Comment: The art of listening in

The Rookery, Aspley Guise
The Rookery, Aspley Guise

Shock, horror. It seems the ‘spooks’ have been reading everyone’s electronic goings on. Still, it would be even more surprising (and perhaps worrying) if they weren’t.

And as for another slant, eyes of other Governments have no doubt been reading it for years.

Of course it’s the height of naivety to think that anything transmitted is secure and not being intercepted, as the Germans found to their cost by the activities of Bletchley Park.

And of course it’s an ideal environment in which to deceive and fool the ‘listeners,’ with spoof plans and false plots to tie up their resources in a wild goose chase.

In the realm of ‘Special Communications,’ in which this district was steeped during WW2, by ‘Operation Fortitude’ partly through monitoring fake British radio traffic the Germans were convinced that an army would attack Norway from across the North Sea, and the Pas de Calais from across the Channel.

In fact – although this is a vast over simplification – in essence it was just a few radio trucks moving to various locations and broadcasting orders and instructions to brigades that didn’t exist.

But by fooling the listeners it made them withhold resources to meet a non existent threat, resources which would have otherwise been deployed against the Allies at the D Day landings.

And then there’s ‘black propaganda.’ During the early years of WW2 ‘Larchfield,’ at Aspley Guise, was the home of Sefton Delmer, who was the inspiration for a fake German radio station called GS1.

This was purportedly run from within Germany by a military chief disaffected with the Nazis, and from being extremely accurate in its knowledge of enemy conditions (gained from a multitude of intelligence sources) it soon acquired a wide audience, despite the penalties if caught listening.

All manner of high ranking officials were ‘implicated’ in lurid tales of corruption, debauchery, and suspect loyalty.

Thus by coming to the attention of the Gestapo the station deliberately caused many enemy agents to waste their time investigating phantom scenarios. As the war progressed Delmer’s operation was greatly expanded and he moved to The Rookery in Aspley Guise, employing a purpose built broadcast station at Milton Bryan.

And so if there’s a warning from history in all of this, it seems that those being monitored are often more than able to manipulate and completely outwit those who are doing the monitoring.

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