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Thread: Why German intelligence agencies weren't good in the UK?

  1. #1
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    Default Why German intelligence agencies weren't good in the UK?

    This caught my attention from another thread:

    German intelligence agencies weren't really much good in the UK in WW2
    I would like to hear opinions about this, to explore why this was the case.

    Considering amount of resources germans put to intellingence, and good quality of some of their intelligence sections (ie radio surveillance) and the point that several intelligence head were not stupid - this seems... I don't know... almost out-of-place.

    For example Soviet culture was completely different from german, and yet Gehlen could use a lot of agents in the east.

    Wonder if British over-reaction to arrest basically all german related persons in England contributed much to this?
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    Not certain on why, but I read that every agent ever landed in Britain by Germany was either turned and used as a double agent or arrested almost as they landed.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BDL
    Not certain on why, but I read that every agent ever landed in Britain by Germany was either turned and used as a double agent or arrested almost as they landed.
    I seriously doubt that.




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    I'd normally agree that such claims are outrageous exaggerations. However, from the wikipedia:
    The system was extraordinarily successful. A postwar analysis of German intelligence records found that of the 115 or so agents targeted against Britain during the war, all but one (who committed suicide) had been successfully identified and caught, with several "turned" to become double agents. The system played a major part in the massive campaign of deception which preceded the D-Day landings, designed to give the Germans a false impression of the location and timings of the landings Operation Mincemeat.
    My bold.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PzKpfw VI Tiger
    Quote Originally Posted by BDL
    Not certain on why, but I read that every agent ever landed in Britain by Germany was either turned and used as a double agent or arrested almost as they landed.
    I seriously doubt that.
    I did first time I read it but as Crab posted, it's true. German intelligence was absolutely appalling against Britain and Abwehr agents mostly useless.
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    The trouble for the Germans was that their first load of agents was arrested and turned very quickly. After that the Germans would think they are sending new agents and tell their agents in place to expect No9 etc, as these were now working for the Brits, easy enough to meet them on landing eh?

    Of course the Brit intelligence often gave these agents real int to transmit to Abwher etc and so the Germans suspected nothing.

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    As an added bonus the Russians were extremely suspicious of each other, so the activities of the German int and propaganda machines were able to lead the russian bear by his nose for a long time, hence the purges of the Red Army officer corps, and the fact that Op Barbraossa met minimal resistance in the first stages.

    The British turned misinformation in to an art form during WW2. The use of the Phantom Signal Regiment to transmit "intellingence" and fake exercise traffic in the South East of England, coupled with lots of blow up tanks and even civvies tooling around in uniform, meant the Germans believed the attack to come Dover-Calais, not Normandy.

    And of course "the Man who never was" operation.
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    Another major difference between the UK and the USSR was that people in the UK were not living under an oppressive dictatorship. Thus the incentive to work for the Germans in the UK was significantly lower than the incentive to work for the Germans in the USSR. Remember that many people in the western Soviet Union initially greeted the Germans as liberators.
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    IIRC the Admiral (name escapes me) that headed German intelligence was unsympathetic towards the Nazis and was what could probably be described as a bit of a non-trier.



    Of course the old joke has it that German spies were always caught because Germans are incapable of pronouncing the word "squirrel"...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bladensburg
    IIRC the Admiral (name escapes me) that headed German intelligence was unsympathetic towards the Nazis and was what could probably be described as a bit of a non-trier.
    Admiral Canaris. IIRC he was shot towards the end of the war as a traitor

    Quote Originally Posted by Bladensburg
    Of course the old joke has it that German spies were always caught because Germans are incapable of pronouncing the word "squirrel"...
    Well, IIRC one (a blackmailed Dutchman) was caught after he tried to get a pub to sell him cider at 10am...
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdf27
    Well, IIRC one (a blackmailed Dutchman) was caught after he tried to get a pub to sell him cider at 10am...
    I've heard that story before to, not sure how true it is - unbelievable that an agent working in a foreign country would be so badly briefed about local law and customs though.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BDL
    Quote Originally Posted by pdf27
    Well, IIRC one (a blackmailed Dutchman) was caught after he tried to get a pub to sell him cider at 10am...
    I've heard that story before to, not sure how true it is - unbelievable that an agent working in a foreign country would be so badly briefed about local law and customs though.
    I would quote you the title of the book it came out of, but it's at my parents' house
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdf27
    Quote Originally Posted by BDL
    Quote Originally Posted by pdf27
    Well, IIRC one (a blackmailed Dutchman) was caught after he tried to get a pub to sell him cider at 10am...
    I've heard that story before to, not sure how true it is - unbelievable that an agent working in a foreign country would be so badly briefed about local law and customs though.
    I would quote you the title of the book it came out of, but it's at my parents' house
    I'm desperately trying to remember where I read it to.

    By the way - unbelievable as in I can't believe they were so slack, rather than unbelievable as in I can't believe that happened.

    (If that makes sense - not saying I don't believe it happened, I just can't believe that the normally so professional Germans were so badly amateur in their attempts against us).
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    They attempted to get local knowledge out of captured Brits. How accurate the "intelligence" gleaned from these blokes probably varied greatly.

    On our side, they even manufactured clothing in the same style as the country they were going to from clothes taken from refugees (exchanged for new clothes obviously) and even the make of the zips were filed off!!! And most of the agents were from the country they were going to anyway.

    The training regime was copied by the Russians after the war to train spys for coming to the West in deep cover, forget the towns name but it was built like a American, British and other towns in different compounds. No native tongue was allowed or else!!!

    Was it Zogrob or similar?

    As a final exercise, in Britain, they were allowed out on the razz!! If they uttered a single word about what they had/were or about to do they were kicked off and not sent. Attractive ladies were used to see if they would talk.
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    first load of agents was arrested and turned very quickly.
    It's a very good point that the whole operation got a bad start, and because british counter measures were good, it was very hard to turn the tide later on.

    115 or so agents targeted against Britain during the war, all but one (who committed suicide) had been successfully identified and caught, with several "turned" to become double agents.
    That is amazing record. So amazing, that makes one think do they research all archives (considering mishmash of german intelligence departments and amount of records destroyed).

    Admiral Canaris.
    He's a very complicated character.

    German accounts give pretty bad description about their own organization. I read Erich Gimpel's (who was sent to US) book some time ago, and it almost looked like that there wasn't unified routies to form foundation of intelligence operations.
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