Historical Archive - General History

George Scovell 1774-1861, CODE BREAKER EXTRAORDINAIRE!

George Scovell came to prominence during the British campaign against the French for control of Spain and Portugal (The Peninsular War) as the leading code breaker for the Duke of Wellington. Between 1809 and 1814 he developed a system of military communications and intelligence gathering for the British that intercepted French dispatches to and from the battlefield, and cracked their codes.

Under Wellington's command, code breaking and intelligence gathering played an important role in British victories such as Oporto (1809), Salamanca (1812) and Vittoria (1813), and Scovell was a key part of these activities. George Scovell served as an officer in the Intelligence Branch of the Quartermaster-Generals department. A gifted linguist, he was placed in charge of a motley group of Spanish, Portuguese and other rag-tag soldiers recruited for their local knowledge and language skills. Known as the Army Guides they began to develop a system for intercepting and deciphering encoded French communications.

Initially the French used simple ciphers known as petits chiffres to encrypt communications These were designed to be written and deciphered in haste on the battlefield and were generally based on 50 numbers each representing a key word or phrase. In the spring of 1811 this was replaced by a more robust code based on a combination of 150 numbers, known as the Army of Portugal Code. At the end of 1811 however the French adopted The Great Paris Cipher, a table of some 1400 numbers and derived from a mid-18th century diplomatic code. These tables included dummy numbers often used towards the end of a message to confuse any attempts to decipher the coded message.

For the next year Scovell pored over intercepted documents. He made gradual progress using letters that contained some words and phrases written en clair, so that the meaning of coded sections could be inferred from the context. The information on troop movements gathered by Scovell's Army Guides was also crucial when making informed guesses about the identity of a person or place mentioned in coded letters. When a letter from the king of Spain (Napoleon's brother Joseph) to Napoleon Bonaparte was intercepted in December 1812, Scovell had cracked enough of the code to decipher most of Joseph's explicit account of French operations and plans. This information allowed Wellington to prepare for the final battle for control in Spain (Vittoria) on 21 June 1813. That night British troops seized Joseph Bonaparte's coaches and discovered his copy of the Great Paris Cipher table. The process was complete.

In 1829 in recognition of his achievements Major General Sir George Scovell was appointed Lieutenant Governor of the Royal Military College at Sandhurst

John Quenby, August 2006

BRIXMIS 1946 - 1990

The British Commanders'-in-Chief Mission to the Soviet Forces in Germany (BRIXMIS) was a military liaison mission to
East Germany following the establishment of the four allied zones of control in Germany after the Second World War. The
reciprocal agreement establishing the first of these, between the British and Soviet zones, was established on 16 September
1946 under the Robertson-Malinin Agreement between the respective chiefs of staff. Subsequent agreements in 1947 led to the
establishment of liaison missions with the zones controlled by French and US forces.

The agreements established a framework for the exchange of liaison missions to foster good working relations between the military
occupation authorities in the two zones. While the purpose of the missions was quasi-diplomatic the establishment of the liaisons
presented an opportunity for the collection of human intelligence through overt reconnaissance and surveillance.

The establishment of the British and Soviet liaison missions, BRIXMIS and SOXMIS, put in place procedural and administrative
mechanisms that would be replicated by the respective French/Soviet and US/Soviet activities, although the initial British/Soviet
arrangement was significantly larger than the others with 31 teams.

The British Mission comprised members of the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force who conducted uniformed liaison activities in marked cars and two Chipmunk light aircraft, ostensibly to allow aircrew to maintain crew currency while posted to the mission.

Liaison agreements remained in place until 2 October 1990 when all three missions were deactivated on the eve of Germany's reunification.
(source Wikipedia - July 2012)

Here Paul Croxson writes about THE


In the early days the only members of the Intelligence Corps serving in the Mission were individual officers selected because they were Russian speakers or, during the era of National Service, two NCOs acting as clerks. When National Service ceased the Corps was severely stretched across the world and could no longer provide this support and so the work of intelligence collation, maintenance of Target Folders and detailed research to back up the tasking of tours had to be done on a part-time basis by Tour Officers and NCOs. This was completely unsatisfactory as they already had a full-time load with their touring duties.

Clearly tours were bringing home a mass of information and this needed to be properly collated and Target Folders kept up to date in order that tours could brief themselves before setting out into the Soviet Zone.

Finally in about 1971 it was recognised that the Mission needed the expertise of a full-time collation staff and the first regular Intelligence Corps NCO, a corporal, was posted to the Mission. This proved to be the thin end of the wedge and during the 1970s the Corps infiltrated the Mission in a big way with his being replaced in 1973 by two senior NCOs, who formed the Operations/Intelligence Cell in support of the Army Operations staff. This was commanded at the time by a RAEC major, but due mainly to the lobbying of the then Chief and the GSO 2 Ops, supported by the Intelligence Corps senior NCOs, he was replaced in 1976 by an Intelligence Corps Captain. Later a junior NCO joined the cell and this remained intact until the Mission closed.

