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Subject: ‘Espionage’

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An American traitor and a British spy met very different ends

Posted in America, Espionage, Famous Last Words, Historical articles, History, Revolution, War on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

This edited article about the American Revolution first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 594 published on 2 June 1973.

 Death of Major Andre,  picture, image, illustration
The Unfortunate Death of Major Andre

Visitors to the battlefield of Saratoga in New York State, U.S.A., can see one monument so strange that it seems to make no sense.

The battle, fought in 1777 between the British under General Burgoyne and American regulars and militiamen, was a turning point in the American Revolution, for the defeat of the British helped bring France in on the side of the one-year-old United States and make their final victory certain.

The strange monument commemorates the soldier who did more than anyone else to bring about the American victory, but it does not name him! The inscription relates that he was the most brilliant American soldier and that he became a major-general after the battle. It has a cannon carved on it, also a wreath, a badge and a boot, and that is all.

Elsewhere in the state, on a hill overlooking the Hudson River, is a granite memorial erected by Americans to honour a man who could have lost the war for them, a British officer they hanged as a spy in front of a vast crowd who mourned for him. His name, John André, is engraved in the stone of his memorial.

The two monuments are linked, for the first commemorates the achievements of the most famous of all American traitors. Benedict Arnold, before he betrayed his country, and the second, the man who was his link with the British High Command. Treachery and scandal bind the two forever in history, one of whom died unlamented and disliked in London in 1801, the other on that hill overlooking the Hudson. More than half a century later, John Andre’s body found a final resting place in Westminster Abbey.

The American Revolution began in 1775 after relations between Britain and her 13 American colonies had reached breaking point over many issues especially the fact that the colonists were taxed without their being represented in the British Parliament. From the beginning, many of them stayed loyal to the Crown, so it was as much a civil war as a struggle for independence.

But one person whose loyalty to the American cause was certain was Benedict Arnold, or so everyone believed.

His exploits early in the war were fabulous. He was 34 when it broke out and soon became the most dashing of all American commanders, more so even than a far greater man, the American Commander-in-Chief, George Washington.

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Max Manus – leader of the Norwegian Resistance movement

Posted in Espionage, Historical articles, History, World War 2 on Monday, 17 March 2014

This edited article about World War Two first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 591 published on 12 May 1973.

Max Manus,  picture, image, illustration
Max Manus, head of the resistance movement, parachutes back into Norway by Graham Coton

On a beautiful spring day in 1945, an open car drove through the main streets of Oslo. In it sat King Haakon of Norway, and the Crown Princess Martha, happily acknowledging the cheers of the people celebrating with their king the capitulation of the German forces in Norway. In the car sat another man with sandy hair and dressed in uniform. No one who watched the car going by needed telling that this man was Max Manus, which was hardly surprising as he was Norway’s most renowned hero of the resistance, who had spent five years of his life fighting the Nazis to such devastating effect that they had come to live in terror of him.

That he was there to take part in the peace celebrations was something of a miracle. As far back as 1941, he had been tracked down and arrested in his flat by the Norwegian statspolitti, the tools of the Nazis, who had taken the two guns he had carried, and then held him down while they searched the flat. The grenades and documents they found were damning evidence against him. Nothing, it seemed, could save him now from the torture chamber and a shameful death, probably by strangulation.

But his captors had been too sure of themselves. Carried away by their discoveries in the flat, they released their hold on their prisoner, in order to cluster around their leader who was examining the papers he had found. Taking advantage of the situation, Max had raced across the room and had dived through the window pane, crashing on to the pavement two floors below.

He woke up in hospital, just in time to hear the doctor saying to the statspolitti that there was no point in them taking away the prisoner to be shot, as his back was broken. The statspolitti left, promising to return later.

Happily, the doctor had been lying to gain a reprieve for his patient. Outside, waiting friends bundled him into a car, and raced off into the night. Seconds later, the statspolitti arrived.

Soon afterwards, Max was ordered to make his way to London to take part in a sabotage course. Travelling by skis across Norway into neutral Sweden, he eventually reached London, where he was trained in the use of high explosives.

