apartment block a large black saloon car was parked. As I went by
the vehicle and entered the ground floor of the building the uniformed
German driver was chatting and smoking away with a male civilian.
Giving a quick thought as to whom the civilian might be, a rapid mounting
of the stairs brought me to the correct landing and Boris' front door.
Immediately after admission into the elegant hall and being relieved
of my overcoat a beaming Boris appeared to shake hands cordially and
usher me into the lounge. A very good looking German officer got to
his feet. We both bowed to one another, clicked heels and shook hands
as German military custom demanded. Oberleutnant Gerhard Dahlmann
was about five or six years senior in age, my height, blonde hair,
charming with a most pleasant smile and an engaging warmth. Relief
swept over me from the first moment. No matter what his mental powers
or shrewdness might be, he gave the impression of being a very kind
man, a good sport with a well developed sense of humour. Not the slightest
cause for alarm emanated from him at the first meeting. Dahlmann's
job was to escort people as was directed. Other than performing this
duty efficiently and extracting as much pleasure in the course of
so doing, his military interest in the function was nonexistent.
Dahlmann confirmed that the car parked
outside was our transport, to be all irate attention to hear from
me, in a voice of mild concern, that the driver was being quizzed
by a civilian who, in this part of the world, was well likely not
to be on our side. Excusing himself he hurried downstairs. Through
the open front door we heard the German chauffeur on the receiving
end of a good tongue lashing.
Mrs Boris sat down briefly with us
at the start of the meal and as she responded to her husband's toast
to "Success" the anxiety in her eyes refused to be hidden.
Very understandable. Boris was now just as much dependent on my performing
well and without mistakes, as until then I had been on him. With the
departure of Mrs Boris from the table, drinks flowed more freely.
Boris played the part well and skilfully added his own prestige from
Hitler's headquarters to my mission all of which was making a good
impression on the jovial Lieutenant Dahlmann. To my further satisfaction,
the Lieutenant was showing only weak resistance to the effects of
the limited quantity of alcohol we drank. Not wishing to push matters
too far on this first night and possibly induce a hangover, remorse
or an adverse later reaction in Dahlmann, I steered the liquor intake
to a halt, although by that time the Oberleutnant was well on the
way to being amiably plastered.
I asked Boris discreetly if he had
been able to do anything for Cook, the elderly Englishman to whom
I felt we owed something for his part in this operation. We had previously
discussed doing something to help, before his life style in Warsaw
plus all the other troubles looming over Poland created difficulties
and dangers for him. Boris in a similar grateful frame of mind, assured
me that he would, in any case, feel happier if the old chatterbox
was out of the country. Cook had been already given money and arrangements
had been made with the Hungarian Military Attache in Warsaw to establish
him in the more amenable and all round safer city of Budapest. Mr
and Mr Boris came out on the landing to say goodbye after we rose
to leave. I kissed the lady's hand, murmuring an assurance in Polish
that everything would be alright. More for Dahlmann's benefit Boris
spoke in German and again emphasised the importance attached to my
mission by his headquarters. More hand pumping, a kiss on both cheeks
from Boris, my first ever from a German officer, and the last but
one I might add.
Dahlmann sat in the front next to the
driver, I climbed onto the spacious seat at the rear. The car moved
off into the night. I was totally committed. Dahlmann's manner was
friendly and pleasant and we were completely at ease with one another
outwardly. There was no heating in the vehicle and the cold had started
to grip when Dahlmann relieved the situation by passing over a couple
of German army blankets, which were to prove a boon before the night
was out. The car slid through the centre of dark, deserted Warsaw,
the motor inaudible over the sound of heavy tyres as they crushed
the iced up, fresh fallen snow. It was reasonably light with a high
shallow cloud of insufficient density to prevent a ghostly visibility
from the hidden moon, aided by an almost incandescent reflection from
the fresh mantle of white.
The slumbering ruins and buildings
which lined our route were unmoved as we left them behind. I was certainly
moved. A kaleidoscope of emotions flooding me to feel very mixed up
about leaving. In spite of these disturbed mental ramblings, I realised
that there was no choice but to press on and settled down under the
blankets to await come what might. The car turned north, gathered
speed and negotiated the thinning suburbs towards the flat and snow
covered country we were to pass through that night.
Dahlmann was fiddling about with something
under the front seat and straightening up, turned to the rear of the
car and handed over a bulky object loosely wrapped in a cloth. "Better
keep this handy," he said. "Been a few partisan incidents
on this road". On my lap in the dark, a machine pistol was unwrapped.
It felt like a Bergmann and in no time reverent fingers had caressed
and examined its full magazine, safety catch and stock, with a lover's
touch. The situation was complicated. If Polish partisans did attack
the car, there would hardly be sufficient time to parley with them
about my real allegiance. Even were I to blaze away at the two Germans
in the front of the car, the Poles could not be expected to recognise
such assistance in time to spare me under the distracting circumstances
which would prevail at the time. The only course was to hope that
such an attack would not occur and with this optimism a sense of humour
as to the awkward situation which might arise was just possible to
The last straggling suburbs of Warsaw
were speeding by, when from a few hundred yards ahead a powerful spotlight
split the night and bathed us in its beam. We closed and came to a
halt, the car and its three passengers brilliantly illuminated. For
about half a minute we remained still under the penetrating glare,
blind to the scrutiny of those hidden in the darkness summing up the
new arrivals. Steel helmeted troops, machine pistols at the ready,
appeared from out of the impenetrable shadows. A warrant officer poked
a hand gun and his head at the driver's window. Dahlmann produced
a pass. The German sergeant major read the document, glanced at the
driver and over to me in the back seat his eyes registering the reclining
Bergmann. "Danke Herr Oberleutant. Konnen Sie weiter fahren.
Alles Gutes". The journey was continued, very cold in spite of
the blankets. Dahlmann halted later and not before time for a comfort
stop. I alighted to share the relief at the side of the road with
my German companions. My own comfort was not so easily come by as
for the other two. Such were the dangerous times for us Germans that
I felt it wiser to function with only one hand. The Bergmann was gripped
in the other. Many hours later in cold and dark we crossed into East
Prussia with but a cursory inspection of documents.
I remember without much impression,
the smallish town of Soldau with its old-fashioned buildings and houses.
We stopped at a hotel to freshen up. By five j thirty in the morning
we were at the station to catch a train westward to' Marienburg for
a further journey of some four hours. The driver and car were left
behind in Soldau and a marked change came over Dahlmann now that there
were only the two of us. In a comfortable compartment on the Marienburg
train we dozed, my companion solidly, I fitfully. To have the hours
passing in this manner, while travelling in the right direction was
a relief. Although relationship with the easy going Dahlmann was proving
pleasant enough, any type of conversation between us kept me under
permanent pressure to maintain a watchful guard. My escort seemed,
so far to be a harmless fellow and fond of talking, but under the
circumstances, silence was far less demanding for me.
Much of the conversation had so far,
by design, been one sided. There had been no difficulty in encouraging
the Oberleutnant to talk mainly about himself, his likes and dislikes.
A champagne salesman before the war, some of the bubbling friendly
qualities of the product he represented had helped mould an engaging
personality. Posted early in 1943 to the Fuhrer's headquarters to
act as security escort officer, was enjoyable and the work had taken
him far and wide over Germany and occupied France. The men and women
he had met, quickened an interest in the doings of the secret world
and a somewhat self effacing desire to become more closely involved
in such work was quite evident. It was mid morning by the time the
train pulled into Marienburg. In between naps, thought had been given
to the handling of my escort and whatever stars were responsible for
having provided such a pleasantly malleable travelling compaion were
There was an hour or so to wait before
departure to Berlin. In the station restaurant Dahlmann gave further
evidence of his prowess as a charmer by procuring a bottle of schnapps
to grace our table together with a goodly supply of spiced sausage
and bread. The waitress who had been the recipient of the full blast
of his personality would have set no worlds alight with either face
or figure, yet she positively bloomed under the Oberleutnant's twinkling
tongue and smile. He gave her bottom the odd friendly pat as we tucked
into the food and drink so willingly provided. With Dahlmann's interests
devoted to wine, women and song, pastimes to which I had often also
warmed, our compatibility was assured. His indulgence in such hobbies
would have to be encouraged to enjoy an untroubled trip, at least
as far as Oslo.
