128438 Captain (Temporary Major) Philipp Frank CHAMIER, Intelligence Corps

Philipp Chamier, known as Frank, was born on 3 January 1909 at Frankfurt, Germany, the son of an Australian-born father and German mother; his father was Dr Frank Chamier who had moved to Germany in 1906 and was a partner of the German inventor Heinrich Beck at the Frankfurt-based Beck Arc Lamp Society.

He was educated in Germany and was bilingual in English and German, also speaking good Italian and French. In or around 1911 his parents separated and within a year his father's business interests in Germany had collapsed. By 1918 his father had left Germany and was in London, leaving his wife and family behind. Just before his father's death in January 1933 Frank had travelled to England to look for him; he remained in England after his father's death, married Georgina Constance Sadler in September 1934 and set up home in the village of Bradford Peverill in Dorset.

In April 1940 a request was made to the War Office by MI.1(x) of the Directorate of Military Intelligence for Chamier to be called up, as he was urgently required for services overseas. Accordingly, Chamier was commissioned as a second lieutenant, General List on 24 April 1940 and he reported as an Intelligence Officer...'"for special duties without pay and allowances from Army funds."

 

His movements and activities for the next year are not recorded but by March 1941 it appears that his spell of special duty was at an end; on the 17th of that month he embarked for the Middle East having been posted to the Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre (CSDIC) at GHQ Cairo...'with pay and allowances'...where his fluent German could be put to good use.

On 11 February 1942, by now a Lieutenant, he transferred to the Intelligence Corps and in December 1942 he was posted to 102 Military Mission with the Libyan Arab Force. Just two weeks before he had received a severe reprimand after being Court Marshalled for the loss of a .38 revolver and was ordered to pay the cost of the weapon.

 

On 9 February 1943 he was posted back to CSDIC at Cairo in the category of Specially Employed (not entitled to Army funds) and an instruction issued that all correspondence for him was to be forwarded to Major SJ Fulton, c/o Room 024 at the War Office  an MI6 cover address. This was to be the beginning of the remarkable train of circumstances leading to his death as an MI6 field agent.

Almost exactly a year previously a German soldier, Frederick Wilhelm Reschke, had walked into the British lines near El Alamein claiming to be a deserter from the 155th Panzer Grenadier Regiment. Under interrogation he stated that he was a sergeant in the French Foreign Legion who had served with the Legion in North Africa between 1936 & 1941.

 

In 1941, now married, he had been allowed to return home for military service by the German Armistice Commission following the fall of France and the formation of the Vichy regime, eventually being posted to the Afrika Korps. He added that he, along with several other German ex-Legionnaires in his unit, had decided not to fight against their former comrades and had deserted.

 

Reschke was initially sent to POW Camp 308 at Alexandria, and then taken onwards to Camp 306 at Ismailia and finally, on 10 January 1943, to Camp 309 which was a satellite camp. Somewhere along this process Reschke was talent spotted by MI6 under their cover name of Inter-Services Liaison Department (ISLD) and in March he was separated from the other prisoners and taken to a small camp at Cairo.

When interrogated after the war Reschke stated that he first met Lieutenant Chamier, who was then using the alias 'Robinson', on 23 March 1943 and lived with him in a flat at Chara Ismailia Pasha Syria, just opposite the GHQ building in Cairo. Here Reschke received instruction on codes, ciphers, Morse and various wireless transmitters; during this time, Reschke claimed, he was free to move about unescorted and used the alias 'Ross'. Eventually, in July 1943, he was issued an AB 64 (British Army soldiers pay book) in the name of James Allan and then sent on a parachute course at Haifa, completing three day and one night jumps. Again according to Reschke's post-war interrogation, in late February 1944 he accompanied Chamier (by now a Captain) to England, travelling via Gibraltar and Poole and thence onwards by train to London where he received further instruction on the Mark XV wireless set.

 

On 5 April they moved to a farmhouse near Cambridge prior to starting their mission to Germany -– Operation Elm - the details of which have not yet been made public.

