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SPECIAL OPERATIONS EXECUTIVE, 1940-1946

Series 1, Special Operations in Western Europe

Part 1: France: The Jedburgh Teams and Operation Overlord, 1944-1945,

Part 2: France: Political and Planning Files, Circuits and Missions, 1940-1947

Part 3: Germany, 1936-1945

Part 4: Holland, 1940-1949

Part 5: Italy, 1941-1948

Extracts from Documents - Part 4

HS 6/724
Minutes of a meeting with Prince Bernhard and Dr Gerbrandy, 13 May 1942


“Dr Gerbrandy came to see me to-day accompanied by Prince Bernhard. I said that S.O.E. had now reached a very important stage in its development. For months past we had been laying the foundations and we were now in a position to push ahead. We had the air and the sea transport: we had our wireless sets: we had our weapons. We were engaged in consultations with the Allied Governments in preparing secret forces in all the occupied territories.

It would be possible for us to work by ourselves, but we much preferred to work with our Allies, and I asked for the full co-operation and help of the Dutch Government. In this connection it was necessary that Brigadier Gubbins should be able to work in conjunction with Colonel de Bruyne. A close personal contact had been established between these two men, and Colonel de Bruyne had General Gubbins’s confidence and I believed it to be reciprocated. In these matters personalities were very important, and it was essential that the two representatives of the Allied Governments should be men who had mutual confidence in each other. I was aware that there had been certain difficulties on the Dutch side with which I was not familiar, and it was in order to clear that matter up that I had asked for this talk.

Prince Bernhard replied that it was true there had been difficulties but these had now been cleared up. A new arrangement had been made by which he (Prince Bernhard) was placed in command of the entire S.O.E. and S.I.S. work on the Dutch side. Colonel de Bruyne would work under him...”

HS 6/724
Directive for Future Sabotage Policy in Holland, 8 May 1943


“PRESENT SITUATION


1. The sabotage organisation as planned is now complete. It comprises 5 groups containing 62 cells and totalling some 420 men. These groups are now well equipped with stores and are ready for action. It cannot, however, be guaranteed that the organisation will remain intact for very much longer. The recent decree by which 300,000 former members of the Dutch Armed Forces are to be conscribed in the German interest must inevitably affect this organisation. It is considered that this and any further similar decrees can only result in the gradual dissolution of the organisation, or, at least, in its weakening through the loss of valuable members.


2. In order to maintain the security of the organisation and prevent as far as possible reprisals against the civil population, only insaisissable sabotage has hitherto been carried out. German policy, however, as regards reprisals, has recently undergone a marked change and it is considered that they will, whenever possible, take no drastic action against the civil population in general for such acts of sabotage as do not constitute armed attacks.


3. The immediate adoption of a more aggressive policy is therefore essential, if the organisation so carefully built up is not to be dissipated without having achieved the object for which it was created.

FUTURE POLICY


4. You will extend your sabotage activities to include sabotage which is recognisable as such, but subject to the conditions laid down in paragraphs 5 - 7 below.


5. You will NOT undertake any activities which may prejudice your plans for ‘D’ Day.


6. You will NOT attack a target if the result of the attack is likely to do more damage to the Dutch population than to the German war effort.


7. No attack will be carried out which involves the use of arms to overcome the resistance of armed guards unless the target can be shown to be of vital importance.


8. The selection of targets will be based on the following order of priority.


(a) Targets directly or indirectly connected with the construction, maintenance and supply of U-boats.
(b) Fuel oil in storage or transit by water or rail. To achieve this attacks may be made against pre-selected trains subject to the condition in para. 5 above.
(c) Interference with inland waterways and railways, subject to the condition in paragraph 5 above.
(d) Mines producing bituminous coking coal, but NOT those producing domestic coal which will only affect the Dutch civil population.
(e) Ship building yards working for the Germans.
(f) Other establishments known to be doing work of importance to the German war effort...”

HS 6/726
Operations to Holland. PODEX/RUMMY/CRIBBAGE. Note dated 5 August 1944.


“These men were dropped successfully last moon period and were to contact a resistance group through a special contact, supplied by our opposite numbers. Initial contact was made through CRIBBAGE on 1 August 1944, PODEX and RUMMY gave the correct identity checks - CRIBBAGE used the correct procedure but reversed his figures; i.e. 8 and 16 on 1st and 2nd letter instead of 16 and 8 on 1st and 2nd letter. I have spoken to DYC/M who confirms that he is of the opinion that if anything was wrong, CRIBBAGE would have broken completely away from his conventions and that the error is due to an oversight.