It was not only within the Mission itself, however, that the Intelligence Corps provided professional intelligence support. Prior to 1970 no formal training was given to members of the Mission before they took up their appointments; they had to learn on the
job. In 1971 and 1972 some selected officers attended the Service Attach Course at the School of Service Intelligence (later named the Defence Intelligence and Security School) at Ashford but it was realised that a more specialised approach and dedicated course
was necessary. So the Foreign Armies Studies Branch of the School was given the task, in liaison with the Mission, of putting together a course for BRIXMIS personnel and the first course was run from 22 October - 10 November 1972. In order not to prejudice the BRIXMIS liaison function it was essential that there should be no obvious connection between the Mission and the Intelligence Centre and so the course was titled the Intelligence (Special Duties) Course.

Two courses were run in both 1973 and 1974; thereafter there were three per annum until No 49 Intelligence (Special Duties) Course from 18 June - 13 July 1990. Early courses were of three weeks duration but in 1982 the course was extended to four weeks. From the very start it was the Chief s policy that all Army and RAF members of the Mission should attend whether they were full-time tourers or not and this policy continued for the eighteen years during which the courses were run. Over the years the course content was refined and developed. From 1976 onwards up to four members of the American Mission attended each course and from 1983 a few French Mission officers also attended.

There were three main aspects to the training: Equipment Recognition, Photography and Touring Techniques. The first two weeks consisted mainly of classroom instruction in these subjects while the last two weeks were dedicated to practical touring exercises against similar targets in UK to those the students would operate against in East Germany. During the first exercise students were tutored by members of the Directing Staff (DS) travelling with them in their vehicles while on the final exercise the students operated solo with the DS deployed against them as narks with the aim of giving them experience of the
harassment and detentions they might encounter in East Germany.


Over many years the Intelligence Corps played an important part in this organization and provided a skilled and professional
service which added greatly to its effectiveness.

By Paul Croxson with many thanks to Angus
Southwood, who provided Paul
with much of the material for this article.

Enoch Powell

The sixteenth of June 2012 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of the most contentious, loathed and yet revered members of the Intelligence Corps. Enoch Powell was born in Stetchford, Birmingham where he lived for the first six years of his life before moving to Kings Norton in 1918, where he lived until 1930. He was the only child of Albert Enoch Powell (1872"1956), a primary school headmaster, and his wife, Ellen Mary (1886"1953). Ellen was the daughter of Henry Breese, a Liverpool policeman and his wife Eliza, who had given up her own teaching career after marrying. The Powells were of Welsh descent, having moved to the Black Country during the early 19th century.

Powell was a pupil at King's Norton Boys' School before moving to King Edwards School, Birmingham where he studied classics which undoubtedly was the source of his infamous Rivers of Blood speech (an allusion to a line from Virgils Aeneid As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Romans, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood). He went on to study at Trinity College Cambridge from 1930 to 1933, during which time he fell under the influence both A.E Houseman, then Professor of Latin at the university, and of the writings of the German philosopher, Nietzsche. Surprisingly, he took no part in politics whilst at

It was while at Cambridge that Powell is recorded as having enjoyed one of his first close relationships. Indeed, according to John Evans, Chaplain of Trinity College and Extra Preacher to the Queen, instructions were left with him to reveal after Powell's death that at least one of the romantic affairs of his life had been homosexual. Powell had particularly drawn the chaplain's attention to lines in his First Poems (published 1937). This has been disputed, not least by his biographer Simon Heffer, who argued that this did not mean that he was homosexual; merely that he had not yet met any girls.

While at university, in one Greek prose examination lasting three hours, he was asked to translate a passage into Greek. Powell walked out after one and a half hours, having produced translations in the styles of Plato and Thucydides. He was awarded a double starred first in Latin and Greek, the highest degree possible and extremely rare. As well as his education at Cambridge, Powell took a course in Urdu at the School of Oriental Studies, perhaps the first indication of his own vision of his
destiny. He felt that his long-cherished ambition of becoming viceroy of India would be unattainable without the knowledge of an Indian language.

After graduating from Cambridge, Powell stayed on at Trinity College as a fellow, spending much of his time studying ancient manuscripts in Latin and producing academic works in Greek and Welsh. In 1937, he was appointed professor of Greek at Sydney University, aged 25 (failing in his aim of beating Nietzsches record of becoming a professor at 24).

At the outbreak of war in 1939, Powell immediately returned to Britain, but not before buying a Russian dictionary, since he thought Russia would hold the key to our survival and victory, as it had in 1812 and 1916.

During October 1939, almost a month after returning home, Powell enlisted in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. In later years, he recorded his appointment from private to lance-corporal in his Whos Who entry, on other occasions describing it as a greater promotion than entering the cabinet. Early in 1940, he was trained for a commission. On several occasions, he told colleagues that he expected to be at least a major-general by the end of the war. He passed out top of his officer training.