The train to Berlin was not over full.
Passengers, an evenly balanced mixture of mufti and uniforms of every
hue, paid little attention to one another. Many of the men in uniform,
in contrast to the impressions gained during my previous trips to
the Reich, were quite elderly, often nearing their sixties. Some of
these old soldiers wearing medals from the first World War appeared
bewildered and lost in their ill fitting drab uniforms to which shapeless
forage caps added a touch of comic opera. Younger members of the German
armed forces had lost a deal of jauntiness, the former strong sense
of purpose markedly weakened, and the influence of whatever had inspired
them previously, no longer present. The civilians sitting in the train
or standing dolefully on the platforms had their eyes open but looked
at nothing. The precious sense of sight had been dulled by an inward
despair and resignation mirrored in their expressions. The melancholy
and gloom of these Germans gladdened my heart. By comparison the people
of Poland, who had suffered so much, were alert and full of hope with
good cause if the early 1944 impressions in Germany were correct.
Most platforms had a group of German Red Cross sisters dispensing
soup, bread and the eternal sausage to anybody in uniform who cared
to alight and partake. Some of the civilian gloom may have been occasioned
by the ineligibility of mufti to enjoy such bounty. I stoked up with
all the soup and sausage possible at every opportunity. Nazi food
had always been a priority target with a gluttonous appetite self
interpreted as a war effort, albeit minor to keep the enemy shorter
of food than ever. Still a growing lad, not yet twenty seven years
old timewise, though mentally feeling of vintage standing, I was well
equipped to fight on the food front.
The train rumbled on into the late
afternoon and there was still a long way to go. Chatting away with
Dahlmann was unavoidable. His interest in the world of espionage and
secret agents was further revealed and he was mildly rebuked when
comments became a little too inquisitive for comfort. This trend in
conversation was turned to advantage by indicating an admiration of
his ability to handle and manipulate people, and an inference that
such talents which he undoubtedly possessed might be better employed
in some form of direct intelligence involvement, delighted the attentive
Oberleutnant. Our relationship gradually assumed an accepted air of
would be pupil to master. Dahlmann was keen to learn and lapped up
eagerly a lot of verbal garbage conveyed to him about the makeup and
qualities necessary in a good agent. The intensity of his attention
was that of an ambitious youngster anxious to please the coach and
make the first team. The crowning hint which sealed our association
advantageously in every respect, was a suggestion that should all
go well on this present important operation, I would have a favourable
word with Colonel Boris.
Dahlmann made a deferential query as
to whether I was in a great hurry to get to Norway. Eliciting that
an affair of the heart in the German capital to which he was desirous
of paying discreet attention, I readily consented to stay a couple
of nights in Berlin with the proviso that suitable hotel accommodation
was arranged while he busied himself with the pursuit of love. With
no wish to daily, a couple of days delay would nevertheless do no
harm with such a gesture serving to further cement the cordial partnership
with the Oberleutnant. The thought of being a guest of the Nazis in
their own capital was also intriguing as few Englishmen could have
enjoyed a chance of a practically risk free snoop around the centre
of the opposition. On our arrival in Berlin, Dahlmann urged on by
his own plans for the night, procured a taxi and in short order comfortably
installed me in the National hotel just off the Kurfurstendamm in
the centre of the city. After promising to call at ten o'clock the
next morning, Dahlmann left in an almost unseemly haste. After an
undisturbed night and having slept like a babe, I rose early to present
myself shaved and bathed on the first floor for breakfast. The dining
room was crowded, with most of the guests seated at the numerous small
tables, wearing uniforms many of which carried epaulettes denoting
high rank. The head waiter showed me to a table at which sat an elderly
Wehrmacht general accompanied by a well dressed and attractive woman
of about half his age. At a slight loss as to the correct behaviour
before taking seat, I modestly clicked heels to bow deferentially
to the lady and then to the general. In a situation for which I was
unprepared, and realising that it would be easy to draw attention
to myself, I commenced nibbling and allowed events to take their own
course. The lady who, from closer up was even more attractive than
first supposed, asked whether I came from Berlin and asked a few other
day to day questions. I battled away for about ten minutes to say
and do nothing that might upset the peppery looking old General who
remained speechless, glowering at the young intruder. Far from being
in a panic, there was nevertheless a feeling of relief to stand and
acknowledge the couples departure from the table. The woman looked
deeply into my eyes as if trying to convey some hidden message and
though more than smitten by her appearance, it was good to see the
back of both of them. Deciding not to use the hotel dining room again,
after breakfast, with plenty of time before Dahlmann was due to call,
I went for a walk.
There was a fair amount of bomb damage
visible, but nothing like enough for satisfaction. Passers by, without
exception, exuded the same air of resignation that had already registered
thus far on the journey. It was a grey late winter morning with a
light half snow, half freezing rain adding no cheer to the picture
of a people and their city in very low spirits. Since those days,
compassion for my fellow creatures has re-established itself, but
on that long ago morning in the enemy capital, the sight of miserable
Huns making their way about their miserable city, was relished.
In a triumphant frame of mind, I saw
a tall German officer striding down the street towards me and pretended
not to notice him. In the German army, lower ranks from privates upwards
salute any senior rank they may be passing. Hence a corporal would
customarily first greet a sergeant and a sergeant a lieutenant, a
lieutenant a captain and so on upwards and upwards. I was unsure at
the time, whether the practise was always mandatory or otherwise but
in a flush of Allied victory to come, I was in no mood to salute any
damn Jerry regardless of rank. A nasty shock awaited, as the German
colonel drew abreast, noticeably annoyed.
His guttural voice blasted into my
eardrums. "Stehen Sie da und grussen Sie nicht,"* he roared.
No British officer ever inspired a hastier or more magnificent salute
than the one whipped up to the massive creature in Hun uniform who
towered over me.
"Please excuse me Herr Oberst," I blurted out. "A thousand
apologies for not having noticed you.
"Think yourself lucky not to be under arrest," he barked
in reply and continued along the street with the air of a man who
had administered a well deserved rebuke. He had every right to feel
that way and had half scared me to death. Even my papers issued by
the Fuhrer's headquarters might not have averted a disastrous charge
of conduct prejudicial to military discipline. Very touchy about such
things are the Germans and from that moment on, no Nazi uniform which
appeared even remotely to warrant a salute ever failed to get an exhibition
Dahlmann looking much the worse for
wear was on time at the hotel. I complimented him, envying his appearance,
at which he smirked with gratification. We proceeded to the German
Foreign Office in Potzdamm Place. The large building was only in use
up until the third floor, the highest part of the structure rendered
uninhabitable by bomb damage. Although neutral embassies in Berlin
were probably supplying accurate information in Britain as to the
effects and damage of Allied bombing, much of the destruction on view
and the names of the streets involved was committed to memory. In
the Foreign Office I demurred on security grounds to Dahlmann who
wished me to go with him to settle certain formalities connected with
the journey. Anxious to please he attended to everything by himself,
although stressing that the official involved had almost insisted
on meeting me. The question of money to start off the operation in
Sweden had been raised and my suggestion that I should be provided
in Oslo with two thousand American dollars of small denominations,
plus a few hundred Swedish kronor had been authorised. Money said
Dahlmann, had been readily made available. More could have been asked
for although an assurance was given that the Nazi embassy in Stockholm
would fund me on request. While Dahlmann was busy somewhere upstairs
in the Foreign Office on my behalf the air raid sirens wailed yet
again. A large crowd of visitors and staff were escorted to an underground
shelter. Over a public address system came the information that a
large force of American bombers was approaching Berlin from the north
west. Daylight raids by the Eighth American Air Force were increasing
in size and frequency and after the destruction in Hamburg, there
was ample cause for some disquiet. It was comforting to hear over
the shelter intercom that the threatening formations had turned away
from the air path to Berlin in another direction. "Crafty devils
are trying to keep our defences off balance," commented an elderly
By the end of the war I had been bombed
by the British, French, Russians and Germans as well as the new VI's
and VII's. It would have been an unusual record to have the Americans
included in the list, but it is perhaps just as well that they and
the Japanese do not figure.
