THE early autumn of 1944 my friends in S.O.E. began toying with the idea of a Skorzeny type commando raid on Ithe Fuhrer-headquarters. They thought it would be a neat way of shortening the war if they could bump off Hitler and Himmler.
And so too it would have been. I say would have been, because in the end this plan, like so many others before it, was rejected. Not however before a most meticulous intelligence survey had been made, recording every relevant and irrelevant detail that could be collected about the set-up in the Fiihrerheadquarters and the ancillary headquarters of Himmler and Ribbentrop.
Captured German generals and staff officers were carefully interrogated about what they remembered from their visits to the headquarters, maps were drawn of the various Fuhrer and Reichsfuhrer SS camps and of the trains of Pullman cars in which Germany's leaders ate, slept, worked, and travelled. The security system with its rings of guards and strong points was described and analysed. Lists were made of the permanent denizens of the headquarters. And they were sketched with a detail which would have enraptured a gossip columnist. And then, as I have said, the project was abandoned.
But the intelligence that had been collected was not wasted. The monitored conversations between the generals, the interrogations, the maps all travelled down to MB. And there they were built up into news stories about the hitherto top secret private life of Hitler and his suite that tortured the ailing Fuhrer with the suspicion that the British had their spies right inside his H.Q. Clifton Child was a genius at freshening up a piece of intelligence with a new development that made it sound like something that had happened the night before. We told of the adventures of the popsies brought in to amuse the tired Fuhrer, of the boisterous jinks of blonde Blanda-Elizabeth, the young wife of Dr. Walter Hewel who represented the German Foreign Office at the H.Q. How, for instance, at a gay party in the Berchtesgadener Hof on the Fiihrer's Obersalzberg she had shown off her prowess as a barber by soaping and shaving Herrmann Fegelein, the SS general who had become the Fuhrer's unofficial brother-in-law by marrying the sister of his mistress Eva Braun.
We told stories about the drugs with which the Fuhrer's court physician Professor Morell had been injecting him, and how these had turned Hitler into a half-paralysed trembling dotard. Shady deals in gold watches and human lives pulled off by Himmler's masseur, the plump and ever hungry Felix Kersten, came under the merciless publicity of the Soldatensender's news bulletins. Kersten, we said, had gained such an ascendancy over Himmler by massaging away his stomach cramps that the `Reichsheini' could refuse him nothing. Himmler, according to the Soldatensender, even let Kersten have slave labour from concentration camps for his estate at Harzwalde.
We reported the jealousies and bickering between Hitler's sycophant courtiers. And nearly all of it was true, or was so close to the truth as to be most disturbing to the great man who had ordered a special monitoring watch of the Soldatensender. Quite early on we got Hitler to the point where he commanded Goebbels and Schellenberg to check our news items to find out whether they were true and if they were, to try and hunt down our source.
Hitler's suspicions reached their climax when the Soldatensender, using the same technique of intelligent deduction and anticipation which had served us so well in the past, reported an order issued by the Fuhrer at a conference in his headquarters, and did so within twenty-four hours of his having given it and before it had been carried out.
On March the 7th, 1945 the Americans, by an historic piece of dash and improvisation, had managed to capture the great railway bridge across the Rhine at Remagen without the Germans having time to blow it up. Donald and I were discussing the talk in which Sepp Obermeyer had said the Luftwaffe bombers had been ordered to make Japanese style suicide dives on the bridge with blockbuster bombs.
" Of course the real people to have a go at the bridge should be the Navy with their frogmen," said Donald as much in joke as anything. I immediately turned to Frankie Lynder.
" Where are the nearest frogmen units?" I asked.
" I think Admiral Heye's K-force has some at Nimwegen. We could easily move them up-stream and have them make an underwater attack against the bridge with those special torpedo mines-the T.M.C., you know, sir."
Frankie had never lost his admirable habit of saying `Sir' to his superior officers which had won him three stripes in the Pioneer Corps.
" Oh, I don't think we want to report an actual attack, Sergeant. We'll just say that the Fiihrer had the brilliant idea of an underwater attack and that Admiral Heye, eager to add diamonds to his oak leaves, or whatever else it is he covets in the way of decorations, has graciously consented to sacrifice frogmen on operation `Lorelei'. I think you should make a great play of some chap arguing that the whole scheme is impossible rubbish owing to the incalculable underwater currents of the Rhine."
It was just a routine `black' story like hundreds of others we had thought up. But what a commotion it caused in Hitler's headquarters in the underground shelter at the Reich chancellery in Berlin, when we put it on the air on March the i i th ! For, unknown to us at the time, the Fuhrer had in fact ordered the German Navy's C.-in-C. Grand Admiral Dcenitz to lay on an underwater operation by naval frogmen against the bridge. The whole episode is most painstakingly recorded in the Secret Minutes of the Fiihrer conferences on Naval Affairs.*
Hitler, it appears from the minutes, had ordered the operation on March the 8th, 1945- On March the 9th at 17.oo hrs. Admiral Doenitz reported to his Fuhrer that two detachments of frogmen had been selected for the operation and that they were being sent up river as fast as possible. They would use torpedo mines attached to one another-exactly the technique Sergeant Lynder had recommended!
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Guard room door at the entrance to the MB compound