‘The big education for me is that civilisation is fragile and can be destroyed in a heartbeat' - Jeremy Brade, former peacekeeper in Sarajevo.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

WWII: the war in the airwaves

(Pic source)

We watched "Ice Cold In Alex" yet again, a few days ago. A classic, and a dream for lager marketing men (Dad used to recall the instant headache he'd get stepping out into Egyptian sunlight after a few pints of Stella.)

But the war took many other forms.

70-odd years on, we're familiar with WW2 war room scenes of girls plotting plane movements and communicating with pilots in-flight. What's less well known is that elsewhere in Britain, some were speaking to enemy airmen...

"Starting in 1943, Aspidistra was used to disrupt German nightfighter operations against Allied bombers over Germany. German radar stations broadcast the movements of the bomber streams en route to targets during RAF Bomber Command's Battle of Berlin. As part of their strategies to misdirect the German fighters, German-speaking RAF operators impersonated these German ground control operators, sending fake instructions to the nightfighters. They directed the nightfighters to land or to move to the wrong sectors."

Here is a Youtube recording of a 1973 radio programme about the deception work of Sefton Delmer, who set up a number of radio stations broadcasting "psyops" man-in-the-middle transmissions, ostensibly by Germans, to the German military and public:

Besides Delmer's own revelations in the second volume of his autobiography, called "Black Boomerang," there are accounts by R V Jones and David Garnett.

As the drama-doc above says, Delmer had hoped to fake the Germans into a premature ceasefire in 1945 but was told that it would not be good if the latter could claim afterwards that they had been defeated by a trick. (There is some merit in the objection, since WWI diehards had claimed that Germany was defeated not militarily but because of domestic treachery. No need to set up another propaganda hostage to fortune.)

But ironically, Delmer's apparently unfinished early '70s memoir "Tail of a Tale" begins with his own sense of betrayal - by our US allies as the British Empire was undermined and dismantled:

"I would have laughed at anyone who told me in that hour of triumph that our governments, Socialist and Conservative, would be competing over the next twenty years as to which of them could do most to liquidate the Empire and betray the trust of the colonial peoples that looked to us for sound administration untrammelled by nepotism, tribalism or corruption. Or that on the one and only occasion when a British statesman stood up to defend a lifeline of the Empire, the United States government with a dumbfounding blindness to its own long term interests and disregard for the international rule of law would join the Soviet Union in supporting the aggression of the Egyptian Hitler, Gamal Abdel Nasser. (Not that this deterred the Americans from reproaching us with a lack of loyalty and vigour in supporting them in the areas east of Suez - our line of communication with which they so rashly helped to sever - when they themselves in their turn became embroiled in Vietnam and the Middle East with the same forces they had supported against us in their post-war anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist fervour)."

(Above-quoted extract found here.)

Funny how "right-wing" and "left-wing" don't seem adequate to cover the full spectrum of political opinion. We're not what we were, but nor, as Delmer says, are yesterday's anti-imperialists.

Today, when Saudi Arabia is funding terrorism while ostensibly opposing it, Turkey smuggling oil from IS while sheltering Syrian refugees, and Russia and now China stepping in to help Syria's government against what is under international law an illegal attempt by Western powers to overthrow it, the fog of disinformation is rising again.

I guess that's what Delmer meant by the boomerang.


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Paddington said...

Our Dad couldn't handle beer in the English climate.

Levent Özen said...