lockhart able to prevent Crossman from being dismissed. Instead, he was severely censored for breach of procedure.

For the printing operations of P.W.E., Harold Keeble, from the Daily Express, was the kingpin and by 1943 in 10 languages 50 versions of leaflets a month were being produced at a cost of £9 million. Some were single sheet, others four colour photogravure whilst the more elaborate productions could be up to 48 page booklets. In fact P.W.E. had perfected the production of miniature magazines and books, with one example, which contained Churchill’s speeches, reduced to the size of a lady’s folded handkerchief. Apart from Le Courier de L’Air, the French material included La Revue de la Presse Libre. In other productions suitable leaflets advertised the black broadcast stations whilst fake issues of the German army news sheet, Skorpion West, were also made. Even more devious, the British took to dropping forged ration cards in 1943, causing the German authorities great confusion. Another ploy, which greatly assisted the aircrews, was the release of radar blinding ‘Window,’ printed to appear as propaganda leaflets and so disguise the true purpose.

Whenever new P.W.E. operations were planned those propaganda staff involved were ‘ticketed,’ that is formally cautioned by the security officer and given a special card. No discussion of the operation could then be held with anyone unable to produce a similar card.

As a general rule the propagandists enjoyed no formal instruction although personnel selected for field work by the P.W.E. and S.O.E. underwent some specialised training at a school near Woburn. Instructed by P.W.E. and S.O.E. officers, the course covered aspects to include intelligence, broadcasting, leaflet writing and printing, and thereby prepared the agents for their role as organisers, or active propagandists, when smuggled or dropped into occupied countries. Principally through the means of oral propaganda and the writing of leaflets, which would be printed locally, their task was to feed the clandestine press, with material from Britain being dropped for their use in containers.

Then in anticipation of D Day, during 1943 and the relevant months of 1944 large numbers of ‘political survey’ officers (later to be known as ‘propaganda intelligence officers’) underwent training at the school for their missions in the liberated countries and Germany. Having the responsibility for their safe overseas arrival, S.O.E. would supply the P.W.E. material and also maintain subsequent communications, and in fact two of the S.O.E. signal centres, linked by direct line to S.O.E. headquarters, were relatively local, being at Grendon Underwood and Poundon, and coded 53A and 53B respectively. Also a station at Bicester, 53C, operated from April until November 1944, whilst the S.O.E. radio school, teaching operators to transmit Morse code at 25 words per minute, was situated at Thame.

P.W.E. commenced their planning for D Day in October 1943 and on a vast scale the leaflet production began. Indeed, by March 1944, 265 million leaflets, primarily intended for France and Germany, had been manufactured and dropped but for Lockhart he, through a prolonged treatment for eczema, had to be absent from control at this critical time. His first affliction lasted from mid April until the end of June 1943 but then, having been cared for at an Edinburgh nursing home, 9 Ettrick Road, he suffered a reoccurrence in October and underwent subsequent treatment at another nursing home in Edinburgh, at 19 Great King Street. Returning to London in February 1944 he then discovered that his room at his club had been bombed and thus his chauffeur, McCoy, took him to the Savoy as an interim measure, until alternative accommodation could be found. He was instructed to seek a house in the country and in the form of an old world cottage, near Radlett, he duly obliged. However, on medical advice Lockhart had little choice but to relax his responsibilities and the situation with P.W.E. was compounded by the death of H.O. Lucas, the Deputy Director of Plans, soon after leaving the organisation through ill health. Ivone Kirkpatrick was now hurriedly appointed as an extra Deputy Director General and as the invasion of Europe approached this proved a most opportune move.

Just before D Day, at the P.W.E. school near Woburn courses now began for a small number of British and American officers. This included two weeks instruction in the theory of political warfare and they were to be dropped behind enemy lines and then link up with the local resistance, assisting them to drive out the enemy and so prepare a reception in the area for the Allied forces.

For their intelligence needs P.W.E. had half a million documents filed by 1944, with the German material located in three main groups. Also of great assistance was the Monitoring Service of the B.B.C. which, supplying both P.W.E. and the B.B.C. with valuable information, constantly listened to some 32 languages. From humble beginnings the operation had risen to become a vast organisation and in fact in his book ‘1984’ George Orwell based the Ministry of Truth on his observation of the B.B.C. during World War Two.

Whilst the preparations for D Day provided more than enough to occupy those in authority, domestic problems also had to be addressed and in May, Bracken consulted Lockhart about a P.W.E. burglary in the Woburn neighbourhood. The police lacked sufficient evidence to arrest the suspected chauffeur whilst in another incident a P.W.E. housemaid gave birth to an illegitimate child, allegedly fathered by a local policeman. Suitable arrangements were made for the child, the maid was bound over for two years and, as always, P.W.E. remained anonymous.

On June 4th 1944 the Regional Directors of P.W.E. were taken into confidence regarding the landings on D Day, the week before which B.B.C. translators, who were deliberately kept isolated ‘in the country,’ worked at an exhausting pace translating the proclamations of Eisenhower and the national speakers into all the Western languages. Four days before the planned invasion two printing presses and their staff came under strict security for the production of the D Day leaflets, all but two of which would be produced by P.W.E. in conjunction with the American O.W.I.

With leaflets especially targeted at the French and Belgium transport workers, German troops in the landing zone, German reserves moving up, and Polish soldiers in the German army, also printed was an ‘imminent danger’ leaflet for the French population in the operational zone, dropped on D Day an hour before the intensive bombing began. In the wake of the successful landings, two days after the invasion then came an urgent demand from the front line Divisional Commanders for leaflets so worded as to induce a German surrender. Stating the advantage of being taken prisoner, in fact P.W.E. had anticipated the need for such a document and were able to produce substantial quantities from immediate stock. Then the following day, one and a half million were dropped on front line targets by Bomber Command and of their effectiveness the P.O.W. feedback confirmed a high awareness and influence. Indeed, Allied ‘Safe Conduct Leaflets’ carried a high barter value in the German lines!

For the immediate invasion period 32 million leaflets had been prepared for distribution of all sorts. They were translated into German, French, Belgian, Dutch, Danish and Norwegian but the translation of the Eisenhower statement into all languages had priority, as also the statements of the Governments for Norway, Belgium and Holland.

Yet the Germans still had the terror of their V weapons to unleash and on June 13th 1944 the first V1 landed near Gravesend. Soon the missiles rained in at 100 a day and rather uncomfortable for Bush House was a near miss which exploded in the Aldwych, near the Air Ministry building, on June 30th. 40 members of the staff sustained minor injuries and three were serious casualties. Thus although in June 1944 ‘C’ requested the whole of Woburn Abbey and the associated accommodation for ‘other purposes,’ P.W.E., which had resisted the idea, now had a valid reason to retain their rural interests, remote from the new dangers of London.

From July 1944 the dissemination of the millions of leaflets dropped during the immediate invasion period was assisted by the introduction of a metal cylinder. This replaced the previous paper type and although P.W.E asked the R.A.F. to use the new container only at the end of the year did they agree to do so, dropping eight a day which was later increased to 400 a month. Yet even this figure was overwhelmed by the activities of the Americans who, throughout their involvement with the propaganda war, dropped three quarters of the total leaflet production.

Despite the P.W.E. headquarters having in 1942 moved to Bush House, the organisation retained the Riding School at Woburn Abbey and here the staff administered the small, clandestine broadcasting teams, known as ‘Research Units.’ These operated from a number of houses in the immediate area and, with Peter Eckersley as the consultant radio engineer to the Government and associated secret agencies, P.W.E. policy defined that each ‘R.U.’ should believe itself to be unique and so remain untainted by the ideas of others.

Thus members of the different R.U.s never met and the cars transporting them made use of a complicated series of shuttles, such that their paths would never cross. Yet the system was not without flaws and at least on one occasion broadcasters of a certain nationality overheard broadcasters of another in adjoining studios! Also contravening the secrecy, despite the governments in exile not being told about the black broadcast activities the Norwegian delegation nevertheless found out. They then demanded full control until a stiff message from the Foreign Office caused them to fall into line!

Each broadcast team normally consisted of four members under a British P.W.E. housemaster. He supplied their material, vetted the scripts and ensured that the authorised versions were recorded. However, live broadcasts could sometimes be made but they required special permission and only took place in the presence of the Regional Director whose territory was involved. ‘Needle jumping’ sometimes betrayed the impression that the recordings were live whilst for all broadcasts the dictates of security ensured that the entire output was monitored independently.

The first R.U.s had begun in May 1940 and by the end of 1942 transmissions were being made to 12 countries. From four transmitters 23 stations were broadcasting by 1943 with the propaganda personnel transported to and fro by buses with darkened windows. First transmitted on September 15th 1942, and continuing to the end of the war, one R.U. purported to be in Germany run by Father Andreas, a bearded refugee German Catholic priest. Speaking six days a week his programme was broadcast three times a day and having written the scripts he then delivered these in a Bavarian accent. His views were largely those of the German Catholic priests and the station emphasised the impossibility of serving both Christ and Hitler. The Wehrmachtsender R.U. picked up D.N.B. broadcasts on the Hellschreiber (described elsewhere) and thereby transmitted current news before this appeared in the general press. With a few false trails thrown in most of the items were true and being modelled on the genuine German Wehrmachtsenders the station recorded and played back their own music programmes. Under an agreement with General Sikorski one German R.U. transmitted news intended for Polish agents in Poland and Germany and this information they would then feed into the pseudo German clandestine newspapers.

In 1942 the B.B.C. German programmes included ‘Aus der Freien Velt’ which carried the otherwise forbidden hot jazz and swing. Introduced by Spike Hughes, at first the format took the form of gramophone record programmes, interspersed with news and short talks, but later live dance bands were introduced with Sefton Delmer as one of the commentators. In the style of Luxembourg the station carried songs performed by Lucie Mannheim, the wife of Marius Goring, who in autumn 1941 became the head of features of the programme.

By December 1942 amongst the many stations were two French R.U.s. Radio Inconnue broadcast abuse to Germans and quislings whilst, first transmitted on October 8th 1942, Radio Patrie, as a joint P.W.E./S.O.E. venture, provided a direct link with organised French resistance. This R.U. then ceased on May 9th 1943, to be replaced by a new black station, Honneur et Patrie, which relayed all the orders and directives of the Conseil de Resistance in London. Belgium operated two stations, one French and one Flemish, and these P.W.E. ran in close co-operation with the Belgian Surete. The Dutch had a single station, associated with the Dutch government, but for the total effect of the black broadcasters the whole endeavour only really came together under the direction of Sefton Delmer, when operating from the purpose built transmission centre at Milton Bryan from 1943.

In December 1944 the Admiralty began overtures to secure the service of Dallas Brooks who, with Lockhart’s reluctant agreement, duly left, to become Commandant General of the Royal Marine Corps within 15 months. Major General Alec Bishop then eventually filled the P.W.E. vacancy, before moving on to reorganise the information service of the army. With the beginnings of a collapse in German morale, in November 1944 Miss Raine of the P.W.E. Production Unit wrote to George Bernard Shaw asking permission to quote a paragraph from his ‘Everybody’s Political What’s What.’ She said she was not allowed to pay more than one guinea per thousand words but Shaw raised no objections to the Foreign Office quoting unconditionally from any of his writings.

The work of the propagandists now became increasingly effective and no doubt partly in consequence the intended massive German resistance movement never materialised. Even Goebbels had to admit ‘Enemy propaganda is beginning to have an uncomfortably noticeable effect on the German people, Anglo American leaflets are now no longer carelessly thrown aside but are read attentively; British broadcasts have a grateful audience.’ Disturbing disinformation then caused him additional worry, for the story had been sown that having copied the V2 rocket the Americans were about to launch such weapons against Germany from April 1st!