PODEX confirmed having made contact and asks for material at three grounds - two of which have been turned down by A.M. RUMMY reported that a contact had died, which more or less confirmed news received by our Dutch friends, which reported that the individual in question was seriously ill.

Test questions have been put to all three agents and if satisfactory answers are received, I would like your authority to lay on such operations, possibly two or three, as can be arranged for this moon period, if still in time...”

HS 6/728
Notes on Operation ‘Plunder’ to be carried out by 9th US, 2nd British and 1st Canadian Armies for the crossing of the Rhine and advancing eastwards into Germany, north of the Ruhr. 14 March 1945.


“RESUME


38. In spite of recent drives by the GERMANS against Resistants, numerous arrests and deportations, and an extremely precarious food situation, the position of Resistance throughout HOLLAND is by no means unsatisfactory, and should be considerably improved by the arrival of the agents who are due to leave in the immediate future.

39. More arms are needed everywhere, and in particular GRONINGEN and DRENTHE will need agents and considerable deliveries of supplies before any assistance in the liberation of HOLLAND can be expected from Resistance in those provinces.

40. It would seem that in HOLLAND there are some 12,500 armed Resistants, but it is probable that when Resistance is called into action, many hundreds, if not thousands of men will be found to be in possession of some sort of weapon, and will come out into the open to assist in the liberation of their country.”

HS 6/735
Suggested Interpretation of the Escape of CHIVE and SPROUT


“1. The Germans knew the manner of men they were dealing with, they must have got a very good idea of CHIVE’s weakness when faced with uncomfortable consequences, and also of his desire to keep his family out of trouble.


2. By August 1943 the Germans must have begun to guess that they were nearing the end of their success in the game which they had been playing with S.O.E.


3. The Germans were already pledged to the sending of SERGEANT (KNOPPERS) to U.K. on the strength of an earlier message which they had sent over the GOLF W/T: they might have justifiably thought that the success of this venture would be problematical.


4. On reading the Morse signals interchanged between CHIVE and SPROUT they conceived a further plan.


5. In pursuance of this plan they arranged for an answer to be tapped back to CHIVE and SPROUT recommending them to go to a certain address.


6. Their escape was then allowed…

10. While they were waiting for a reply the Germans laid on just that piece of intimidation which they knew would appeal especially to CHIVE i.e. they arrested his mother and sisters. It is worthwhile noting that the news of this reached him through Van BILSEN who arranged for his brother to visit him and tell him the story before he left.


11. Having done this a message was received from U.K. to the effect that they were to stay in HOLLAND, this message being brought by Van BILSEN.


12. The time which then elapsed would have been sufficient for Van BILSEN or one of his men to get to work upon them (it would most probably be the man with whom they were then staying) and give them any training or instruction that was necessary. They may have been turned round; on the other hand they may really have been encouraged to come back again … being double agents or merely innocent dupes.


13. Van BILSEN then smuggled them to SWITZERLAND by a very ‘genuine’ underground line.


14. On this assumption the remarkable fact of the continued traffic from CHIVE could be accounted for: the Germans might think that it would be better - as they had already written off HAAREN and completely blown it - to go on with the traffic and make themselves look ridiculous, rather than to stop it and draw attention to any action which they might have taken with direct bearing upon CHIVE and his escape.


15. The many unsatisfactory features of CHIVE’s story, his own very weak character and readiness to talk when in German hands all lend colour to this theory; the general impression is very greatly strengthened by his nervous bearing under interrogation, and his obvious relief when attention is turned from certain parts of the story. Throughout the two days interrogation he was often blushing deeply, fidgeting with his hands and at times sweating profusely; this was not fatigue as he would return to more normal bearing when on safer ground...”

HS 6/736
From third interrogation of SPROUT (Diepenbroek), 18 March 1944


“Interrogator: I am not interested in your opinions. We have had too many of your opinions. I am interested in the truth. I want to make it quite clear that you don’t know the whole story. We have many ways of getting information from HOLLAND and we know that your story is not the whole truth, and we want the whole truth.

Sprout: I cannot understand, if the people here are so well in the know, how it is possible that I was in prison for 6 months, and how the Germans played their deception for two years.

Interrogator: Because the people there told them everything they knew, including their codes.

Sprout: It is very easy to say that when one is in ENGLAND.

Interrogator: You are very justified in saying it when we know that the Germans have been working the sets of all the wireless operators who were with you in HOLLAND.

Sprout: I know.

