British troops entered Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on the 15th April 1945. It was the first camp to be liberated by the British during the Second World War and the soldiers were horrified by what they saw.
Captain Sington, a psychological operations officer of the Intelligence Corps, was part of the Allied effort dealing with the aftermath of atrocities carried out in the camp by the Nazis. He was given permission by his Commanding Officer to use this German typewriter (note the SS symbol on key 2) to document his work. A note was stuck inside the case to avoid accusations of looting, which was common during wartime.
Sington typed up his evidence and used it to testify at the trial of Josef Kramer, the Camp Commandant of Bergen-Belsen. This is what Sington said:
'The general state of the camp was one of unbelievable congestion. Another feature to attract attention was the great number of dead...the general appearance of the inmates was one of extreme weakness...an almost unbelievable lack of flesh on the bones.'
Exhibit of the Month
Every now and then we will pick one of our favourite objects that has either caught our eyes, or the eyes of our visitors. Please enjoy!
SS Typewriter from Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp
British troops entered Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on the 15th April 1945. It was the first camp to be liberated by the British during the Second World War and the soldiers were horrified by what they saw.
ATS Intelligence Corps Jacket
The Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) was created on the 9th September 1938 as a female branch of the British Army, initially a volunteer service until 1941, when full military status was granted. It continued until the 1st February 1949, when it was merged into the Women's Royal Army Corps (WRAC).
On the outbreak of World War Two, around 300 ATS members were billeted to France with the British Expeditionary Force, and many were among the last to leave during the evacuation of Dunkirk in May 1940.
In December 1941, the National Service Act was passed by Parliament, which called up unmarried women between the ages of 20 and 30 years old who were required to join one of the auxiliary services. They could choose between the ATS, the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS), the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), and the Women's Transport Service (FANY). As the war continued, married women were also called up to serve due to the shortage of men, but pregnant women and those with young children were exempt.
This is a 1941 pattern ATS Sergeant's jacket, with an Intelligence Corps badge, that belonged to Sergeant Kaye Norman. She was a member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service who served with the Intelligence Corps during WW2, and she carried out Signals Intercept work in the Y Service. Many women serving in the ATS with the Intelligence Corps would be sent to Bletchley Park to help break the Enigma codes.
During the Boer War, from 1899 to 1901, a variety of intelligence gathering units were created in response to the collection of intelligence, and the need to analyse it. Rimingtons Tigers and Lord Baden Powell's Corps of Scouts are examples of the units created. By the end of the war, the intelligence element of the British Forces increased from just 2 officers, to 132 officers and 2,321 soldiers!
The British believed the war would be over by Christmas, so it came as quite a shock when they were faced with an enemy holding some of the most modern equipment that money could buy, and who fought with such bitter determination and ferocity. Instead of the text-book battle situations they had trained in, British officers faced only small battles and skirmishes. The professional soldiers of the British, New Zealand, Australian, Indian, Canadian, and British Ceylon armies soon realised how important intelligence was.
When the war ended in 1902, it came as an intense relief to all. Soldiers were beyond the point of exhaustion and were glad to be heading back home. During the conflict, soldiers would find ways to entertain themselves, and to feel a connection to home. This is a New Year's Eve message written on a piece of old uniform, possibly sent back to Britain, wishing the receiver a happy new year.
I'm the new assistant curator here at the museum, and I have found some really interesting objects throughout the museum, and its stores. When I was younger, I was a part of the Scouts movement and I loved every minute of it, the camping, the adventures, and just learning something new each week. When I started at the museum in June of this year, one of the first things displays I noticed was the Fleur-de-Lis. I used to wear it every week on my shirt, but I never fully understood the meaning behind it until I started working here.
The display in the museum taught me what it actually symbolised. Lord Baden-Powell's book, 'Scouting for Boys', was published in 1908 after the Boer War had finished. In it, he referred to the motif as '...the arrowhead which shows the North on a map or a compass'. He explained that, 'It is the Badge of the Scout because it points in the right direction and upward... The three points remind you of the three points of the Scouts promise', thisbeing their duty to God and country, helping others and keeping the Scout Law.