Of his own prospects Goebbels harboured little doubt, saying “I am quite prepared to put up with this description,” in reply to Eden’s statement in the Commons in March 1945 describing Ribbentrop and Goebbels as the leading war criminals. As for the solution, Vansittart, whose warning voice had been unheeded in the pre war years, considered this simply a question of the location of the gallows and the length of the rope. Not surprisingly he was hated by the Nazis for his strong anti German views, expressed in his pamphlet the ‘Black Record.’

With the European war now at an end in May 1945 discussions began regarding the treatment of people leaving, or shortly to leave, P.W.E. These included David Bowes Lyon and the most that the personnel could be given was two months pay in the form of a month’s leave and a month’s notice. Liquidation of as much of the organisation as possible duly began in June but some favoured the revival of a black propaganda organisation in Europe and the Far East, perhaps combined with S.O.E., and one holding such views was Major General Colin Gubbins, the last Commandant General of S.O.E. He urged this plan on August 3rd 1945 in a farewell letter to Lockhart who, although of a general sympathy, pointed out the difficulty of having Sefton Delmer recalled, since he now had the task of setting up a German news desk in the British Zone. He could therefore only advise that the proposal be set down in a paper.

Many of the P.W.E. regional sections for occupied countries were now closing down and on the grounds of ill health Lockhart himself resigned as Director General on August 1st 1945, asking to be released by August 31st. The details were then settled on August 16th at the Foreign Office where it was agreed that he would officially finish on September 30th, taking a month’s leave on full pay from August 31st. As Major General Bishops replacement, General Strong, once Eisenhower’s director, would now take over with, in a basic form, P.W.E. directed to continue in Europe and Asia as long as a military government existed.

As for Lockhart, in the restaurant of Bush House on August 31st he took his leave of the staff, and shaking hands and saying goodbye to all the members, some 600 people, this occupied him from 4:30 p.m. until 6 p.m.! A dinner in two private rooms then followed on the first floor of the Dorchester Hotel. Including Delmer and McLachlan many of Lockhart’s colleagues were present whilst regarding the other personalities of P.W.E., at the end of the European War Brendan Bracken went to the Admiralty and so left the organisation under the sole minister, Anthony Eden. Many of the other personnel were also now leaving P.W.E. with several senior members directed to special assignments interrogating high ranking Germans.


In line with an ambition to start a ‘genuine’ German armed forces station, at the end of 1941 Sefton Delmer began recruiting additional staff. Some time before Christmas 1942 at Frascatis, his favourite London restaurant, he and those in authority thus conceived the idea of the ‘counterfeit’ radio stations ‘Soldatensender Calais’ (Soldiers Radio Calais) and ‘Deutscher Kurzwellen-sender Atlantik’ (German Shortwave Radio Atlantic), the latter to especially assist the all out offensive against the U boats being planned by the Admiralty.

Employing many new weapons, for the purpose of the transmissions Delmer realised that a credible psychological effect could be only obtained through live broadcasts, beamed specifically at the U boats, but apart from a limited ability in an emergency live broadcasting was not yet possible. Soon, however, the required facilities would be introduced by the provision of a modern and purpose built transmitting station, constructed by the Thomas Bates Company of London and Coventry.

Building commenced in 1942 on an area of Mr. Lawson’s Grange Farm, this being a part of the Duke of Bedford’s estate and since the firm’s wages clerk had walked out on his employers, in the last month of the contract Mr. Lawson’s son conveniently filled the temporary position. Nevertheless for reasons of the prevailing security he was never allowed into the main building.

Two air raid shelters were situated directly opposite the complex and their provision became fully justified one night later in the war when a lone enemy aircraft, prowling in the skies above Woburn Abbey, lit up the darkness with incendiaries before then returning on it’s track and dropping two high explosive bombs. These narrowly missed two cottages at Battlesden but had they been released a second or so later, then the Milton Bryan station would have been definitely hit.

Completing their work at Milton Bryan, the Thomas Bates Company left to commence a new contract for the aerodrome at Thetford, in Norfolk, whilst as for the new studio, codenamed M.B., in the grounds were erected a multitude of aerials. The wooden poles for these were carted in especially by a Leighton Buzzard firm but on one occasion a fully laden cart overturned, causing much consternation!

The police quarters of the Milton Bryan studio, as seen today. In the wartime photo the police contingent are seen outside the front window, complete with Alsatian dog and stirrup pump. - Mr. S. Halliday.

As Director General of the Political Warfare Executive, on Monday, October 19th 1942 Robert Bruce Lockhart officially inspected the Milton Bryan premises together with Colonel Cole, the Home Office Inspector and Commander Willis, the Chief Constable. The studios were pronounced very fine, whilst ‘almost palatial’ was the verdict regarding the quarters for the police, who were on duty.

Through Lockhart’s agreement ‘Delmer’s Circus,’ as the outfit was termed by the white propagandists, would acquire exclusive use of the Milton Bryan studio and on February 5th 1943 he and his team duly took charge of the ultra modern ‘M.B.’ The extent encompassed some five acres of grass, tarmac and tarred paths and within this domain stood the main two storey red bricked building, the modernistic appearance of which resembled any of the contemporary spate of new factories. A caretaker’s flat was included within the premises, soundproofing tiles clad many of the rooms and the walls of a special inner sanctum had the provision of glass, one inch thick.

The wartime equipment at the Milton Bryan studio has long since been removed but several features remain, to include soundproofing tiles and electrical fittings. - David & Debra Rixon.

Three girls trained by the G.P.O. in London operated the switchboard for the telephones, the green model of the two on Delmer’s desk being a ‘scrambler.’ Enclosed by a high chain link fence, surmounted by barbed wire, the premises were constantly patrolled by a squad of uniformed special constables with the kennels for their Alsatian dogs being situated on the left of the entrance approach. With a water tank on top, the guard’s accommodation included beds for those members off duty, and storage was provided for rifles and tommy guns, since firearm practice was regularly conducted on a range in the grounds.

Heralded by a ‘shrieking’ pipe melody, recorded on a Hammond organ by a musician friend among the radio engineers, after three weeks of dry runs and rehearsals and as one of the 16 stations started in that year on March 22nd 1943 ‘Atlantiksender’ (G9) transmitted its maiden broadcast. The script gave the impression that this was not the first broadcast and soon the enemy jammers were on. Therefore Delmer now suggested that the ultra powerful ‘Aspidistra,’ equipped with 8 transmission lines, should be used to transmit Atlantiksender on medium wave.

‘Get off my Aspidistra!’
For special duties in connection with Aspidistra, the high power radio transmitter (named after a popular contemporary song by Gracie Fields, The Biggest Aspidistra in the World) Air Commodore Blandy was seconded to P.W.E. However, as head of S.I.S. communications Richard Gambier Parry did much to thwart his active involvement and in this sketch, by Squadron Leader Edward Halliday, who was in charge of the administration of the Milton Bryan site, Harold Robin also seems to display a certain bias, by telling him to “get off my Aspidistra!” - Mr. S. Halliday.

Aspidistra was an ultra powerful transmitter which had been purchased from America and with all haste preparations to have the facility in operation began. However, such urgency had once seemed lacking, with both Delmer and Crossman having expressed their increasing impatience with Leeper, who by August 1942 had still lacked any decision regarding the use of the transmitter. The following month Churchill then asked when transmissions might begin - ‘… repeat every three days the day it is expected to be ready to function …’ and in reply Lockhart gave the date of October 15th. That month the first full power tests were indeed carried out but the omission of an earth pin caused the sensation of a live arc! Tests from receptive areas next began and by the end of the month the three masted installation was ready. Linked to the facility by a direct line, Milton Bryan would eventually acquire the exclusive use with, in opposition to Bracken, Lockhart succeeding in obtaining S.I.S. engineers for the operation instead of B.B.C. personnel. Apart from the news, Atlantiksender predominantly played American jazz with ‘a German flavour’ and many of the popular German records of the day were specially flown to Britain by R.A.F. Mosquito aircraft from Stockholm, for use at Milton Bryan. Initially the Atlantiksender operation had been made with the assistance of the team from ‘The Rookery,’ Aspley Guise, but soon extra houses of the village had to be requisitioned for the new staff arriving and in fact German nationals would occupy seven of the immediate premises!

Head of the technical side of the Secret Intelligence Service communications.
Born in 1911 in Streatham, South London, he attended the technically oriented Oundle public school and after studying at the City and Guilds Institute joined the Standard Telephone Company, concentrating on adapting the design of American radios for British manufacture. He moved to the American firm of Philco in 1936 where the British sales manager, Richard Gambier Parry, would later recruit him for wartime duties with the Secret Intelligence Service. - Mr. S. Halliday.

Milton Bryan studio was designed by Squadron Leader Edward Halliday, an architect and talented artist. He was responsible for the day to day administration and in this group, taken within the grounds, is seen on the left. - Mr. S. Halliday.

Contributing to the station, and some even broadcasting, were German refugees and P.O.W.s. They had been selected after a careful screening and with ten different announcers and six comperes to introduce the music the personnel also included at least ten petty officers from the U boat branch of the Kriegsmarine, who knew the latest U boat jargon and details of the U boat bases. For the British there were also new staff. Clifton Child, a young education officer from Manchester, became chief intelligence expert, and C.F. Stevens, an Oxford Ancient History don, also joined. His had been the idea for the B.B.C. to transmit the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth as the Morse letter ‘V’ for Victory and together with Max Braun and a team of graduate girl researchers he and Child headed a first rate intelligence group, with much of the Atlantiksender material finding an eventual way into the free world newspapers.

Of the other ‘black’ stations, one purported to be run by anti Nazi electronic engineers employed on the manufacture of radio transmitters in the Siemens factory. Their programmes began with Lili Marlene as a call sign and with the broadcasts emphasising numerous grievances in German factories instructions for sabotage would then follow!

Eventually Delmer came to direct a staff of around 100 and by May 1943 had been promoted to the title of Director of Special Operations against the Enemy and Satellites. Now the heads and servicing personnel of all the Enemy and Satellite R.U.s were moved into the Milton Bryan compound where on Lockhart’s authority new ‘pre-fab’ barracks had been erected to house the associated intelligence teams, editorial writers, speakers and secretaries. These dealt with Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and, as the primary concern, also Italy, regarding the personnel of which in February 1942 Sir Guy Williams, Overseas Establishment Officer, had made efforts to identify potential candidates amongst Italians in a Pioneer Corps at Maidenhead.

Of the black Italian stations duly set up the most important became Radio Livorno (Leghorn). As a counterfeit of the German sponsored ‘Radio of the Italian Fascist Republic’ this first broadcast on July 25th 1943 and with the aim to ‘encourage’ the surrender of the Italian navy was supposedly run by an Italian naval officer and a naval wireless operator from the radio cabin of an Italian warship, moored in the port of the station’s name. The station gave the nightly impression of transmitting to other ships on behalf of the Italian Resistance and broadcasts were so themed as to prevent any action by Resistance members unless cleared through the station. The implication was made that negotiations to liberate the Italian navy from German command were being conducted with the Allies, and on September 10th 1943 following Italy’s unconditional collapse Radio Livorno became the instrument by which the order to sail was given. From Spezia and Genoa the Italian battle fleet then set forth to surrender to Admiral Cunningham at Malta! As another instance of a black propaganda success, after bombing by the Allies the fortified Italian island of Pantelleria capitulated to a Milton Bryan propaganda attack and for this achievement President Eisenhower publicly congratulated the director of the Italian section. Thereon Pantelleria became an unsinkable aircraft carrier, that provided a forward base for the coming assaults on Sicily and Italy.