Interrogator: I want to make it clear that your story has not been accepted by the authorities as it stands.

Sprout: I would like to know what part is not accepted, and I will try to explain matters, but as far as I know the story is absolutely true and complete.

Interrogator: You repeat that? It is absolutely true and complete?

Sprout: Yes Sir. I am quite aware as regards details of barbed wire, etc., might have differed from URBINK’s story. I have told as best I believe.

Interrogator: We have made allowances for that. Did you at any time have any suspicion that the Germans knew you were going to escape?

Sprout: On the contrary, if it were true that the Germans knew we were going to escape, why would we have our descriptions on the screen, and all the Gestapo have our descriptions, and also URBINK’s home be taken by the Germans?

Interrogator: In fact they did everything but catch you. In a small town such as TILBURG do you mean to say the Germans could not have caught you if they wanted?

Sprout: They were not supposed to know we were in TILBURG. The Germans roped off various sections in TILBURG and checked everybody up...”

HS 6/743
From NORDPOL Investigation


“7. The ‘turning’ of EBENEZER.


Shortly after EBENEZER’s arrest, KUP asked permission to visit him in prison, and on his return informed GISKEs that EBENEZER was prepared to work for the Germans. GISKES maintains that no physical force was used to turn him. GISKES also personally visited him in prison, and with SCHREIEDER guaranteed his life as well as the lives of any subsequent Allied agents, who might fall into German hands through his treachery. EBENEZER, on accepting the proposal to work for the Germans, told both GISKES and SCHREIEDER that he had been assured by a certain Colonel BLUNT, before leaving the U.K., that in the event of his arrest he was at liberty to accept any proposal put forward by the Germans to save his life; for, at the most, it would be discovered within three weeks if he were working under control. EBENEZER accordingly accepted the German proposal and, on 18.3.42, sent his first message of German origin. This message requested further supplies and stated that the location of a previously agreed dropping point was too dangerous. (EBENEZER CXG 18.3.42 refers). Three further messages all dated 15.3.42 - CXG 14 containing information about a ship’s crew, money and a reference to BRANDY, CXG 15 dealing with political and industrial information, and CXG 16 containing information about the position of the Prinz Eugen - all of which had been previously composed by EBENEZER and found on him after arrest, were allowed to go forward by the Germans…

8. Distribution of Functions.


GISKES was responsible for the general policy of playing back EBENEZER and subsequent W/T operators captured, but the more technical, detailed conduct of the traffic, i.e. preparing drafts of messages, seeing London signals received answers, keeping traffic on the right lines, and when necessary the notional killing of operators, etc., was the sole responsibility of HUNTEMANN, who was struck off all other duties until the termination of the traffic on 1st April 1944. The messages were drafted by HUNTEMANN and then taken to the Fu-B-Stelle of the Orpo which was always in close proximity to III F. The B Stelle was solely responsible for the enciphering and deciphering of all signals and for the actual transmission. In this connection it is interesting to note that only 2 S.O.E. W/T operators ever actually transmitted, namely EBENEZER for about 3 months after capture, and TRUMPET (see below). All traffic with these exceptions was conducted by trained operators of the B Stelle.

The actual arrest and custody of the agents were entirely Sipo responsibilities, but of course both GISKES and HUNTEMANN had access to them when necessary…

11. Arrest of LETTUCE, TRUMPET and TURNIP.


Early in April 1942 III F was informed by the Feldgendarmerie that a dead parachutist had been found in a field N.W. of Holten; it appears that he had hit his head on a stone water-trough on landing. From tracks in the neighbourhood of the body there were grounds for believing that other agents had landed at the same time. Early in May the Sipo, on information received from a certain Dr STEMKEL of the Inkasso and Hypotheken Bank, Utrecht, arrested Goswigen Hendrik Gerard RAS alias LETTUCE and Johan JORDAAN alias TRUMPET. The arrests were effected by the Sipo, and GISKES thinks that the informant acted unwittingly. About the same time the Sipo also arrested Leonardus ANDRINGA alias TURNIP on information supplied by a woman (name unknown) in Utrecht. This informant is thought by GISKES to have acted unwittingly.


Interrogation of the three agents produced the full story of the Dropping Operation on the 28th March and established the identity of the dead man, a W/T operator named JOHN alias SWEDE. The latter’s signal plan was found on TURNIP which enabled the Germans at a later date to operate a notional, locally recruited operator named SWEDE.