The symbol was used by Baden-Powell as a badge for soldiers who qualified as scouts(reconnaissance specialists) in the 5th Dragoon Guards, which he commanded at the end of the 19th century. It was later used in cavalry regiments throughout the British Army until 1921.
I never realised that the symbol had such an interesting and diverse history, until I came to work at the museum. So you do learn something everyday!
Captain William George Gabain MC
William George Gabain, the only son of Charles Edward Gabain, was educated at Sandroyd, Charterhouse and Pembroke College, Cambridge. He was a member of the football eleven and was also a proficient boxer, winning at Public School and University level three years in a row.
He took a temporary Mastership at Eton and, in September 1913, a permanent post at his old school. On 9th February 1914 he was appointed to serve with the Charterhouse School Contingent, Junior Division, Officers Training Corps (OTC.)
When war broke out he received his call-up notice at 10 o'clock in the morning and an hour and a half later he was on his way to France where his knowledge of French and German earned him a post as a despatch rider with the First Cavalry Brigade from August 1914 until early in 1915. He went through the retreat from Mons, his work being Mentioned in Despatches.
From January 1915 he served with the Intelligence Corps and was again Mentioned in Despatches. In May 1916 he joined the HQ staff of the 10th Corps but four months later was shipped home with a serious leg wound. By the following January he was back in France on the HQ staff as Temporary Captain. Although he was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in June 1917 he was dissatisfied with life on the HQ staff and applied several times for a combatant role.
In January 1918 he was transferred to the 2nd Rifle Brigade and was one of the fatalities of the German onslaught on 24 March 1918. His Adjutant wrote: He was last seen on the morning of that day, in a sunken road holding on with a handful of men practically surrounded by infinitely superior numbers of the enemy. Throughout the previous might he did fine work holding the bridge under most trying circumstances and in the face of overwhelming numbers.
Germany's Last Offensive
Realising that the only way to defeat the British and French Allies before American reinforcements arrived on the continent in strength, the German Army launched a major offensive in the Spring of 1918, known as the Kaiserschlacht (Kaiser's Battle), or as the Ludendorff Offensive. The main attack, code named Michael, was intended to outflank and defeat the British Forces on the Somme and then to force the French to sue for peace by threatening Paris.
There were early and dramatic German successes with the British front line being forced back over ground that it had taken four years to capture at horrendous human cost. However, the German attack bogged down on the already heavily-damaged ground due to the poor ground conditions, adverse weather and the Germans inability to move reserves and stores to rapidly reinforce success.
The skill, tenacity, bravery and sacrifice of the British forces engaged in defence was also a major contributing factor in blunting the attack which was eventually called off by the German High Command in late April, by which time the German attacking troops had suffered very heavy casualties and had only managed to take ground with dubious further tactical or strategic value.
Captain Gabain MC was one of the many British casualties in this decisive battle that so blunted the German Armys' fighting strength. Captain Gabain was initially reported missing and it was a full year before his family accepted that he had died. He was 28 years of age. He is interred at the Pargny Commonwealth war Graves Commission Cemetery on the Somme.
In August 1918 the Allies, massively reinforced by the arrival of the Americans, launched the final offensive of the war, known as the Hundred Days Offensive it succeeded in retaking all the lost ground and forcing the German Army into a major retreat and the German Government to sue for peace, the final Armistice coming into place on 11th of November 1918.
The Captain Gabain MC Collection
The jacket shown in the photograph was purchased for the Museum by the Trustees in January 2017 and joins this officers medals which were already held by the Museum. They are, from left to right: the Military Medal, the 1914 Star with Claps: 5th Aug-22nd November 1914 (often referred to as the Mons Star), the War Medal and the Victory Medal with a Mention in Despatches Oak Leaf.
The opportunity to acquire such rare and important artifacts is uncommon enough, the chance to reunite this gallant gentleman's jacket with his medals is unique in this museum.
Surrey Corps of Guides Uniform - Pre WW1
In 1985 Mr Eric Price donated the jacket, breeches and hat to the Museum. The uniform has lain dormant in our stores for quite some time as we did not fully realise its relevance to Intelligence. After intensive research this is what we discovered.
