CAPE TOWN BRANCH
NEWSLETTER NO. 272
Listening to Bob Buser's talk at our last meeting on 14 September
one could easily believe that he was constructing a follow-up to
Somerset Maugham's novel Ashenden. There lived spies and counter-spies
galore in Switzerland, not only those sent there by the
warring European nations, but from the US, from neutral states:
Irish Republic, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, Turkey plus Japan and
even Nationalist China. Leading a landlocked existence in Central
Europe, the Swiss were forced to walk a perilous tightrope, trying
not to offend their German-Italian neighbours who surrounded
them, or the powerful Allies who did their best to take advantage
of the shadowy groups who did their deals and double-deals with
or against each other. There were 15 military attachees in Switzerland
alone. After a spotty beginning, mostly due to meagre
funds, the Swiss intelligence organisations began to grow fast
and became quite efficient in collecting secret information from
all sides. They needed to be prepared for any eventuality since
they relied on imports of almost everything, especially coal and
petroleum products from Germany, as well as food and raw materials.
The Nachrichtendienst specialized in military matters while
the Sicherheitsdienst coordinated security and police activities
in the counter-espionage field (11 526 cases) and the prevention
of sabotage (115 cases) between 1939-45. The Bundespolizei was
responsible for border security and ran a special non-military
counter-espionage branch. Two factions existed in Switzerland,
one representing the soft option of appeasing Germany, the other
determined to assist in its defeat, but as the Swiss got more and
more involved in the secret war against Germany, their neutrality
became a bit skewed in Britain's favour. As far as the foreign
spies were concerned, as long as they were spying on each other,
the Swiss left them alone and only ensured that they never killed
each other, within Swiss borders that is. If they spied on Switzerland,
they were either expelled (accredited diplomats only)
or arrested and charged. British and German intelligence services
were the most active, followed by the Americans. The Russians had
probably the biggest espionage network in Europe, started before
the war and run by Russians and German communists, and the information
radioed to Moskau was most damaging to Germany. But the
Germans formed Sonderkommando Rote Kapelle and eliminated the
organisation within 6 months, except the cell working in Switzerland.
However, even their days were numbered, and the Bundespolizeigruppen
in Geneva broke it up. Perhaps the most significant
service Swiss Military Intelligence rendered to their country was
the part they played in the surrender of German armies in Italy
in 1945. Fearing an invasion after the collapse of Italy and total
destruction of the North Italian industry by the Germans,
some of their top leaders managed to sway the opinions of senior
military and political officials from all sides to agree on a
peaceful termination of the war in Italy, and on 2 May 1945, one
day after Hitler's suicide and six days before the whole of Germany
surrendered, the war in Italy came to an end.
Thank you, Bob, for a most thorough research and lively presentation
of this interesting and relatively unknown subject.
(A copy of the complete text can be borrowed from the Scribe).
12 October 2000
- AFRICA IN TURMOIL
Talk by Maj Helmoed-Roemer Heitman
9 November 2000
- AFTER MALTA
Sq Ldr Patrick Wells DSO will continue his talks about his personal experiences
in WW 2
18 January 2001 HISTORY OF THE ROYAL NAVY FLEET AIR ARM
18 January 2001
- Please note that the first Society Evening will be on the THIRD THURSDAY
Talk by Cdr Les Sin RN (British Naval & Air Attache)
8 February 2001 THE GUERILLA WAR IN THE CAPE COLONY DURING THE
Talk by Rodney Constantine
WELCOME TO NEW MEMBER: Lt Col W.Ballantyne
The Scribe would like to thank all those members who
telephoned him to point out inaccuracies in Newsletter No.271
involving historic names and dates of the Tudors and Yorks.
Fellow Member N.E.Miller would like to hear from members
with knowledge of the "North Russia Relief Force" after WW 1. He
is also interested in books on this campaign, i.e. "Bolos and
Barishynas" and "A Civilian Soldier 1914-19" by George Harbottle.
His contact Tel No. is: +27(21) 762 1376.
The Curator of the Military Museum, Natie Greef, has
informed us that, contrary to newspaper reports, the changing of
the Guards still takes place at 12 noon from Monday to Friday,
and that the extended exhibits are definitely worth a visit.
YSTERPLAAT-BATTLE OF BRITAIN EXHIBITION:
The exhibition was officially opened on 11.9.2000 in the presence of senior air force officers, ex-WW 2 pilots from both sides and invited guests. It
has been superbly arranged by Chris Teale, his dedicated team of
volunteers and other fellow member Dr.H.G.Migeod, and displays a
great number of new artefacts. It is highly recommended.
Fellow Member A.C.Johnston's interesting brochure
about his experiences in North Africa with the title: "Camouflage
in the Western Desert 1941/42" can be borrowed from the Scribe.
Meetings are normally held on the 2nd Thursday of each month at 20h00
in the Recreation Hall of the SA LEGION'S ROSEDALE COMPLEX, Lower Nursery
Road, Rosebank, (off Alma Road), opposite Rosebank Railway Station, below
the line. Visitors are welcome, donations R 3.00, students and scholars
free. Tea and biscuits will be served.
John Mahncke, (Vice-Chairman/Scribe), (021) 797 5167
Military History Society /