In the ordinary way we did not distribute our counterfeit literature in Germany by R.A.F. bombers. That was a method I was glad to leave reserved for the official `white' leaflets. Not only would it have revealed the enemy origin of material we wanted to be mistaken for German, had we used the R.A.F. but our `evidence' could not have been placed in spots where Germans discovering it would find it convincing.
The perfect `plant' could only be accomplished by the human hand. We. therefore depended on agents of the underground for our normal distribution. But there were three counterfeits which we did drop from R.A.F. aircraft. The first of these were our forgeries of the German ration cards. The second was a rough leaflet multigraphed on sheets of Luftwaffe signals paper which we hoped would be accepted as having been dropped by Luftwaffe comrades of the ace fighter pilot Werner Molders.
Armin Hull had been counterfeiting German ration cards for some time before I became aware of it. He was doing so for our friends in S.O.E. who required German ration cards for `travellers' operating in Germany. When I found some specimens of German ration cards lying on Armin's work-table I thought they were the genuine article. "Could you counterfeit these?" I asked him, and I explained that if we could persuade the R.A.F. to drop them on Germany, we would be striking a powerful blow at Hitler's rationing system.
" Afraid you can't have them though," said Armin." Why ever not? I know we are not allowed to forge bank notes. But these? Surely . . ."" It isn't that. These belong to S.O.E. They are forgeries and they want them for their agents."
I could hardly believe it. " Show me the originals," I demanded. Armin produced them. They were indistinguishable. The colours, the perforation, texture of the paper, the watermark, everything appeared to me to be identical. It was a miracle. I decided to put up my plan to S.O.E. for I felt sure they would help when they heard it. And so indeed it turned out. The S.O.E. chief's only stipulation was that we should not drop the latest issues on Germany. " We need these for our chaps working there," explained the colonel who was my liaison with the Cloak-and-Dagger men. "Besides we don't want the Germans to know that we receive their ration cards here almost as soon as they are issued."
Instead of the latest issue he offered me some Travellers' Coupons which were valid throughout Germany. They had only one defect, they were due to expire fairly soon. I accepted them with enthusiasm. Armin printed vast quantities of these Travellers ration cards and very soon the R.A.F. were dropping them on Germany. "A little balm," I called it, "to take the hurt out of the bombs." The howl of protest at this British iniquity from Goebbels was so encouraging that we printed millions more ration cards and kept dropping them. And soon S.O.E. relented, and let us use the latest coupons and not only those about to expire.
Armin developed a splendid technique of mass forgery. As soon as he had heard from S.O.E. that a fresh consignment of German ration cards was on its way to him, he would call up his printers and the paper-maker and have them ready, waiting in his office. While the printers made their offset plates the paper-maker would be making the special watermarked paper, in the event that the Germans should have changed the pattern and a new batch was needed. The whole operation was completed at top speed. So expert did Hull's team become at the job that the R.A.F. would be distributing our forgeries within days of the new issue coming from the German Food Offices.
The German C.LD. circularised their offices to be on the lookout for our forgeries. In a special warning of January the 14th, 1944*-we picked it up later among the captured documents-they issued a most painstaking analysis of the few points of difference they could establish between our forgeries and the genuine German coupons. But while these differences might be detectable by police equipped with special instruments I cannot imagine a grocer, or a baker, or an inn-keeper being able to detect them in the rush of business. Considering the speed at which these counterfeits had been prepared the police circular was a remarkable tribute to Hull and his team.
But Goebbels had a more imaginative counter-measure up his sleeve. When he found that the German printers and paper-makers could not beat Hull by altering the pattern of the coupons, Goebbels, brilliant artist that he was, counterattacked with a stratagem which I rank among the most ingenious of the war. To back up his propaganda blast that the `R.A.F. forgeries' were `clumsy and easily detected' and `certain to land those who use them in the death cell', he got his own printers to fabricate some monumentally clumsy forgeries of ration cards. These he then displayed at Party meetings all over Germany as samples of `stupid British work by which no intelligent German could possibly be deceived'. He followed this up with nation-wide publicity for the trials of `Volksschadlinge' (enemies of the people) who had been caught by shopkeepers trying to pass off the R.A.F. forgeries.
I was full of admiration for the little doctor's ingenuity at the time, and I still am. This was `black' against `black' at its most brilliant. But it did not deter the many thousands of Germans, who used the ration cards we had dropped, to provide themselves with a valuable addition to their calories.