Dahlmann took me to a cosy little restaurant
which had been established below ground floor in what was once the
cellar of the building. It was so dimly lit and sectioned off into
little eating alcoves that the identity of the other patrons was difficult
to establish. With a wink the Oberleutnant explained that Nazi bigwigs,
pleased to be under an anonymous seclusion from public gaze, ate there
and partook of the bountiful black market fare the place offered.
Arrangements for the restaurant to receive the essential raw materials
to provide an excellent menu and wine list was taken care of in the
highest places. We ate and drank to prewar standards. Dahlmann paid.
During the excellent meal he told me that the Foreign Office official
was the keener to meet me as his department had a special interest
in Swedish affairs through its own intelligence section. TJnable to
budge Dahlmann with an authority stemming from the Fuhrer's headquarters,
the official requested the Oberleutnant to convey a respect for my
desire to remain completely incognito. It would be deemed a favour,
however, if, after settling down in Sweden, I could make myself available
to the Foreign Office who would be able to provide assignments which
would in no way clash with any duties envisaged.
After the war it was learnt that almost
every phase of Nazi military and political activity ran an automonous
intelligence branch. Thus isolated in objectives and organisation,
many of these unco-ordinated efforts clashed in a farcical manner.
Inter-departmental rivalry, jealousy and jostling by underlings for
individual recognition and rewards may well have been fostered by
Hitler and his gang to make it that much more difficult for any cohesive
and united opposition to be formed. Without the knowledge or experience
of the Nazi internal structure at the time to recognise this evidence
of the lack of German administrative unity, it was nevertheless pleasing
to hear what the Oberteutnant had reported.
Boris must have laid very thorough
foundations and the observations by the German Foreign Office intimated
strongly that no suspicions of our joint motives had been roused.
The passage to Sweden had attracted bureaucratic attention only from
the intelligence section to the German Foreign Office, who had disclosed
innocence of what was going on by tentative attempts to recruit me.
The capacity for inflicting mischief against the Germans was so great
and complicated that very sadly at that time I was unable to give
the possibilities which arose, sufficient of the careful consideration
so richly merited. The inability to appreciate fully the gold mine
of intelligence onto which I had stumbled was all for temporary best.
Otherwise it might have been tempting to dally and try too much for
one pair of hands. As it was, everything remained still firmly on
course to arrange for the charter of the good ship Boris to sail German
waters in the service of the Union Jack.
After the most fortifying lunch an
opportunity arose, which was to prove a memorable feature of the stop
over in Berlin. Dahlmann had obtained the full time use of a car and
a driver, an achievement of considerable merit in wartime Berlin.
A pre-war friend, now a high ranking Gestapowiec in the capital, had
placed one of the police fleet of vehicles and a chauffeur at the
Oberleutnant's disposal. In itself, this would have been merely an
example of the comforts attained by having connections in high places,
but fortunate circumstances enabled me also to benefit from the arrangement.
For the rest of the afternoon Dahlmann
had only some semi-official duties to complete in central Berlin,
the car then superfluous and something of a waste. Would I like to
be driven around the cit~7 to meet later and refortify our systems
in the same restaurant where we had just eaten the sumptuous lunch?
Dahlmann could then depart for the suburbs for another amorous interlude
and I would stay at the hotel for a good nights rest before continuing
our journey on the morrow.
The generous offer was gratefully accepted
for more reasons than one.
The driver of the Gestapo car was a middle aged civilian of nondescript
appearence, the only military type concessions being a cap with a
shiny black peak under which grew a prominent Hitler type toothbrush
moustache. Dahlmann introduced me impressively to the chauffeur as
a visitor who with only a few hours of free time, was to be given
as wide a tour of the city as possible. Any suspicion which might
have been harboured about the true rank of the Gestapo driver soon
disappeared as the man displayed the utmost subservience to the Oberleutnant,
especially when reference was made to the friend in high places as
a General of Police. I intimated a desire to sit on the front seat
the better able to talk about the afternoon's tour of inspection.
As we drove off, I thanked the driver for the service he was providing
and with a few verbal pleasantries the man relaxed and shed his fear
of the indirect authority as represented by Dahlmann. In no time he
was a friendly guide anxious to please a friendly visitor.
The tour around Berlin disclosed more
heavy damage in pockets. The picture was moderately satisfying and
the numerous mental notes about the destructions and their location
was later difficult to completely or accurately recall to mind. Moving
round slowly in broad daylight provided a close up view of the German
people about their daily round. Their expressions conveyed further
confirmation that if they were not completely resigned to defeat,
the will to fight and win was fast weakening. My sympathetic tutting
at some of the more spectacular bomb damage, gradually drew from the
driver many uninhibited comments about the kind of life endured by
the ordinary man and woman of Berlin during this fifth year of the
war. His comments on the pressure of constant air raids, the alarms,
the housing destruction, with consequent overcrowding and tremendous
demands on accommodation, were like music. As an encore 1 heard with
equal pleasure that food was in ever decreasing supply driving many
families to the brink of genuine hunger and starvation.
The conversation was steered towards
the Russian front from which it was inferred I had recently arrived.
By now, in full, indignant verbal flight, the driver launched into
an anti-Bolszevik tirade. The barbarians from the east would destroy
Europe and what nonsense it was that the Germans were defending civilisation
against the red hordes from Asia while the idiots in the west stabbed
her in the back. Goebbels was doing a great job. Without the vaunted
bogy of the Soviet menace and all the terrible consequences that defeat
would bring, the German people were clearly well on the road to chucking
the whole thing in. Women in particular were justifiably terrified.
It was difficult not to credit this
media campaign against the Soviets with too much trust for comfort.
My mind cast back always to the Katyn massacres of 1940 when fifteen
thousand Polish leaders had been cold bloodedly killed, while prisoners
near Moscow, in furtherance of Soviet plans for the domination of
Dahlmann met me at the same restaurant
where we had eaten lunch. Another secluded table for two was the setting
for dinner, a further magnificent meal. When the Oberleutnant arrived
at the restaurant as arranged he was already slightly sloshed, sufficient
to slur his words and be even more friendly than usual. Conversation
was no worry. Halfway through the meal he hardly knew what he was
saying and any comments from me made no serious impact. After we had
finished gorging and drinking, Dahlmann was mumbling terms of undying
friendship and it must be confessed that although still in control
of my tongue and wits, my alcoholic intake had also exceeded the bounds
of prudence. The Oberleutnant again insisted on paying. Who was I
to demur? The money was probably coming out of a fat Nazi expense
My host was fast asleep across the
back seat of the car when 1 was dropped off at the hotel, although
as a true friend, in half a mind to accompany him safely to his destination
to see what I could see. The temptation was resisted to climb up the
stairs and tumble into bed fully uniformed, boots and all. In addition
to having handsomely fed and watered me twice in one day, the so and
sos would have the extra pleasure of laundering the soiled bed linen.
I seemed hardly to have been asleep for more than a few minutes to
be rudely woken up in the early hours by the din of air raid sirens,
to make critical comment of such lack of consideration for a fellow
countryman by kinsmen of the Royal Air Force whose imminent arrival
had been heralded by the alarm. It was them for sure. They came by
night and the Americans came by day.
A loud knocking on the door. "To
the shelter immediately Sir". I continued to lie on the bed to
be disturbed again within a few minutes by more thunderous bangs.