On the night of 11/12 April 1944 Major Chamier {he had been promoted only the previous month}, with Reschke as his wireless operator, took off in a Halifax of 161 (Special Duties) Squadron from Tempsford bound for Germany. Near the small village of Guendringen, just west of Stuttgart, the two men jumped out, Chamier leading, followed by Reschke and then the third 'chute with their equipment.

Although both men landed safely the aircraft was detected by an air observation post at Altensteig and the rural police were alerted to be on the lookout for parachutists. The following morning Chamier and Reschke made their way to the railway station at Guendringen and bought tickets for the town of Pforzheim. Following the police alert a local constable went to the railway station and seeing Chamier and Reschke checked both men's German identity papers. He found them to be in order, with Chamier carrying the identification of a Major Geske of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (German High Command) while Reschke was identified as Oberfeldwebel Rudolf Berger of the artillery; in addition they carried a letter from a firm in Pforheim indicating that they had official business there. Satisfied, the police constable went home. Shortly afterwards he received a telephone call from the station master at Guendringen telling him that the two men were spies.

The actual sequence of events at Guendringen station was only discovered after the war, partially by Vera Atkins of SOE when she was investigating the fate of missing Allied agents, and partially as the result of war crimes investigations into the activities of SS-Sturmbannführer Horst Kopkow, Kriminaldirektor der Gestapo.

At some stage before boarding the train for Pforheim the two men agreed to split up, whether this was accidental or contrived is not clear. When the train left the station only Chamier was on board and Reschke was in the lavatory. Just after the train pulled out of the station Reschke left the toilet, ran up to a railway official and told him that the man who had boarded the train was an English spy. The official immediately alerted the station master who in turn telephoned the next station down the line, at Nagold; meanwhile, Reschke went into the station master's office, placed his revolver on the table and said..."Here are my arms, so that there shouldn't be any suspicion." Some minutes later an official from Nagold station rang asking for a description of the English spy; Reschke took the telephone at this point and gave a detailed description of Chamier, adding..."He's a dangerous person, armed with two revolvers, one in his pocket and one under his arm." Immediately the train arrived at Nagold Chamier was identified and arrested.

 

Back at Guendringen Reschke took the police to the drop zone and retrieved the buried suitcases containing the wireless set, ciphers and other equipment. After initial interrogation Chamier and Reschke were taken, separately, to Berlin where, after lengthy interrogation by the Gestapo, Chamier was passed into the hands of Amt (Section) IV A.2.b. This was the section of the Reichssicherheitshauptampt (RSHA), or Reich Security Head Office, concerned with 'turning' captured agents and 'playing' their wireless transmitters back to their controllers with false intelligence - a process known as 'Funkspiel' (Radio Game).

This section was under the control of SS Sturmbannfuehrer Horst Kopkow who was very interested in trying to use Chamier in a 'Funkspiel' using Chamier's own wireless and codes, and he even had a trump card in that he could count on the cooperation of Chamier's wireless operator Frederick Reschke. All Kopkow needed to run a completely successful Radio Game was Chamier's cooperation with regard to his security codes, usually letter groups either inserted or omitted in each message to let his controllers know if he had been captured and was transmitting under enemy dictation.

After the war Kopkow was captured by the Allies and interrogated at length about his knowledge of the treatment and fate of missing Allied agents, including those from MI6 and SOE. Kopkow's interrogators also reported that up until Chamier's name was mentioned to him he had always been very self-composed and assured. When asked what he knew about Chamier's fate the interrogators noted that Kopkow turned pale, began to sway and staggered to a wall, asking for a drink of water -– later blaming this reaction on ill-health and under nourishment.

