The first line of the new U-boat version went: "Ich war in St. Nazaire in einem Puff . . ." which means, "I was in a brothel in St. Nazaire . . ." Fortunately the bandmaster colonel conducting the Marines did not ask me to translate the rest of the words.
My most important source of staff for our operations was the German Wehrmacht itself. From U-boats sunk in the Atlantic, from Rommel's harried armies in North Africa, from the German aircraft shot down over Britain and over Libya an ever increasing stream of prisoners were now pouring into the interrogation cages run by my Intelligence friends in London and nearby.
These prisoners provided a prolific flow of intelligence useful to our campaigns. They also provided me with a new reservoir of talent. For among the new intake of prisoners were a number of Germans so antagonised by Hitler and the moral and physical destruction he was imposing on their country, that they wanted to seize the first opportunity to hasten his end. From the ranks of these men I selected some of my ablest fellow workers. Several have remained trusted friends of mine to this day.
One of them, a young artillery major, scion of an old Prussian family steeped in army traditions, had been the intelligence officer of his regiment in North Africa. Wolfgang von Virchow, as I called him, had an accurate and retentive mind. He became the Number One of the little team which, under the direction of Molly Fitzpatrick,* a witty young German-speaking Irishwoman, wrote the special `Army Programme'. Like its naval counterpart this consisted of bits of service gossip, news of the movements of units, criticism of weapons and other titbits likely to entertain, mislead, and subvert the German soldier. Virchow also advised the news writers on their interpretation of the military news, and he was invaluable in helping us to avoid solecisms of language, procedure, and the other pitfalls of the counterfeiter.
The German Air Force provided me with an entire three man crew who were testing a new German nightfighter-two officers and a sergeant. The three of them were determined anti-Nazis. They did not belong to any resistance group, but talking together, they had discovered that each one of them had the same idea-to get to Britain and there join up with other Germans fighting Hitler on the British side.
They were carrying out their test flights from a German airfield in Denmark when their great opportunity presented itself. To their base was sent the very latest and most up-to-date Messerschmitt nightfighter to leave the works. It carried the new electronic equipment which the German Air Force Command felt confident was at last going to put a stop to the British night-time bombing raids on Germany. Though they realised that they might be shot down and killed by the Germans or the British before ever they could land in Britain they decided to fly the plane over and present it to the R.A.F. as an earnest of their desire to fight Hitler. But they were not shot down. They managed to land their plane intact on an Essex airstrip. Of course, they should never have been made prisoners of war at all. But unfortunately their names were sent through to the International Red Cross before the British authorities realised the mistake they had made.
When Steiner, Wegely, and Obermeyer had given all their information to the R.A.F. interrogators, they were offered to me. Any Germans who listened to the Atlantiksender or the medium wave Soldatensender which was soon coupled to it, will remember the diatribes of the angry Bavarian voice in the Luftwaffe programme, denouncing the impossible conditions under which he and his comrades were expected to fight the enemy. That was Sergeant Sepp Obermeyer, a red haired, typically stocky Upper Bavarian with a face that was just like his voice. To begin with his talks had to be written for him. He also required endless coaching before he could speak naturally before the microphone. Then one day just like Corporal Paul Sanders when we were starting the Gustav Siegfried broadcasts-Obermeyer asked me whether he might alter the script to suit his own style of speaking. I was delighted, for I guessed what was coming. And sure enough soon this rustic Bavarian mechanic began writing his own talks. First class talks they were too, simple, salty and sincere. Steiner and Wegely, with Squadron Leader Norman Roffy from Air Intelligence 3 to supply them with technical intelligence, and one of my own old hands to coach them in the art of writing, between them put out a first rate programme of gossip, technical news, and grumbles for the Luftwaffe similar to that which Major von Virchow handled for the Army.