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The mysterious death of the WW2 hero, ‘Buster’ Crabb

Posted in Communism, Espionage, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Ships, World War 2 on Monday, 17 February 2014

This edited article about Cold War espionage first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 555 published on 2 September 1972.

Anthony Eden,  picture, image, illustration
Sir Anthony Eden, who was forced to make a statement in the House of Commons

He had been a frogman, a member of that small band of dedicated and courageous men who had fought their war underwater. And he was undoubtedly the most famous of them all, mainly because of the way he had freed the hulls of a number of warships at Alexandria and Gibraltar from the limpet mines that had been placed on them by the Italian frogmen. It is not altogether clear why he should have become so famous for those two operations. After all, men were risking their lives daily all over Europe in the struggle against Nazism. Perhaps it was because frogmen were a new factor in war and not much was known about them. Perhaps, too, the British were anxious to have an underwater hero of their own, after having read of the exploits of the Italian frogmen who went into battle beneath the seas on piloted torpedoes. But whatever the reasons, Commander Crabb was a national hero.

But all wars come to an end, and when that time comes heroes tend to be forgotten. In 1947, Lionel Kenneth (Buster) Crabb found himself out of the Service and with no immediate prospects of a job. Stripped of his uniform and dressed instead in a tweed suit and a pork pie hat, he no longer even looked like a hero.

Fortunately for his own morale, Crabb had not completely severed his connections with the Admiralty, who could always use a good frogman. After using him in an attempt to rescue the crew of a submarine which had sunk after a collision in the Thames Estuary, the Lords of the Admiralty recalled him to Naval Service. But inevitably, it was only a temporary reprieve. In 1955, Crabb retired, owning little more than a rag bag of memories which he intended to turn into a book of memoirs. He was now forty-five. No more than middle-aged. But with the days of adventure surely well behind him one would have thought.

But this was not so. Security being what it is, no one except a chosen few knew exactly what Crabb was doing until that fateful day when he disappeared beneath the waters of Portsmouth Harbour, never to be seen again. But one may guess that he had undertaken a number of freelance assignments for the Navy. Possibly he may even have worked for Intelligence. Whatever he was doing, one thing was certain, Crabb had not settled down in some routine job where he would merely grow older and more tired with every passing year.

We must now leave Crabb for a short while so that we may look at the political situation as it stood in the April of 1956. Surprisingly, after all those unhappy postwar years, in which the West and the Soviets had been on somewhat less than friendly terms, there were now hopes for world peace. Russia’s president, Marshal Bulganin and her Premier, Mr Krushchev were now in Britain, meeting the people and generally behaving in a far less stiff backed manner than one usually associated with Soviet politicians. There was a real feeling in the air that the visit would lead to better relations, if nothing else.

But this happy state of affairs was short lived.

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Alfred Redl – one of the greatest arch-traitors of all time

Posted in Espionage, Historical articles, History, Politics on Thursday, 13 February 2014

This edited article about espionage first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 550 published on 29 July 1972.

Colonel Redl,  picture, image, illustration
The Austro-Hungarian intelligence chief, Colonel Alfred Redl

You could not have wished for a more devoted servant of the State than Alfred Redl, the Austro-Hungarian Director of Intelligence, whose whole life seemed to be devoted to bringing about the destruction of the enemies of his master, the Emperor Franz Josef. His headquarters in Vienna were run with staggering efficiency. No matter where a suspect chose to sit, two cameras could be focused on him. Every word he spoke was recorded on a gramophone disc, and his fingerprints obtained by various subtle methods, the most popular being for Redl to press an electric button underneath his table, which made his telephone ring. After answering it, Redl would politely excuse himself for a few minutes – leaving a file marked SECRET on his desk. Few, if any, of the suspects could resist looking at it, thereby leaving their prints on the folio, which had been treated with a special preparation.

Considering that he had managed to claw his way up the ladder of a class-ridden society in which to have any major staff appointment was akin to being allowed to join the most exclusive club in Europe, Redl had done very well for himself. He had managed to do it because he had countered snobbery with intellect and a lack of influence in high places with unflagging industry.

