I can well imagine the fury and anguish of Party Comrade Winkelkampner as he listened to `The Chief' describing the magnificent sugar cake baked in the shape of Cologne Cathedral with which Herr Winkelkampner regaled his guests at a party just after the sugar ration had been drastically cut for ordinary folkcomrades. He must have wondered who was the traitor. But I am sure that neither he nor the Gestapo ever guessed her identity. For Black Propaganda, whether it was Gustav Siegfried or one of our later ventures, never used a piece of intelligence straight. We always `improved' it so that its source became unidentifiable.
When, for instance, I learned that Dino Alfieri, Mussolini's ambassador to Berlin, was shortly returning to Rome for consultations, `The Chief' did not announce this as news, as the B.B.C. or Reuters would have done. He did not say: "It is learned that Signor Alfieri is shortly returning to Rome for consultations. In diplomatic circles it is believed that the probable purpose of his journey is to discuss, etc.... etc. . . ." Gustav Siegfried's task was to exploit this piece of intelligence, not merely to communicate it. And `The Chief's' reaction was to demand Alfieri's recall. So that when this favourite of Ribbentrop's did, in fact, leave Berlin a few days after `The Chief's' broadcast, his journey was seen as proof of Gustav Siegfried's allegations.
The Alfieri broadcast was one of `The Chief's' best, and it is still reverberating today. For his story was accepted as the truth. It even crept into diplomatic dispatches, and thence into Ciano's Diary.* Here it is. In justification of his demand that Alfieri must go, `The Chief' recounted how a German officer (full name and rank stated), had come home unexpectedly on leave from the Eastern Front. In his Berlin flat-(street and house number stated)- the officer discovered his wife lin flagrante delicto with the ambassador.
The Kamerad, reported `The Chief', drew his service revolver and would have shot the ambassador there and then, had not this cringing coward of a Macaroni gone down on his knees and pleaded diplomatic immunity! So, instead of shooting him, the Kamerad had beaten up the spineless creature until he could neither see, hear, nor stand. Then he had bundled the fellow into a car and delivered him to his embassy.
Ciano, in his Diary for July the 3rd, 1941, recorded that "Alfieri's star appeared to be on the wane in Berlin", and that the Duce had laughed heartily when he heard how Dino was beaten up by a German officer. Our best source of information, help and inspirationapart from Leonard Ingrams and his Ministry of Economic Warfare-was the Admiralty. And it was to the Admiralty and the Naval Intelligence division, in particular, that I owed the intimate relationship which soon grew up between my `black' unit and the fighting services. In its turn, it was this collaboration with the Intelligence and Operational Planning sections of the services which caused what had begun as a pin prick rumour operation to develop into the major weapon of Psychological Warfare it ultimately became.
When I ask myself today, why the Navy should have been the first of the Services to discover and support us, I find I can put down a number of factors. For one thing, the Navy was fighting an all-out war from the beginning without any respect for the phoney war imposed on the Army and the R.A.F. by the French. They had contact with the enemy. They had prisoners and they had an intelligence of the kind that could be useful to us. For another, I had personal friends in Naval Intelligence. Ian Fleming had introduced me to his boss Admiral John Godfrey, as soon as I arrived back from the campaign in Poland in 1939.
And when I had told Godfrey in April 1941 that I would not be able to go to Lisbon for him after all because of the new `Black Radio' job I had been given, he was immediately interested. He saw at once that propaganda of this kind could be of value in the attack on the morale of the U-boat crews. He also recognised that we could be of help in misleading his opposite numbers in the German Admiralty's Intelligence division-though this was a function we did not develop until we possessed a more elaborate means of communicating with the enemy than Gustav Siegfried Eins.
Above all, this shrewdest of our wartime Directors of Naval Intelligence saw the great advantage that `Black' had over 'White'-as the overt broadcasts of the B.B.C. and the R.A.F. news-sheets came to be called-through its ability to use intelligence rather than to reproduce it, a faculty which safeguarded the security of N.LD.'s sources. Admiral Godfrey was so impressed with the possibilities of psychological attack on the enemy crews that he set up a special Propaganda Section and asked me to come to the Admiralty to coach the officers of the new section in the elements of the art during its first weeks.