"Hurry Sir, there are no exceptions to the rules". Down
flights of stairs in the company of a host of other guests, military,
civilian, male and female, thc destination was a largc concrete, low
ceilinged room well filled with long wooden benches. The place was
very brightly lit with naked bulbs and in the spartan atmosphere the
most strategic place to sit was important. I found myself gazing at
the young woman who had been that morning at the breakfast table with
the General. She in turn had her eyes glued on me. About to move away
but perceiving no sign of the General, I changed my mind and edged
over to her, received a smile of welcome and an invitation to sit
down beside her. Bowing as her hand was proffered my Polish training
in such kissing served well. A very delicate brush of the lips indicated
familiarity with the accepted approach to a lady. Her hair which on
the previous morning had been done up in some kind of Teutonic female
bun, now hung low down in boudoir glory over a full length fur coat,
the animal original of which was beyond the knowledge of my own humble
Before responding to the welcome to
take a seat beside her, I had murmured as customary, my surname, being
careful to render the pronunciation sufficiently unintelligible for
it to be registered accurately. It took only seconds to discover,
from her shy admission, that the General was away for a few days on
Wehrmacht business. Wishful thinking has always been a trend of mine
and without difficulty the genuine and immediate bond which had sprung
up between us, was plainly felt by both sides. Remember it was over
ten years since first leaving home for the sea. A deal of knowledge
about the birds and bees had rubbed off. The beautiful eyes bored
into me and had my mind galloping over the tantalising options from
which to choose. The favour to Dahlmann by adding a full day and night
to our stay in Berlin could well provide the lever for a reciprocal
understanding for a further delay. This day or night dreaming in the
company of a desirable and apparently desirous female was interrupted
by about twenty French prisoners of war in uniform, who filed into
the shelter. With prisoner of war memories crowding back, I was very
sharply down from the mental clouds and back to earth. Days of hunger,
dirt, degradation and knowing that the poor devils had been in Nazi
hands since 1940, aroused a wave of compassion. They were deathly
pale, thin and, without exception, looked unwell as they shuffled
by. There was not a ripple of notice from the German occupants of
the shelter who sat completely indifferent to the woe-begone and miserable
looking latest arrivals. I was in debt to their presence and avoided
once again perhaps making an ass of myself. My concentrated attention
on the French prisoners evoked comment from the General's wife. "Just
look," she said, "How well we look after our prisoners.
When one thinks of the treatment our lads are getting from the Russians
and the British, it makes me boil that in spite of all our own difficulties
we mollycoddle them so". So sincere was her opinion that her
warm and engaging appearance was obviously only skin deep. Underneath
she was a true Hun. The short remark displayed a normal Teutonic attitude
to immediately change my perspective and opinion about her.
From a not too distant location the
rumblings of a large muffled explosion shook and reverberated through
the cellar. Every head ducked slightly and at the same time, a few
flakes of plaster descended from the shelter ceiling to mingle with
the disturbed dust which rose simultaneously from the floor. The lights
suddenly went out. It was pitch dark and wondering the portent of
the sudden darkness, one aspect was immediately indicated. A female
hand found mine in the dark and held it tight, with passion or fear
was debatable although the grasp certainly was asking for consolation
of some kind. The lights came on again and an all clear sounded. Heads
lifted and eyes blinked. Everybody stood up and before the little
devil who had been encouraging such naughty ideas could recommence
a campaign to lead me on a military and morally wrong path, I bowed,
clicked heels, kissed the woman's hand and was away. Somewhat hurt
by the look of unladylike contempt that followed me, a sense of gratitude
to the unfortunate Frenchmen whose presence had revealed and effected
a rescue from the clutches of a very feminine Nazi, was appreciated.
Next morning the continuing cold and
gloomy weather contrasted sharply with my own sunny and confident
mood. After the little affair in the air raid shelter, I was also
pleased for having acted in such a firm, upright and faithful manner.
The influence on the course of events made by the French prisoners
of war was conveniently overlooked, blinded by the brightness of my
own halo. Having no wish to bump into the General's young wife, I
remained in my room to await the arrival of the Oberleutnant and our
departure from Berlin. An hour or two ticked by with no sign of Dahlmann.
The foyer was reconnoitred and as eleven o'clock came and passed,
an onset of disquiet was difficult to contain. The precise time of
our train had not been stated. I was under the impression that it
was due to leave at lunch time and sitting impatiently in the hotel
room, became intolerable. If anything had gone really wrong they had
only to walk in and get me. Completely packed I went downstairs, paid
the bill and booked out of the hotel. There was a hairdressing salon
nearby. Leaving a soldiers suitcase in their care ostensibly to look
around unencumbered for some accommodation, was no difficulty. From
a safe and inconspicuous distance a careful watch was kept on the
hotel entrance. Midday approached. 1 began chewing over desperate
plans to extricate myself from the mess I might well be in. The nearest
refuge was Warsaw and if, by later that afternoon, there was no sign
of Dahlmann or any other development, the sole option would be to
try and return to the Polish capital, not easy if the Nazis were on
It must have been getting on to one
o'clock when Dahlmann, who had not seen me, approached the hotel at
a fast walk and bounded through the entrance. He was alone! He came
out quickly to peer anxiously up and down the busy street. There was
little alternative but to take a chance, and accost him. Showing great
relief, the Oberleutnant got the first words in. "My dear Botkin,
I have been trying to reach you all morning, but the verdammte telephone
at the hotel is out of order." Then followed a non-stop description
of what had befallen him to result in such unpardonable unpunctuality.
His girlfriend had broken a leg just as he was about to be driven
over to meet me. The accident had necessitated a hospital visit and
the unfortunate long delay. As to the truth or otherwise of Dahlmann's
story I was indifferent. It was a great relief that he had at last
turned up to continue an unsuspecting and now most apologetic escort.
Stating an attitude that the only real sufferer was the poor victim
with a broken leg, and wryly add that the Oberleutnant was lucky the
accident had happened at the end of his visit and not at the beginning,
restored a harmonious union.
Wc had missed the train. The next connection
was at midnight. Matters could have turned out much worse. My suitcase
was retrieved from the hairdresser and the use of a private sitting
room in the hotel until we left Berlin was secured. By the time the
Oberleutnant and the Sonderfuhrer arrived late that evening at the
Stettinerbahnhoff, if memory serves correctly, the Sondcrfuhrcr to
even the most casual observer was doing his gallant best to be of
assistance to an Oberleutnant who had over indulged. To ensure that
Dahlmann drank more than I, was an objective requiring less and less
effort. As our train pulled out of the battered station, the air raid
sirens were wailing again. Dahlmann, also somewhat battered was already
asleep, and after an all's well that ends well stay in Berlin, it
was good to be back on course for England.
Just before dawn, the train stopped
at the small rural station of Gustrow. Shouted instructions for everybody
to alight could be heard and there was a general movement onto the
platform. No civilians got out and it was noticed for the first time
that the train was carrying only service personnel. A German sergeant
major respectfully requested the gentlemen to hand over their baggage
and form ranks for a short walk to the Offiziersheim. Dahlmann, recovered
from his Berlin marathon, walked at my side out of the station onto
the road which led through a mature coniferous forest. Not knowing
what was going on, an alarm system was beginning to stir. I was becoming
a real worrier, the high stakes probably increasing the pressure.
According to Dahlmann we were at a military clearing point for all
Nazi forces proceeding to Norway. With the invasion from Britain on
their minds, the Germans were heavily reinforcing the Norwegian garrisons
in addition to pouring troops into France. Outside an imposing brick
and mortar building we retrieved our packs to enter an equally imposing
interior. Military flags, Nazi standards with massive swastikas and
swarms of eagles were very prominent all around the walls of the large
hall in which we assembled. After hearing from Dahlmann our reason
for stopping here, there was little to worry about for an Englishman
in the centre of what appeared to be the German Valhalla. The Oberleutnant
made an unerring way into a sideroom with me in careful tow. A source
of liquid refreshment had been scented out and while Dahlmann settled
for a hair of the dog that had mauled him over the last two days,
a cup of ersatz coffee seemed wiser for me. We shaved, showered, breakfasted
on bread and sausage. Bacon and eggs to start the day might well have
won Hitler the war. The three or four hundred officers who had eaten
in the main hall were birds of passage as were the Oberleutnant and
the Sonderfuhrer. Breakfast over, queues formed in front of a number
of seated railway police who were checking papers, issuing travel
warrants and giving accommodation advice. This formality presented
a small hurdle at which one could stumble and I was debating whether
to request Dahlmann to make arrangements for both of us when the problem
was solved by his offering just that service. As Dahlmann took my
papers and joined the line of waiting officers, his estimated return
in about twenty minutes, gave enough time for a casual stroll and
a look around.
Pretending to be absorbed by the colourful
emblems and standards which draped every wall, I drifted out of a
side door into the immaculate grounds. With no sign prohibiting passage,
a stroll down a wide well formed path into the woods, disclosed that
the hall of Valhalla just quitted was a small part of a large troop
establishment. Hidden among the trees, well camouflaged by overhanging
branches and other artificial greenery, were long low barrack type
buildings which could only be soldiers for the use of. A peep through
some windows revealed that although the inhabitants were out, the
accommodation was fully booked. The whole place had an air of recent
construction and with no sign of bomb damage the establishment cried
out sadly for Allied attention.