General Baron von Giesel, the Head of the Secret Service, and Redl’s immediate superior, was as bedazzled as everyone with Redl, so much so that when he was transferred to Prague, he insisted that Redl should accompany him as his chief of staff. Redl’s place in Vienna was taken over by a Captain Maximilian Ronge, a zealous and highly ambitious officer, who was well aware that if he was to make his mark with his superiors he would have to show them that he was even better than Redl. He was to achieve this aim by unearthing a story, which ironically, was so startling that no newspaper dared to print it.

Redl spent eight years in Prague, returning regularly on leave to Vienna. Quite unknown to him his successor had instigated a secret postal censorship of all letters coming from the other side of the border. It was this censorship which was finally to unmask Redl as one of the greatest arch-traitors of all time.

In the March of 1913, two envelopes were opened by the censors. The letters had been sent from a small town in East Prussia, on the Russo-German frontier, and were addressed Opera Ball, 13 Post Restante, General Post Office, Vienna.

They were found to contain a large amount of money in Austrian kronen. As neither of the letters contained any covering note, the censors decided that they had stumbled on something.

The letters were passed on to Ronge, who examined them and then returned them carefully sealed, to the Post Office. At the same time he arranged for a wire to be installed between the Post Office and a small police station nearby. The clerks on duty were ordered to press a button which would set a bell ringing in the police station as soon as someone appeared to collect the letters. All that Ronge had to do now was to wait.

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Interpol was hijacked by the Nazi Reinhard Heydrich

Posted in Espionage, Historical articles, History, Law, World War 2 on Thursday, 23 January 2014

This edited article about Interpol first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 524 published on 29 January 1972.

Interpol arrest smugglers, picture, image, illustration
Interpol officers arresting smugglers by C L Doughty

Shortly after midnight on October 4, 1952, the Dutch vessel Combinatie was sailing calmly and quietly along the southern coast of Spain. She was on her way from Tangier to Malta with a cargo of nearly 3,000 cases of cigarettes, and her master, Captain Van Delft, was on the bridge making sure that everything was in good order for the night.

He was just about to go to his cabin and sleep, when a white motorboat suddenly shot out of the darkness and stopped alongside. There was a sound of machinegun fire, and he was ordered to stop his engines and prepare to be boarded.

A few minutes later five masked and armed men climbed on to the Combinatie, and the ship’s crew was tied up and locked below deck. The vessel was then forced to sail to Corsica, where her cargo was taken ashore and the captain and his men were set free.

This act of piracy on the high seas came under the jurisdiction of no one country. The ship was Dutch, and she was sailing off Spain with a cargo of American cigarettes which was last seen on French soil.

At first Captain Van Delft could not decide who should be notified of the crime. Eventually, after returning to Tangier, he took his story to Interpol – or the International Criminal Police Organisation.

It was not until three years later that the pirates were captured and put on trial for the theft of £40,000 worth of cigarettes. But the crime – and the apprehension of the criminals – was typical of the 11,000 cases which Interpol now deals with each year.

Few people – except international crooks themselves – have much idea of what Interpol actually is and how it operates. Contrary to popular belief, it does not have its own team of detectives, and indeed its entire staff consists of no more than some fifty dedicated men and women – most of whom are concerned with clerical duties.

Interpol’s chief function is the exchange of information, ideas and methods between the police forces of the world. All this is done from a modest grey-stone house at 37 Rue Paul Valery in Paris, and from the organization’s radio station thirty miles outside the city.

A few decades ago there was no such thing as an international police network. Interpol was not even thought of until 1914, when Prince Albert I of Monaco invited a group of prominent policement, jurists and magistrates to meet in the Principality and discuss the problem of world-wide crime and its growth.

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One man’s epic struggle to help liberate Occupied Norway during WW2

Posted in Adventure, Espionage, Historical articles, History, World War 2 on Saturday, 18 January 2014

This edited article about World War Two first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 518 published on 18 December 1971.

