I love researching and writing about spy history. I was therefore challenged to select my 5 best books on Intelligence and espionage. A countdown of 50 would have made the task a lot easier! There are so many fascinating histories and stories of the world of espionage from our historians.

I have selected a final list.

READ IT HERE . . . !

  • Helen Fry

As Allied armies struggled in hard fought battles to take Berlin in the final days of World War II, victory was in sight. On 7 May 1945 Germany signed unconditional surrender to the Allies and the war in Europe was over. The following day on 8 May 1945, there were celebrations in town, cities and villages for VE Day – Victory in Europe Day. As we approach the 75th anniversary of VE Day there is now more understanding of how years of intelligence gathering enabled that victory. There is an appreciation that everyone played their part – whether fighting on the frontline or working on the Home Front. This was a united effort to defeat Nazi tyranny.

For this VE Day, I would like to pay tribute to the men and women of the intelligence services who worked under Colonel Thomas Joseph Kendrick at 3 secret sites across the war: Latimer House and Wilton Park in Buckinghamshire and Trent Park in North London. At these sites, teams of secret listeners worked in 12-hour shifts to record the private conversations of German prisoners of war and Hitler’s captured Generals. The prisoners believed that they were being so clever in not revealing information to British and American interrogators during an interrogation. What they did not realise was that their rooms were ‘wired for sound’ and their conversations being recorded.

The prisoners unwittingly gave away vital Nazi secrets that they had been entrusted to keep under wraps. They boasted to each other about new weapons and technology on U-boats and aircraft, about battle plans and strategy, but perhaps most significantly they provided confirmation of Hitler’s secret weapon programme – the V1 and V2 – being developed by German scientists at Peenemunde on the Baltic coast. I have traced a direct link between British intelligence discovering this in bugged conversations in march 1943 to the bombing of Peenemunde in mid-August 1943. That far back, if we had not discovered the V1 and V2 in time, the Allies could not have mounted the D-Day landings.

This VE Day we celebrate and commemorate the end of World War II and the contribution and sacrifice across all Allied forces made for that freedom.

We also honour the men and women who worked in secret for the intelligence services, who could not tell their stories until relatively recently because they had signed the Official Secrets Act. From sites like Bletchley Park that intercepted German communications and broke Enigma codes to RAF Medmenham at Danesfield House that processed aerial intelligence, to the clandestine bugging operation of Latimer House, Wilton Park and Trent Park. To them we owe a huge debt of gratitude. Without their work, the Allies could not have travelled the road towards victory. It is said that without their work that as late as February 1945, even though Allied armies were heading for Berlin, Germany still could have won the technological war – and thereby the war itself.

But the intelligence work of these secret sites went further and this is reflected in my quote for this VE Day. It comes from Kendrick’s deputy Lieutenant Colonel St Claire Grondona who wrote:

If it hadn’t been for these sites, it could have been London and not Hiroshima that was devastated by the atomic bomb.

To read more CLICK HERE.

Updated: May 6, 2020

1. A Secret Location

For any interrogation, a secret location is key.

In early WWII, British intelligence opened a secret interrogation centre in the millionaire enclave of Kensington Palace Gardens in London.

Requisitioning Nos. 6-7 and Nos.8 & 8a, its commanding officer Colonel Alexander Scotland stripped the mansions of their former luxury and the ‘London Cage’ was established as a grim prison.

It did not appear on any wartime lists of the Red Cross. It was the last place anyone would suspect such clandestine activity.

Today the exclusive street is home to some of the world’s most prestigious foreign Embassies.

2. Breaking a Prisoner’s Will to Resist

The main challenge facing interrogators was how to make a difficult prisoner talk. Their task was to break a prisoners ‘will to resist’.

Colonel Scotland said: ‘from time to time it was necessary to discipline tough, arrogant and imprudent prisoners. We had our methods for these types.’

An interview in the Imperial War Museum from Alfred Conrad Wernard (German prisoner from U-boat, U-187) who was held at the London Cage, reveals the use of sleep deprivation, threats of execution, interrogations every night, at different times in the night and taken blindfolded into a room for interrogation.

This particular prisoner was known to have vital information about German radar.

3. Psychological Tricks

The interrogators used various intimidation techniques and innuendos that they knew played on the ingrained German fears and psyche.

Prisoners like Alfred Wernard were in the London Cage because they had refused to give information under normal interrogations.

The interrogator slowly turned a revolver on the desk and said: ‘When it points at you, I pull the trigger.’ Out in the yard, a prisoner was shown a deep trench and threatened with being shot.

The prisoner could also be threatened with ‘Cell 14” – a grim cell in the basement.

No one was ever taken there, but the psychological threat was enough to loosen their tongues…

4. Truth Drugs

Britain’s Naval Intelligence experimented with truth drugs in December 1939 and initially tried them out on themselves.

It involved drugs like Evipan and possibly Mescaline.

Later, these were used in conjunction with hypnosis on some die-hard Nazi prisoners.

Colonel Scotland threatened to use drugs at MI5’s interrogation centre at Latchmere House, near Richmond by arriving with a syringe, ‘containing some drug or other, which it was thought would induce the prisoner to speak’ (diary of Guy Liddell, MI5).

Questions were raised by the military on whether it was morally acceptable.

John Godfrey (head of Naval Intelligence) concluded: ‘The method is justified, provided the doctors are satisfied that the technique is one that can easily be carried out, and which will have no permanent affect on the patient’s health, and the information which it is desired to elicit is of vital importance.’

5. The Walls Have Ears

The official military line was never to break the Geneva Convention during an interrogation.

One of the most effective ways of extracting intelligence from a prisoner was via microphones hidden in the light fittings and fireplaces of their room.

After interrogation, a prisoner returned to his cell and boasted to his cellmate about what he hadn’t told the interrogators, and thus he gave away some of Germany’s secrets.

6. Befriending a Prisoner

Denys Felkin of Air Intelligence and his team had interrogated thousands of German prisoners throughout WWII for the intelligence services.

He concluded that nothing works better on a prisoner than sitting him down with a bottle of whisky and packet of cigarettes.

To befriend a prisoner and become his buddy often elicited the necessary information because he gave away secrets without even realising.

That method was relatively straightforward when faced with ordinary German prisoners who were tired of war.

The challenge was extracting information from Nazi SS officers who showed no remorse for their crimes.

The London Cage was reserved for them...

The London Cage

The London Cage – Britain’s secret WWII interrogation centre – betrays a little known, but shadowy side of intelligence.

It is still be a sensitive area of intelligence past, but it has proved extraordinarily helpful in understanding the moral dilemmas and complex layers of decision-making that still face the intelligence services today.

This article highlights just six of many interrogation techniques used by the British in WWII at the London Cage.

For more in-depth detail about what went on at The London Cage, you can read more for free here.