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"Black Propaganda" by Mark Kenyon (appearing in "After the Battle," No. 75)

Reviewed by Jerry Berg, jberg@ontheshortwaves.com

"After the Battle" is a quarterly magazine, published in England, which features articles about events during World War II. The pieces are usually accompanied by "then and now" maps and photographs depicting historic places as they appeared during the war and as they appear in more contemporary times.

No. 75 (issued in 1992) contains an excellent, well-illustrated, 24-page article called "Black Propaganda." The focus of the article is the activities at Woburn Abbey, a mansion in the town of Milton Bryan, "a place of exceptional character and charm, a virtually unspoilt example of a tiny English village." Woburn Abbey was the location from which the British Political Warfare Executive (PWE) operated many of its black propaganda radio stations, after moving from their original home in Electra House, London, two days before war was declared.

This effort was headed up by the well-known British black propaganda figure, Sefton Delmer. Delmer was an Englishman, but he had spent the early years of his life in Berlin where his father was a professor. He spoke fluent German, and as a result of his journalistic activities he was personally acquainted with many of the Nazi leaders (he was the only foreign correspondent permitted to travel with Hitler during the early days, circa 1932). Delmer left Germany when war was declared, and was at first viewed with some suspicion in his native England. However, he was asked to help the BBC with their German-language broadcasts, within which he would occasionally take the initiative to make impromptu, anti-Hitler talks, seemingly on behalf of the British government. Eventually he was put in charge of British radio propaganda.

The British efforts in this area included several of the best-known black clandestine stations of the war years--Gustav Siegfried Eins, and Deutsche Kurzwellensender Atlantik. Delmer was also responsible for the installation of the hugely powerful "Aspidistra" transmitter. Aspidistra was located 620 feet above sea level on 70 acres of forest near Crowborough, and started life as the 500 kw. transmitter of WJZ, New Jersey, use of which was vetoed by the FCC because it exceeded the 50 kw. power limit for U.S. broadcast band stations.

The Atlantiksender purported to be a genuine German forces station, aimed at German U-boat crews, and was successful in part because Delmer had manged to obtain a Hell-schreiber, a teleprinter ordinarily available only to Reich propaganda outlets. Information transmitted by Goebbels to Reich newspapers and radio stations was received at the same time by Delmer, presenting unlimited opportunities for mischief.

Also included in the article is the story of medium wave clandestine Soldatensender Calais. Both Soldatensender and Atlantik closed down at the end of April 1945.

Although the text of this article is excellent in itself, the almost 70 photographs, including a large color photo of the studio facility at Milton Bryan, give the story an unusually lifelike quality.

("After the Battle," No. 75; available in the U.S. for $6.95 plus $2.50 shipping and packing, from RZM Imports, P.O. Box 995, Southbury, CT 06488; voice 203/264-0774, FAX 203/264-4967; http://www.rzm.com [click on "Magazines"])