Assisted from time to time by American black propaganda contributions from the O.S.S., ‘Soldatensender Calais’ (Soldiers Radio Calais) began broadcasts from October 24th 1943 and despite arguments with the B.B.C., who were then using the transmitter to reinforce their European service, from November 14th 1943 Delmer gained permission to use Aspidistra between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. for Soldatensender, linked with short wave Atlantiksender. In January of the following year the programme was then allotted an extra hour and until the end of the war, commencing with a German march, the station transmitted every night at 6 p.m. on a frequency very close to Radio Deutschland. In a crisp German voice the announcer would declare “Here is Soldiers Radio Calais, broadcasting on wave bands 360 metres 410 and 492 metres together with the German shortwave Radio Atlantic, on wave bands 30.7 and 48.3. We bring music and news for comrades in the command areas West.” Even Goebbels had to admit the effectiveness of the station, confiding in his diary on November 28th 1943; ‘In the evening the so called ‘Soldatensender Calais,’which evidently originates in England and uses the same wavelengths as Radio Deutschland - when the latter is out during their air raids - gave us something to worry about. The station does a very clever job of propaganda, and from what is put on the air one can gather that the English know exactly what they have destroyed in Berlin and what they have not.’

Captain Molly Fitz Patrick and her ‘ricketty’ spotty dog. - Mr. S. Halliday.

For an early effect, and to appeal to the general soldiery, Delmer’s scripts for the black stations were often basic and earthy and indeed upon reading one such example the prim Socialist politician, Stafford Cripps, immediately complained to Eden; ‘if this is the sort of thing needed to win the war, I’d rather lose it.’ However, saying “I want him back in the work he is doing,” Leeper leapt to Delmer’s defence and so the station continued uninterrupted to include, assisted by the authoress, Joe Lederer, a programme especially intended for German women. As for an additional female presence, an Irish girl, Captain Molly Fitz Patrick, held charge of a group of German officers working at the compound.

Pretending to broadcast from behind the Eastern Front, one of the most fascinating of the black propaganda stations was that supposedly operated by an anti Hitler group of the Waffen S.S.! Irregularly, this would transmit from December 11th 1943 until the end of the war and indeed the speaker was an officer deserter of the Waffen S.S., Obersturmfuhrer Zech-Nenntwich. Locally he was known as Herr Nansen but was so distrusted by Delmer that he never actually set foot in the M.B. compound. Nevertheless he could see this from his quarters at Paris House, where a fellow officer monitored his movements. For companionship Delmer additionally installed a German diplomat friend, Wolfgang von Putlitz. He, now being out of touch with contemporary Germany, could otherwise contribute little to the black broadcast operation but whilst at Paris House in the course of general conversation he revealed the nature and operation of the Milton Bryan facility and after the war, confirming Delmer’s reservations, the officer turned informer against those who had been active in the secret broadcasting.

In his programmes the S.S. officer declared that an anti Hitler group existed within the S.S. cavalry. This he claimed was lead by Eva Braun’s brother in law to whom he had been adjutant and therefore second in command. Through his underground activity ‘Herr Nansen’ had assisted the Polish resistance in freeing their members from S.S. prisons and pretending them to be agents of the S.D. he also became involved in smuggling Poles to Sweden. When suspicions began to mount the S.S. group then enabled his escape and smuggling him to Sweden the Poles arranged his introduction in Stockholm to British intelligence, who flew him to Britain.

At Milton Bryan a typical day involved Delmer beginning work at 9:30 a.m. in his office, where he would read the latest batch of Foreign Office telegrams and S.I.S. reports. The actual management of the compound he left to others. Then at 10:45 a.m. the team assembled for an editorial conference in the central operations room. This continued until around 2 p.m. with the afternoon taken up with the preparation of the news and the writing of talks. Bilingual in English and German, Tom’s deputy, a newspaper correspondent in Berlin before the war, was Karl Robson, a Major from the War Office. He would edit the material for transmission and this included those items supplied by the chief news writers - Albrecht Ernst, a friend of Delmer’s from Spanish Civil War days, Hans Gutmann, a one time Berlin art dealer and Dr. Albert, a former press attaché of the Austrian Legation who, when Hitler came to power, had remained in Britain. Alex Maas, a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, occupied the position as chief ‘disc jockey,’ having joined Delmer’s team with his wife, Margit, in January 1942. In fact their journey had been quite an adventure for at Delmer’s request they had been intercepted by S.O.E. in Bermuda whilst en route to Mexico! A broadcaster by employment, Maas had left Germany in March 1933 to enlist in the International Brigade and it was around the time that he was wounded in 1936 that Delmer made his acquaintance. Interned in 1940, Alex managed to escape to Marseilles and thence almost to Mexico.

Milton Bryan soon became a powerhouse of intelligence gathering. The debrief of R.A.F. crews provided a regular estimate of the damage to German cities and supportive evidence came from aerial photographs which, rushed to M.B. by despatch rider, were analysed by a special section in Child’s team. A radio monitoring service also existed and even a direct line to the Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre.

As the fame of Delmer’s operation grew, so more and more visitors, British and American, asked to be shown over the premises with its record library, newspaper and radio newsrooms, intelligence files and studios. In fact records were specially made at M.B. by the German equivalent of the E.N.S.A. band, conducted by Henry Zeisel. The members had been captured in North Africa by the Eighth Army and had then been sent to Britain. With their recordings made in the Albert Hall, the band of the Royal Marines also assisted M.B. as did Marlene Dietrich in the United States. However, she was kept in ignorance of their use on black stations! Indeed all the M.B. programmes found a ready audience and even Himmler was compelled to admit “we have forbidden listening-in to enemy stations, but we have not been able to punish all who have listened.”

Apart from the usual transmissions of black propaganda, from the end of 1943 M.B. also became adept, via Aspidistra, at wreaking havoc with the Luftwaffe air operations, not least since a number of the M.B. personnel had been involved with the genuine service. German ground control instructions would be recorded one night and then re-transmitted a night or so later, whereby the enemy fighters would be sent all over the night skies! In a reciprocal move, when requested by Milton Bryan the R.A.F. bomber formations would steer towards a given German city whose radio station, so as to not become a homing beacon for the hostile aircraft, would go off the air. When this happened ‘alternative’ broadcasters at M.B. would immediately take over the station via Aspidistra and begin transmitting all manner of instructions to the inhabitants, who had no reason to disbelieve them! Before the war, in Britain the danger of radio stations being used as homing beacons had been foreseen and as a result eventually 60 low power transmitters, in populous areas, were established. Thus by this means aircraft would have to be very close to find the facility useful.

Including some 40 German prisoners of war, by March 1944 Delmer held charge of around 100 ‘collaborators,’ some of whom had a penchant for sunbathing in the nude on the roof of the building. As for accommodation, at The Holt, Aspley Guise, 16 individuals were accommodated with 12 in dormitories at Dawn Edge.

In preparation for the Allied invasion of Europe many and various were the plans now being prepared and for his role in ‘Operation Overlord’ Delmer acquired the use of an office on the top floor of the P.W.E. London headquarters in Bush House, being appointed Director of Special Operations in the following month. As to where the thrust of the invasion might be expected the extensive laying of false trails now began and in their contribution in round the clock broadcasting the propagandists put out such stories as only those German units deemed smart and efficient were being transferred to the Eastern front. Sloppiness was thereby encouraged in the designated landings area! Other stories dwelt upon American ‘wonder weapons.’ Yet of the radio transmissions certain political persons seemed not to have fully grasped the urgency or the importance, for in May 1944 Bracken was quite willing for the Americans to be handed Aspidistra for an entertainment of the forces programme! Lockhart vehemently protested.

In anticipation of the Allied invasion, to be dropped by air the first Allied daily newspaper aimed literally at the German forces was launched. This was ‘Nachrichten fur die Truppe’ and the idea had been that of Sefton Delmer who superintended the editorial content, wrote much of the material and inspired the staff. Being an Anglo American venture, the American members of the team had been recruited, indeed raided, by John Elliott from advertising agencies, newspaper, magazine and broadcast offices across the United States and after arriving in Britain were they accommodated under Delmer’s control with the other members in speedily erected huts in the M.B. compound. Here every night they put the paper together from the news and talks of Soldatensender, which they sub-edited and rewrote for print. Under the supervision of Harold Keeble, who would later become features editor of the Daily Mirror Group, the layout of the paper was made at Marylands, near Woburn, and complete with illustrations Nachrichten fur die Truppe brought up to date information regarding the war to the German troops, who otherwise had only the carefully censored news output from their own authorities. For added interest and appeal the content featured sports results and even pin ups!

The whole operation had begun early in March 1944 and after many experiments a test issue was made for the Luton News (Home Counties Newspapers) to print in April. With the initial run totalling 200,000 single sheet copies, consisting of two 13" x 9" pages the first edition appeared on April 25th and from the publishing bench the tied bales were then transported the 2½ miles to the associate firm of Leagrave Press, also based in Luton, for final preparation. They were then loaded into leaflet bombs and transported by men of the Night Leaflet Squadron to the relevant airfield for dissemination that night.

On June 6th 1944 - D Day - the German news agency put out an urgent newsflash concerning the Invasion and with this having been picked up in the M.B. newsroom by the Hellscreiber a subsequent broadcast was made on Soldatensender, embellished with a little more ‘information.’ Delmer drove hurriedly to Marylands for the new front page of ‘Nachrichten fur die Truppe’ and that day production peaked at a million copies, the security having been such that the process workers, who had come in at 3:30 a.m., were locked inside the building to prevent any details being inadvertently released. By 10 a.m. they were running off the D Day story with full details and thereon 800,000 copies a day became the print run of the four page newspaper.

In the aftermath of the Invasion on July 20th 1944 the Hellschreiber suddenly intercepted a report concerning a plot against Hitler and immediately the intelligence teams began to implicate as many of the German Wehrmacht as possible! Even Goebbels seemed a little restrained in his sympathy, for with scant regard for diplomacy his was the comment that “it takes a bomb under his arse to make Hitler see reason.” With two failed attempts behind them (on one occasion a faulty detonator had prevented the destruction of the Fuehrer’s aircraft) the principle conspirators had been a group in the Army General Staff who, through Colonel Klaus Schenk Baron von Stauffenburg, the Chief of Staff of the Replacement Army, had access to Hitler’s briefing conferences. He had planted the bomb under the conference table at Hitler’s H.Q., at Rastenburg, Eastern Prussia, and although the dictator escaped assassination the conspirators nevertheless went ahead and announced his death, hoping that in the widespread confusion their bluff might succeed. Indeed this could well have been the case, had not at the critical moment a crack regiment of guards been ordered to cordon off the Ministries of the Reich and so effectively imprison the Government. Having suspicions the guard commander, as a loyal and robotic Nazi, first contacted Goebbels who then hurriedly arranged for Hitler to prove his survival by telephoning the commander direct. From thereon the revolt was doomed and ruthlessly suppressed.

All through the night Goebbels and Himmler cross examined the generals who had been arrested and those condemned were hanged from meat hooks. However the film made of this gruesome spectacle provoked such a hostile reaction, when shown to the Wehrmacht as an example, that it had to be withdrawn.

In the wake of the plot 7,000 suspects were arrested by the Gestapo and 4,980 are said to have been killed, including the brother of the only survivor of this ‘Generals Conspiracy’ to escape abroad. He was Otto John, who having advised the Allies of the various attempts to assassinate Hitler and of the Peenemunde secret would eventually find himself directed to Milton Bryan. Otto had been in the War Office building in Bendlerstrasse, Berlin, when the bomb exploded and narrowly escaping the Gestapo by virtue of his Lufthansa employment he managed to board a plane for Madrid on Monday, July 24th. Via a friend, arrangements to have him passed on to London were made by the British Secret Service but since this could not be for awhile in the hope of remaining unrecognised he dyed his fair hair black. After a few weeks he was then spirited to the British Embassy in Lisbon and thence to a hideout. Knowing him to be in Portugal the Gestapo made attempts for his extradition but these were continually frustrated by the Portuguese Government and eventually taking control the British Embassy arranged a flight to Gibraltar.

