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Posted in Espionage, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, World War 2 on Monday, 22 April 2013
This edited article about World War Two originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 229 published on 4 June 1966.
During their struggle Keyes suddenly felt the German go limp; Campbell had shot him, by Neville Dear
Cairo, 1941: General Cunningham stood at the window of the operations room watching the River Nile flow lazily past. Behind him, at the head of a large table, sat General Auchinleck, Commander-in-Chief, Middle East Land Forces, gazing at a large map of North Africa. In the town of Tobruk, a red pin had been firmly placed, and this was surrounded by many grey and green flags marking the German and Italian forces.
Despite severe shortages of food and water, Tobruk had withstood an enemy siege for over eight months, until, finally, the time had come for the town to be relieved or to surrender. General Auchinleck had made a decision. A major offensive, led by General Cunningham, would be launched on November 18, 1941, to relieve the town and drive the Germans out of Libya.
But one nagging doubt remained in the General’s mind. He was short of tanks and men, and something special would have to be done to disrupt the enemy and make up for these deficiencies. He reasoned that the one weakness of the German Afrika Corps was their strict mode of operation, and that if the head of the force could be silenced, then, for a short while at least, confusion would reign.
“Why not capture the brilliant leader of the Afrika Corps – General Rommel himself?” thought Auchinleck.
Now, as the two British generals sat in the operations room, they were joined by Lieutenant-Colonel Geoffrey Keyes, elder son of Sir Roger Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet, and a member of a famous British fighting family.
“How are things going?” asked Cunningham.
“Fair at the moment,” replied Keyes. “Captain Haselden has been landed near Appolonia by submarine, and we now know a good deal more about Rommel’s headquarters at Beda Littoria. Haselden has also arranged for some Senussi tribesmen to act as guides, and has secured the services of a Palestinian guide called Drori. A Long Range Desert Patrol had just brought Haselden, Drori and the guides back to Cairo.”
“Do you still want to go through with it?” asked General Cunningham.
“Of course,” replied Keyes.
“Well, what happens next?” said General Auchinleck.
“First of all, Haselden will pick up the remaining guides before going down to the beach,” said Keyes. “Then the two submarines Torbay and Talisman will embark Number Eleven Commando, and we all hope to meet on the beach on November thirteenth and carry out the attack on Rommel’s headquarters on the seventeenth.”
“Well, I wish you luck and hope the weather holds,” said Cunningham.
But the weather did not hold, and rough seas delayed the operation for twenty-four hours. Even then the weather continued to deteriorate, but Keyes felt they could not wait any longer.
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Posted in Aviation, Espionage, Historical articles, History, Weapons, World War 2 on Thursday, 18 April 2013
This edited article about World War Two originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 228 published on 28 May 1966.
Flying bombs over Britain during the Second World War
It was a common sound to Londoners in the summer of 1944 – the nagging drone of the Flying Bombs which the Germans sent over in their thousands from launching sites in northern France.
But even worse than the noise of the jet-propelled engines was the silence that came when they ended their flight and nose-dived on to busy streets, schools, factories and blacked-out houses.
In eighty days, between June and August, 1944, 2,300 of the sinister missiles reached their target. They destroyed some 24,000 of the capital’s houses, damaged 800,000 more, and caused the deaths of hundreds of men, women and children.
The Flying Bombs, small, cylindrical, and with speeds of up to 400 m.p.h., were hard to destroy. Patrolling pilots had the utmost difficulty in spotting the fast-moving objects thousands of feet below them, and it was left mainly to the anti-aircraft guns to blast the pilotless machines out of the sky.
The British Government knew as early as April, 1943, that the Germans were developing long-range bombardment weapons; and that launching ramps were being built all along the French coast, from Calais to Cherbourg, as well as at sites inland.
It was essential that these bases be put out of action. If their exact locations were known, they could be bombed by the R.A.F. Someone must provide this information and it must be a man already living in France, who knew the coast intimately, and had inside knowledge of all German movements in that area.