Formalities over in the large hall,
we all marched back to the station. Thrilled with what I had seen,
the distance to the railway line was registered and by the time we
had boarded the train, a fairly accurate estimate of the location
had been memorised, my little arriving home present for Bomber Command.
We crossed into Denmark at Flensburg.
There was no control of inspection and as evening darkness fell, the
chattering between us came to a merciful end. The train continued
its journey to the north. By next morning we had arrived at a small
seaside port at the top of Denmark. Dahlmann quickly finalised formalities
at the transport office. Our troopship was to sail that evening and
with nothing else to arrange, a few menacing hours were in the offing.
The Oberleutnant wove a path from one drinking establishment to another
and two naval officers from the Gustrow train kept us jolly company.
An early meal before boarding our floating transports was decided
The restaurant was crowded. Many officers
sailing that night were also of a mind to dine out. The atmosphere
was free and easy and in short order a space was made for us at a
crowded table. The spirit of things was entered into. Of spirits there
was no shortage and toasts came quickly as we overtook the guests
at other tables who had already unlocked the door to laughter and
carefree bliss with an alcoholic key. Four officers in infantry uniform
were seated close by. Their shoulder tabs proclaimed them to be members
of the Russian Freedom army of which Boris was Chief of Staff. They
spoke in Russian and as one of them looked in our direction, I spontaneously
raised a glass of schnapps. "Na zdrowie," wa~ a harmless
enough good health wish in Polish but it was an unwise gesture. The
Russian rose a little unsteadily to his feet, stood by our table and
addressed me in clear but accented Polish.
"You are a Pole?"
Ever truthful when possible, "No," I replied, "But
the language is familiar". The man was at a loss for words and
stood there blankly looking at each of us in turn before returning
to his own table. He was more boozed than imagined, and our association
seemed to have thankfully concluded. The Russian quickly proved me
wrong. Picking up a full bottle of vodka the man came back with a
present which he handed over with a still vacant stare. "Na zdrowie
to you too," he said and stood swaying slightly by the table.
The limited associations I had with
the Russians and their deeds as recorded in this narrative, are couched
quite truthfully and factually in generally critical terms. The Soviet
actions to which I have referred did not stem from individual Russians
who, as individuals, remained Out of my intimate sphere. When considering
the policies pursued by the Soviet leaders, some of which 1 have written
about, it is hard not to feel pity for the ordinary people of that
vast nation, whose qualities have perished in a system which has choked
them of understanding. They have been misled, misdirected and cruelly
exploited under the misnomer of communism.
The donated vodka was opened and we
drank sincerely to my toast "To a free Russia". Tears ran
down the face of the solider who had given the vodka. A member of
the Russian Freedom Army, he too loved his country and cried over
its misfortunes. It was night, crisp and dark as Dahlmann and I mounted
the dimly lit gang plank of an ex-Norwegian ship. Of about two thousand
tons, her various smells assailed the nostrils to rekindle nostalgic
memories of days at sea as a lad. Once more gone alas like our youth,
too soon! We were shown into a small cabin with two bunks and while
making ourselves at home, the Oberleutnant gave me a shock.
"Botkin, my dear fellow,"
he said very seriously, "I have a surprise for you". The
only type of surprises my English conscience could think of were unpleasant
and taking a firm grip on myself, to hear what might be unpleasant
was awaited. As my companion proceeded to speak, worry proved superfluous.
"While arranging our passage at the docks office today,"
continued Dahlmann, "I managed to transfer our berth onto this
"Was the other vessel so bad?"
"No, my dear fellow, but this one has an advantage which it gives
me great pleasure to tell you about." Foreboding subsidied as
the Oberleutnant bubbled over to impart the good tidings.
"We are the only two male passengers on board the ship."
The import of this statement had not sunk in before the reason for
Dahlmann's elation was revealed. The rest of the passengers on the
ship were all women members of the Nazi auxiliary forces, popularly
referred to as Blitzmadel*. To confirm promptly the truth of what
had been said, I had a look through the porthole. Even in the poor
light, marching on the dock and noisily up the gangplank was a contingent
of unmistakably female soldiers. Moments later, heels could be heard
on the metal decks, and voices which were certainly not male, penetrated
the cabin. Relieved that there was no harm to me or my plans in what
had been manoeuvred, it was still abundantly clear that the Oberleutnant
was preparing for business in which he fully expected my joyful participation.
Dahlmann disappeared down the gangway
to return holding a key. The Captain had granted the use of his private
bathroom. After my companion returned from his clean up, I was soon
wallowing in a hot tub. During this luxurious soak the ship started
to move and by the time I got back to the cabin, we were well away
from the dock and moving out to sea, bound for southern Norway.
Carefully groomed for the coming fray,
we entered the ship's saloon. Our appearance brought about a sudden
hush. Every eye of the uniformed females turned in our direction as
Dahlmann and I politely weaved a way to the bar. The enthusiastic
generosity of the circling of women did not permit the purchasing
of a drink for some time. A few gaped in a manner which suggested
we were the first men they had ever seen. The ship chugged on. The
night outside was still. Inside the saloon it was anything but. One
of the girls commenced the lively playing of a harmonica. There was
no shortage of dancing partners and we were whirled round for dance
after dance, with only time between each one to gulp down another
drink, The Oberleutnant waltzed by, embraced with a suggestive hug
if ever I saw one.
"Don't tire yourself out too much,
Felix," he smirked. The eyes of his very willing lass were shut,
and anticipation was written all over the girl soldier as Dahlmann
purposefully propelled her around. One moment the pair were there
and suddenly they had gone. It would have been tactless to return
to our cabin for whatever reason. During the Oberleutnant's absence
I jigged around nonstop. Some of the female troops got tired of waiting
for my flagging services and had commenced dancing with one another.
The harmonica still rent the air. Liquor flowed as the Nazi maids
who appeared more desirable every moment were letting their hair down.
After about half an hour, Dahlmann returned with a very satisfied
looking uniformed maiden in sleepy tow. "Your turn, Felix,"
he said, and the key to our cabin dropped in my pocket. The girl who
had accompanied the Oberleutnant had been reticent compared to my
own partner. By no means an unattractive girl, she had me in an octopus
hug with signs of desire not completely unfamiliar.
Permission is requested to enlarge
on the thoughts of a patriotic Englishman recently and still very
contentedly married. The matter was so complicated that no easy decision
could be reached without the possibility of living to regret it. From
somewhere I had heard that for any female German uniformed personnel
to become pregnant on active service, was a serious or court martial
offence, an understandable enough official attitude in view of the
effect of a pregnancy on the carrying out of military duties by the
future mama concerned. An opportunity had therefore, clearly arisen
to incapacitate some of the enemy's forces. A certain deception of
the lady concerned might be necessary to ensure the ultimate success
of the assault, but deception had been a main pastime of mine for
a long time. The first possible target, still clinging tightly, suggestively
gave every indication that her defences had already been abandoned.
What more satisfying way of striking
a blow for one's country could be conceived? conceived! With
soldierly shame I confess to not having had the courage or determination
to press home the advantage even for the sake of old England. All
is fair in love and war, so they say, but on this night at sea early
in 1944, steaming towards southern Norway, I was unable to be fair
to both at the same time. I sometimes wonder if I did the right thing
but as the end of the battle would have been unaffected, either way
my conscience is clear.
The little port in Southern Norway
glistened in the cold sun, swarming with well armed and laden soldiers.
Every service was represented and many shiploads of human war cargo
must have arrived. Place on the train to Oslo was hard to come by
and in the crush to board, Dahlmann and I became separated. Squeezing
into a carriage to secure a cramped standing place in the corridor,
I saw the Oberleutnant get into the next carriage to give a wave of
acknowledgement that we were still travelling together. By the time
I sat down on my gear, lit a pipe, examined the surroundings and the
other uniformed passengers, we were under way. Glancing behind me
it was only then that the sign on the door of a closed compartment
was noticed. The warning was written stark and clear, 'Nur fur Stabsoffiziere.'*
A side glance into the interior revealed the compartment was nowhere
full. Four German generals, each one with a corner to himself, sat
in isolated and mighty splendour. With the train making good speed,
my back was turned on the inspiring target to contemplate the bleakness
of southern Norway, flashing by to the rhythmic beat of the train,
it was already afternoon and shortly after dark we should be arriving
in Oslo. It was difficult to realise that if good fortune continued
I would soon be back in England. it was well over two years since
our escape and the tide of war had turned. The Nazis were reeling
in the east and the second front to come from England in the wake
of the massive air raids would hasten their downfall. In spite of
a genuine liking for Boris and with so far every reason to trust his
honesty of purpose and ability, there was little doubt that to save
his neck from the Soviets he needed a change of horses before it was
too late. Thus musing and content to be free of the necessity of keeping
a permanent conversational watch while in the Oberleutnant's company,
I dozed, lulled by the hypnotic noise of wheels and track,
The door from the generals' compartment
which fronted onto the corridor, slid suddenly open. A hand was laid
gently on my back. I glanced over my shoulder and jumped up with the
required posture of military deference.