He was commissioned on the General List in 1940 but almost immediately transferred to the newly formed Intelligence Corps. He was almost immediately promoted to captain and posted as GSO3 (Intelligence) to the 1st (later 9th) Armoured Division. During this time he continued to teach himself Russian as he was convinced that Germany would eventually invade the Soviet Union. He was sent to the Staff College at Camberley.

In October 1941 Powell was posted to Cairo and transferred back to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. As Secretary to the Joint Intelligence Committee, Middle East, he was soon doing work that would normally have been done by a more senior officer and was (May 1942, backdated to December 1941) promoted to major. He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in August 1942, telling his parents that he was doing the work of three people and expected to be a brigadier within a year or two, and in that role helped plan the Second Battle of El Alamein having previously helped plan the attack on Rommels supply lines. Powell and his team would begin
work at 0400 hrs each day to digest radio intercepts from Ultra and other intelligence data (such as estimating how many tanks Rommel currently had and what his likely plans were), ready to present to the Chiefs of Staff at 0900 hrs.The following year,
aged 30, he was honoured as a member of the Order of the British Empire for his military service.

It was possibly whilst in Algiers that the beginning of Powell's dislike of the USA was planted. After talking with some senior American officials, he became convinced that one of America's main war aims was to destroy the British Empire. Powell's conviction of the anti-British attitude of the Americans continued during the war. Powell cut out, and retained all his life, an article from the New Statesman of 13 November 1943, in which the American Clare Boothe Luce " who would go on to be
the USAs first woman ambassador to a major country " said in a speech that Indian independence would mean that the "USA will really have won the greatest war in the world for democracy."

Powell desperately wanted to go to the Far East to help the fight against Japan because "the war in Europe is won now, and I want to see the Union Flag back in Singapore, before, Powell felt, the Americans beat Britain to it. He attempted to join the Chindits, but his duties (being privy to Ultra secrets) and rank precluded the assignment. He was eventually posted to Delhi in India as lieutenant-colonel in Military Intelligence in August 1943, having declined at least two jobs carrying the rank of full colonel in the, by then, moribund North African theatre and having offered to drop in rank to major in order to get a posting to the Far East. Powell soon became Secretary to the Joint Intelligence Committee for India and Mountbattens S.E Asia Command, involved in planning an amphibious offensive against Akyab, an island off the coast of Burma. Orde Wingate, also involved in planning that operation, took such a dislike to Powell that he asked a colleague to restrain him if he was tempted to "beat his brains in." Powell had continued to learn Urdu, consistent with his ambition of becoming viceroy of India and, when Mountbatten transferred his staff to Kandy, Ceylon, chose to remain in Delhi. He was promoted to full colonel at the end of March 1944, as Assistant Director of Military Intelligence in India, giving intelligence support to William Slim.

Having begun the war as the youngest professor in the Commonwealth, Powell ended it as a brigadier. He was given the promotion to serve on a committee of generals and brigadiers to plan the post-war defence of India; the resulting 470-page report was almost entirely written by Powell. For a few weeks he was the youngest brigadier in the British Army, and he was one of only two men in the entire war to rise from private to brigadier (the other being Fitzroy Maclean of SOE and SAS fame). He was offered a regular commission as a brigadier in the Indian Army, and the post of assistant commandant of an Indian Officers' Training Academy, which he declined. He told a colleague that he expected to be head of all military intelligence in the next war.

Powell never experienced combat and felt guilty for having survived, writing that soldiers who did so carried "a sort of shame with them to the grave". When once asked how he would like to be remembered, he at first answered, "Others will remember me as they will remember me", but when pressed he replied, "I should like to have been killed in the war."

I am indebted to Wikipedia for much of this information.
Paul Croxon, June 2012

Museum Memories

In 1961, I visited Maresfield Camp for a briefing about the Intelligence Corps before going to Staff College. The adjutant, Nick Nicholson, showed me round the camp looking at the various branches. He pointed out the silver in the sergeants mess and officers mess, and the artillery pieces placed round the camp which had been recovered from the 1956 Suez Campaign, but there was no central place where Corps artefacts were kept or displayed.

In 1966 Derek Hawker and I exchanged jobs; he came to Cyprus to take over as G2 Cyprus Base Intelligence Organisation (CBIO) and I returned to be OC Depot. In the exchange gap, Laurie Muskett was appointed temporary OC Depot.

Templer Barracks in Ashford was still under construction, so Pam and the family moved into quarters in Queens Drive, Maresfield; also in Queens Drive was Corps Lieutenant Colonel Tom Carter. Each Monday morning we would drive together to Ashford returning on Friday evening. Also living in the new officers mess at Ashford was Major Bill Leary, who was the camp quartermaster, the project officer for the development of Ashford Barracks and also responsible for running ICA, having taken over as Corps secretary from Major Philip Walker.