Miraculously, that someone existed. He was a middle-aged French engineer called Michel Hollard; a man of great courage and determination, who hated the German invaders, and who had sworn to do all he could to disrupt their war plans.
Michel had already fought against the Germans in the first World War, when he was a youth of seventeen.
In 1939, when the second World War broke out, he was forty-one – too old this time to enlist, so he used his engineering experience to get a position as Paris representative for a firm making car engines that ran on charcoal.
Michel believed he could use this job as a cover for his intended sabotage work. He hoped to make direct contact with the British and offer them his services in any capacity, no matter how dangerous.
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Posted in Espionage, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, World War 2 on Friday, 12 April 2013
This edited article about Violette Szabo originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 225 published on 7 May 1966.
The German ambush during which Violette Szabo gave Anastasie cover as he made his escape, knowing that her own life might be forfeit
Little Tania Szabo was only four years old when her grandparents took her to Buckingham Palace to meet King George VI. She knew her mother, Violette, had done something very brave in the war against the Germans, and that the King had awarded her a special medal, the George Cross.
It was a great moment for Tania when King George handed her the medal (which ranks immediately below the Victoria Cross and is bestowed on men and women who have performed acts of high gallantry).
“This is for your mother,” said the King as he bent down to her. “You must take great care of it.”
Tania vowed she would do this, and listened proudly when the monarch turned to her grandparents and said: “I don’t think I would have had the courage to do what your wonderful daughter did. She really had remarkable courage.”
At that time – January, 1947 – Tania was too young to understand exactly what happened. She didn’t even know that her mother would not be coming home to her again. She had to grow older before her grandparents told her the full, momentous story of Violette Szabo, the woman who was prepared to face any danger.
Violette was born in the British Hospital in Paris, on June 26, 1921. Her father, Charles Bushell, had married a pretty French girl he met while fighting in France during the first World War.
For the first eleven years of her life, Violette moved with her parents and three brothers from one home and place of work to another. Her father was a taxi-driver and motor-car salesman. His work took him all over England and France, and it wasn’t until 1932 that the family finally settled in Brixton, in South London.
Violette could speak excellent French and was renowned as a drainpipe expert who could out-climb most of the boys in the district.
She went to a London County Council school; then, in 1935, when she was fourteen, she upset her parents by insisting on leaving. Her ambition was to become a hairdresser, but there was no money to pay for her training, and instead she went to work in a clothes shop.
In her spare time, Violette liked scouting round London with her brothers and boy cousins. She became a crack shot in the West End shooting galleries and won so many prizes that the gallery managers sometimes took the gun away from her.
If she stayed at home and read a book, it was usually a spy thriller. She was a tremendous fan of Mata Hari, the infamous dancer and woman spy in the first World War, who worked for both the Germans and the British.
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Posted in Espionage, Historical articles, History, World War 2 on Friday, 5 April 2013
This edited article about World War Two espionage originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 219 published on 26 March 1966.
As the ambassador’s trusted servant, Bazna was able to remove secret documents and photograph them in the privacy of his own room with a Leica
Every morning, on the dot of seven-thirty, the valet to the British Ambassador in Turkey woke up his master with a glass of fresh orange juice. Once Sir Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen had drunk this, he was ready to start his official duties for another day.
Sir Hughe had a high regard for his valet, a quietly-spoken Albanian called Elyesa Bazna. And although Bazna described himself as “short and thickset,” with a “hard, ugly face,” he was reliable and efficient. His deferential manner showed he had been well-trained as a “gentleman’s gentleman.”
In 1943, Ankara, the Turkish capital, was a city of strain and tension. Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, was anxious for Turkey to side with the Allies in their fight against Hitler. Messages to this effect were passed between Churchill, President Roosevelt of America, and the Russian leader, Joseph Stalin. In a telegram to Churchill, Mr. Stalin said that “. . . the international situation in Turkey remains very ticklish. . . . It is not clear to me how Turkey . . . proposes to reconcile her undertakings towards the U.S.S.R. and Great Britain on the one hand and her undertaking towards Germany on the other. . . .”