The German Navy and the U-boats, which were the first and original target of the Atlantiksender, were particularly well represented by recruits from the cages. Our ablest and most resourceful U-boat man was Eddy Mander, a bright little Hamburg guttersnipe who before the war had been a wireless operator and radio mechanic with the Debeg, the German equivalent of Marconi. Mander held the rank of a Flotillen Oberfunkmeister (Flotilla Chief Radio Petty Officer) which was about as high as an NCO could rise. But he was full of bitterness against his own officers and the Nazi leaders. From being a devout Nazi at the beginning of the war his personal experiences had gradually turned him into a gifted and resolute adversary of the Third Reich.
In 1939 Mander had been serving with the German Merchant Marine. He was the chief wireless officer on Altmark when Altmark, her holds crammed with captured British merchant seamen, was herself boarded off the Norwegian Coast by the British destroyer Cossack. Mander escaped becoming a British prisoner at that time by jumping overboard and running for the coast across the ice-flows. Even though he was hit in the right lung by a British machine-gun bullet, he managed to keep going until he reached land. As soon as he was well enough to go to sea again he was called up by the German Navy. Much to Mander's resentment the Navy insisted on ignoring his expert proficiency as a wireless operator. The naval radio men made him go through their radio training course from its most elementary beginnings. That soured him. Then he was caught out in a Black Market deal with coffee and was court-martialled. He was given a choice of death sentences, transfer to a penal battallion in the foremost line of the Russian front, or three more Atlantic cruises in a U-boat. Mander chose the U-boat death. But he was lucky. Though his submarine was sunk on the second night out of his first cruise, he himself was fished out and taken prisoner. With him into captivity he brought his U-boat code book containing all the latest cyphers and a great hate of Hitler's navy.
Over a British naval transmitter Mander then got his first revenge. With the British to help him he sent out a series of cypher signals which directed two German U-boats to a rendezvous. There they were pounced on by the waiting British. The boats were sunk, their crews joined Mander in captivity. What made Mander invaluable to my team at MB were his technical knowledge, particularly in matters of signals and radar, his wide range of acquaintances among U-boat crews, and his wonderful gift of racy German lower-deck slang. He was an adept at thinking up new grouses. And when it came to suggesting how U-boat men might delay the departure of their ship-and prolong their lives-by petty and unattributable acts of sabotage, not even our own naval experts were more fertile.
Mander was the mainstay of the team writing the naval programme. At the end of the war he was repatriated. But he died soon after his return. Of tuberculosis, it is stated. Needless to say there is another version that he met his death at the hands of former U-boat men.
Frank Lynder, the son of a Bremen bookseller and publisher, was the captain of the naval team, its Number One writer, intelligence researcher, and speaker. His Bremen accent had just the right nautical ring to it. Not that Frank was a German naval man. He was a coffee broker, and came to me from the same bomb disposal squad of the Pioneer Corps as Paul Sanders. Lynder had been its sergeant while Sanders was the corporal. Frank, who is today the London correspondent of Hamburg's Springer group of newspapers, joined my team never having read or written anything more literary than an invoice. But he soon showed a flair for searching out the unexpected, allrevealing detail and writing little items which had what my Classics Master at St. Paul's would have called a `charming Platonic simplicity'. On a blackboard in his office he chalked up the various campaigns which Donald McLachlan had laid down for him to follow. Every time an item went out in support of one of these campaigns Lynder marked it on his board as assiduously as a German student of philology counting up the accusatives-cum-infinitive in Otfried for his doctor's thesis. And if Frank Lynder found that any campaign was being neglected, he was like a terrier after a rat in seeing to it that this neglect was remedied at once.
