As THOUGH to symbolise the TOP top secrecy of my work for `Overlord' I had been assigned an office on the topmost floor of my department's new headquarters in Bush House. It was a pleasant little white-walled room right under the roof of what then was still one of the tallest buildings in London. From its windows, Betty Colbourne, my blonde curly-headed young Personal Assistant, could gaze across the grey tesselated desert of London roof-tops beneath us all the way to the Dome of St. Paul's.
And here, in this eyrie, high up over London, Betty and I now received our hush-hush callers-Poles, Danes, Norwegians, Frenchmen, Hollanders, Americans, and British. They were officers of the Underground Resistance groups in the German occupied territories. Aircraft sent out by S.O.E. and O.S.S. had picked them up from secret air strips right under the noses of Hitler's allegedly all-seeing SS guards. Then they had been flown to London for briefing in the role they and their groups were to play in the coming liberation of Europe. As part of that briefing they were now calling on me, so that I could learn from them what my unit could do to help theirs, and explain in what way they could help us.
As I listened to the gay, slim-waisted young Polish aristocrats, who seemed to know the latest and most fashionable London night spots so much better than I did, it seemed incredible to me that only a few days earlier they had been in uracow helping to publish a German language newspaper with items monitored from the Atlantiksender. Or that the tall young English colonel earnestly urging me to lay on a new clandestine radio for the Slovenes had blown up the key signal box of the railway junction of Laibach only the day before yesterday.I felt quite embarrassed by the deference with which these experts in physical disintegration listened to my exposition of the `black' possibilities of their work.
I had one major request for them: whenever they killed a German I wanted them to do their best to make it look as if he had been killed by Germans.
" We want Hitler and the Gestapo to believe that they are faced, not only with a Polish or a French underground, but with a German anti-Nazi resistance as well." To my great relief they all saw the point and promised me they would do what they could to make the Germans believe in the existence of an active and powerful German Resistance. And soon I had them as enthusiastic too about planting evidence designed to trick the Germans into thoughts and actions inimical to Hitler's war effort as we were in manufacturing them.
I had plenty of samples to show them. One designed to stimulate desertion to Sweden and Switzerland was a leaflet got up to look exactly like a propaganda handout issued to officers by the OKW under the title of `Mitteilungen fiir die Truppe'-information for the troops. I produced a genuine German original so that my visitors could assure themselves that our forgery had the same format, the same kind of paper, the same print and the same style of language. Our leaflet discussed the problem of the increasing number of desertions to neutral countries and called on officers to instruct their men not to leave the hunt for deserters to the overburdened and by no means numerous Field Police, but to watch out themselves for these treacherous cowards and prevent them from giving neutral countries a poor impression of Wehrmacht fighting spirit. The idea, I explained, was for members of the underground to leave this leaflet somewhere where a German officer , might have dropped it and where it could be picked up by a German soldier.
" A leaflet like this," I pontificated, "will be a hundred times more effective in stimulating desertion than any propaganda of manifestly allied origin." Another sample was a poster purporting to have been issued by the German Field Police.* It showed a poorly printed * picture of a German soldier who was `Wanted' by the German authorities for murder. The description of the man in the `Steckbrief', like the portrait it went with, could fit almost any German soldier or officer in uniform. "Erwin Bauer," said the Police notice, "was last seen in Oslo in the uniform of an SS Obersturmfuhrer, but is known also to have used the uniforms of a LuftwafFe Flight Captain, an Army Captain and even of a Party Sonderfiihrer." The pay-off of the police notice svas that the man was such a dangerous criminal that the Field Police asked for him to be delivered to them alive or dead. It was an open invitation to shoot German soldiers. And the invitation by implication included the Norwegians as well. For the notice was printed in both German and Norwegian.
" We have had some highly satisfactory results with this piece of `evidence' in Norway," I told my guests. "The Haugesund underground managed to provide it with the correct rubber stamps of their local Kommandantur and post it up in quite a number of places, including the notice board of the German officers' mess in one of the hotels. They had a lot of fun before the Germans discovered what was up. Now, of course, if you would like to use it, we could probably fix you up with the correct rubber stamps, if you don't have them yourselves."
But nearly always my visitors already had all the German rubber stamps they required. I was amazed how well equipped these guerrillas were with the tools for forging German passes. So, too, were we. For we had come a long way since that time in May 1941, when we could not forge a page of the Volkischer Boevbachter for lack of suitable German type faces and newsprint. We now had our own special printing unit capable of producing counterfeits of any German document from army orders to postage stamps and ration cards.