One evening in the bar we were discussing the allocation of accommodation and Bill raised the subject of having an Intelligence Corps museum. He felt there was space available but it would need the signature of a lieutenant colonel to approve its use as a museum. That weekend in the car I asked Tom Carter for his views and he was quite negative: The regular Corps has only been formed for less than ten years and we have very little history and if we did have anything interesting, it will almost certainly be classified.

The only other lieutenant colonel in Ashford was Jack Fielder who was the senior officer in the School of Military Intelligence. Bill and I went to see him and Bill explained that opposite the guardroom was to be an indoor shooting range and next door was a building, which would be ideal as a museum. As there was no entitlement for a museum he suggested the building should be designated as a Recruit Training Room. Jack Fielder agreed and signed the forms for this to happen.

There was no money for a museum but, as Bill was the QM and project officer responsible for the conversion of an RAOC depot to an intelligence centre, the refurbishment of the Recruit Training Room moved ahead to include heating, lighting, carpets and surprise, surprise, even display cabinets. Bill Leary then set about filling the museum and in a very short time attracted a large number of artefacts. Work had begun on a history of the Corps, The Intelligencers, and initially the main thrust of the museum was the historical story of intelligence starting from Walsingham, Thurloe, South Africa and World War I.

One of the first aims was to incorporate the museum into the structure of the Corps and this would best be done through ICA. Very early on, therefore, when the ICA committee met, there would be an item on the agenda: Museum business. This gave legitimacy to the existence of the museum and was a potential source of funds. Bill Leary was passionate about the museum and when he retired as a lieutenant colonel he volunteered to become the first curator He also recruited a Mr Hunter to be his assistant, paid for by ICA. An important day in the story of the museum was the day when Field Marshal Templer visited the Intelligence Centre to officially name the barracks Templer Barracks. During the visit he also formally opened the Intelligence Corps Museum.

The museum was then extremely lucky as the next Corps secretary, Colonel Felix Robson, was also passionately interested in Corps history and the development of the Museum. He was determined to collect and bring back to Ashford, Intelligence Corps memorabilia. He established contacts with the Imperial War Museum and the National Army Museum and personally visited past members of the Corps to obtain information and artefacts. We went together to Hamburg where a retired Corps sergeant major, Mr Hillyer-Funke, was working and who had accumulated a remarkable collection of Corps-related documents and historical items. Mr Hillyer-Funke agreed to allow these to go to the museum. It was a major coup.

As the Corps was rapidly expanding, so did the responsibilities of the corps secretary, so to help in the museum, wives were asked to come in for a few hours to clean and record accessions. Later, helped by a subsidy from ICA, the RSMs wife was employed part-time in the museum.

On the retirement of Felix Robson, the Corps was again lucky in that the next corps secretary was also interested in the museum and Corps history. Major Dick Shaw undertook the development of the museum with determination and flair and in his time the museum became accepted as an integral part of our Corps heritage.

When the decision was made to move the Centre to Chicksands, a significant problem arose, as the museum was not registered officially as part of Templer Barracks; it was not on the schedule to have a site designated in Chicksands. This caused considerable disruption and when the Centre finally closed, all the contents of the museum were packed into boxes and taken
to Chicksands but there was no place to put them. Dick Shaw, in addition to all the problems arising from the move and the increase in his duties as corps secretary, had to cope with stacks of boxes dispersed in corridors and various sites around the camp. Two people were significantly helpful in helping move the museum to Chicksands: Barbara Tate, an ex-FANY who supervised the transfer of the archives; and Major David Hill without whose help the museum might still be a derelict building in Ashford.

Director of the Corps, Brigadier Mick Laurie, was also head of the DISC and the museum trustees put great pressure on him to allocate space for a museum. A meeting to discuss the future of a museum was chaired by Mick Laurie and around the table were the senior Royal Naval officer and the senior RAF officer in the DISC. I was present as chairman of the Intelligence Corps Museum. The outcome was agreement that space should be allocated for a museum but that it should be Joint Service Intelligence Museum known as the Museum of Military Intelligence (MIM). This was a good step forward but for Dick Shaw and his successor as corps secretary, John Woolmore, it was a most frustrating period as the decision as to which accommodation would be allocated to the museum constantly changed.

Eventually the present building was designated to be the museum and the process of reconstruction began. The Royal Navy declined to be part of the museum explaining that they were already committed to their own museum in Portsmouth. The RAF was happy that the Medmenham Museum would become an integral part of the MIM.

To launch the museum a meeting was held in the Priory attended by over 80 past members of the Corps; and the Friends of the Intelligence Corps Museum was organised. The task was to turn a derelict office building into a modern museum. The museum trustees asked a representative from the National Army Museum to draw up plans for a modern museum and when this plan was agreed, work began to get the agreement of the DISC contractors to undertake the work and then find the money to enable this. The trustees always went for the best option in terms of lighting, carpeting, and decoration, and in many cases sanctioned the work to go ahead although the money was not necessarily in the bank.