"Herr General?" The clutching of a smoking pipe and being
capless did not lend itself to the kind of salutation normally demanded
for a high ranking enemy staff officer. Sensing my surprise and perhaps
confusion, a white haired, fatherly old quartermaster general of the
Wehrmacht looked paternally at the young and hopefully innocent face.
"No problems, young soldier," he said in a friendly voice,
"But there is a spare seat in here with us, which will prove
much more comfortable than out in the corridor." Military conduct
called for the acceptance of such a gracious but unwanted invitation.
I stepped inside, with a sharp but not overdone click of the heels,
the baggage up on the rack and sat primly down in very alarming company.
The elderly quartermaster general whose kindness had caused the awkward
predicament continued to gaze fondly at me, recalling perhaps the
days as a young soldier, when he had earned the first World War ribbons
on his uniform. The other three staff officers made no sign. They
were all, in contrast with my snowy haired unwanted benefactor, completely
bald or so close shaven as to give that impression. With thick bullet
heads and enormous necks typical of so many Huns, without their uniforms
they would have looked at home in ~ěn all-in wrestling ring. The awesome
trio were well conscious of my presence and resentment to the intrusion
could be felt as the decent quartermaster pursed his lips prior to
starting a conversation. I paid the closest attention. Anything I
might answer could be silently digested by the attentive three and
noted down to be used in possible evidence or action against me. Though
not at ease, a crisis was not really expected for me to become trapped
in a fast moving train. My belt was nevertheless shifted round the
better to quickly get at the holster. Though the pleasant snowy haired
general had created the mess, I would take the three square heads
first and then the old fellow. Remembering poor Jurek, I would have
to be the next on my own list.
"First time in Norway?" asked
"Ja, Herr General".
"Where have you served before"? Keeping on home ground by
quietly answering that I had been on anti-partisan service mainly
in the eastern General Government, a verbal defence was marshalled.
It was no trouble to chat away quite easily on a familiar subject
with the charming old soldier who posed harmless queries and absorbed
my observations with every sign of satisfaction. Breathing became
easier. The other three generals, though feigning disinterest and
taking no part in the discussion, were nevertheless listening to our
every word and the resentment of these gorillas which had been so
marked at first noticeably relaxed. As so often happens in the close
and secret company of the enemy, the pendulum which had swung to rest
on safe suddenly swung the other way to register peril. The pleasant
conversation was continuing peacefully when out of the blue the old
quartermaster posed a potentially dynamite loaded question.
"You know," he said, "I am very interested in language
patterns and accents from various districts. To pinpoint your home
district is proving elusive."
It might have been imagination, but the three thick necked officers
seemed also to have had their curiosity aroused. Had Dahlmann been
there, his intervention with security escort documents issued by Hitler's
headquarters would have protected me fully from any additional probe
as to identity and once again I plumped for the safety provided by
"I am pure German, Herr General, but lived with my parents until
the outbreak of war in the former Polish corridor."
"Aha," was the rejounder. "That explains my difficulty
in placing you. You speak Polish, of course."
"Fluently, Herr General."
Smug and satisfied to have cleared up the problem which had bothered
him, ego satisfied, the general relaxed into contented silence. So
The salute and smash of heels with which the four staff officers were
farewelled on leaving their compartment, would have gladdened the
heart of a most demanding drill sergeant major.
At Oslo station Dahlmann soon organised
a car, and we were driven to the Kommandatur in the city centre. Following
what had been the practice to date for the whole trip, all arrangements
were left to the Oberleutnant and I waited in the car while he attended
to our accommodation requirements. With no problems we were soon very
comfortably installed in a mature hotel on the Karljohannsgatte. The
name Parkhospitz Hotel or similar, tugs at my memory.
The Oberleutnant went off to report
our arrival to German Intelligence, who were to arrange the crossing
into Sweden, and returned quite pleased with his reception. Instructions
had already arrived from the Fuhrer's headquarters for every co-operation
requested to be made readily available. Dahlmann had promised to confer
with me that evening and present a list of requirements in the morning.
The local intelligence chief, it appeared, would have preferred dealing
with me personally and displayed some disappointment. His masters
had left no doubt, however, according to Dahlmann, that my wishes
were to be respected and the situation was accepted. The attitude
of the senior officer was understandable, especially as one could
feel the stamp of authority which Boris and his friends from far away
were capable of imposing. With each passing day an admiration for
the way Boris had handled matters continued to grow, and a result
of his manipulations looked to be a smooth passage home. The overall
strategy had been so far foolproof, with the few unavoidable tactical
hazards encountered en route, normally expected by every agent under
false pretences in enemy territory. Tangible proofs of Boris' efficiency
augured well for the future.
It was now only a few miles from pro-Allied
neutral Sweden and though it was too early to count any chickens,
one could just dare enough to be confident that a hatching was in
Dahlmann had reported to a General
von Kirchenstrom, or a name something like that, who gave him a couple
of passes for us to dine that evening at the Deutsches Haus which
had reputably the best table in Oslo. For the rest of our stay we
were to make full and free use of the Offiziersheim which was in the
immediate vicinity of the hotel, for meals and other facilities on
offer. A feature of the food in Oslo was the abundance of lobster
for which I had almost a suspect craving. That evening at Deutsches
Haus, in spite of the abundance and variety of available meats, we
both dined well on large portions of this crustacean delicacy which
had not passed my lips since before the war. The whole meal was excellent.
Food, wine and service complemented one another to perfection. It
was necessary to restrain the effect that Dahlmann's company was having.
It was becoming enjoyable. Had he, in turn, really known my identity,
it is doubtful whether his regard for me would have flourished as
was apparent. Back in the hotel, comfortably satisfied in high good
humour, neither of us having had any rest since sailing from northern
Denmark with the cargo of Blitzmadel, we were tired and ready for
bed. Was it only yesterday? It seemed ages ago, so much had happened.
As was the prerogative of an espionage
status, the next morning which was beautifully crisp and sunny, I
donned civilian clothes. We breakfasted at the Offiziersheim, to further
indulge in the delectable seafood, again abundantly available. As
we entered the dining room my mild "Heil Hitler" to the
orderly preceded our being respectfully escorted to a table, allotted
to us for the duration of our stay. German officers of all ranks,
shapes and sizes were busy tucking in.
It was time to tabulate my requirements
of the local Nazi espionage bureau and for Dahlmann, as arranged,
to pass them on to the General in charge, who was under orders to
give them unquestioned attention. During the many hours of the long
journey from Warsaw to Oslo my thoughts had wrestled with this crucial
phase of parting from the Nazis. Fairly confident of having arrived
at the correct procedure, it will take but few words to run over the
fruits of much lengthy cogitation. Boris and I in Warsaw had been
obliged to leave these final move to sum up and act as I saw fit according
to the circumstances that developed in Oslo and much as a conference
with Boris would have helped, the most important moves in the whole
plan had become my sole responsibility. Having reached the jumping
off point, the situation was basically simple and straightforward.
There was no sign of suspicion as to my person or motives. Cover as
an anti-Soviet Estonian had not been broken, and as far as the local
Nazi Intelligence was concerned, it was imperative to protect that
cover being penetrated or even from suspicion that something peculiar
and questionable was going on.
Dahlmann was as keen as ever to impress
and as we sat smoking he was attentively poised to note down my requirements.