It was Frank Lynder too, who, with his girl research assistant read the letters which the U-boat men in the P.o.W. camps in Britain and Canada were sending and receiving from home. He and his secretary noted down every bit of gossip and family news in a huge card file in which they also included the marriages, births, and deaths announced by U-boat families in German newspapers. On the basis of this file the Atlantiksender's `Sailors' Sweetheart'-Agnes Bernelle, a daughter of the Berlin playwright and theatre-owner Rudolf Bernauer, whom we called `Vicky'-was able to startle the German navy men by sending out birthday greetings not merely to the U-boat men themselves, but also to their families, congratulating them on the birth of a son or daughter and generally showing an intimate acquaintance with the private affairs of her `dear boys in blue'. Vicky was incredibly good at it. The treacle in her voice would never let you suspect that this Circe had lost half her family in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
No less a Nazi potentate than the dynamic little Doctor Goebbels himself provided the cover for the Atlantiksender's subversive broadcasts. He and his official news agency, the Deutsche Nachrichtenbiiro. For Goebbels, in order to assure to the DNB news a fast distribution over the whole of Hitler's far flung territories, had set up a wireless teleprinter service by means of a so-called Hell-schreiber. I managed to get hold of a Hell-schreiber receiving set which the DNB London correspondent had inadvertently left in his office, when he fled to Germany at the outbreak of war. Reuters now had it-the DNB office had been in the Reuters' Building-and Christopher Chancellor,* the head of Reuters, nobly yielded it up to me when I asked him for it. On this Hell-schreiber we now received Dr. Goebbels's news service in MB at the same time as the German newspapers and radio stations were receiving it. And being faster workers and less inhibited than the teams working for Goebbels we were able to put his news on the air before our Nazi competitors.
Some items we used as cover to give ourselves authenticity as a German station purveying official news. To others we gave a subversive twist so that when listeners heard them on the German radio later, they quite unconsciously read our tendentious distortion as the truth hidden `between the lines'. The Hell-schreiber gave us decorations and promotions in the Wehrmacht, it gave us the official communiques and the speeches of the Nazi Party orators proclaiming their unshakeable faith in the Fuhrer and final victory. From these we would give brief and damningly deadpan excerpts. From the DNB Hell-schreiber we also got our invaluable sports news which was magnificently edited for us by the veteran t'llstein Sports reporter Dr. Willy Meisl. In short, the Hell-schreiber was invaluable, and without it we would never have been able to follow the formula which enabled us to put over the poison in our news bulletins without it sounding like enemy propaganda.
" Cover, dirt, cover, cover, dirt, cover, dirt" was the approximate rhythm we followed-'dirt' being what we called the items which we hoped would make our listeners think and act on lines displeasing to their Fiihrer. The DNB, however, was not the only debt we owed the `Propaganda Dwarf'. He himself occasionally made a personal appearance on the Atlantiksender to give it additional authenticity as a German station. And so did the Fuhrer. For when Goebbels or Hitler delivered one of their speeches over the German radio, we picked it up from the German network and relayed it over the Atlantiksender. " The Deutsche Kurzwellensender Atlantik, in common with all other stations in the Reich network," said our announcer on these occasions, "now takes you over to the Sports Palace in Berlin, where you will hear the address of the Fuhrer, Wir schalten um. . ." As Harold Robin, the brilliant and ingenious chief technician of the radio unit switched over and Hitler took over from Sepp Obermeyer or Vicky, a roar of Homeric laughter echoed through MB. It was a trick that never lost its appeal. Many were those in the team who begged me to let them interrupt Goebbels or the Fuhrer with a rough comment or two. We could have done so very easily by switching in and out again. But I was firm. "One operation at a time, my children!" I said. "We are doing this for cover, cover, cover and nothing else. No dirt this time!"
Even in our subversive items we took care to keep to the Goebbels idiom. We talked of the allies as `the enemy' and adopted whatever pejorative epithets were current at the time. Raids by the bombers of the R.A.F. and the U.S. Air Force we referred to as `Terror Raids' and the raiding crews we called `Terror Flyers'. But despite all the cover and the blandly matter of fact authority of even our most outrageous news items I could not help feeling that our cannier listeners would soon come to suspect the unorthodox deviation of the Atlantiksender from the routine output of the other stations as being due to some-thing more than the remoteness of the radio's putative home in France from the dynamic doctor's central control. But even if they did, I calculated the station would still remain effective. Partly because it always spoke from a patriotic and `national' German viewpoint, and this was bound to be more insidious and psychologically effective than a straight enemy broadcast, partly because listeners caught tuning in to us would welcome the excuse that they had only listened in the belief that Atlantik was German.
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ASPIDISTRA SHORTWAVE TRANSMITTER DEUTSCHER KURZWELLENSENDER ATLANTIK