As the building work progressed, plans were also made to agree the modules to fill the museum. Two trustees undertook to be responsible for the development and installation of modules. Angus Southwood designed and then supervised the development of the Brixmis module and John Condon undertook responsibility for two modules: The Name of the Rose module commemorating those members of the Corps who had given their lives for their country; and the Corps Honours and Awards module to record all the honours and decorations earned by members of the Corps. The trustees felt that it was correct that the first two modules in the new museum concentrated specifically on Corps history. The next module depicting the role of the Intelligence Corps in SOE was funded by a most generous donation from Julian Barnard.

In the summer of 2005 the museum at Chicksands was formally opened by Colonel Commandant, General Sir Charles Guthrie (see picture).

In 1998 there was a most significant change in army policy in that the Army Board agreed a paper which recognised that military museums were a legitimate part of army heritage and should be supported. The trustees therefore made strenuous efforts to convince the Adjutant Generals Corps that the MIM was a fundamental and integral part of the Intelligence Corps regimental tradition just as all other regimental museums, and happily this was accepted. As a result, in 2005 the museum was allocated the establishment of a curator, an archivist and an attendant. It was a great step forward but also meant that the trustees had the responsibility of setting high standards in the museum in order to obtain official governmental accreditation.

The next step was to obtain acceptance that the museum was now an integral part of the Intelligence Corps family and thus funding for the museum should include an annual contribution from ICA. This was ultimately agreed and ICA undertook to allocate funds
annually to the museum, although the figure would remain at ICA discretion.

By 2010 the MIM, trading as the Intelligence Corps Museum, had become recognised and accepted by the Intelligence Corps, the army and the government as a legitimate military museum; the next challenge is to gain nationwide acceptance as a focal point for intelligence displays and intelligence archival research.

Brigadier(Retired), Brian Parritt, February 2013

Zoom ButtonGeneral Sir Charles Guthrie with BP. Official opening 2005. Photo: DISC Archive.
Zoom ButtonZil restored! Corps Day 2013	Photo: JQ

JOINT SERVICES SCHOOLS FOR LINGUISTS 1951-60, National Servicemen preparing for war as Russian linguists

The communications intelligence work of Bletchley Park and its Y stations during the 1939-45 war is deservedly well known, but what happened next in relation to the threat from the Soviet Union has received much less attention. Even as early as 1944 the Joint Intelligence Committee of the Chiefs of Staff had begun to consider the gross shortage of Russian speakers in Britain, and by 1948 British intelligence operations, having been run down after the war, were expanding once more. The communists took over Czechoslovakia in 1948, Hungary in 1949. The exploding of the first Soviet atomic bomb in 1949 caught Western intelligence by surprise and the Korean war began in June 1950.(1)

The first large scale initiative in language training was a response to the need for about 200 Russian interpreters to join the staff of the Allied Control Commission in newly occupied Germany. In 1945-46 Professor Elizabeth Hill ran some six-month courses in Cambridge for these servicemen. Small numbers of interpreter students were also taught during the same period at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies in the University of London, when 24 service personnel, 20 men and four women, attended part-time courses. A similar scale of activity carried on into 1950-51 when there were 39 service students including two women learning a range of east European languages on a part-time basis.(2)

In 1949 an inter-service committee under the Ministry of Defence began to study ways and means of setting up courses for very much larger numbers of national servicemen. As a consequence of the outbreak of the Korean War, an extension of the National Service Act was rushed through Parliament in September 1950 to increase the period of training from 18 months to two years. A long period of Russian language training then became possible, followed by some useful intelligence work by those who qualified as
translators. The committees objective became the creation of a reserve of men who could be mobilised in case of hostilities, and in November 1950 a target of about 4,100 by 1954 was adopted.(3)

Meanwhile an initiative by the Air Ministry in 1949-52 comprised four one-year courses for 30-40 regular, as opposed to conscript, servicemen at RAF Kidbrooke, in south-east London. The students were mainly airmen, both officers and men, but also a few from the Army and the Navy. Some were already experienced W/T (wireless telegraphy) operators.(4)

In March 1951, after much debate the inter-service committee started to take executive action, leading to the commencement of courses in October 1951. They had in mind lower and higher grade linguists corresponding to the terms translator and interpreter, the former to be perhaps 65-75 per cent of the total. Joint Services Schools for Linguists run by the Army were established at Bodmin in Cornwall from October 1951 to Easter 1956; at Coulsdon Common near Croydon from February 1952 to August 1954; and at Crail in Fife from Easter 1956 to March 1960.(5)

