Saturday, 7 February 2009

Masters of disguise


The next talk and slide show is booked for 18th March. The title is Reigate - secrets of the war years 1939-1945. It will be full of little snippets of information that have escaped the history books but noted for posterity - even in old exercise books, video and tape recordings.

One of my treasures for this is a German Air Force aerial reconnaissance photograph, issued to pilots, navigators and bomb-aimers in regional volumes with perforated 'tear out' pages. After 65 years it has only yellowed a bit with age. It is fascinating to compare with 21st century 'Google Earth' aerial photography of the town.

The Luftwaffe instructions were: "Zum Verbrauch! Mitnahme von Ausschnitten des Bildteiles zum Feindflug gestattet" which effectively translates as "To be used! You are allowed to take these photographs with you on raids".

Ha ha! In fact there were all sorts of things going on out of sight, underground, in old tunnels and new tunnels, under the trees, in grand old mansions and villas, in this deceptively quiet and countrified area 21 km from the Tower in London.

There was so much trickery! There was even an actor resembling Field Marshal Montgomery sent on a trip to Gibraltar to fool the enemy of his whereabouts just a few days before the D Day landings. The plans worked exceedingly well, thanks to secret intelligence and special agents.

There are more snippets emerging, of the pioneering film magnate and miller, J Arthur Rank who was superintendent of the Sunday School, and one of his pupils who went on to be a radio expert - very handy in wartime for keeping code-cracking wireless equipment in working order.

I'll stop for now, otherwise there will be no surprises for the Rotary talk!