Eventually Kopkow admitted to remembering Major Chamier and confirmed that he had been initially held at the Sicherheitspolizeischule at Furstenberg - where Amp IV A 2 had been relocated after bombing raids on Berlin - while the Funkspiel was being run, with Reschke operating the set, but that it had only lasted a few weeks after which the British became suspicious due to some error made in the transmissions. He added that Chamier had agreed to cooperate and was held under the alias of Mr Boston. He then denied having any knowledge of how Chamier was treated and alleged that he had been killed, along with other British agents, during an Allied bombing raid on the Berlin Polizeipräsidium.

 

Becoming suspicious of Kopkow's initial reaction to their questions the interrogators made enquiries and were told that the special compound in which Kopkow was held enjoyed slightly better food and conditions than in the other compounds; his fainting trick was also known to be a ruse frequently used when he wanted to avoid answering a particularly awkward question. Both interrogators reported that they were convinced Kopkow was lying regarding his knowledge of Chamier's treatment and fate.

Reschke's version of events regarding the Funkspiel during his post-war interrogation differed from that of Kopkow's; he stated that the operation was forced to an end because they could not continue without certain information from Chamier; the implication here was that that Chamier had refused to divulge his security codes and may even have been subjected to torture. During their investigation into war crimes charges against Kopkow the War Crimes Group (North West Europe) asked for assistance from MI6; they needed to know whether Chamier's code and wavelengths had been played back by the Germans and, if so, were they successful in their deception or did Chamier have a means of indicating he was under pressure.

 

MI6 replied to the questions and confirmed that the German Intelligence Service did transmit messages after the capture of Major Chamier, using the codes and wavelengths allotted to him; they added that the transmissions were not successful because after a few messages it became evident from their context that they could not have originated from Chamier of his own free will, although this had not been indicated by any pre-arranged signal. They ended by stating that, in their opinion, the information necessary to the Germans to enable them to transmit these messages could not have been obtained from Major Chamier except under severe pressure.

Regarding the truth of Major Chamier's eventual fate several factors emerged during the investigation, mostly as the result of the efforts of SOE's Vera Atkins. One resulted from the MI9 debriefing of Wing Commander H.M.A. Day in May 1945, after he had been liberated from Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp: Day had been one of the escapees from Stalag Left III immortalised in the film 'The Great Escape', but was quickly re-captured and sent to Sachsenhausen. He told how a prisoner called 'Frank' from Weymouth, who also identified himself by using his home telephone number of Upway 282, had been imprisoned in cells in Sachsenhausen, then removed in the midsummer of 1944. The information was passed to MO1 (SP) {SOE} who in turn reported to the War Casualties Branch that the 'Frank' referred to had been positively identified as Major P.F. Chamier, Intelligence Corps.

 

Another clue came from a female former prisoner of Ravensbrück Concentration Camp who testified that an English major had arrived there in the midsummer of 1944 and who was also known by his telephone number of Upway 282: two other former inmates of the camp confirmed that two English Majors had been held in the men's section at that time. A third clue came from a former Gestapo man being held by the Americans on war crimes charges -– he stated that on several occasions he was detailed for guard duty at a Sicherheitspolizei (SIPO) camp near Ravensbruck over a British parachute agent known as 'Mr Boston' who said his real name was Major Chamiere {sic} and that he had been betrayed to the Gestapo by his German companion. As the investigation into the case progressed further evidence was collected to suggest that Chamier had been so brutally tortured to extract information from him, on Kopkow's direct orders, that he had eventually died.

To this day the true details of Major Chamier's death are not known or have not been placed on available record. Was he executed at Ravensbrück or Sachsenhausen or did he perish in Berlin during an Allied air raid? The official line taken by MI6 at the time was that the details of Chamier's death in the bombing raid had come from a "secret and reliable source" (now known to have been Horst Kopkow) but that it was almost impossible to fix an exact date: on that basis it was concluded that the date should be regarded as being sometime in April 1945, when Berlin was under continuous bombardment from the air, and the date was eventually (and apparently arbitrarily) fixed as 30 April 1945.

No Known Grave; Commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial, Surrey (Panel 21. Column 1)

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