The London Cage

London Cage 3D


“… impressively forensic study, which not only throws light on an intriguing (and murky) backwater of World War II, but also on an unresolved ethical dilemma still with us today”, Daily Mail

Helen Fry is “an authority on British intelligence networks of the war…,” Sunday Times 

‘A tour de force. Helen Fry’s absorbing and authoritative account of how Britain’s wartime spies used both brutality and guile to get vital intelligence out of German prisoners of war is a shocking but fascinating read.’ Michael Smith, author of Station X: The Codebreakers of Bletchley Park

‘A clear and chilling insight into a long-concealed chapter of military intelligence.’ Michael Jago, author of The Man Who Was George Smiley

In autumn 1940, the British Secret Service requisitioned three adjoining luxury mansion houses in Kensington Palace Gardens to open a clandestine unit, the London Cage. Located in a gated street coined Millionaires’ Row, belonging to the Crown Estate and bordering the royal Kensington Palace, it boasted one of the most exclusive and expensive residences in the capital and unlikeliest of locations to hold German prisoners-of-war. For the neighbours – the Russian Embassy tenanted next door and the wealthy magnates living in the other mansions – there was no inkling of what was going on behind the bravura Victorian façades. Here the prisoners, who could not be broken under normal conditions of interrogation at any of the other eight ‘cages’ in Britain, were subjected to ‘special intelligence treatment’, designed to break their will to resist. As a transit camp, the London Cage should have appeared on the wartime lists of the Red Cross. It did not – because officially it did not exist. Its Commanding officer Colonel Alexander Scotland, a longstanding intelligence officer (rumoured to have been MI5) and an MI6 contact man, set the cage rules and this is where the controversy emerged. Within six months of opening, the London Cage became embroiled in an internal heated controversy between MI5 and MI6 over the use of violence and unorthodox methods during interrogations.


At the end of the war, the London Cage became the War Crimes Investigation Unit and the most important such centre outside Germany. Many high ranking Nazi war criminals and SS officers passed through its doors after being hunted down by Scotland’s own specialist teams roaming Europe to bring them out of hiding. Claims of brutality, use of torture and psychological abuse surfaced again at the London Cage – this time very publically.

Then, in the 1950s, panic coursed through the corridors of MI5 and the Foreign Office when it was discovered that Scotland was on the verge of publishing his memoirs. He was silenced and a censored version published in 1957. What ended up on the cutting room floor was at least half of the manuscript, including all examples of methods of interrogation, anecdotal stories about specific prisoners, examples of conversations with prisoners, and life generally inside the cage. This book reveals the oft controversial life behind closed doors and secrets that the intelligence services sought to suppress for decades.

Photo 6, German POWs being searched after the raid 2, 1942

‘Impressively researched, this overdue investigation sheds new light on British interrogation methods during and after the Second World War. Shocking and important.’ Clare Mulley, author of The Spy Who Loved

‘The history of the London Cage is controversial and, even after seventy years, many questions are unanswered. Helen Fry’s book gives a cohesive picture of WWII British Military Intelligence, raising important questions about means and ends in wartime. A clear and chilling insight into a long-concealed chapter of military intelligence.’ Michael Jago, author of The Man Who Was George Smiley

‘A compelling account of the subterranean world of the London Cage and the 3,000 POWs who passed through its doors. Despite some of the records still remaining classified, Helen Fry makes an important contribution to our understanding of what took place in Kensington Palace Gardens during these years, and shines a powerful light onto this hidden corner of WWII history.’ Tom Carver, author of Where the Hell Have You Been? Monty, Italy and One Man’s Incredible Escape

Helen’s interview on ‘the London Cage: House of secrets’:

Publisher: Yale, September 2017


Photo 4, Alexander_scotland, courtesy Eye Spypow-found-hanging-at-kpgPhoto 15, Le Paradis, 1940

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