Yet although on the first attempt the weather conditions were so bad that the aircraft had to return to Lisbon, on the following night a successful passage by flying boat to Poole was made. The Secret Service then conveyed him to the Chelsea Oratory in London, where enemy nationals were screened. After two weeks of questioning he was then taken to an interrogation room where ‘a corpulent gentleman in mufti’ began sounding out his agreement to work for British propaganda. That gentleman was Sefton Delmer and after being released in December 1944 Otto was given an I.D. card in the name of his new identity, ‘Oskar Jurgens.’

With a woman driver at the wheel he was duly conveyed in a military car to ‘a house in the country,’ arriving in the evening ‘at the great gates of a park full of ancient trees.’ Here a blonde girl in uniform directed the driver to an iron grille, behind which a half open door lead into a guard room where men could be seen in uniform with sub machine guns. A policeman having come to the car and identified the guide the journey then continued, to end with the vehicle stopping after a short distance in front of ‘a hermetically blacked-out building.’

The uniformed girl asked Otto to alight and he obediently followed her through a dark entrance and thence along a brilliantly lit corridor to a door, above which glowed a red light. At the acknowledgment of her knock the girl then opened the door and Otto entered alone to find Delmer seated behind a large desk spread across with telephones, dictaphones and papers. Apologising to his new recruit for the enforced stay in the interim camp, Delmer then explained that this had been caused by his prolonged duties at Allied H.Q. in France.

Sworn to secrecy, and signing a pledge to this effect, a suitably awed Otto was then told he was in the offices of the Soldatensender Calais but being busy with the evening broadcast Delmer said he would more fully discuss the station over breakfast the next morning at his house, The Rookery, Aspley Guise. Here Otto was to be accommodated and in accordance the blonde lead him from the building and back to the car. This she then directed through the local countryside to the spacious house where, after being welcomed by Delmer’s housekeeper, Mrs. Maddy, he was shown into the living room to meet some of the black broadcast occupants.

Issued by Delmer’s secretary with a Certificate of Registration, which as Oskar Jurgens entitled him to work and travel in Britain without reporting to the police, on his first day he signed the ubiquitous official paperwork and began to settle in, having been granted free board and lodging plus an income of £12 a week. For employment he was now assigned as an assistant to Clifton Child, in the task of sifting and evaluating all the intelligence supplied by the many and various sources, but regarding broadcasting this by an official British directive Delmer could not allow him do. Therefore apart from intelligence sifting he occupied his days exploring the station and becoming familiar with the files.

By now the need to bring the war to a close had become paramount and in the early autumn of 1944 S.O.E. considered launching a commando raid on Hitler’s headquarters, intending to assassinate him and Himmler. In the event the scheme was called off but nevertheless a vast amount of associated intelligence had been gathered, all of which at this crucial time was directed to M.B. Thus when subsequently transmitted in news reports the information was so detailed that Hitler became convinced of spies at his headquarters and ordered Goebbels to track them down!

At this period a new black broadcast station had been started whilst as for Nachricten fur de Truppe the daily production was again nearing one million as the Allies pushed on to the Rhine. The last issue, no. 381, rolled off the press on May 7th 1945, the day of the German surrender, and in the Maryland’s print shop a celebratory party given by Harold Keeble was enlivened by John Gibbs of the Luton News, who joined the festivities clad in a suit of Nachrichten front pages printed onto the cloth! On the Luton presses 159,898,973 copies of the paper had been produced and on April 8th John Gibbs was sent a letter of appreciation by Harold Keeble. On the following Tuesday it was then announced that a new enterprise was to commence in conjunction with S.H.A.E.F. This was to be subtitled ‘The Official Organ of the Supreme Allied Command’ and having his sanction Eisenhower believed that this production would play an important role during the period of German chaos and collapse.

Following the fall of Calais in August 1944 Soldatensender West, as Soldatensender Calais had been called, finally disappeared from the airwaves on April 14th 1945. Having shaved off his beard, Delmer threw a party in the M.B. canteen and for the first time the security was sufficiently relaxed to allow the staffs of M.B. and Marylands to mix and visit. Now Delmer and a section of his staff would go to London to prepare for new duties reconstructing the press and radio in the British Occupied Zone.

On September 4th 2002 a ceremony to unveil a commemorative plaque at the Milton Bryan studio took place.
From left to right. Lord Howland (now the Duke of Bedford,) - Ingram Murray, John Taylor.

Covered by local television and radio, the ceremony included authentic vehicles and a ‘N.A.A.F.I. tent,’ kindly organised by the local Scouts Association.

With the activities of the Milton Bryan complex now at a close, in due course the Post Office collected the multitude of surplus telephones and for a while the premises became a camp for members of U boat crews, unable to be repatriated by the division of Germany. Later, because of the local green belt policy various intentions to employ the building in a light industrial use met with no success and today the premises are somewhat derelict. Due to the amount of asbestos the boiler annexed to the main building was demolished although with the doors now painted green the wartime garage, built to house the fire equipment, still remains. Presently the site of the station is leased to the Scout Association as a camping area, being used by the Ampthill and Woburn District.


At the end of the war, along with thousands of other personnel those involved with the secret operations of the local area began the search for peacetime employment. Eden remained Foreign Secretary until the Conservative defeat in 1945 and would again occupy this office from 1951 until 1955, before attaining a position that he had long desired, that of Prime Minister. However, this ambition was only to be fulfilled for a short while, ending in the Suez crisis of 1956.

Ivone Kirkpatrick, who at one time had been nominated as a successor to ‘C’, head of S.I.S., eventually became British High Commissioner in Bonn whilst one of the original announcers from the wartime operation at Milton Bryan, Freiherr von Guttenberg, gained the position as State Secretary in the Federal Chancellery of that city. Further away Dallas Brooks would become Governor General of Victoria in his native Australia. As for the Americans, William Bundy, who had been head of watch in Hut 6 at Bletchley Park, became an Assistant Secretary of State in the United States.

Apart from Eden, of the other political personalities Hugh Dalton became the new Chancellor of the Exchequer whilst Bracken, his arch antagonist from the propaganda days, lost his Parliamentary seat and consequently regarded the electorate as ‘like mules, no pride of ancestry and no hope of posterity.’ Perhaps one of the final observations of Goebbels might have proved some consolation; ‘The British do not treat their war leaders with much gratitude.’

As for Gaitskell, who had occasionally lived in the local area during his wartime employment, possibly through overwork he suffered mild heart trouble during the spring of 1945 (the year he became elected M.P. for South Leeds) but recovered to be appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power by Clement Attlee. He then became the Minister two years later.

P.W.E. was liquidated as soon and as quickly as possible after the war and by August 1945 the offices at Bush House were practically deserted. Then partly as an opportunity to reminisce upon past times on February 22nd 1946 Robert Bruce Lockhart entertained Hugh Dalton to lunch at the Carlton Grill, during which the writing of the story of P.W.E. came under discussion. Such a history, Dalton thought, ‘should be impersonal and not too long,’ and in the event it was written by David Garnett. After his role in P.W.E., for many years Lockhart filled the position as the diarist ‘Atticus’ on the Sunday Times and gained supplementary income from freelance writing. As for Woburn Abbey, which had been an early home for the propaganda department, now in poor condition plans for a reconstruction became paramount. The 12th Duke of Bedford, Hastings, thus engaged the eminent Professor Richardson to draw up plans and the east front, riddled with dry rot, became an early candidate for demolition. For the same reason the same fate befell the Riding School in 1949.

If success in the war against fascism had now been achieved, that to be secretly waged against the Communists would long continue. Even Goebbels had feared for those countries to fall under Communist rule and of the Soviets he voiced the apt opinion that having once occupied a country “they let fall an iron curtain so that they can carry on their fearful bloody work behind it.” Such would shortly be proved with the experience of Czechoslovakia.

On February 17th 1946, Lockhart, as the British Representative to the displaced government, travelled for Aston Abbots and there bid Benes, the exiled Czech President, farewell. Now preparing for his return Benes would regain his position in the restored republic but being in such a close proximity to the Soviet Union he prudently first travelled to Moscow, to gain prior sanction from the Kremlin for his governmental plans. However, a coup d’etat had purged the government of non Communist members in February 1948 and with the country being aligned to Soviet policy Benes resigned. He died in September but another who had shared his Aston Abbots exile met his end in an altogether more mysterious circumstance.

For the free world, in the immediate post war period the use of known Communists to assist in the de-Nazification process would prove a severe own goal for the intelligence services. With obvious access to personal files the Communists had ample opportunity to blackmail ex Nazis, infiltrate them into Western intelligence, and so lay down a fundamental network of espionage. This is exactly what happened and if any consolation could be gained from the knowledge that Blunt had ceased spying far the Russians in 1945, this was more than outweighed by the fact that during 1944 Philby had managed to intrigue against his boss and take over Section Nine, a new department especially established for the post war penetration of Soviet intelligence!

Goebbels had been well aware of the Soviet peril and musing upon the rise of industrial unrest in England towards the end of the war he was sufficiently perceptive to state, “One does not have to look far to detect political reasons behind these strikes. The Kremlin is taking a hand in the game.”

Yet the gift of an early opportunity to curtail the extent of Soviet penetration was lost in August 1945, when Philby became aware of attempts by a Russian defector, of seven years standing in the British department of the K.G.B. headquarters in Moscow, to alert the British authorities of a Soviet spy ring, operating within British intelligence. The agent warned that no communication with Moscow should be made since the Soviets could read the Foreign Office ciphers, in the transmissions of which Hanslope Park was involved, and he was consequently told to put his revelations in writing. However, Philby quickly became aware and having alerted his Soviet controller the agent was seized, strapped to a stretcher and taken to Moscow. Nothing further was done about the list whilst as for Philby that year in recognition of his services to intelligence the British awarded him the O.B.E.!

Having divorced his first wife, the following year on September 25th at Chelsea Register Office he married Aileen. She had changed her name by deed poll and the ceremony was pursuant to her wish for them to be properly wed. In January of the following year Philby then handed over the Soviet counter espionage section of S.I.S. to Brigadier Douglas Maxwell and went to Turkey, on his first tour of active duty in the field.

Kim Philby.

Ironically, Aileen’s former colleagues from Bletchley Park, who were now working at Eastcote, were beginning to decipher fragments of Soviet intelligence regarding the codename ‘Homer’ and this gave the first indications of the ‘Ring of Five,’ as the K.G.B. termed their prize pre war university recruits. In 1951 the hurried defection of Burgess and ‘Homer,’ who in reality was Maclean, confirmed the fears of Soviet penetration and now suspicions began to centre on Philby. Aileen became increasingly depressed by both these insinuations and the subsequent attention and with the marriage starting to founder in 1956 Philby abandoned her, showing callous disregard when she was found dead in the house at Crowborough which, in the hope of a reconciliation, she had still maintained.

Now Philby’s patriotic pretence could no longer be sustained and ‘advised’ of Philby’s Communist tendency, Lord Victor Rothschild, a distinguished scientist who had worked in military intelligence and knew Burgess and Philby from university days, arranged a meeting with the informant and also a security official. Thereon Philby’s guilt was sealed and in 1963 a Russian freighter spirited him away to the Communist homeland. Yet although he had been dismissed from the Secret Service his consequent compensation of £4,000 aroused the immediate suspicion of the Russians and they now urgently sought some means by which to probe his Communist loyalties. Otto John, the ‘Generals Conspiracy’ survivor, and wartime ‘guest’ of the Milton Bryan propaganda station, would then provide that very opportunity, in an episode perhaps more amazing than any other in his James Bond styled life.

At the end of the war, with Sefton Delmer now concerned with other duties Otto had remained at the Rookery under the care of Mrs. Maddy and having instructions to stay where he was, until London decreed otherwise, he partially countered the inactivity by borrowing Mrs, Maddy’s bicycle and exploring the local countryside. Then, admitting that Otto’s presence had almost been forgotten, Commander Donald McLachlan called at the Rookery in early July with orders for Otto to attend an interview in London. This was regarding a German Austrian division of the Foreign Office which, to be set up in Bush House, London, was intended to establish the theory of the re-education of the population in the British occupied zones. Otto was asked to join and with accommodation arranged in London he was provided with the use of an office on the sixth floor of Bush House. Left very much to his own devices his attention soon turned to the type of material to be published in the British Zone of Germany and accordingly arrangements were made for him to acquire the status of ‘British War Reporter’ and travel by air to Germany, there to gain experience and impressions for the process of reconstruction.