In the years prior to World War One it became increasingly accepted amongst the population that Mainland Britain may no longer be immune from invasion. Rather than the French " the threat from Britains traditional enemy diminished following the signing of the Entente Cordiale in 1904 " it was the expansionist efforts of Germany that posed the greatest threat.
This was largely due to the personal ambition of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, who wanted his country to become one of the world'should leading powers with its own Empire. To defend these colonies, the Kaiser saw the need for the construction of a new, larger, and significantly improved German Navy and Merchant fleet. As such, this led to the belief that Britain needed to prepare its defence, and the arms race commenced. As early as 1906, war between Britain and Germany was regarded as inevitable. It wasn't a question of if, but when. Planning for the defence of Britain thus became of upmost importance.
The concept of the Surrey Guides dates back to around 1900, with Colonel Frank Dormay Watney KCVO CBE TD, a member of Territorial Force 4th Battalion Royal West Surrey Regiment, credited with the idea. With the help and support of John St Loe Strachey (editor of the Spectator ), Watney drew up a list of men whose local knowledge and expertise singled out their suitability as local guides. It was not the first time the use of local guides had been deemed necessary within the UK. In 1798, again under the threat of invasion " this time from the French " a Corps of men with local knowledge, country skills and scouting ability was established to be used as guides for the regular army in Kent if it was ever required.
Despite the apparent need, Colonel Watney's idea did not come to fruition at this time. Instead, in 1903 a Colonel Davidson (no details available) used Watney's plan, briefing A system of Local Guides for Home Defence at the Royal United Service Institution (RUSI) .
By 1910 Colonel Davidsons idea for the Surrey Guides was acknowledged by the Surrey Territorial Association. In turn, Colonel Watney was then asked to produce a plan to organise and create a County based Guides Corps. By April 1912, the Association of Surrey led the way. Blessed by the War Office, the intent was for other counties to then follow suit .
The individuals chosen as guides consisted mainly of farmers and the older generation of the hunting fraternity, past the eligible age to enlist. It was their single qualification to have unrivalled knowledge of the county in any weather condition and situation, day and night. Not unlike present day Intelligence Corps operators, the guides were required to be situationally aware at all times. With the removal of all signage within their respective areas of expertise, the guides were the experts when it came to selecting appropriate routes through the countryside; this accorded to their suitability for artillery, convoys and columns of cavalry and infantry, as well as their ability to be hidden from view. Leading troops through lanes or woodlands, they also understood the contours of the land, the surfaces and width of every road and footpath, obstacles, the load capacity of bridges and how each were affected by weather. Additionally, they were able to provide details on local farms, villages and towns, and their respective buildings, as well as members of the population.
The uniform worn by the Surrey Guides consisted of a military style uniform of green serge, breeches and a peaked cap of the same material. The cap badge was made of bronze and depicted Mercury, messenger of the Gods poised on a globe. This uniform, as pictured " and owned by the museum " belonged to HC Oswald Esq JP of Croydon, a member of the Old Surrey Foxhounds and the Banstead Draghounds.
Little is known as to when exactly the Surrey Guides was disbanded - they are known to still exist in April 1915 " however it is unclear what happened after this date. By the end of 1915 Colonel Watney was Commanding Officer of the Territorial Force 2/4th Battalion Royal West Surrey Regiment. Though the initial idea of the Intelligence Corps was formed from the past actions of other Corps of Guides utilised in Britain, and whilst many similarities can be drawn between them and the requirements of the modern Intelligence Corps soldier, there is no evidence that the Surrey Guides have such a connection.
However, they were experts in understanding both the physical and human terrain in their area of interest and activities, specialisations that remain a core skill within land intelligence.
The Citta Di Biella Medallion 1883
The Citta Di Biella Medallion 1883
On 21st April 1980 an event was held at the Plaza Martiri della Liberta, Biella, Italy to commemorate the actions of local Italian Partisans and their Special Operations Executive (SOE) compatriots during the liberation of Italy from German occupation towards the close of the Second World War.
