Files of general interest

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Files of general interest

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Second World War German plain language codes (KV 2/2424)

This heavily weeded file deals with some of the plain language codes used by German and other enemy agents during the Second World War, and includes analysis of the types and uses of the codes, and the effectiveness in which they might evade detection by the censors.


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There are worked out examples of some of the codes, including the Westerlinck or ´eins, eins, eins´ code (at serial 2a and following), where three numbers (111, 112, 113, 121 etc to 333) were substituted for each letter of the alphabet. Each letter could then be represented by a plain language group of three words of the correct number of syllables in an open letter - so that if 112 represented ´n´, then the letter ´n´ could be rendered in a letter by the phrase "I know nothing".

The file includes copies of Censorship Branch instructions on detecting code in plain language, and two copies of branch brochures reproducing examples of various codes, including morse code hidden in line drawings of women´s fashions. There is also a Censorship Branch paper discussing the possibility of plain language codes being used in telegrams.

Suspected sabotage attempt against the plane of General Sikorski (KV 3/274-276)

On 21 March 1942, General Sikorski and six of his staff, along with other passengers and crew, set off from Prestwick in a BOAC Liberator AM 262, bound for North America. Eight hours into the flight, Wing Commander Kleczynski discovered an incendiary device, and disarmed it by removing the detonator, which he cast into the toilet for safety. The flight continued, and the device was examined and x-rayed by the FBI, before being returned to the UK in April. Word of the incident finally reached The Security Service on 7 April, when an exhaustive inquiry into the incident was launched. The matter was handled principally by Lord Rothschild, but he liaised closely with the Director General, David Petrie, who intervened on a number of occasions as recorded in the minutes on the file. Churchill was kept informed, and undertook in the end to write to Sikorski with the results of the investigation, when they finally emerged.

The case opens in KV 3/274, with the first reports of the incident and the x-ray photograph. The device was soon identified as an SOE incendiary, and there this resulted in much close liaison with SOE, which is reflected on the file. As soon as one day into the inquiry, Rothschild was growing suspicious of the tale told by Kleczynski ("The story is fishy…I am somewhat doubtful if this is a real attempt to liquidate the General…", serial 5C).
The Service began gathering reports and statements relating to the incident, and there was much speculation as to the real course of events. Among this, there is an adverse report on airport security at Prestwick (serial 25A). SOE reported that Kleczynski was "a dope fiend, suffered from hallucinations, and was a pathological exhibitionist", and suspicion began steadily to turn towards him.

The investigation continued in KV 3/275, which includes a second x-ray of the device, as well as Sikorski's order for Kleczynski to return to the UK (serial 66A). Eventually in KV 3/276, Kleczynski is interviewed, and after initially sticking to his story (signed statement at serial 78B), he eventually admitted that he faked the story, having carried the incendiary on board inadvertently and seeking a way to stop himself getting into trouble when it started to get warm and he feared it would detonate (second statement, of 20 July 1942, at serial 84A). Rothschild prepared an account for the Prime Minister, which was conveyed by hand through Duff Cooper. Churchill was asked to write to Sikorski to say he was convinced that Kleczynski had had no ill-intent, and had in his own words simply lost his head. Petrie's intervention to request that his investigators "lay off" Kleczynski is also in the minutes. The file closes with Kleczynski's hand-written letter of thanks to his interrogator (serial 107B).

Procedures for bringing Russian defectors and deserters into the UK (KV 4/334)

This weeded file covers the reaction in the Security Service to plans, agreed between the Director of Military Intelligence and the Ministry of Labour (without securing Home Office or Security Service prior agreement) to the covert use of the Ministry of Labour Westward Ho scheme to bring Russian and other defectors into the United Kingdom. The file contains minuting, records of meetings and some correspondence relating to particular cases from the period 1947-1949, and shows how the scheme was developed, amended and tested during this period, against the background of labour shortages in particular sectors of the British economy.