This was the situation when Bazna was employed at the British Embassy in Ankara. He realized that Sir Hughe’s role in the negotiations was a vital one – and that the black box kept in the Ambassador’s bedroom contained secrets that the Germans would give anything to possess.
It was not surprising, therefore, when, some months later, British security agents were flown from London to investigate and halt the flow of “top secret” information which was passing from Ankara into enemy hands. Specialists installed a “foolproof” alarm system in Sir Hughe’s office safe. Every possible precaution was taken.
But somehow no one thought to question the inoffensive valet who moved calmly through the Embassy attending to his duties. Had the British agents bothered to search Bazna’s bedroom, they would have found, hidden under the carpet, the money which was Bazna’s reward for the photographs of important documents he had taken and sold to Fritz von Papen, the German ambassador resident in Ankara.
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Posted in Adventure, English Literature, Espionage, Historical articles, History, Literature on Friday, 15 March 2013
This edited article about John Buchan originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 198 published on 30 October 1965.
Richard Hannay being pursued from the air in a scene from The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
John Buchan once described himself as a “copious romancer.” Like his fellow Scot, Robert Louis Stevenson, he could invent the most fanciful and even preposterous plots and make them plausible by his simple and straightforward writing.
Buchan was born in the Scottish town of Perth in 1875, the son of a minister and the first of five children. His mother’s family were sheep-farmers in the Border country, and during his boyhood John listened to the wonderful tales the shepherds told.
Although he showed no great enthusiasm for school he later had a brilliant scholastic career at Glasgow and Oxford Universities. In 1901 he was called to the Bar, and then became the assistant private secretary to Lord Milner, Governor of the Transvaal. His love of South Africa was shown in Prester John, an imaginative adventure story which was published in 1910.
During the first World War, Buchan was Director of Information. He wrote a twenty-four volume history of the war, which was later abridged.
In spite of the demands of his hectic public life, he also managed to write some superb novels of action, including the spy-catching adventures of Richard Hannay, whose exploits are described in The Thirty-Nine Steps, Greenmantle, Mr. Standfast, The Three Hostages, and The Island of Sheep.
Apart from the indomitable Hannay, Buchan created two other original heroes in Dickson McCunn, the shrewd retired grocer who appears in Huntingtower, Castle Gay, and The House of the Four Winds; and the lawyer Sir Edward Leithen, who is the narrator of The Power-House, and John Macnab, a delightful story of grouse-moors, salmon rivers, and poachers.
From 1927 to 1935 Buchan was Conservative M.P. for the Scottish Universities, and in 1935, on his appointment as Governor-General to Canada, he was made a peer, taking the title Baron Tweedsmuir. During these years he was still productive as a writer, and published some notable historical biographies, such as Montrose, Sir Walter Scott, and Cromwell.
His last years were plagued with ill-health. He told his wife: “I am like a Red Indian; I am in constant pain and don’t show it.” When he died in 1940, the world lost a fine statesman and an even finer story-teller.
Posted in America, Communism, Espionage, Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, Law, World War 2 on Monday, 26 November 2012
This edited article about the F.B.I. originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 788 published on 19th February 1977.
Charles Lindbergh, whose son was kidnapped and killed in 1932, by Ron Embleton
Since its instigation in 1908, the F.B.I. has helped solve many cases from the most famous, like the Rosenberg Spy Ring of the postwar years, described below, to the smaller, unpublicised local crimes of suburban America. Some lawbreakers have taken years to apprehend, some only hours or days to bring to justice. In any case, the criminal, whether he be forget, kidnapper or common thief, takes on a massive organisation when he confronts the F.B.I.