Being associated with the de-Nazification programme Otto’s later duties involved interrogating high ranking German officers in P.O.W. camps and then in December 1950 he was appointed Head of the Federal Internal Security Office in West Germany. With a staff of around fifty he worked from an office in a block of flats in the ruins of Cologne, with the objective being to investigate extremist intrigues against the state. However, as Otto would soon discover, the timing proved most inopportune for in that very year the Soviets infiltrated a former S.S. officer, Heinz Felfe, into German intelligence. Thus from thereon they were able to monitor the entire Western network of agents in the Russian occupied zone.

With such an overview the Soviets made plans for a mass arrest of the Western agents and to ensure that the cover of their invaluable source was not compromised they engineered a suitable ‘incident’ to explain how they had obtained the knowledge. That incident would be set up by the K.G.B. and involve the unwitting Otto.

On July 20th 1954, Otto was drugged by whom he thought was a trusted friend from his wartime conspiracy days, but who was now in fact a K.G.B. agent. On regaining consciousness Otto then found himself on the sofa of a K.G.B. house in East Berlin and being coerced into making a statement over East Berlin radio he was given instructions to apply for political asylum to the East German Government. After unwittingly consuming drugged food the next sensational episode involved him in an anti German performance at a rehearsed press conference, after which he was transferred to a dacha in the woods outside Moscow. It was thus during his Soviet stay that Otto realised the true and incredulous extent of the K.G.B. penetration, when shown copies, barely two weeks old, of the most secret reports from his own West German department.

Suspecting Otto to have links with British intelligence, and of perhaps being a British agent, the course of the Soviet interrogation now concentrated on his supposed knowledge of Philby, whose loyalty, in view of the huge compensation payout, they had come to suspect. Only when no mention of Philby came forth during Otto’s intense, if oblique, questioning, did they then become convinced of his conviction.

Under guard, by January 1955 Otto was back in East Berlin, occupying an office 500 yards from the Brandenburg Gate. However, on the pretence of visiting a university professor he managed to shake off his ‘minders’ and eventually reached West Berlin in a car driven by a friend. Yet his reception proved anything but welcome and charged with treason on December 22nd 1956 his trial by the German High Court sentenced him to four years hard labour. Not until July 28th 1958 would he be released.

Despite all the despondency of betrayals and Soviet infiltration, Western intelligence still sometimes had the occasional triumph as when a Soviet professor of aeronautics, from an Air Force Academy, fled to Britain and, later rising to the chair of aerodynamics at a British university, gained a post at the Aeronautical College at Cranfield. In fact it was just as well that he passed the security vetting for it was at Cranfield, once the home of the Empire Test Pilots School, that the prototype of the Handley Page Victor, Britain’s highly secret ‘V’ bomber, crashed through failure of the tail unit in 1954.

During the following decade certain figures in the Labour party would come under scrutiny for alleged links with the Communist regime, but the Communists certainly held little affection for the democratic socialist Hugh Gaitskell, who in 1961 opened the newly built Labour Hall in Bletchley. Widely tipped to be the next Labour Prime Minister he died unexpectedly on Friday, January 18th 1963 at Middlesex hospital, London, and the suspicions of Soviet involvement were heightened following the MI5 debriefing of the K.G.B. defector, Golitsin, who stated that, from the chief of the North European Section, he had heard of a plan to murder ‘a leader of an opposition party’ in his area.

Indeed, at the invitation of Kruschev, Gaitskell had visited the Russian consulate for a visa, prior to a projected trip to Moscow, and although on time for his appointment he had been kept waiting for half an hour, being fortified during this unscheduled delay by coffee and biscuits. Subsequently he became ill and one of the doctors attending him became so puzzled by the symptoms that be contacted the police to report the disease, which in temperate climates caused only three cases a year. The police were also suspicious and contacted MI5, who duly learned from American intelligence that the Soviets had indeed perfected a drug which exactly reproduced the symptoms. As for the official statement by the hospital secretary, this read; ‘Mr. Gaitskell’s heart condition deteriorated suddenly and he died peacefully.’ It was later stated that the cause was an unusual fulminating form of lupus erythematosis, a rare disease of the tissues, but whatever the truth in the Labour party’s leftist swing Gaitskell’s demise was of no disadvantage to the Communists.

Gaitskell was succeeded as leader of the Labour party by Harold Wilson, who against the wishes of the intelligence service authorised the revelation of the wartime code breaking at Bletchley Park. As for the Bletchley Park spy John Cairncross, once the treachery of Anthony Blunt had been exposed to MI5, Blunt had no reserve about pointing the finger at him. In fact Cairncross escaped full exposure until 1981 when, whilst lecturing in the United States, he made a full statement during an interview. Following this his visa was refused and he travelled to Rome.

As for more lately intelligence activities, for the Americans the north section of Cheddington airfield was used in 1975 by a unit of the C.I.A. in Operation ‘Nine Alpha’ whilst until very recently (1993) the British maintained an intelligence post at Bletchley Park. Hanslope Park (1993) remains a communications centre for the Foreign Office and at Milton Bryan the radio propaganda station may still be seen although in a dilapidated condition. After the war the complex became a centre for displaced persons, occupying dormitories in some of the prefab huts, but today the lease of the site is held by the Scouts. However, examples of the work carried out there during the dire days of World War Two may be seen at the Imperial War Museum.

At the end of the war, to include items manufactured by the Marconi company a display of contemporary airborne radar was presented at the Community Hall of George Street, Bletchley. In fact in recent times this association with Marconi equipment has been continued for at the beginning of the 1980s in a move from their Borehamwood site Marconi Avionics transferred a part of their ‘Foxhunter’ radar development to a complex at Milton Keynes, which had been recently vacated by Rank Xerox. With shades of Bletchley Park the buildings consisted mainly of temporary ‘huts’ although one notable exception was a giant ‘air bag,’ kept inflated by compressors, which served as the canteen. From here during the early days of the operation, and having just joined the Company, I well remember purchasing four dozen plastic vending cups for use as component ‘storage’ bins, in advance of the required facilities being available!

Milton Keynes Gazette August 19th 1983



Tornado air defence fighter, has now been delivered by Marconi Avionics Limited. Produced by the company's Airborne Radar Systems Division at Milton Keynes, it is the first of the initial batch of 20 radars for delivery to the Ministry of Defence.

A124. as the new Marconi by the Royal Air Force, is combat radar will be known by the Royal Air Force, is the first 'pulse doppler' air combat radar of British design to go into production.

It will provide the Tornado's air crew with an unsurpassed capability for long-range detection of targets at any altitude in look-down and look-up situations over land and over sea, with the ability to maintain tracking on a number of contacts while continuing to search for others. Target track parameters, accurately computed in real time, are provided to the fire control system for the direction, launch and control of medium or short range air-to-air guided weapons (MRAAM and SRAAM), as well as the firing of the aircraft's Mauser gun.

In addition, the pilot can, at any time, call on the radar for rapid acquisition and fire control on visually acquired targets of opportunity. With its exceptional resilience to electronic countermeasures, the radar will make a powerful contribution to the Tornado F2's advanced capability.

Deliveries from the production line is the culmination of an extensive design, trials and development programme. Prototype radars produced during development were subjected to comprehensive performance in a Buccaneer trials aircraft and later in Tornado development aircraft.

Pre-production radars have been flying in Tornado aircraft since early this year, and have used, all radar modes, demonstrating a high performance and a high degree of integration with the avionic suite and weapon system which gives the aircraft a significant advantage and a high kill probability. The radars have shown excellent serviceability throughout.

Manufacture of the next batch of radars is already well under way, and interest in this remarkable system by other air forces is growing.

In addition to its extensive facilities at Milton Keynes, Marconi Avionics Airborne Radar Systems Division has production teams at Borehamwood and Basildon supporting the FOXHUNTER programme.

The Radar Systems Department of Ferranti plc Scottish Group, is a major sub-contractor, supplying the Transmitter and Scanner mechanism.

The concept of the Foxhunter radar arose from the threat then posed by Soviet airpower, which was numerically overwhelming. Thus it was decided to counter this peril by deploying suitable U.K. based ‘long loiter’ aircraft equipped with a radar that could monitor many targets at long range, optimise one to be engaged whilst all the while continuing to monitor the other ‘hostiles,’ ready for the next combat. By this means at least the air defence had a chance of inflicting severe losses on an aggressor whilst being given the necessary information to continually manoeuvre out of trouble.

Nowadays (1993) the Soviet dangers have declined but the first Gulf War proved the continued need for state of the art airborne radars and in round the clock working during the conflict the Milton Keynes site developed, tested and produced modifications that fully kept the Foxhunter radar competent to deal with the changed scenario and environment. Indeed, several members of the Foxhunter team received decorations for their role, both those serving at home and in the theatre of operations.


Just a little less belief in the security of their Enigma system might have caused the Germans a far greater interest in Bletchley Park. Yet in confirmation that they knew little of the activities no mass bombing was ever launched, only a desultory and probably not deliberate attack that had little effect. In fact this was just as well in view of the proximity of the many local brick kilns, for, now empty of bricks, they found a wartime use as storage accommodation for vast quantities of ammunition!

In fact the confidence of the Germans in the security of their codes would cost them dear for, as mentioned elsewhere, the ‘Venlo’ incident had revealed not only the purpose but also the location of G.C. & C.S. and in preparation for Operation Sealion an intelligence summary had contained the ominous mention; ‘Stevens says most of the staff have moved to Bletchley.’ Mention must also be made of those French and Polish intelligence personnel who did not escape abroad at the beginning of the German onslaught. They had substantial knowledge of the codebreaking activities but although many were caught and subjected to brutal interrogation, not one gave away any hint that the Enigma secret had been compromised. Indeed, a German investigation into French codebreaking, following the Fall of France, concluded that there was no cause for alarm.

At the French organisation in Paris, towards the end of 1939 the first wartime breaks into Enigma had been made by the Poles with the help of G.C. & C.S. but with the Fall of France the Paris organisation had to rapidly disperse. Fortunately the first British built ‘bombe,’ designed earlier in the year, became ready by the end of May 1940 and, undertaken by the British Tabulating Machinery factory at Letchworth, the models so constructed were more powerful and different in design from the Polish type.

At Bletchley Park, for the codebreakers in waiting the declaration of war had ensured their immediate future and on September 4th 1939 Alan Turing duly reported for duty. He would be billeted at the Crown Inn, Shenley Brook End, and it was fortunate that he was away on a visit to Cambridge (having left the day before) when enemy bombs fell not 100 yards from his lodgings. Thankfully no one came to any harm but the elderly Mr. and Mrs. Roberts had to leave their home and stay at the inn, since the explosions had caused their ceilings to fall in.

In the success of the Bletchley Park operation Alan Turing would become instrumental and indeed he claimed some association with the local area. Born in a Paddington nursing home on June 23rd 1912 Alan Mathison Turing was the son of Julius Turing, the son of the rector of Edwinstowe, whose family on the death of the rector then moved to Bedford. At one time Alan had studied under Einstein and as perhaps an indication of his destiny at an early age he encouraged his toy soldiers to grow by planting them in the ground! At Bletchley Park he became known as the ‘Prof,’ ‘wild as to hair and clothes and conventions,’ and on occasion his attempts at self help did little to improve matters. Indeed, having dispensed with the need for a pattern he once knitted himself a pair of gloves, only to become nonplussed when trying to complete the fingers. Consequently threads of wool dangled and danced from his fingertips as he cycled to work from Shenley, until one of the girls at Bletchley Park took pity on him and closed them up!

