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21st January 2020 - Richard Philips

German Spies in Britain during WW2

At the meeting on 21st January, our President Alastair Pate welcomed members and guests from Carluke Probus Club to our first meeting of 2020.  Our guest speaker was Richard Phillips, who gave a detailed and absorbing presentation on a few of the 200 or so German spies sent to Britain during the course of World War 2.

Many of these spies were captured very quickly , some in a matter of days or even hours. Some were turned as ‘double agents’ and worked for Britain by sending false and misleading information back to Germany.  Indeed several arrived with Identity Cards in names supplied to the Germans by MI5, through an earlier ‘double agent’, and, as well as radio equipment and large sums of money they also carried apparently essential equipment for newly-arriving spies - a piece of German sausage.

The spies arrived via seaplanes, submarines and parachute in a wide range of locations from Buckie in the north of Scotland, to the south coast of England.  Some were poorly prepared and arrived only able to speak a little English. One of the 3 spies who landed at Buckie tried to buy a railway ticket to Aberdeen, fare 5/10d, with a £5 and 10/- note.  In the south of England, two spies were arrested by police for riding their bicycles on the wrong side of the road.  The reports sent back were mostly provided by MI5 and were often invented.  Reports and images of sabotage were created, sometimes with the help of film industry scene-building technicians.

No spy was summarily executed or ‘disappeared’ in Britain during the war, though 14 were executed after jury trials and were provided with defence counsel and interpreters.  To MI5’s anger one spy was acquitted by a jury but was immediately re-arrested and interned for the duration of the war.  Others were injured during parachute landings, breaking ankles and legs, and it is recorded one spy being sent to Liverpool parachuted into the Manchester Ship Canal and drowned.

Germany’s spies gave little, if any, help with her plans to invade Britain, though later the British used the ‘double agents’ to deceive the Germans about the plans for the Allied invasion of Northern France.  Indeed British control of the German spy effort allowed them to plant false information directly on Hitler and the German General Staff.   After a number of questions from members it was time to give Richard a well deserved vote of thanks for an absorbing and informative insight into this period of our history.

Our next meeting is on Tuesday 4th February with a talk on “Canine Partners”.  This is an Open Day for anyone to come and enjoy the meeting.

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