During the early years the G-man was frustrated by his lack of power when handling investigations. The complexity of U.S. law tied his hands, to the limit of assisting local police who often resented his interference. It was the lawlessness of the inter-war years which led to new legislation giving F.B.I. agents more responsibility and greater powers of arrest. Prohibition was the watershed for both lawbreaker and Bureau. America was officially declared dry – i.e. alcohol was banned – in January 1920, raising the curtain for the bootlegger and gangster.
Initially the public was apathetic, finding excitement in ‘speakeasy’ bars and illegal alcohol. They attached a certain glamour to the underworld personalities of the period, turning a blind eye to gang wars and corruption in local government. By the time J. Edgar Hoover took over the F.B.I. in 1924, the reputation of police agencies in the U.S. was at its lowest. Soon the Attorney-General had given Hoover powers to form special squads to investigate corruption in city police forces and reform was on the way.
After the Lindbergh affair in 1932 when the great flier’s child was kidnapped, then killed, kidnapping reached its peak, so did crime generally in the U.S., by which time the public was outraged and demanding action by law enforcement agencies. The big round-up started as Hoover and his agents tracked down the hoodlums one by one. The cost was high, F.B.I. men and police alike were killed, but by 1934 the gangs were crippled and corruption at least partly crushed.
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Posted in Castles, Espionage, Famous crimes, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, Law on Friday, 9 November 2012
This edited article about treachery originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 783 published on 15th January 1976.
All through our century, few things in Britain have changed less than the Tower of London. The sombre, 1,000-year-old building, relegated from its former position as a palace and royal prison to a museum and tourist attraction, has remained aloof and detached from the restless, shifting city all about it.
In the grim rooms between the battlements, where courtiers and queens waited for the executioner’s axe, politicians languished in fear of their fate, ghosts walked with their heads under their arms and traitors were led struggling to the rack, nothing remains now but the void – the empty places in the Tower where the pageant of history unfolded and passed into a book.
Nothing? Well, not quite nothing. For strollers on Tower Hill on a cold January morning 44 years ago glanced across at the grey medieval fortress and saw something that made them rub their eyes in disbelief.
Beyond the high walls that had enclosed centuries of bloody history there could be seen, at fleeting intervals behind the imposing ramparts, a tall officer in the uniform of the Seaforth Highlanders, and under escort. One look was enough to reveal a man with a ramrod back and as aloof and proud a bearing as any of the great figures of Britain’s story who had been incarcerated there.
Excited spectators, peering through binoculars from the vantage point on Tower Hill, identified him as a young lieutenant, strikingly handsome. It seemed inconceivable that he was what the newspapers were soon to describe him as – a traitor to Britain.
But the army had no doubt that that was what Norman Baillie-Stewart was: an officer who had practised sordid treachery for personal gain. And in January, 1933, they had brutally interrupted the promising career of Baillie-Stewart, who had seen service in India and had been an aide to the Duke of Gloucester, by arresting him while he was on a course at Aldershot.
The charge, to be heard before a court-martial, was that, in contravention of the Official Secrets Act, Baillie-Stewart had given to Germany our military secrets and that he had travelled to Holland and to Berlin to hand over secret information.
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Posted in English Literature, Espionage, Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, London, Mystery, Theatre on Tuesday, 17 July 2012
This edited article about Christopher Marlowe originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 750 published on 29 May 1976.
Walsingham’s man Ingram Frizer, kills the playwright Christopher Marlowe in Deptford, by Angus McBride
It was the 30th May, 1593. Queen Elizabeth I sat warily on the throne of England. It was a time of intrigue and espionage – and violent death.
In a certain tavern in Deptford, four men had just finished their supper. One of these men was a boyish-looking fellow in his late twenties wearing the typical doublet and hose of the period with a rapier and dagger hanging from his belt. This man was Christopher Marlowe, the famed playwright, author of such great theatrical works as “Tamburlaine the Great”, “Doctor Faustus” and “Edward II”.