Many of the brilliant ‘professor type’ personnel to be involved at Bletchley Park were, or at least gave the impression of being, eccentric and from the Air Section a contemporary description of Professor ‘Josh’ Cooper portrays a typical character sketch, he being ‘the archetypal absent-minded academic - slightly deaf, incredibly unkempt in dress, dark hair flapping aver his face, hair which he constantly brushed back with a vaguely irritated gesture.’ Many names to become famous for their activities during the war, including personnel who later found work on the ‘Manhattan’ atomic bomb project, were billeted in or around Bletchley including Alfred Dilwyn Knox, the country’s chief cryptographer, who occupied a brick building that became known as ‘The Cottage,’ possibly a former coachman’s house, which backed onto Elmers School. As for others, the Oxford physicist R.V. Jones, scientific adviser to the Secret Service, came for a stay in late 1939 to discuss cryptanalytic problems with Denniston’s deputy Edward Travis, who subsequently introduced him to Turing.

That the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge would provide the most favourable personnel proved a rather mixed blessing, for most of the infamous Cambridge spies in one way or another came to have associations with Bletchley Park. Anthony Blunt had ‘talent spotted’ the Glaswegian John Cairncross, born in 1913, whilst teaching him at Cambridge and in 1942 because of his fluency in German, having studied modern languages at Trinity College, Cairncross found work at Bletchley Park as an editor in Hut 3, dealing with air intelligence intercepts. In 1944 he then moved from Bletchley to the Secret Service headquarters in London. It was initially in 1940 that he had been recommended for a position with MI5 by a possible Soviet agent, Tomas Harris (who with his wife had provided housekeeping for Section D’s sabotage school) and via Blunt he covertly supplied his Soviet masters with a mass of deciphered information. Not surprisingly he never made a public admission of his role but MI5 came to harbour few doubts about his guilt.

Another Communist penetration was almost made by Kim Philby, an economics graduate from Trinity College, who enjoyed a promising interview for employment at Bletchley Park with Frank Birch, the historian from King’s College. A notable of the Bletchley Park operation, who would head the German naval signals interception centre in Hut 4, Birch thankfully turned Philby down, principally on the grounds that to tempt him away from journalism the position offered insufficient money! In fact as was the view of MI6 at that time; ‘Anyone who was not pro-German was all right for us’!

Philby had been tasked by his Soviet masters to attain a position of importance in the British intelligence service and he ensured that the name of his fellow collaborator, Guy Burgess, was also heard in quarters of sufficient influence. Consequently Burgess was also for awhile involved with aspects of the local secret war.

Whilst Philby may have been barred from employment at Bletchley Park, from spring 1940 having separated from his Communist inclined first wife he became romantically involved with a slim, attractive and - ironically - fiercely patriotic young lady who worked with the Bletchley codebreakers. She was Aileen Furze and their initial meeting had been at the home of her superior, during Aileen’s employment as a staff manageress at the Marble Arch branch of Marks and Spencers. Philby’s talk of his journalistic experiences during the Spanish Civil War quickly captivated his new acquaintance and soon they were sharing a flat. Tomas Harris, a friend from Philby’s days in Section D, then suggested a move that would enable Philby to penetrate other aspects of the secret service. Aware that the department for Spain and Portugal of Section V, S.I.S., was undermanned, and knowing of Philby’s coverage of the Spanish Civil War, he suggested him for a position and thus in 1941 Philby successfully applied. He and Aileen then eventually rented a cottage outside St. Albans, conveniently situated for his Section V duties at the large country house, just outside the city, which housed the department’s headquarters. In fact this accommodation was actually comprised of two large villas on Lord Verulam’s estate, off King Harry’s Lane, but in late 1943 the department would transfer to 7, Ryder Street, in London. Here Bletchley decodes were passed to Philby’s boss (who Philby would conspire against and eventually replace) but it seems doubtful if Philby ever saw raw data.

Yet another undesirable amongst the Bletchley elements was Leo Long, again a Trinity College graduate, who as an officer in MI14, the German section of the Directorate of Military Intelligence, dealt mainly with the assessment of the strength and organisation of the German army. Subsections duly monitored enemy intelligence and with the offices of the operation accommodated in a bomb proof basement in Central London, here teleprinters constantly chattered out the information coming from the Bletchley codebreakers. At meetings arranged in snack bars or pubs this then formed the basis of information passed by Long to Blunt. However, Long would later claim that he only gave intelligence assessments and not raw Ultra.

Compounding the security threat, at the MI5 offices in St. James, London, Herbert Hart sifted through summaries of Abwehr traffic which had been deciphered at Bletchley Park, completely unaware of the double nature of Anthony Blunt, who shared an office with him! Fortunately MI5 received only summaries of Ultra which, whilst able to confirm the ability of the British to read Enigma, gave the Soviets no indication as to the method or scale. The spy masters therefore wanted to know a great deal more about the Bletchley Park operation, and having instructed their London agents to ensure that this became their absolute priority Blunt, for his contributions, mainly memorised information and scribbled down notes based on documents he had seen in the office. These he then dropped in pre-arranged locations, only occasionally meeting with his controller, the ‘press attaché’ at the Soviet embassy.

Such became the extent of Soviet penetration, thwarted perhaps to some degree by the fact, as previously mentioned, that MI5 were not formally briefed about the Bletchley Park operation, receiving only ‘need to know’ information relating to the XX system of running German agents. As for the British, they remained blissfully unaware of the rotten apples in the Bletchley Park barrel.

From radio interceptions made at locations from the North of Scotland to Dorset, the first Bletchley Park decodes of operational value became available during the Norwegian campaign in April 1940. More traditional methods of espionage also came to benefit the Bletchley code breakers, for the agent ‘Cynthia’ would manage to penetrate the embassy of Vichy France, seduce the Press Officer, and secure his assistance in copying the cipher books from the embassy safe! In Britain the R.A.F. ‘Y service’ monitored the Enigma traffic and as the most important of five widely spaced interception sites Chicksands Priory, in Bedfordshire, was equipped with ultra sensitive aerials. Male operators formed the first complement of staff, but W.A.A.F. personnel were additionally introduced from August 1942.

As the information from Bletchley Park became more copious, urgent intercepts were sent by teleprinter to London. The rest were speeded through by despatch rider and when distributed the decodes were invariably prefixed with such feints as ‘recovered from a wastepaper-basket’ or ‘from a reliable source.’ As for the term ‘Ultra,’ as applied to the Bletchley Park information, this had been the name first given to the old Admiral’s Code at Trafalgar but for the Prime Minister the intelligence was known as ‘Boniface,’ the early decrypts being circulated in Whitehall as reports from an agent of that name. In fact the choosing of the name had not been arbitrary for Stewart Menzies, head of S.I.S., had held a meeting to discuss the distribution and cover for the Ultra intelligence on June 6th. This was the morrow of the feast day of St. Boniface, a martyred English missionary monk, and his title within the church as the ‘Apostle of Germany’ thus provided the ideal intelligence cover! From uncertain beginnings the subsequent intelligence proved of incalculable value and in early 1940 the different Enigma systems, referred to by colours, were divided amongst the chief cryptanalysts who were allocated huts in the grounds outside the Bletchley Park mansion. Other huts housed those sections dealing with translation and interpretation and as one of the initial achievements Ultra provided details of the speed of the German advance, so allowing time to organise the ‘little armada’ for the evacuation of Dunkirk.

It had been in January 1940 that the first tentative breaks into the German air force Enigma had been made and from mid 1940 military intelligence attached a small traffic analysis team to G.C. & C.S. at Bletchley Park. This enabled them to work at the point where the air force traffic was intercepted and the move proved of such benefit that demands for the whole of the traffic analysis staff, some 70 officers, to be accommodated at Bletchley were made. However, of little surprise G.C. & C.S. voiced objections and argued that the operation should remain a cryptographic centre quite apart from the problem of finding accommodation. In fact some personnel were now being billeted as far away as Bedford although for one notable, in charge of the Registration, Intercept Control and Decoding Rooms, the residence was that house with a Queen Anne front midway between the Cock and the Bull in Stony Stratford, whilst other of the codebreakers were accommodated in Great Brickhill at the Duncombe Arms. In fact the War Office undertook the interception of the air force Enigma transmissions in a mistaken belief that they were army traffic but this, at first mainly carried by landline, remained unbroken at that time and would not be extensively understood until September 1941. Even then regular decrypts would not become available until April 1942 although some indication of army movements could be gleaned from the interceptions of the air force Enigma. With the threat of invasion, at the most critical time of the war Ultra began to confirm Goering’s policy of sending large formations of fighters over Britain to entice the R.A.F. to combat and so destroy more of their depleted numbers. In fact on ‘Eagle Day’ via Hut 6 the decodes revealed the seven airfields threatened and armed with this Bletchley Park information Air Chief Marshall Dowding, C. in C. of Fighter Command, met each challenge with only a token squadron or two. With his lonely knowledge of the Ultra secret, to the many who criticised and misunderstood his policy Dowding could not reveal the reasons for his tactics and so, as a victim of this security, for many years he would sadly not be afforded the due recognition for his achievements in the Battle of Britain.

During this critical period, in the event of invasion buses stood constantly ready at Bletchley Park to transport key personnel to Milford Haven and thence, by warship, to America. However, in an otherwise exchange of personnel the American President’s envoy, Bill Donovan, visited Bletchley in the summer of 1940 and therein perhaps lies a sense of irony, for the codebreakers could, or would shortly be able to, read the U.S. State Department’s ciphers, at least until Pearl Harbour.

At the height of the invasion scare the decrypting ability of G.C. & C.S. outstripped the intelligence interception facilities and to meet the corresponding shortage of radio operators the Prime Minister ordered a sufficient transfer from the MI5 interception operation, the Radio Security Service. With a brief to scan the airwaves for illicit broadcasts a high priority had been placed on its formation in 1939 and with Colonel J. Worlledge placed in charge he duly gathered around him a body of amateur radio enthusiasts. It was by the vigilance of these ‘Voluntary Interceptors’ that an Abwehr ship was soon located in the North Sea and coded messages intercepted from the vessel were then sent to Bletchley Park for analysis. They duly proved of no great complexity and provided a promising source of future information.

However, when the head of Section V, S.I.S., Felix Cowgill, became aware of these activities he considered that the R.S.S. had strayed into S.I.S. territory and the outcome of the matter would be that S.I.S. took over the R.S.S. in May 1941 and absorbed the body into G.C. & C.S.

Completing the picture, with the R.S.S. under the formal control of ‘C’s friend, Colonel Gambier Parry, head of Section VIII, the S.I.S. communications department, the role of R.S.S. became that of intercepting enemy agent radio transmissions from all over the world. Now known as ‘Special Communications Unit No.3,’ the organisation employed a number of large receiving stations centred on the military styled regime at Hanslope Park and with the operators overseen by Colonel Maltby, as Gambier Parry’s nominee, it was to Hanslope that intelligence encoded in S.I.S. ciphers from Colonel Bertrand’s secret base in a remote French chateau was sent. Destined for Bletchley Park, and gleaned mainly from line taps on the main telephone routes to Berlin, some 2,748 messages would be transmitted between March 1st 1941 and November 5th 1942 but inevitably the German radio location vans eventually began to home in on the French centre. However it would not be until January 5th 1944 that he was captured, his arrest being made by the Abwehr at the Basilica Sacre Coueur, in Paris. He had rendezvoused there to collect a radio set despatched by ‘C’ for the resumption of contact with S.I.S. headquarters, and being fortunately able to make a ‘deal’ with his captors he duly absconded with his wife, to be eventually flown out of occupied territory by the British in a Lysander 3 aircraft.