Two members of the Intelligence Corps were present, Major Alastair MacDonald MBE MC and Captain JPS Amoore MC, both of whom had worked with the Italian partisans as members of SOE. At this event both men were presented with replica medallions of the Gold Medal of Military Valour for the Resistance, which had been awarded to the City of Biella on 31 March 1980 by the President of the Republic.
During a later such event on 24th April 1983 the Citta Di Biella commemorative medallion held by the Museum and pictured here was presented to Major MacDonald.
Major MacDonald, as Officer Commanding, and Lieutenant Amoore, as his Second in Command, were members of SOE Mission CHEROKEE and parachuted into the Biella area of Piedmont, Italy in November 1944 along with explosives expert Captain Jim Bell and radio operator Sergeant Birch.
The CHEROKEE team then organised the largest arms drop made during the campaign to a 3,000-strong group of Italian partisans. Shortly after this supply drop, in January 1945, they destroyed a key railway bridge, drastically curtailing the supply of high-grade steel to Germany for the rest of the war. During the German anti-partisan sweeps after this attack, whilst tending to a wounded Italian comrade, Major MacDonald was captured by Waffen SS troops who had infiltrated the partisan lines.
In early March 1945 Major MacDonald escaped from his POW camp and successfully made his way to Switzerland. He was later parachuted into France to support the partisan effort there until the end of the war. Major A MacDonald MBE MC died in 1995.
Amoore, now promoted Captain, survived many hazardous adventure as he remained one step ahead of the German/Russian/Italian Fascist forces hunting the Biella partisans. He successfully led the extraction of the XII Partisan Division in the face of repeated attacks despite appalling fighting conditions and deep snow which hindered movement by night as well as day. He was awarded the Military Cross for his actions during this time.
In 1951 Captain Amoore was awarded the Polish Cross of Valour for his activities in Italy and, belatedly, in 1981, the Italian Military Cross. Captain JPS Amoore MC died in 1993 and his ashes were scattered across Biella in his beloved Italy.
Captain Hubble's Chess Set
Throughout his war service Captain Hubble carried with him this small travelling chess set. Even after capture and during his incarceration at Charleville, Fresnes and Buchenwald he managed to keep it with him. On the day he was summoned from Block 17 he left the set on his bunk not realising that he wouldn't be coming back.
After Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas learnt of his friend's death he resolved that if he should ever manage to escape he would take the chess set with him and return it to Captain Hubble's family. Eventually, in October 1944, Yeo-Thomas did escape. He kept his promise to himself and returned the chess set to Captain Hubble's widow.
In July 1940, following the fall of France, he was posted to Africa as cipher officer with No. 19 British Military Mission at Leopoldsville in the Belgian Congo. In June 1941 the Mission ended and Lieutenant Hubble assumed the appointment of GSO3 Liaison at HQ Military Forces West Africa. During this period he travelled widely through Africa, including Angola, South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria and the Gold Coast.
The map shows his travels in Africa and the sword on display is a souvenir picked up during this time.
He returned to England on 6 June 1942.
On 28 October 1942 Captain Hubble returned to Africa, embarked once again for the West Coast of Africa, this time destined for the West Coast with W Section of SOE.
For six months he was attached to the Bathurst Section of the West African Mission, during which time he spent two months as the Head of Section, and on 2 May he was transferred to the Freetown Section where he was Head of Section for 6 months. At both locations he carried out administrative and intelligence gathering activities. His tour with W-Section ended in November 1943 and he arrived back in London at the end of that month.
Special Operations Executive
Originally enlisting in the Royal Artillery as a gunner, Desmond Hubble applied for a commission and on 23 December 1939 he was gazetted as a second lieutenant.
In May 1940 he was selected to attend a course at No 3 Intelligence School. On completion of the course he was selected for special employment as cipher officer with No. 2 Military Mission in France, the British military mission to the French General Headquarters.