Evidence has been found of 24 intakes altogether from 1951 to 1959. Bodmin and Coulsdon started by taking in 300-360 men at three points in the year, approximately 1 October, 1 February, 1 August, with roughly equal numbers from each service. Among the national servicemen in these early courses there was also a scattering of RAF regulars. Owing to Treasury economies, the pace had to be slackened in 1954 when one intake was probably abandoned altogether and the intake size was reduced to about 100-150 until the summer of 1956. Following this, there was an intake of the original size at Crail in November 1956, but the levels fell again in 1957. The last five intakes, after the Navy had stopped sending men, were down to only about 25 men, a dozen or so each of soldiers and airmen.The exact number of students sent to JSSLs has possibly not survived, but some estimates are available, starting with the upwards of 5,000 suggested by Elliott and Shukman.(6) The present author has used two different but broadly congruent methods to offer an alternative suggestion of rather more than 4,000. Tentative use of planning sources in the National Archives indicates 4,182, very close to the original target; whilst a combination of the more reliable of the figures in those sources
and a consensus of student recollections leads to a figure of 4,270. Both of these numbers look exact, but they are nothing of the kind, yet both point to the conclusion that Elliott and Shukmans figure is much too high and about 4,200 is probably a better estimate. (7)

It is more important to say that the planning target was eventually reached before the abolition of national service would, in any case, have forced a different strategy on the services. Had Crail closed two years before its demise in 1960, in terms of numbers it would have made little difference, but in terms of cost it would have supplied the Treasury with the best possible economy measure. In this late period Crail was also running Polish and Czech courses, but only for a handful of students.

Interpreter JSSLs were set up at the University of Cambridge, administered for service purposes by the RAF, and in the School of Slavonic and East European Studies in the University of London, administered by the Navy. Unlike the service-run JSSLs, however, they were run academically by civilians, Professor Elizabeth Hill at Cambridge and Dr George Bolsover as principal of SSEES, with Ronald Hingley as the course director followed by Bryan Toms. In October 1951 initial service training on to Course A lasting one year, followed by a military Russian course at Bodmin lasting about five months. For subsequent interpreter courses, men were selected at the first major progress test after 6-8 weeks of tuition in the service-run JSSLs. Course T, which started in October 1957, was the last interpreter course.(8)

These courses have often been described as superior to the contemporary degree courses so far as linguistic knowledge was concerned, leaving aside the study of Russian history, literature and culture, although these aspects of Russian studies were by no means neglected. Oral proficiency was particularly high. At the end of their courses most interpreters obtained Civil Service Interpretership certificates. After that the Army probably sent most of their interpreters to the Intelligence Corps depot at Maresfield in Sussex to take the course on interrogation techniques. Some of them finished off their national service as privates in the units from which they had gone to JSSL, but at least one became a sergeant in the Intelligence Corps. In their spare time up to demobilisation, some of the Navy interpreters also went to Maresfield and/or on to a variety of jobs for a few weeks or months according to how long after call-up they had gone to JSSL. Some of these jobs were quite unrelated to their interpreter training. The scanty evidence available suggests that the RAF did not give their interpreters further training after the Civil Service exams, but were promoted to Pilot Officer on demobilisation.

The JSSLs were very successful despite tensions between the military commandants at the service-run schools and the academic staff, especially in the early years. Many of the translators, who received all their language training at a service school, gained A levels in Russian, frequently finding the language papers much easier than the service end-of-course exams.

There was enough drop-out in the first three intakes to have caused the inter-service committee to revise its target date. However, the overall drop-out rate on translator courses was probably below five per cent, about level with university first degree rates in the same period.(9) The interpreter courses were much more demanding, even allowing for the higher marks obtained by their entrants at the first major progress tests. Interpreter drop-out rates were substantial at first, for instance, 17 out of 60 entrants to the London course in January 1953, but also appear to have improved over time, and the overall rate may not have exceeded 10 per cent.

The success of the JSSLs might be ascribed to four main factors. Firstly, the selection procedures, amateurish, haphazard and chaotic as they were, succeeded in finding among the mass of national servicemen a sufficient proportion of intelligent young men, usually with good linguistic qualifications at O level or equivalent, but more often at A level as well.
Many were to go on to university after national service and a significant minority had already taken first degrees in various subjects before call-up.

Secondly, high levels of enthusiasm for their work among the many east European instructors were often combined with charisma acquired during their previous lives in Tsarist Russia or the Soviet Union. Typically, they were newcomers to Britain, but had been jobless and dispirited and were willing to work for the mean rates of pay of temporary civil service posts.

Thirdly, their students responded with a keenness reinforced by a strong desire not to be returned to their units (in the case of the Army and RAF students) or recategorised to another branch (in the case of the Navy students). They had looked forward somewhat miserably to a largely wasted two years, but instead found themselves being taken into an almost entirely unknown, exciting intellectual world. Frequent progress tests were also important incentives to do ones homework thoroughly.

