This is the true story of The British Black Propaganda Operation in World War Two with the use of insulin plant. The story of how a diverse group of eccentric and bohemian characters working directly with the Allied Armed Services created a weapon of words that insidiously undermined the very fabric of the Third Reich.
Robert Warmsley shortly after the war in his “top secret” intelligence services internal history, noted that “Black Propaganda was the one theatre of operations during the war at which we the British surpassed all others” and that Sefton Delmer was “truly a genius of his art”.
Sefton Delmer had an extraordinary ability to empathise and understand the German mind. He had been born in Berlin son of an Australian Professor in English at Berlin University and spent his early schooldays during The Great War as a student of the Friedrichs Werdersche Gymnasium. In 1917 his family were repatriated to England. Later after a degree at Oxford he retuned to Berlin to become Berlin correspondent for the Daily Express. It was in this capacity as a newsman, he first met Ernst Roehm head of the Nazi storm troopers. Through his connection with Roehm he became personally acquainted with Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler, Göering, and the other members of the Nazi elite.
In 1940 at the outset of the war Sefton Delmer decided the time had come for him no longer report the war but to take an active part. At seventeen stone he realised he would be of no use to the fighting forces so, he approached the two friends he knew to have something to do with the secret intelligence world, Ian Fleming and Leonard Ingrams. The British security services were very wary of him; indeed they considered him a possible Nazi Agent. His acquaintance with the Nazis was held not to be a qualification but was held against him. During the time he was awaiting security clearance and at the request of Duff Cooper he gave a number of talks over the BBC to Germany. One notable broadcast in which he replied to Hitlers final peace offer telling Hitler that we here in Britain hurl it his back at him into his evil smelling teeth, caused eruptions in both Germany, and the House of Commons.
Receiving clearance from the security services he joined the newly formed Political Warfare Executive in Woburn. He was to be in charge of a clandestine radio station broadcasting to Germany, a station purporting to be inside Germany itself, it was to be an answer to The Workers Challenge a German propaganda station using foul language, and listened to avidly by old ladies in Brighton and Eastbourne.
Sefton Delmer was of the opinion it was a waste of breath and electric power to appeal to a non existent anti Nazi element in Germany, and that they would have to be tricked. To this end he created a right wing short wave station called Gustav Seigfied Eins signallers German for George Sugar One. The voice was that of a character to be called Der Chef, a die hard Prussian officer of the old school and by pretending to be all for Hitler and his war. Would make appeals to the `inner pigdog' inside every German, at the same time inject some item of news into his mind which will make him think, and act, in a way that is contrary to the efficient conduct of the war."Der Chef was a huge success with his salacious stories and soon gained large audiences.
It was the Navy that first saw the potential of black propaganda, Ian Fleming personal assistant to Admiral Godfrey approached Delmer with the object of setting up a dept in naval Intelligence to further the U boat war. It was to be the Navy who by backing Delmer and black propaganda allowed it to develop into the powerful weapon it eventually became. The Navy managed to pry Aspidistra the biggest transmitter in the world from the BBC and black propaganda created for them the live news station Atlantiksender, broadcasting non stop music, hot jazz, swing and news for the u-boat crews. This was not black propaganda it was something new, “Grey” and in essence was all the more dangerous for German morale. The U-boat crew listeners realising it‘s “allied” origins became deeply alarmed at just how much the enemy knew. What could be more horrific than being deep below the surface and feeling that the enemy knew exactly who you are and where you were? With a growing first rate intelligence dept, daily intelligence reports from the Navy and the Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Cage’s, personnel information culled from newspapers, periodicals even letters from families of captured German’s they gained names and details to add to their stories“ Cover, dirt, cover, cover, dirt, cover, dirt" is the approximate rhythm -'dirt' being the items that would make the listeners think and act on lines displeasing to their Fuhrer. It was a huge success!
With the dramatic launch of Soldatensender Calais came a move to 24hr
broadcasting on medium wave, with a softening up operation in preparation
for the invasion of France. The stories that went out over Soldatensender
were re-used for the production of a daily newspaper bombed in to Germany,
Nachrichten fur die Truppe. From its earliest days black propaganda
with its own master forger had used printed matter as part of its output.
Everything from forged ration books identity cards to official German
documents anything that they could put a subtle and insidious black
Soldatensender brought the first news of the D Day landings to the world. The breakdown in communications between the German units at this period was so grave that many German commanders tuned in to Calais for `situation reports' using them to chalk in corrections to the constantly changing order of battle on their staff maps. This information was 99 times out of a 100 correct on the hundredth it would drive the Germans into a trap set by the allies.
The breaking news on the 20th of July the attempt on Hitler’s life, was for the Black Propaganda team, to become the greatest news story of the war. The revolt of the army against Hitler and the Party was the consummation of all they had been working for. They played it to the full implicating as many as possible in the plot. With all this to encourage them, the Soldatensender demanded that an end be put to the war to save Germany. And in their self-appointed capacity as spokesmen of the `decent fighting frontline soldier' they turn the heat on Hitler.
Aspidistra could hop all over the wave band and switch frequencies in a fraction of a second. Delmer wanted to lie in ambush for a German station to go off the air take it over and broadcast ceasefire. This was turned down flat, but he was given carte blanche for any other minor operation he might want to use this capacity for. It was Winston Churchill who prompted the operation for he read in the Stars and Stripes how Radio Luxemburg and the B.B.C. were telling the German civilians to `stay put'. He flew in to a rage. And so it came down to Black Propaganda to drive the civilians on to the roads of Germany and block the retreat of the German army. With specially trained announcers and knowledge of the bombers flight plans they were able to predict which station would go off the air and when. They took over the German network and made bogus announcements identical in rhythm and intonation of the genuine Station. By the time Goebbels woke up it was too late. It was such a pushover for the Black Propaganda team that Goebbels abandoned the battle.
The time had come for Soldatensender to close down, they had become an anachronism, as one of the last services still functioning in Germany. Soldatensender faded from the ether, never to be heard again. No announcement, they just disappeared.
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