On 18 July 1942 Special Operations Executive (SOE), using the War Office cover of MO1 (SP), requested Hubbles transfer to them for special employment. He commenced duty with SOE on 11 August and on the 22 August Captain Hubble was transferred to the Intelligence Corps, retaining his rank of captain. He then completed the SOE Group A (Paramilitary) and Group B (Finishing) courses.
In early 1944 Captain Hubble was recruited to RF-Section of SOE by his friend Wing-Commander Forrest Yeo-Thomas (Codename - The White Rabbit). He completed the SOE parachute course at STS 51 and the S-Phone course (a long-distance transmitter-receiver used for communication between aircraft and the reception committee on the ground during agent drops) at STS 40. He was then selected to be a member of an eight-man Inter-Allied Mission, codename Citronelle, which was to be parachuted into the Ardennes region of France. The objective of Citronelle was to arm, train and organise the Maquis groups in the area and coordinate their activities in support of the D-Day landings.
On the night of 5/6 June 1944 Captain Hubble along with four other members of the Mission, parachuted into the Ardennes area of the Franco-Belgian border as the second Citronelle group.
On the morning of the 12th June, Hubble and another officer were returning from reconnoitring a potential drop zone for supplies, near Les Heez dHargies, when they ran into a German patrol which was part of a much larger force, supported by tanks. Shots were exchanged and in the confusion Hubble was separated from his companion and captured. The Germans then engaged the SOE/Maquis camp and after a bloody fire-fight over 150 men of the Maquis were killed or captured - a grave containing 105 of the bodies was later found in a field at Les Hautes Buttes.
Captain Hubble was taken to Charleville prison for interrogation and then to Fresnes prison in Paris. A report received by SOE in April 1945 stated that an inscription written by him and dated 8/8/44 had been found in one of the cells. He was eventually placed on a train, along with thirty-five other members of SOE and the Resistance, including his friend Yeo-Thomas and two female SOE agents, Violette Szabo and Noor Inyat Khan.
After a temporary stop at a camp in Saarbrucken the male and female prisoners were separated and on 16 August the men arrived at their destination, Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Here they were stripped, de-loused and issued with the camp's blue and white striped uniform, with a red triangle badge marking them as political prisoners. Although most of their possessions were confiscated Hubble managed to keep his small travelling chess set. The group was then taken to Block 17, which was contained within its own barbed-wire fence, and allocated one bunk between two. Hubble and Yeo-Thomas managed to stay together.
On 9 September Captain Hubble and sixteen others of their group were summoned to report to the administration area. Thinking it to be a routine matter the men left the hut to report as ordered, but they never returned. On the evening of 12 September the remainder of Block 17 received the news that Captain Desmond Hubble and the others had been executed the previous evening.
Professor Balachowski, a Polish member of the Prosper Circuit who worked in the camp hygiene section, told them that the men had been taken to the basement of the camp crematorium, savagely beaten and then executed by being hung from hooks suspended a few metres from the ground; their bodies had been cremated that same evening.
Nazi General Theodor Eicke by Andy Cole, museum volunteer
The Artefact:" Sword of Honour. (ASFIC_2239)
The Nazi Honour Sword has been identified with Nazi General Theodor Eicke and was found, minus its scabbard, by Dr Hans Hers (Dutch Intelligence Officer) under the bed in the main bedroom of Eicke's home. The house near the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was built by the inmates of the camp. Eicke lived at the house for period when he was head of the WVHA, prior to his redeployment as a front line officer, initially in the invasion of France and then onto the Eastern Front. The WVHA was responsible for setting up and running the Nazi concentration camp system in the 1930s. The sword is one of a number of items presented to the British Military Intelligence Museum in 1995 by Dr. Hers.
The hiltclasp of the sword features oak-leaves indicating the rank of General. Dr Hers in his provenance documentation describes the pommel as showing a panther with emerald green eyes. This however is the head of a male African lion with one of the eyes missing (It is possible that this was stolen by a servant or a retreating German soldier, during the hurried clearance of the house when it was overrun by the Russians late in the war).