National mblem of Norway, picture, image, illustration
The Norwegian Lion, the popular emblem of Norway embraced during the Occupation as a symbol of freedom

The long chase after Jan Baalsrud started on a cold, snowy morning in March 1943, when a small fishing-boat entered the waters of German-occupied Norway. The boat, with its top speed of eight knots, moved slowly and stealthily towards a tiny island off the frozen, north-west coast.

Aboard the craft were four dedicated Norwegians who had escaped from Norway in the summer of 1940, when their Government had reluctantly acknowledged the superior might of Germany, and retreated to London.

The fight against Hitler was continued from there, and Jan and his friends were trained as saboteurs. Their mission as they sailed back to their native land, was to blow-up a vital seaplane base at the island port of Tromso.

The fishing-boat carried a cargo of explosives capable of blasting the aerodrome sky-high. And as the craft reached the deserted island near Tromso, it dropped anchor in readiness for the attack the next day.

Before this could be launched, however, a German warship entered the fjord and bore swiftly down on the fishing-boat. Jan and his companions only had time to light a fuse to the explosives and then row towards the shore in a dinghy.

On reaching land, they split-up as German snipers opened fire on them. Their fishing-boat demolished, they had no alternative but to flee through the ice and snow in the hope of eventually reaching the neutral country of Sweden.

During the initial dash up a snow-blanketed hill, Jan lost one of his sea-boots. His right foot became frozen and he hardly felt the pain when one of the sniper’s bullets removed half of his big toe.

He reached the summit of the hill, found that his three comrades were nowhere in sight, and set out to swim from island to island until he reached the comparative safety of the Norwegian shore.

For the next few days he had little awareness of what was happening to him. He lost all track of time, came across nothing substantial to eat, and finally arrived at the mainland without knowing where he was.

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British agent ‘Paulette’ played a vital part in preparing Resistance fighters for D-Day

Posted in Espionage, Historical articles, History, Invasions, World War 2 on Friday, 17 January 2014

This edited article about World War Two first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 516 published on 4 December 1971.

D-Day, picture, image, illustration
D-Day landings

For three days and nights 20-year-old Anne-Marie Walters and a group of escaped Allied prisoners had been on the run from the Gestapo. They were climbing over the Pyrenees Mountains in an attempt to reach the safety of neutral Spain, but had lost their way, used up their food, and spent most of their energy.

During the day the sun blazed mercilessly down on the saw-like mountain range, and after dark it became cold and misty. It seemed to Anne-Marie that she and the men she was helping would never elude the pursuing Germans. And that the mission on which she had so hopefully started was doomed to failure.

It was in December 1943 that Anne-Marie, a British Intelligence agent, had been parachuted into France, near the port of Bordeaux. Her instructions were to act as a go-between for the British Government and members of the growing French Resistance movement.

Britain and her allies planned to invade Nazi-occupied Europe in the following June. The invasion would take place along the Normandy beaches, and it was essential that Anne-Marie – and her fellow special agents – contacted the leaders of the local maquis, or guerrilla, groups.

After sheltering at a friendly farm, Anne-Marie was introduced to a man known simply as Le Patron, or the boss. He told her that she would be given a code-name, and that from now on would be called “Paulette.”

The newly-named Paulette’s first important job was smuggling fifteen escaped prisoners-of-war into Spain. She did this so successfully that she was then assigned to help a French policeman – who also worked for the Resistance – to make his getaway.

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A ‘lost’ haversack of forged papers fooled the Turkish Army during WW1

Posted in Espionage, Historical articles, History, World War 1 on Friday, 3 January 2014

This edited article about World War One first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 502 published on 28 August 1971.

Meinertzhagen drops the bait, picture, image, illustration
The bait was a haversack full of false papers dropped by Colonel Meinertzhagen in full sight of the enemy, by Graham Coton

A Haversack dropped in the desert sand by a decoy horseman, full of documents meticulously faked to mislead the enemy – it seemed pure story-book stuff, as far removed from real war as an episode in a boys’ adventure yarn.

Would the wily Turks be taken in by it? Or would they see it as a clumsy piece of bluff, sponsored by the stupid Britishers?

General Allenby’s Intelligence officers at G.H.Q. Palestine, asked themselves this in October, 1917, the third year of the First World War, as they put the finishing touches to the Baited Haversack.