Moreover, under interrogation the three captured men gave the numbers of Dutch S.O.E. agents who had completed their training and who could therefore be expected to be arriving in the not too distant future. In addition, personal descriptions, aliases, an estimate of the capabilities, together with a description of their future roles, i.e. W/T operator, saboteur, clandestine press, organiser etc. were obtained. Thence-forward the Germans devoted a good part of the interrogation of captured agents to the obtaining of this type of information, with the result that they generally knew whom to expect in the future; the information obtained enabled them to impress captured agents during interrogation with their seeming omniscience.

It must be remembered that towards the end of April, B-Stelle had been aware that clandestine transmissions were taking place, but they had been unable to decipher the messages.

12 LEEK and W/T Operator.


On the 5th April 1942 Barend Hloos alias LEEK was dropped blind with his W/T operator Hendrik SEBES alias HECK… It appears that during the drop the W/T set was damaged and although these two agents were not, like the others, apprehended immediately, they were never able to get in touch with the U.K. They were eventually arrested at a date unknown to GISKES and HUNTEMANN. HUNTEMANN recollects that after the arrest, London was asked for a replacement of the W/T set on another link, and this was furnished. The HECK transmitter was first operated on the 22nd August 1942 by the Germans, but HECK himself never operated…

Comment


In putting the above story together I have inevitably given some consideration to the question how far, what appears to have been a series of disasters, could have been avoided from the London end. I set out the results of that consideration, not in any critical spirit, but in the hope that a consideration of the following points may possibly be of use to those whose task it is to organise other similar activities. The story is, I think, a fair illustration of the fact which is sometimes forgotten, that counter-espionage is very much easier than espionage, and that an espionage organisation in enemy-occupied territory is extremely vulnerable to penetration. If that penetration is skilfully done, it can remain undiscovered over a long period. These are inevitable risks…

What has struck me most has been first, the vulnerability of the organisation in Holland was apparently not appreciated; secondly that the probable or possible implications of minor mishaps upon the security of the organisation as a whole were not considered and thirdly that no steps were, so far as I can see, ever taken by means of trap questions or otherwise to find out whether the operators were or were not under control. With the exception of very few messages containing both true and bluff checks the traffic from the Field relating to the evacuation of KNOPPERS (GOLF and BROADBEAN) only contain bluff checks. Now, although the use of a true check ought not to be taken as evidence that an agent is operating freely, persistent absence of the true check ought, at least, to raise the presumption that the agent is under control. This inference was never drawn. Incidentally it says much for the quality of the agents who were sent to the Field that they did not apparently divulge their true checks to the Germans. Our experience in this country of combating German espionage activities has, I think, taught us that an agent’s controller is always most unwilling to believe that his agent has been blown or has betrayed him and this may lie at the root of the failure to appreciate the true significance of the absence of signals showing the agents were operating freely. The arrest of JOHANNES also illustrates the same point. Although no doubt there are notable exceptions, it surely ought to be assumed as a working rule that if a man falls into enemy hands everyone with whom he has been working is compromised and all the information he has to give is in the hands of the enemy. Our experience of the German agents in this country and in the Field strongly supports that view. I do not know if anyone considered what were the chances of JOHANNES having been broken; and if so whether consideration was given to the question what facts and what other agents he was in a position to give away. It seems to me that if these matters had been given proper consideration the whole enterprise would have to have been abandoned; not because it was dangerous and involved risks, but simply because it was foredoomed to failure. Not only, however, does there appear to have been a failure to look the facts squarely in the face but also a failure when suspicion had once been aroused to test those suspicions. It would not I think have been difficult to have put a few trick questions on the traffic with a view to seeing whether the reaction was that which would be expected if the agent was not under control. In this connection it is worthy of notice that we know that some of the W/T operators who had been captured did not themselves operate on behalf of the Germans, their sets being taken over by the Germans for that purpose. No trick questions, however, ever seem to have been put even to the agents who were under suspicion...”

HS 6/759
Signals Out No. 20; from Jedburgh teams involved in Operation Market Garden


“Spent night in most forward position on S. bank of Rhine near DRIEL rpt DRIEL to contact CLAUDE and bring set. Crossing impossible. Jed KNOTTEBELT of CLAUDE slightly wounded, while with Div H.Q. Jed Claude ORR team with 1st Bde in town ARNHEM. Entire force reported eliminated by enemy action. Have not much hope for them but will find out at earliest possible moment. Clarence O.K. Will contact Daniel tomorrow with whom contact temporarily broken through break in L. of C. by enemy near UDEN. Purple Heart for Sgt Billingsly who got wounded in his eye diving into a foxhole.”

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