Fourthly, but most importantly, inspirational leadership by Prof (later Dame) Elizabeth Hill is to be applauded. It was she who understood from pre-war experience in Cambridge the importance of oral practice. She also had enough contacts in the Russian and related diasporas to find appropriate instructors and possessed the organisational skills to deploy them to the greatest advantage. In her 1945-46 courses she divided the students into classes of 25- 30 in which they were taught by a relatively small number of British graduates in Russian studies combined with native Russian speakers or bi-linguists who had a good knowledge of grammar and perhaps some teaching experience.

An equal amount of time was spent in smaller groups of eight or nine students (sometimes less) led by fluent Russian speakers who, strictly speaking, were never supposed to address their groups in English. Reading aloud, question-and answer work, dictation and written interpretership were all practised in the service-run JSSLs, often complemented by singing, the recitation of poems and the telling of colourful stories from their former lives.

The Cambridge method was adopted to great advantage in all the JSSLs, with variations on the original according to local and personal circumstances. In particular the allocation of 50 per cent of contact time to oral work was strikingly different from the usual way of teaching a foreign language at this time. There was healthy competition between the JSSLs at Cambridge and London, as SSEES had also acquired considerable expertise in its field. After the national service courses finished, interpreter courses for regular servicemen at defence establishments kept up the supply on a lesser scale for various languages. One such establishment is that at Beaconsfield (Bucks) which later became known as the National Defence School of Languages and recently (2012) has been scaled down and has become part of the UK Defence Academy.(10)

Translators who passed their courses were then trained for monitoring Soviet military radio traffic, mainly from locations in West Germany.(11) The Government Communications Headquarters trained the Army personnel, whilst the Navy personnel joined their RAF colleagues in secure accommodation at the Applied Languages School. Initially this was located at RAF Wythall near Birmingham, moving first to RAF Pucklechurch in Gloucestershire, later to RAF Tangmere in Sussex.

When JSSL Crail closed, at least some of its equipment and staff was transferred to Tangmere, where the unit was named the Joint Service Language School (JSLS). There regular personnel of the RAF and Navy received both their general language training and related radio training. The RAF had been anticipating such a transition for at least a couple of years by encouraging or requiring those who volunteered for the JSSL courses to take three- year regular engagements instead of doing two years national service.

Dennis Mills, April 2013


1 R. J. Aldrich, The Hidden Hand: Britain, America, and Cold War Secret Intelligence, 2002 (Woodstock and NY, Overlook Press) passim; and his GCHQ. The Uncensored Story of Britains Most Secret Intelligence Agency, 2010 (London, Harper Press), especially pp.68, 100, 103, 107-8; also Peter Hennessy, The Secret State: Whitehall and the Cold War, 2002 (London, Allen Lane Penguin Books), chapter 1.

2 Elizabeth Hill, In the Minds Eye: the memoirs of Dame Elizabeth Hill, 1999 (Lewes, The Book Guild Ltd) pp.230-36; James Muckle, The Russian Language in Britain: a historical survey of learners and teachers, 2008 (Ilkeston, Bramcote Press), pp.120-21. This is an excellent general survey, pp.120-36 in particular, including further information on pre-JSSL initiatives. My thanks to Lesley Pitman, Librarian at SSEES, for the London data.

3 Surviving minutes of this committee are in the National Archives, TNA/ADM 6331-34. See Tony Cash and Mike Gerrard, The Coder Special Archive: the untold story of Naval national servicemen learning and using Russian during the Cold War, 2012 (Kingston-on-Thames, Hodgson Press, available online) and Dennis R. Mills, Signals Intelligence and the Coder Special Branch of the Royal Navy in the 1950s, Intelligence and National Security, vol. 26 (5), October 2011, pp.639-55.

4 Much information of this kind has come from about 100 former Russian linguists of all three services and many different intakes, to whom the author is most indebted. Some of the RAF personnel are members of the RAF Linguists Association,
https://sites.google.com/site/raflingassociation/ home-page

5 On Crail see Graham Boiling, Secret Students on Parade: Cold War Memories of JSSL, 2005 (Crail, Plane Tree); on Coulsdon see Maurice Berrill, Moscow in Surrey: Recollections of Coulsdon Common Camp and the not-so-secret classrooms of the Joint Services School for Linguists, Bourne Society, Local History Records (journal of the Bourne Society), vol. 68, August 2011, pp.2-15 and Dennis R. Mills, The training of linguists for war, Coulsdon, 1952-54, Local History Records, part I in vol. 73, November 2012, pp.3-13 and part II in vol. 74, February 2013, pp.3-12. No comparable account has been found in print about JSSL Bodmin, but JohnSignals Intelligence and the Coder Special Branch of the Royal Navy in the 1950s, Intelligence and National Security, vol. 26 (5), October 2011, pp.639-55.