The four men were obviously friends for they had eaten their supper in great good humour with much jesting and drinking of healths. Suddenly, however, the atmosphere in the tavern changed, voices were being raised in anger. There seemed to be some sort of argument going on about the bill. All four men were on their feet now and all four seemed to be talking at once. A chair was kicked over and the dim light of a lantern caught the flash of a knife blade. There was a groan and one of the men fell to the ground, his life-blood spilling on to the tavern floor. Young Christopher Marlowe, poet and genius of the theatre, was dead.
The man who had dealt the death blow was one Ingram Friser who stated that he had killed Marlowe in self-defence, and was promptly pardoned. Ingram Friser was an agent in the service of Sir Thomas Walsingham, a member of a prominent and powerful family.
Was the killing merely the result of a drunken brawl among friends or was there not something eminently more sinister behind it? Was Marlowe’s death, in fact, ordered by Friser’s master?
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Posted in America, Bravery, Communism, Espionage, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, War on Friday, 22 June 2012
This edited article about the Berlin Wall originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 737 published on 28 February 1976.
For more than 14 years the wall has divided Berlin into east and west, an ugly barrier of concrete equipped with all the deadly paraphernalia of imprisonment: barbed wire, watch towers, searchlights, machine guns, ditches, armed patrols and dogs.
The Berlin Wall and East Germany’s fortified border with West Germany provide the most macabre meeting place for capitalism and communism. In Berlin itself, the contrast is even stranger, for West Berlin, with its factories, office blocks and gay night-life, offers the only example of western life and freedom inside a communist country tucked away 100 miles (160 km) from the West German frontier.
Since the East Germans built the wall in the late summer of 1961, thousands of refugees have found sanctuary in West Berlin after dodging bullets as they scrambled over the barricade or tunnelled beneath it. But for some the dash for freedom ended in death. Some 70 people have been shot down by East German guards in the shadow of the wall; along the frontier, guns and mines have claimed about 100 other lives.
The hard statistics compiled in West Berlin showed that in the years that followed the building of the wall, more than 161,000 people fled from East Germany. About 35,000 of them beat the wall or crossed the formidable frontier between the two countries. Of those, 2,684 were East German soldiers and 533 of them braved the Berlin Wall successfully.
The rest of the fortunate fugitives reached Western Europe after travelling thousands of miles through other East European countries. But how many were caught? The question remains unanswered, though it is known that there are about 7,000 political prisoners in East Germany, of whom 4,500 were charged with escape attempts.
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Posted in Adventure, Cinema, Espionage, Literature, Scotland on Friday, 22 June 2012
This edited article about The Thirty-Nine Steps originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 737 published on 28 February 1976.
Richard Hannay on the run in Scotland – a scene from The Thirty-Nine Steps
Richard Hannay awoke, cold and stiff on a bare Scottish hillside shortly after dawn. Below his hiding place, police were beating the heather for him.
Above, was a circling aircraft, manned by unknown enemies out to kill him.
In Hannay’s pocket was a black book containing details of a German plot to destroy the British Fleet. The book had been given to him by an American newspaperman who was later found murdered in Hannay’s London flat.
Alone and friendless, Hannay was being hunted by the police for the murder he hadn’t committed. The members of a secret spy ring, known as the Black Stone, were also after him because of his knowledge of their plan to immobilize the Fleet.
Hannay had decided to escape to Scotland and hide out on the lonely moors until he could reveal his knowledge to the British Government.
But the chase had hotted up. Hannay sought cover in a lonely farmhouse, only to find himself in the Black Stone stronghold! By a stroke of luck he was able to use his enemies’ store of high explosives to blast his way to freedom.
Evading his searchers, Hannay finally reached Sir Walter Bullivant, high up in the British Government, with his vital news.
Now the chase was reversed. The only clue to the spy ring’s escape route was an entry in the book . . . ‘Thirty-nine steps – I counted them – High Tide, 10.17 p.m. . . .’
Inquiries revealed that the description applied to a certain staircase on the Kentish coast.
Hannay and the police arrived as the ringleaders of Black Stone prepared to leave the country. And, after a struggle, the spies were captured.