They need not have worried. The Turks fell for the deception hook, line and sinker. And in doing so they opened the way for a great British victory that ended in Allenby’s triumphant entry in Jerusalem in the December of that year.

In July, 1917, Allenby’s problem, as he faced the Turks across thirty miles of Palestine front, was how to turn the Turkish flank and drive them out of well-nigh impregnable Gaza. Without taking or side-stepping Gaza, a powerful coastal fortress, he could never advance towards Jerusalem. So, direct assault being virtually impossible, he decided to concentrate on the other end of the front, thirty miles inland, and outflank Gaza.

Here, opposite his own waterless right flank, lay well-watered, Turkish-held Beersheba, whose wells, when captured, could supply him as he moved west to attack hostile Sheria and Hereira, in the direction of Gaza.

But to take Beersheba, surprise was essential. The Turks must still think Gaza was the main objective.

It was to create this surprise that Allenby’s Intelligence men hatched up the hoax of the Baited Haversack.

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The greatest forger of British five-pound notes was a Nazi

Posted in Espionage, Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, World War 2 on Wednesday, 1 January 2014

This edited article about Germany first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 502 published on 28 August 1971.

Kruger and the sunken millions, picture, image, illustration
Kruger's Millions being recovered from the bottom of a lake in Austria

Excitedly, the divers plunged to the depths of the Austrian lake. Their metal detectors had told them that somewhere in the soft mud that lined the rocky bed were the iron boxes they wanted.

Searching hands probed the watery gloom. They touched something cold and hard with sharp corners and strong rivets. This was it . . . the object of their search.

One by one, the boxes were hauled to the surface and dragged to the shore. After a great deal of effort they were opened – and the world throbbed with the news of what they contained. It was money . . . thousands and thousands of pounds in Bank of England notes. But it was worthless because it was forged.

The notes were sent to the Bank of England for disposal and the waters of the lake in Austria returned to their normal calm.

Thus ended a mystery! But was was this mystery – Why was the money buried in the lake, and why was it made originally? What master forger was behind this colossal crime?

Although the money had been found in 1959, the story begins in 1942 during the height of the Second World War.

The master forger was Bernhard Kruger, the head of the German Security Service workshop at Sachsenhausen camp, near Berlin.

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Frederick William I of Prussia used secret agents to kidnap tall foreign conscripts

Posted in Espionage, Historical articles, History, Oddities, Royalty on Wednesday, 30 October 2013

This edited article about Prussia originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 444 published on 18 July 1970.

King Frederick and his giants, picture, image, illustration
Frederick William I, the eccentric King who collected a private army of Giants

The tavern was crowded and noisy. The harvest was in and the peasants were celebrating. In a corner two men sat drinking together. Though they appeared to be sharing in the general merriment, their mugs were never replenished and their eyes were watchful. They cast surreptitious glances towards a hulking fellow in a peasant smock. He was the tallest man in the room, well over six feet; his head almost brushed the ceiling beams.

As the night wore on, the big man, now very drunk, took his leave and reeled through the door. At once the two watchers slipped out after him. A short way from the tavern, they crept up behind him, tripped him and knocked him unconscious. A carriage drew alongside, the unconscious peasant was hauled aboard and his assailants vanished into the night.

Was the big man a spy in disguise? An assassin? The innocent victim in a foul plot? Nothing so dreadful; he had simply been recruited into the royal guards. For this was Prussia in the early eighteenth century, under the rule of King Frederick William I. And the Prussian king had a strange obsession. He collected giants for his grenadier guards. Not one was under five feet ten; most were well over six feet.

Frederick William had an uncomplicated approach to kingship. “We are, by the grace of God, master and king”, he said, “and we do as we please”. He was an unpleasant man, cruel, boorish and miserly. He was also devoted to military life and it was from his fondness for parades and martial splendour that his craze for collecting giants developed.

Occasionally the king would receive a prize specimen as a gift. More often, however, his hobby proved an expensive one. He exchanged valuable collections of stones and porcelain for giant soldiers and paid large sums for them without complaint.

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