Now that his liaison function between me and the Oslo authorities
had been accepted and established by both parties, my position in
the shadows, remote and protected from prying eyes and inquisitive
questions, removed any direct personal pressure. The subtle elevation
of the Oberleutnant to the position of almost junior partner in the
operation proved a fortuitous step. In this manner what assistance
was planned and requested assumed the appearance of a decision made
after our joint discussions. This creation of an innocent ally was
one of the countless tactics which had occupied my mind during much
of the sleepless travel so far. I reasoned that were the local hierachy
to so resent their complete lack of supervision over this intruder
from Boris, they could have made matters extremely awkward. The inference
that we were on a project subordinate only to Hitler's headquarters
and no other authority, helped Dahlmann fortify himself to resist
any attempted interference, which I was also very anxious to avoid.
Financial requirements were confirmed
for me to take one thousand dollars American in small denominations
and a hundred or two Swedish kronor. On hearing from me after arrival
in Stockholm as to forwarding instructions, any further cash required
would be sent in multiples of one thousand dollars. As an afterthought
Dahlmann was informed that my wristwatch was giving trouble and a
new one courtesy of the Oslo branch, would be an appreciated gesture.
In fact my watch was going very well, but I felt that the request
was a method of testing the market and adding a disarming human dimension
to the unknown Botkin. The Oberleutnant was already aware that Felix
Botkin was not my real Estonian name and he was gently led step by
step through the superficial reasons for many moves. He concurred
and pretended to understand, which he may have done up to a limited
point. It was essential that any complication with the Swedish authorities
would not lead back to Oslo, the Fuhrer's headquarters and compromisingly
to Boris, a disaster which could well happen were the name Felix Botkin
to be involved.
The Oberleutnant was to request papers
for me under a new name as a Pole employed in Norway by the Organisation
Todt, and to this end I handed over a couple of passport photographs
for processing by the local Huns. The Todt organisation, named after
its founder and leader, was a Nazi paramilitary unit engaged mainly
on construction work for the armed forces all over Germany and the
occupied territories. In anticipation of the Allied second front,
the Channel and North Sea coasts facing Britain, were in a fever of
fortification activity. The Todt orgamsation was massively committed
to this work. The hard core of technical and administrative staff
were German, but thousands of other nationals from all over Europe,
among them Poles had been, albeit often unwillingly, forced into this
type of service. With the appropriate papers as a Pole working for
the Todt organisation, I would be a deserter from an Oslo unit to
arrive in Sweden with an acceptable Warsaw slave labour background.
Such a cover would be hard to break and the name Botkin not figuring
at all in Sweden would never come to the attention of German Intelligence
in Oslo. Dahlmann was impressed with the evasive tactics being adopted
and committed himself to obtaining local provision of everything we
Well briefed and reimplanted with the
conviction that with the Fuhrer's headquarters behind us, no interference
or hindrance in Oslo would be tolerated, Dahlmann went off purposefully
charged to the full with the new authority which exuded from him.
I remained quietly smoking my pipe in the hotel while the Oberleutnant
was absent attending to the dirty work. Keyed up by the way things
were progressing, it was difficult to restrain a glint of optimism,
even though the moment of reckoning had not quite arrived.
According to the Oberleutnant on return,
every request had been reluctantly agreed to. The implication was,
of course, that his handling of the matter had swayed the issue in
our favour. The documents as a Polish employee of the Todt organisation,
the cash and even the wristwatch would be ready in two days time,
by which time all necessary arrangements for crossing the border into
Sweden would also have been completed. An immediate result of this
latest visit by Dahlmann to the Oslo Intelligence C.O. was a further
two tickets for dinner at Deutches Haus, a favourable indication that
my star was not on the wane. During that day the German Oslo radio
announced that we were to have the great pleasure that evening of
listening to a broadcast address by an Englishman, Mr Julian Amery,
son of a former British Minister to India. Arriving at Deutsches Haus
with the renegade's speech about to begin, I sat with Dahlmann in
the lounge quite keen to hear what this minor edition of the traitor
Lord Haw Haw was going to say. The Oberleutnant took my interest for
granted, already aware that I spoke some English and understood the
language quite well. We ordered drinks before taking a table in the
company of many German officers and civilians, who were there presumably
also to listen to a pro-Nazi speech by an Englishman. Amery started
and although the conversation in the lounge died down a little, from
the buzz still continuing it was quite clear that most present did
not or could not follow what was being said in English. As from one
Englishman to another, I found the Amery text obnoxious, the whole
approach anti-British and Mr Churchill in particular was singled out
for vicious criticism. It would have been a great pleasure to have
had Amery visiting Warsaw during my stay there. Having heard enough
of such repetitive nonsense, and motioning to Dahlmann, who had not
understood a word that I was bored, we entered the dining room and
partook of yet another sumptuous meal.
Next day, it must have been a Sunday
as all the shops were shut the weather continued cold and brilliantly
sunny. With arrangements having reached a peak with little more to
do than wait, my plan was to keep the Oberleutnant amused and off
balance and especially away from any offical business. With a cheery
character like Dahlmann, there was little difficulty in generating
between us a sense of enjoying a few days' leave before going our
separate ways to war. His suggestion that we visit a famous winter
holiday spot a few miles from Oslo was most welcome. If I remember
rightly, the name of the very popular place was Holmkollen.
Mid-morning found us on a train moving
out from a small local station. It was crowded. German troops with
the day off mingled with crowds of young Norwegians laden with sporting
gear. Skis, toboggans and skates abounded but most of all an impression
remains of beautiful coloured knitted woollen headgear and pullovers
with striking patterns. More to keep the Oberleutnant company, I had
redonned German uniform and it was this change of attire that facilitated
a glimpse of the Norwegian attitude to the occupying Nazis. All around
us as the small suburban train chugged its festive way, Norway's youth
of both sexes bubbled with good humour matching the weather, and eagerly
anticipated a few hours at close grips with their beloved world of
sparkling snow and ice. The greatest compliment I can pay them physically
is to say that they were as pleasing to the eye, as had been the young
people of Poland. Dahlmann was of the same mind, ogling unashamedly
all the attractive young faces and figures which closely surrounded
The Norwegian Underground was glimpsed.
Maybe a different Resistance fight was being fought. Maybe the losses
of life and property in Norway had been less. Maybe the Nazis had
been less barbaric here than in Poland. Maybe the Norwegians were
fighting a less emotional but more intelligent fight than the Poles.
Proof that the people of Norway were indeed fighting was revealed
that morning on a little train out of Oslo.
With the forwardness of all young men,
particularly lonely ones in German uniform like Dahlmann and me, we
looked almost plaintively into the eyes of the young Norwegians about
us. Dahlmann might not have noticed the reactions of our glances,
but Botkin did. Such looks of hate were also common in enemy occupied
Poland. As soon as any young Norwegian of either sex became aware
that the Oberleutant and I were studying them with that friendly inquisitiveness
common amongst all youngish creatures, there was an instant change
of expression. The jollity and goodwill, which had sparkled between
them and their own kind was gone in a flash. As our German uniforms
were registered, the former good humour was replaced by a deep seated
look of repulsion and hatred. Heads turned in contempt and our presence
was ignored, denoting to me at any rate the existence of a Resistance
which would have been a joy to have met at war or play. If looks from
Norwegian to German could have killed that morning, this story would
never have reached the writing. Dahlmann would likewise also have
We strolled among the crowd at Holmkollen,
relaxing in a comfortable chalet-type lodge for a snack and a beer
to enjoy the passing colourful scene with its background of snow.
Young people milling about in front of the chalet besported themselves,
oblivious of the troubled world about them, oblivious of the two young
Germans watching them, who would dearly love to have been able to
join in the fun. The companionable life we hankered after was sadly
insulated by hatred and after desultorily quaffing more alcohol without
any lifting of mood, by mutual consent we caught a train back to Oslo.
Uncharacteristically the Oberleutnant
had lapsed into a pensive and untalkative mood. Normally the less
conversation the better my purpose was suited, but so accustomed had
I become to good humour and chatter, that his high spirits were more
appreciated by their very absence. Dahlmann began pouring out the
sad story of his life, with emphasis on domestic trials of the past.
From the beginning of our journey from Warsaw the more the Oberleutnant
talked the more avid was my attention, as a one way verbal traffic
reduced the margin for conversational error. On this occasion, melancholy
monologue and self pity, combined to put both of us in dire need of
drastic artificial stimulant. Remedial treatment was close at hand.