The Admiral had installed his personal staff in a vast barn of a room immediately adjoining his own very comfortable inner sanctum. Somehow this outer workshop-N.LD. 17 was its Admiralty title-reminded me of the Arab banks I had visited in Tangier and Beirut.
Ian Fleming, the `chief clerk'-his code number was 17Fsat at a desk guarding the glass door to the boss's room, which overlooked the Horse Guards Parade. At a dozen desks of varying shapes the other `clerks' beavered away at stacks of papers. The `clerks' however were all naval officers, and their papers were not bills of exchange and freight letters but top secret reports. Each desk represented a special field of Intelligence activity and each had its special code number, N.I.D. 17a, N.LD. i 7b, N.LD. r 7c and so on. Now a new desk had been moved into N.LD. 17 for the Propaganda section. And this section too received its code letter-the last in the alphabet.
I felt considerable trepidation the first time I called on the officers of N.LD. t'7z, my `pupils' as Ian insisted on describing them. I feared they would resent the intrusion of a civilian. But the R.N.V.R. lieutenants sitting at the new desks could not have been more friendly and deferential
. There were three of them the first time I called. One was Robert Harling, a young man with the laughing, big-eared, long-nosed face of a medieval court jester and the shrewd appraising eyes of a physician. He was an artist typographer in civilian life, Ian told me, as he introduced us. (Robert Harling is today Editor of House & Garden, and author of several best-selling novels of suspense.) The second, whom Godfrey had picked to command the section, was a bony, sandy-haired Scotsman called Donald McLachlan. (Today Donald McLachlan is the Editor of The Sunday Telegraph.)He had been a don at Winchester, had spent a short time in the Berlin office of The Times, and had then worked for several years on The Times' foreign desk. The third was a young Marine Officer called David Astor. (The Honourable David Astor is now the Editor of The Observer.) But Astor had been posted to another unit by the time I next visited the department.
It only took a few visits to convince me that we could not have a better officer to service `Black' with intelligence material and ideas than the methodical and imaginative ex-schoolmaster McLachlan. He had been brought out of the Army by Admiral Godfrey in 194o and trained in all branches of naval intelligence. His latest duty in N.LD. had been the ideal preparation for `Black'. For Godfrey, as though he had sensed the kind of thinking we were going to demand of Donald McLachlan, had made him secretary to the F.O.E. (Forward Operations Enemy) sub-committee of the Chiefs of Staff which appraised enemy intentions over the whole war front, and it had been Donald's special duty to write a paper every week on the war at sea as it would appear to a German Intelligence Officer.
But I was delighted with the new section for yet another reason. For up to this time the Admiralty in common with the other Fighting Services had left Psychological Warfare to their Public Relations Department, and I had found that the Public Relations Officers had neither the access to the kind of intelligence material we needed, nor did they have the understanding for our indirect subversive approach to the enemy. This was no fault of theirs. For their job was the straightforward one of projecting the splendour and invincibility of the British Navy to the world through newspapers and radio. They were not conditioned for the devious approach needed for deceiving and tricking the Germans
. Admiral Godfrey's plan had been for N.LD.17z to conduct its attack on the German crews through the B.B.C. as well as through `Black'. But although Carlton Greene made time available for McLachlan and Harling to produce a special naval programme on the B.B.C. he would not let them write a special naval news bulletin. The news had to be written by the B.B.C. and no outsiders were allowed to interfere with it. The operatives of N.LD. 17z were therefore confined to commentaries, which was disappointing. For, in my view, and that of Donald McLachlan, carefully selected news items, skilfully presented are the most subversive propaganda force of all.
The result of this B.B.C. obstinacy was that the Admiralty turned more and more to `Black'. And soon, as the reader will learn, `Black', with the Admiralty to back it, intruded into the most sacred preserve of the B.B.C. with a live news broadcast of its own. What the Admiralty liked about `Black' was its ability to make statements, about sinkings for instance, without the Admiralty being held responsible. Had they been broadcast by the B.B.C. on the other hand they would have been quoted as official Admiralty statements. (The B.B.C. of course cannot be blamed for this.)
Moreover, the Navy had been impressed by the evidence that now began to come in, that Gustav Siegfried had built up a substantial audience in Germany and that `Der Chef's' stories were getting around. The new formula appeared to be working.