The hilt is formed by a downward facing snake with prominent head and the grip is made from an artificial ribbed black material set off by twisted silver strings. One of the side sheets features the German Eagle with swastika and a wreath of laurels. The black and silver colours are symbolic with the SS and the rest of the adornment is typical of the Nazi German style.
The emerald green eyes of the panther/lion and the small snake amongst the leaves were symbols of the Gestapo and the SD (Sicherheitsdienst) of the SS.
Good shooting by Russian AA gunners on 26th February 1943, brought an end to the life of SS-Obergruppenfuehrer (General) Theodor Eicke, commanding officer of the 3rd Division (Totenkopf) Waffen SS. They downed a German Fieseler Fi 156 Storch light aircraft killing all 3 occupants on board including Eicke, the pilot and another Nazi officer Hauptsturmfuehrer (Captain)Friedrich. The aircraft was on a reconnaissance mission behind Russian lines during the opening stages of the Third Battle of Kharkov in the Ukraine. Had the unstable, ruthless and fanatical Nazi survived the war, he would undoubtedly have been hunted down by the Allies for an appearance in front of the War Crimes Tribunal.
Theodor Eicke came into this world on 17th October 1892 and was the son of a station master in Hampont, Alsace-Lorraine. The family was lower middle class where he was the youngest of 11 children. He was not academically gifted and dropped out of formal schooling before graduation at the age of 17.
In WW1 he served in the German Army (23rd Barvarian Infantry Regiment, before transferring to the 3rd Regiment as paymaster, ending the war as paymaster in the 22nd Regiment.) He was awarded the Iron Cross, second class and then first class for bravery in 1914 and resigned from the army in 1919.
He recommenced his studies but continued to demonstrate his lack resolve and dropped out again in 1920 to take up a position in the police force. He worked initially as an informer and then as a regular police officer. His time as a policeman came to an end due to his extreme hatred of the Government of the day (Weimar Republic). He frequently participated in violent political demonstrations. A brief term of employment at IG Farben also came to an end when the employer learned of Eicke's excessively violent anti-government protest activities.
At this time, Eicke was arrested for planning and preparing bomb materials for attacks on political enemies and in July 1932 received a 2 years prison sentence. However he was spirited out of Germany to Italy by his Nazi friends.
He returned to Germany in March 1933, just 3 months after Hitler came to power, but was immediately arrested and incarcerated in a mental asylum for a few months, before being released, promoted by SS Chief - Himmler to the rank of SS-Oberfuehrer and in June 1933 to the position of camp commandant at Dachau Concentration Camp, close to Munich. This apparently was not a promotion, but used by Himmler as a means of getting the unstable and troublesome Eicke out of the way.
In early 1934 Hitler, with Himmler'so persuasion, decided that the SturmAbteilung (SA), were too violent and uncontrollable. The Night of the Long Knives saw the arrest of SA leader Ernst Rohm and all of his senior henchmen. Eicke and his adjutant Michael Lippert entered Rohms Stadeheim prison cell in Munich and summarily executed with their sidearms.
Eicke's role was extended to Concentration Camp Inspector and he embarked on a regime of training the camp guards (SS-Wachverbaende) to be utterly ruthless, sadistic and unsympathetic to the conditions of the inmates. Other pre-war camps followed at Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald and Ravensbrueck in Germany and also Mauthausen-Gusen in Austria, all being based on the format established by Eicke at Dachau.
When Eicke was re-assigned to combat duty, he assumed command of the SS-3rd Division (Totenkopf) which was mainly manned by former concentration camp guards. Totenkopf earned dreadful reputation for brutality and infamy in many war crimes, including the murder of 97 British PoWs at Le Paradis in 1940
One of Eicke's subordinates in the SS-Wirtschaft-Vervaltungshauptamt (WVHA) at Dachau was Rudolf Hoess who later became commandant of Auschwitz and has a connection with the Chicksands Museum in the engraved German Police handcuffs (ASFIC_1416.1, ABC501) which restrained him when he was captured by the Allies in 1946. Hoess was hanged in Warsaw in 1946
Source for much of the data in this article: The archived provenance documentation of Dr. Hers and Wikipedia
AC, March 2014