4 Much information of this kind has come from about 100 former Russian linguists of all three services and many different intakes, to whom the author is most indebted. Some of the RAF personnel are members of the RAF Linguists Association, https://sites.google.com/site/raflingassociation/ home-page

5 On Crail see Graham Boiling, Secret Students on Parade: Cold War Memories of JSSL, 2005 (Crail, Plane Tree); on Coulsdon see Maurice Berrill, Moscow in Surrey: Recollections of Coulsdon Common Camp and the not-so-secret classrooms of the Joint Services School for Linguists, Bourne Society, Local History Records (journal of the Bourne Society), vol. 68, August 2011, pp.2-15 and Dennis R. Mills, The training of linguists for war, Coulsdon, 1952-54, Local History Records, part I in vol. 73, November 2012, pp.3-13 and part II in vol. 74, February 2013, pp.3-12. No comparable account has been found in print about JSSL Bodmin, but John Miller included his own recollections of being in the first intake there and of intelligence work in the War Office in a book that is mainly about his life as a journalist in Moscow over many years: All Them Cornfields and Ballet in the Evening, 2010 (Kingston-upon-Thames, Hodgson Press, available online).

6 G. Elliott and H. Shukman, Secret Classrooms: a Memoir of the Cold War, two editions, 2002, 2003 (London, St Ermins Press), p.42 of the second edition.

7 These figures relate only to students taking the Russian courses. There was also a handful of students in the later days of JSSL Crail taking courses in Czech or Polish. It is much more important to note the initiative by the Air Ministry to set up courses in Chinese, mostly attended by RAF national servicemen. They were held in secure accommodation at the Applied Languages School, later known as the JSLS, which is mentioned below. The numbers per course were mostly between 20 and 40, almost 300 in total: R.Hunt, G. Russell and K.Scott, Mandarin Blue. RAF Chinese Linguists - 1951 to 1962 " in the Cold War, 2008 (Oxford, Hurusco Books, 84 Butler Close, OX2 6JQ; ISBN 978-0-9560235-0-6).

8 The interpreter courses, especially from the perspective of the Army and RAF students, have been well described by Elliott and Shukman, Secret Classrooms.

9 Some problems at Coulsdon were recorded on pp.216-17 in Donald MacDonell, From Dogfight to Diplomacy: a Spitfire pilots log, 1932-58, edited by Lois MacDonell and Anne Mackay, 2005 (Barnsley, Pen and Sword Aviation). MacDonells remarks about poor teaching and high drop-out support the recollections of some Navy students of the August 1952 intake. This book is the only memoir of a JSSL principal so far found.

10 Muckle, Russian Language in Britain, pp.178- 81 and information from Robert Avery, Principal Lecturer in Russian.

11 See for the Army, Jeremy Wheelers History project on www.langeleben.co.uk (chapter 10); for the RAF, Leslie Woodhead, My Life as a Spy, 2005 (London, Macmillan) and for the Navy, Dennis Mills, One third of us might have been Wrens, East-West Review (journal of the GB-Russia Society), vol. 11 (2), 2012, pp.5-9.

Zoom Button
Zoom ButtonStudents of the autumn 1951 (first) intake.  Photo taken at JSSL Bodmin, summer 1952, oral group, instructor Dani Bondarenko, Ukrainian, courtesy of John Miller (Army), on the far left. Navy students all belonged to the purposely formed Coder Special Bran
Zoom ButtonThe supplementary group of interpreter students at Crail, December 1957, with (L-R) Mr V Diakovski (Russian), Commander Maitland-MakGill-Crichton (i/c, Navy students) and Prince (knyaz = lord) Volkonski (Russian).  By this date coders  were  dressed  as
Zoom ButtonF Course at JSSL Cambridge, central part of the photograph of staff and students at our Passing Out ceremony, held indoors at the Mill Lane lecture theatre owing to bad weather, April 1954. Front row (L to R): Brigadier E K Page (principal at Coulsd
Zoom ButtonThe supplementary group of interpreter students at Crail, December 1957, with (L-R) Mr V Diakovski (Russian), Commander Maitland-MakGill-Crichton (i/c, Navy students) and Prince (knyaz = lord) Volkonski (Russian). By this date coders were dressed as seame
Zoom ButtonCoulsdon  1953,  a  grammar class of the fourth intake outside a double teaching hut, with 20 students  present and  their civilian  instructor,  Mr  Sandon. To distinguish Army from RAF students look for the khaki shirts
Zoom ButtonCoulsdon, 1953, oral group, instructor Oleg Kravchenko, Ukrainian. This group was part of a grammar class taught by Peter Meades, an instructor who had been on Liza Hills 1945-46 Cambridge course as an artillery sergeant, later in Germany using his Rus

The Nazi Honour Sword

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 Eickes 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 hilt-clasp 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.

The Man:-

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 Eickes 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 in company with Himmler decided the clip the wings of the Sturmabteilung (SA) and its hierarchy. 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 him with their sidearms.

Eickes role was extended to Concentration Camps 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 Eickes 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

Zoom ButtonThe Nazi Sword of Honour