By November 1940 mastery of the air force Enigma had been sufficiently achieved to reveal the enemy’s forthcoming policy of launching large scale night attacks on industrial areas, preceded by fire raising pathfinder units. This would become known as the Blitz and Squadron Leader Humphreys became the senior liaison officer at Bletchley, responsible for advising on the interpretation of decrypts of the air force Enigma. Then in the following month the breaking of the hand cipher of the Abwehr revealed vague clues about the German intent to invade Russia and with this becoming more evident by March 30th 1941 as a result the nearby propaganda headquarters was well prepared when the speculations became a reality. As another breakthrough, in February 1941 using hand methods G.C. & C.S. broke a variant of Enigma used by the German railway administration and this, combined with the air force Enigma and other sources, gave British intelligence advance warning of the attacks on Greece and Crete. During the attack on Greece, decrypts of the Italian air force ciphers at Bletchley Park then revealed the targets for the following day and these, transmitted direct from G.C. & C.S. to R.A.F. headquarters in Greece, so enabled fighters to be on station above the threatened locations

Towards the end of 1942 the continuing decrypts of the air force Enigma disclosed the return of various German air force units to France and the formation of bomber groups. In fact this anticipated the re-launch of air attacks against Britain from January 1943 and the thus foreseen campaign lasted for the first half of that year. Yet on a more optimistic note the decrypted intelligence also revealed the difficulties now beginning to affect the Luftwaffe, especially a shortage of manpower. Therefore towards obviating the need for the manned bomber the Germans were developing their V weapons programme, to deliver warheads of high explosive or Sarin nerve gas. Here, Ultra was again able to provide advance warning for during 1943 Dr. R.V. Jones and his associates would analyse the data reports decrypted by Bletchley Park of the V1 tests which, referring to bearings and ranges, were transmitted by specialised German signals companies stationed on the Baltic coast. In fact the V1 had been one of the new weapons alluded to in Hans Meyer’s anonymous Oslo Report, sent to the Naval Attache in Oslo, in 1939, and confirmation of the V1 was made beyond doubt by the sometimes quoted and deciphered reference FZG76, which was the codeword for the project.

As for the naval Enigma, with even the decodes of the Italian traffic having been reduced to a meagre flow the German naval intelligence, initially investigated by Turing on his own in Hut 3, proved difficult to break and G.C. & C.S. had made no significant progress with the ciphers by December 1940. From U33 the first British capture of Enigma wheels had been made in February 1940 and now a special effort was mounted by N.I.D. and G.C. & C.S. to seize an Enigma machine and settings. As a result the capture of the armed trawler ‘Krebs’ enabled G.C. & C.S. to read the whole of the traffic for February, April and much of May 1941 but this was in the so called Home Key (Home Waters.) The Foreign Key still remained elusive but the study of the deciphered traffic led the naval section at G.C. & C.S. to realise that the German weather ships, on station north of Iceland and in mid Atlantic, whilst transmitting routine weather reports in the weather cipher nevertheless carried the full naval Enigma machine. For this reason the weather ship ‘Munchen’ was captured on May 7th 1941 and with the Enigma and settings recovered G.C. & C.S. could now read almost all of the June traffic.

In order to maintain this ability, towards the end of June the destroyer ‘Tartar,’ in company with a cruiser and a destroyer, the ‘Bedouin,’ sailed in search of the 344 ton enemy weather reporting ship ‘Lauenberg’ which, operating from Drontheim, was supposedly sailing in the general direction of Jan Mayen Island, inside the Arctic Circle. The first lieutenant of the Tartar promised a pound to the first man who sighted the quarry and when, perhaps aided by this incentive, the vessel was discovered on June 25th practice shells were hurriedly fired to burst above the target. As anticipated the Germans abandoned the ship and the Bedouin then put a boarding party on the vessel. During a 40 minute search many papers were recovered with many being of special interest to Lieutenant Bacon of the R.N.V.R., who had been specifically seconded to this assignment. With the crew of the Lauenberg secured aboard, the Tartar then made for home and during this return voyage Lieutenant Bacon would be kept fully engrossed on the spoils of the mission. G.C. & C.S. would now have the ability to read July’s traffic and as an additional bonus in between the two operations the enemy submarine U110 had been captured on May 9th with the cipher equipment intact. The special settings were thereby recovered for officer only signals and complementary to this was the retrieval of the code book used by U boats when making short signal sighting reports. Not surprisingly, more cryptographically trained staff were now being recruited for G.C. & C.S. and with six bombes available by the end of June, one was always made available for naval use.

Yet the naval euphoria would be short lived for from February 1st 1942 the introduction of a separate Enigma key for U boats made these transmissions virtually secure. The so called four rotor Enigma, the naval M4, contained additional modifications and compounding this new crisis, having broken the British Naval Cypher 3 throughout 1942 the Germans were able to read the instructions relayed to the convoys. With the increased loss of merchant shipping the situation became so desperate that Whitehall directed, as a matter of absolute priority, an urgent plea for Bletchley Park to concentrate on the U boat code. Indeed there was a real danger that sinkings by U boats, of which there were now 249, would outpace Allied ship construction and as numerical evidence 721,000 tons was the figure for November as opposed to 327,000 tons in January.

Frustrating the problem, although by late 1942 Admiral Canaris, Chief of the German Abwehr, had appeared ready to co-operate with British intelligence, towards the hope of speeding the downfall of the Nazis, by virtue of his S.I.S. position Philby blocked the move on behalf of his Russian masters, the intention being to prolong the war such that when the Germans fell back in defeat the Communists could claim as much of Europe as possible. In fact even hardened Nazis were now becoming dissatisfied with Hitler’s war and during that year even Himmler began to consider the possibility of eliminating his Fuehrer! From the opposite end of the spectrum, for the German underground movement Otto John, using the cover of his Lufthansa employment, had whilst on official business in Madrid made contact with both British and American intelligence, but as a senior S.I.S. official in the Iberian section Philby again thwarted the overture. Applying deliberate discredit to the reports he feared that in the event of any successful coup by the German resistance the Western powers would unite and then attack Russia. Thus little came of the embryo German dissent and the U boat peril remained as threatening as ever.

Therefore every possible means to redress the naval balance came under consideration and Bletchley Parks’s near neighbours in the realms of propaganda laid plans for a new and specific ‘black broadcast’ station, to be targeted especially at the U boat crews. As for the Special Operations Executive, which had a local presence at Chicheley Hall, via the French Resistance they arranged to liberally apply itching powder to the supplies of underwear destined for the German Navy!

Yet in other naval respects progress was being made and the ability of the staff in Hut 8 broke the key of the German Mediterranean surface fleet in August 1942. Thereafter Rommel began to lose almost a quarter of his supplies through British action although in the following month the Germans, had they been sufficiently diligent, could have realised beyond all doubt that Enigma was insecure, for aboard a Royal Navy gunboat, captured on September 11th, were documents and charts containing information that could only have come from Ultra. Fortunately the Germans did not realise the significance and took no action. As for the British, they fully realised the significance of the documents and a four rotor Enigma recovered from the disabled U559 off Port Said on October 30th 1942. This would provide a much needed fillip to the endeavours of Bletchley Park and the retrieval was due to the bravery of two crew members from H.M.S. Petard who, swimming to the abandoned submarine, passed the haul to a third member outside. Tragically the submarine sank before the two men could escape but because of their bravery decrypted messages of ‘Shark,’ as the U boat traffic was known, became available from December 13th. Fortunately the consequent drop in the sinking of Allied vessels was attributed by the Germans to information supposedly obtained by a spy network operating at U boat bases in Occupied France, for once again they did not suspect, or could not believe, that their codes had been compromised. As for the Battle of the Atlantic, changes to the convoy code had fortunately provided a temporary respite although the Germans would again be reading the traffic by February 1943. (That month also dealt another blow, for Alfred Dilwyn Knox tragically died on the 27th, leaving the burdens to now fall upon Alan Turing as his successor.) Then with a timely retribution in mid May 1943 the decrypts now coming from the U boat traffic began to confirm the insecurity of the British convoy code and in June 1943 it was discontinued.

During the first 13 months of the war G.C. & C.S. had increased fourfold in size, becoming so important as to merit a visit from Churchill in the summer of 1941. Using the bole of a tree as a platform, Churchill gave a pep talk to the cryptanalysts gathered around him on the grass and in the course of his tour he went to Hut 8, where he was introduced to Alan Turing. Inspired by Churchill’s interest, following his visit some of the staff felt that a ‘Bletchley council’ could run the organisation better than the existing regime and in consequence in late 1941 four of the key cryptanalysts met at the Shoulder of Mutton pub, in Old Bletchley, and decided to petition their grievances directly to the Prime Minister. Voicing their concerns at the lack of clerical staff and the delays that this deficiency caused, on October 21st 1941 the letter was duly written and they further made known that with the imminent call up of skilled male staff, engaged both at Bletchley Park and in the British Tabulating Co., the loss of such a combined talent would be irreplaceable. The signatories then went on to stress that, as per the previous intentions, the W.R.N.S. should take over the bombe testing duties, so relieving other staff for more suitable purposes. Since it stated that ‘we despair of any early improvement without your intervention,’ the missive could hardly be sent through the usual agencies and so one of the signatories took the letter by train to Downing Street. There he managed to secure an assurance from Churchill’s Parliamentary Private Secretary that the Prime Minister would receive the plea at the earliest opportunity and proving the confirmation of this after receiving the letter Churchill instructed General ‘Pug’ Ismay, his military adviser, to ‘Make sure they have all they want on extreme priority and report to me that this had been done.’ Not surprisingly, when news of the unauthorised visit reached the intelligence hierarchy they were far from pleased and Menzies himself travelled to Bletchley for a ‘private session,’ indeed a furious session, with the main perpetrators. Yet all the desired needs were rapidly attended with ‘C’ reporting to the Prime Minister on November 18th that ‘every possible measure was being taken.’ Yet within weeks discontent again began to stir and this time ‘C’ appointed an independent investigator, General K.J. Martin, a former deputy director of military intelligence, to get to the root of the problem. His report was before ‘C’ by February 1942 and ruthless actions then followed. Despite being a personal friend of ‘C,’ Denniston was replaced as director of G.C. & C.S. and Travis, the ex naval commander, took over with the title Director General of the Government Communications Headquarters, as the new name for the organisation. Denniston - remaining in a position of authority within the realms of code breaking - found new employment in London. The changes had the desired effect and possessed of a face that looked like ‘a study for a carving in Spam,’ the authoritarian approach of Travis, which earned him the title ‘Der Fuehrer,’ now ensured that the dissents at Bletchley Park diminished.

Apart from the codebreaking and associated duties, domestic requirements had also to be attended at Bletchley Park and three days a week an expert seamstress worked from her sewing room in a stores hut making blackout curtains. Some of these were destined for many of the outstations to include Whaddon Hall and also Gayhurst House which, apt in view of the naval associations of a previous owner, was requisitioned for the Admiralty to provide accommodation for W.R.N.S. operators. They would be employed in a ‘bombe’ hut built in the grounds and with a capacity to house around 16 bombes this brick built building (1993) still remains. The Gayhurst facility continued in operation throughout the war but for those bombes resident at Wavendon Grange and Adstock, they were eventually moved elsewhere. As for other local mansions to be similarly requisitioned, these included Crawley Grange, at North Crawley, and Walton Hall, now occupied by the Open University.

Being required to endure such wartime necessities as the ‘smoke hut,’ for the purpose of fire practice, at the height of the codebreaking activities some 10,000 people, who had to show their passes both on going in and out, found employment at Bletchley Park. Many were bussed in by the official transport coaches night and day and in addition a passenger train nicknamed ‘The Whitehall’ ran daily between Bletchley and Bedford, for the benefit of those personnel billeted in the latter town. Every week the personnel worked every day except one and, if they wished, were able to accumulate their days off. For those attending church an hour was allowed on Sundays and as a highlight to the routine the sometimes arrival of the ‘chocolate quota’ provided much excitement, when delivered to the NAAFI at Hut 2.

Initially the dining hall of the Bletchley Park mansion had been sufficient for that purpose but additional accommodation, becoming known as Wilton Hall, was later built as the number of personnel increased, including many Americans. Under the command of Major William Bundy they included the 6813th Signal Detachment, U.S. Army, who had off duty accommodation at the since demolished Manor House of Little Brickhill. Apart from those mentioned, the Bletchley Park operation also extended to many large country houses in the immediate area and for many personnel the question of billeting became an understandable problem. In February 1942 this had prompted Peter Loxley, the Private Secretary to Cadogan, the Permanent Secretary of State at the Foreign Office, to discuss with the authorities the possibility of immediately taking over Woburn Abbey for accommodation but, as was pointed out, this was impractical and instead an alternative scheme was suggested and agreed. Thereby Woburn could be used for storing various materials but only be taken over if enemy bombing rendered Bletchley inoperative.

Unquestionably the security at Bletchley Park had to be of paramount concern and when asked about her duties by her American boyfriend one female employee told him she scraped barnacles off the bottom of submarines! In fact when asked by the locals, the Bletchley Park staff invariably described themselves as ‘working for the Foreign Office’ and since their host families received a guinea a week for their keep, they were often known as the guinea pigs! Yet as with the experience of Alan Turing’s landlady, Mrs. Ramshaw, the behaviour of some personnel could prove so eccentric as to cause concern and indeed on occasion certain members were asked to move elsewhere.

For obvious reasons of security, standing instructions forbade any personnel with knowledge of the Ultra secret to place themselves in a situation where they might be easily captured. Yet in a deliberate contravention of this rule an American of the U.S. Third Army, Major Maxwell Papurt, became a prisoner of the Germans and by accident or design was only prevented from revealing the Ultra secret when, under an imminent interrogation, he was killed during a bombing raid launched by the Allies on his P.O.W. camp. There could also have been a further vulnerability, for in 1943 having been betrayed by a French agent Hans Thilo-Schmidt was arrested and killed by the Gestapo.

Apart from the Enigma traffic, for the signals of Hitler’s High Command the Germans employed a more complex means of enciphering, undertaken by a machine known as the ‘Secret Writer.’ The traffic of this was known at Bletchley Park as ‘Fish’ and in fact G.C. & C.S. had first been made aware of the machine’s existence in 1932, when reported by the S.I.S. However it was in December 1942 that the head of the organisation gave agreement for the research and manufacture of extremely advanced machinery to deal with the code and in the methods to mechanise and automate the analysis Alan Turing became instrumental. A first break into this code had been made in 1941 with the decoding investigations undertaken by a team headed by Max Newman, their work produced an apparatus called ‘Robinson’ by the Wrens who operated the device, after Heath Robinson! Nevertheless it proved the fundamentals necessary to break the code, essentially by a numerical comparison, and the design then began of a more efficient machine at the Post Office Research Centre, this matter having been discussed by Menzies and Churchill in February 1943. The engineering team was led by T.H. ‘Tommy’ Flowers and in the interest of speed his was the idea to employ multitudes of valves (more precisely thyratrons) instead of mechanical relays, solving the problem of reliability by leaving the valves switched on at all times. In fact valves were then a commodity in short supply, for ‘… the demand for our service is, of course, far beyond anything with which we can cope,’ had said the Chairman of Radio Rentals in that year and this despite the total valve production having leapt from 12 million in 1940 to 35 million by 1944. Yet despite all the problems, in 1943 Hut F, at Bletchley Park, became the home of the world’s first electronic computer, known as Colossus Mark 1. Ideas that were then revolutionary were incorporated and enabled the Fish key patterns to be internally stored in electronic form, so resolving the previous problem of synchronised tape runs.

Two main ‘Fish’ exchanges were known to the British by 1944 - one for the eastern and one for the western front - and in January of that year ‘C’ began a programme at Bletchley Park of expansion and modernisation, in preparation for the D Day landings. Ten additional and improved models were then ordered by the Government of which the first, Colossus Mk. II, was ready just before D Day. This permitted the reading of ‘Jellyfish,’ the ‘Secret Writer’ cipher between the German Supreme Headquarters and the headquarters of the German commander in chief in the west, Von Rundstedt, and so began a spectacularly successful operation which from thereon drew the best talent from the other huts and from the mathematical world.

With his invaluable contribution having been made, Alan Turing now found a greater involvement with Hanslope Park and his first acquaintance had been made about September 1943 when he cycled over to inspect the station. Here was manufactured the ‘Rockex’ system for enciphering top grade British telegraph signals, including the Bletchley output, and Alan now took over bench space in a large hut at Hanslope Park for his own work on a speech enciphering programme. Declining the use of an official car, for three months he cycled in for two days most weeks with suitable staff being assigned to him for the construction of the project. Indeed the need for secure speech channels was imperative for the Germans monitored ‘scrambler’ telephone transmissions across the Atlantic via a large antenna near Eindhoven.

In late summer 1944 Alan then gave up his Shenley lodgings with Mrs. Ramshaw and transferred to Hanslope Park, where he occupied a room on the top floor of the mansion before later moving to a cottage in the walled kitchen garden. Being a long distance runner he often participated in some of the sports races held by the Hanslope staff, and attributed his usual success to a dislike during his schooldays of outdoor games, having at that time only excelled in running away from the ball! By the spring of 1945 Turing’s ‘Delilah,’as the name for the project, was complete and for a test of the system a 16 inch disc was recorded at the Milton Bryan ‘black’ broadcast station. During the event Alan’s braces burst and in remedy Harold Robin, the chief engineer of the organisation, produced some bright red cord from an American packing case. This Alan then used everyday thereafter! As for Delilah, by the end of the war the Post Office now had a system of their own and dismissed Delilah as too ‘crackly,’ despite the many merits. Now Alan’s attention turned to his concept of a ‘Universal Machine’ and the possibilities of programming such a device to perform different tasks by storing instructions on tape. Thus in June 1945 he was invited to take up the senior position in the development of the electronic computer at the National Physical Laboratory and with his associations with the local area being at an end he started there in October.

Many employees of Bletchley Park were sad to leave their duties at the end of the war, such had been the spirit of camaraderie and companionship. However, the circulation of the following anonymous ‘poem’ helped immortalise some of the period’s personalities;


Composed by staff of Bletchley Park at the end of World War Two.
Kindly supplied by Mrs. P. Sharp.


is for Anthony, our nominal head
At least until the country went red
Ve're Bevin Boys now and through Ernie's capers
Poor Eden has had his redundancy papers.




is for Budd, the head of Hut Two
Who hands out the wallop to me and to you
Then the Park closes dawn the last man to go
Will be Mr. Budd, at least we hope so.




is for Crawley, our own dietician,
Who serves up our grub like a mathematician
It's round stodge or square, for the rest of your life
Then eat the darn stuff without even a knife.




is for Denny, his nickname is Stoker
(We think, 'cos he peps up his pipe with a poker)
He issues the Bronco and beer in a cask
If it's not in the window, come in and ask.




is for Sir Edward, the Guv'nor upstairs
Who pinches our Clubroom for Christmas affairs
He passes our transport, tines without number
In a pre-war upholstered beige coloured Humber.




is for Foss - six foot in his shoes
Seen in a kilt, but air tartan troos
If on a Friday a stroll you will take
You'll find him dancing a reel by the lake.




is for Griffith who finds us our digs
Some live like princes, some live like pigs
It's no good protesting, it's wasting your breath
If you find your own billet, he's tickled to death.




is for Howgate, deceiver of Wrens
He lures the poor creatures to dimly lit dens
He twirls his moustache, is manly and curt
But spoils the effect with an A.T.S. shirt.




is for Intelligence, the Corps in the Park
They all need a haircut, but please keep it dark
The question I hope to get answered one day
Is how can a corpse be intelligent, pray.




is for Joan, tie Sec, of the Club
Who chases you up for an overdue sub
She leads you the Gatehouse - looks up your trains
And then gets her flowers pinched for taking such pains.




is for Kevin with hair slightly red
a crescent shaped scar on the side of his head
You may think he got it from some ancient dirk
But he say's his mother was hit by a Turk.




is for Lowe, a clanking occurs
Handlebar Harry is out with his spurs
He doesn't claim to be much of a dancer
But what could you hope from a Bengali Lancer?




is for John Moore who's fungus 'tis said
Allows him to carry on drinking in bed
A slight overstatement his friends will retort
For when fully loaded, it holds but a quart.




is for Nenk, the Major in F
When staff wanted leave he used to be deaf
Sow that his number is not far away
He took then all out for a picnic one day.




is for Owen, that's Dudley I mean
When the curtain's gone up, he's not to be seen
But if it comes down in quite the wrong place
It's Dudley, the stage boss, who loses his face.




is for Parker, our check-suited dope
Who thinks that his acting surpasses Bob Hope
We know his forte's a bullocks front pins
Who heard of a fan mail to 'Father of Twins’.




is for Tea, it's only a penny
If there is cake it stretches to Fenny
When work is a bore, and I'm sure you will see
Lots on the TQ on the QT.




is for Reiss, who can always be found
with a large coloured brolly and two feet of hound
When he goes up to Heaven and his name they record
We hope they will ask "Is it down on the board".




is for Sedgwick who ran all the hops
In the tough old days of American cops
Hush - Hush - Whisper who dare
He slightly resembles that chap Fred Astaire.




is for Tiltman just one of tae boys
Red tabs be won't wear with brown corduroys
When billets were scarce, Dame Rumour doth say
He lived in the States and flew in each day.




is for Uncle Sam, who seat us some chaps
Three thousand miles to Bletchley perhaps
They came for the fashionable season
We are glad to have them, whatever the reason.




is the Visitor, distinguished Brass-Hat
Comes snooping around to see what we're at
We sweep the place clean with dustpan and broom
And move all the empties to some other room.




is for Wallace, the Colonel, you know
His name's at the end of a B.P.G.O.
He sits in a room that looks out on the grass
And forbids you to prop up your bike on the glass.




are frightful stinkers
We haven't one among our thinkers - hic - drinkers And so perforce this daft effusion
We must bring now to a conclusion.

To the Inmates of B. P. from the Inmates of B.P.
In grateful remembrance to the years we worked together.
1939 - 1945

Most of the equipment employed at Bletchley Park, supposedly to include the 12 Colossus machines, were disposed off at the end of the war but as a comparison of their power commercial computers would be unable to match their capability for another ten years. As for the codebreakers, their accommodation moved from Bletchley to London’s suburbia, for awhile in Eastcote, and eventually to Cheltenham, which was allegedly chosen by Claude Daubeny, as the head of post war signals-intelligence, due to his passion for backing horses. He could thereby combine his visits from the London office with attendances at the Cheltenham races!

The codebreakers at Bletchley Park were sworn to secrecy about the nature of their wartime work but in 1974 Group Captain Winterbotham revealed the truth. This had been against the wishes of the Secret Service but their protests were overruled by the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, who decided that a D notice was not warranted.

Despite the comprehensive information that has since come to light, much of the Bletchley Park story remains to be told and even today (1993) British Telecomm. engineers are not allowed access into certain basement areas of the Bletchley Park mansion. Apparently statistical methods developed and employed by the codebreakers could even now prove potent against modern ciphers and with the Government still sensitive about aspects of Bletchley Park it would perhaps be naive to think that all of the contemporary hardware suffered destruction.

After two years of planning the first reunion for Bletchley Park staff took place on October 3rd 1992 and because the wartime security had been so tight this enabled many of the former personnel to learn not only what Bletchley Park had achieved but what their colleagues, even those in adjoining huts, had been engaged upon.


The prime source of reference for the World War Two propaganda activities are the books ‘Black Boomerang’ and ‘The Black Game,’ respectively by Sefton Delmer and Ellic Howe. Both men wrote from first hand experience and the information from their books is gratefully acknowledged as having been invaluable.