The bar was full of German servicemen also intent on drowning in alcohol
whatever they felt in need of drowning. Some of those present had
taken the cure and were already half drowned. Dahlmann was in a no-stopping
mood. Intent on anaesthetising whatever pain it was that bothered
him, he was doing his best to operate in the same way on me. A spirit,
aniseed tasting, which formed a white milk like emulsion with water
added could have been French Pernod, flowed down our throats with
unseemly haste and hardly time for any sort of toast. To restrain
Dahlmann's desire for company to the land of alcoholic haze proved
too difficult. By the time his destination was reached I was not far
behind, striving desperately to keep a tight rein on my bolting wits.
The Oberleutnant forsook guzzling and
burst into song. Other lonely hearted, inebriated and uniformed German
souls got up from adjacent tables to surround ours. 'Got Mit Uns'
said their belt buckles, and I ceased feeling sorry for myself. God
was certainly not with them. He was with me and our side was winning.
They were all on their way to hell together with their stinking Fuhrer
and rightly so, too! My God was taking me home to England.
The Austrian tenor, Richard Tauber,
had before the war graced the British stage and screen, thrilling
thousands with an English rendering of 'You are my heart's delight'.
I had sung it many times both in English and German. Though nothing
like as good a tenor as my father, there was mention that my voice
made for tolerable listening. Though a guilty kettle calling the pot
black, a drunken Jerry burst into this very song. "Dein ist mein
ganzes Herz, wo du nicht bist kann ich nicht sein, so wie die Blume,
usw., etc..." The patrons joined in raucously, my own contribution
of such gusto and effect for everybody else to stop singing. Vocally
stranded, I faded to a halt. No need to overdo it. Dahlmann was suddenly
"Weiter, Felix, up on the table."
"Up on the table," echoed the rest, and there was little
to do but pretend to co-operate, and warm to the verse.
"Wohin ich immer gehe, ich fuhle deine Nahe" usw., etc.,
and then headlong into the chorus "Dein ist mein ganzes
Herz, Wo du nicht bist, kann ich nicht sein," usw., etc. The
applause from the whole restaurant was thunderous. Dahimann and I
made a hurried exit with some enthusiasts screaming "Encore,
When Dahlmann came into my room the
next morning, his uniform had clearly been slept in. Mine, too. A
wave of self criticism swept over me as the goings on of the previous
evening came into clearer focus. Alcoholic remorse added to the feeling.
No self respecting agent in enemy territory would have carried on
in such an asinine manner. No harm seemed to have ensued and with
Dahlmann back to his normal cheerful self, the job in hand reassumed
priority. I felt less of an idiot.
Dahlmann got in touch with Oslo Intelligence.
Everything was being processed. Money and papers could be picked up
the next morning and the crossing over to Sweden that same night.
Jaded after the previous evening's outing, the Oberleutnant and I
spent a quietish day, the only activity being a thorough reading of
the German papers and a careful checking over of my going away clothes.
Dahlmann had already procured a haversack for what was to be taken
to Sweden, and my German uniform was to be left in Dahlmann's care
to be sent back to Boris, ostensibly to be stored until my return.
While attending to these final details
it was difficult to realise that real freedom could be only a few
hours away. The object in escaping had been just that, but the wildest
dreams had never portrayed the long and eventful journey to come after
breaking out of camp over two years previously. Had the journey from
prison to freedom taken but the week or so that covered the present
trip from Warsaw to Sweden, the great joy would have been to get home,
see my family, rejoin a unit and get on with the war in a straightforward
manner. The escape itself had taken so long that the events of those
two years, unrelated to the simple process of trying to be free again,
had changed and would continue to change my whole life.
I had become a family man, and to competent
German and passable French another foreign language had been added.
A variety of anti-Nazi activities had taken place and in addition
to a decoration, a commission in the field had been recommended. Next
to my skin, protecting me as always from harm, a tattered never washed,
sweat and fear impregnated blue woollen pullover knitted by one of
Poland's myriads of little angels stood guard. Most important was
the wonderful share of tremendous luck, shuddering to contemplate
had it not been a permanent feature of my whole war to date. Prematurely
musing to no purpose, it was necessary to remind myself that I was
still in Oslo surrounded by Germans. Sleep during that last night
was hard to come by.
Dawned the great day. We had breakfast
as usual at the Offiziersheim and a German uniform was worn for the
The Oberleutnant was sad about our
imminent parting and for me it was very difficult to continue reminding
myself not to have kind feelings towards a very pleasant ex-champagne
salesman and playboy who had proved such an excellent help and companion.
The name he used was Gerhard Dahlmann and if anybody has any news
of him or his fate, it would be appreciated.
I waited impatiently at the hotel puffing
away at a pipe while Dahlmann went to collect the various requisitions
we had listed for supply by the Oslo Nazis. A long nail biting delay
had been expected and it was a surprising relief to have the Oberleutnant
back before lunch, and sign a receipt for one thousand American dollars
and two hundred Swedish kronor. Even secret services have auditors.
A stainless steel wristwatch and strap as well as a long dark civilian
overcoat, worn by higher ranking members of the Todt Organisation,
came out ot Dahlmann's case. The organisation Todt service passport
looked pretty impressive covered in swastikas and signed by the engineer
in charge of Norwegian operations. With Teutonic attention to detail,
the passport had much supporting material which I realised as important
but had felt it wiser not to be over demanding. There were addresses
of construction works around Oslo, a list of Todt residential hostels
with telephone numbers, and a file containing a sheaf of works directives.
My new Todt name had been officially entered into the organisation's
list and as soon as I had gone from Oslo for about a week, the police
were to be given particulars of a Polish employee who had deserted.
The small compass which Dahlmann had
also brought harked thoughts back to the first abortive escape attempt
from Szubin in the early summer of 1940. That occasion was a straightforward
and simple burst for freedom. To get to the east was the only plan,
a compass and the German language the only tools. Eastwards to Sweden
was the direction this time and a compass again part of the equipment.
Otherwise the two breakouts were very different affairs. Escape in
principal had been successfully achieved on reaching Warsaw and by
officially joining the Underground Army, a fighting unit, the category
of fleeing prisoner was no longer valid. Getting into Sweden was one
phase of an evolving exercise which had weaved its way up a devious
path with the original goal of freedom now almost a side issue. The
small luminous compass, the cause of a memory flashback, was a reminder
also that a physical night crossing of Scandinavian hill and mountain
country in winter time might involve conditions which would require
more than just being pointed in the right direction should the weather
close in. I stoked up with a tremendous lunch, during which Dalhmann
remained a mite sad. A German policeman in charge of border patrols
in the area where a crossing had been arranged, was to call for me
at three that afternoon. As if requesting a favour the Oberleutnant
asked if he could come along in the car to the starting point. By
now completely convinced of his goodwill, the suggestion was welcome.
Dahlmann still represented the awesome authority of the Fuhrer Headquarters
which could be used to shield me from any awkwardness which might
occur at the last minute.
There was still an hour or so before
departure. Excusing myself to Dahlmann the time was spent carefully
committing to memory the details of my new Todt Organisation guise
as a Pole, and absorbing all the other paper details of the Todt background
which could prove of essential help in maintaining a false cover.
Provision of the Polish name as a Todt employee had been left to the
discretion of the German office. The full name is of little present
consequence but warrants the mention that even the Nazis had allocated
the ever popular Slavic christian name of Jan.
The usual big black sedan arrived driven
by a German policeman in civilian clothes. I sat next to Dahlmann
in the back. Over two hours later after dark, we came to a halt outside
the police station in a small Norwegian village nestling in a valley
beside the mountains. The sign of the swastika indicated the persons
in charge. Our driver went into the station and came out with a second
civilian. In the semi-dark the newcomer was identical in shape, dress
and type to the driver who now ushered him into the front seat of
the car. We drove on towards the towering mountains for a few miles
to pull up as the navigable road petered out into a boulder strewn
track which sloped upwards through the dark, snow bedecked conifers.
On the really black night further progress, even on foot, would have
proved impossible without torches. The driver waited in the car. Dahlmann,
the newcomer and I got out. A large scale map was draped over the
car bonnet and in the light of a miniature torch, 1 was briefed as
to position and course. The few kilometres to the Swedish border was
steep with a promise of heavy going, with more snow than down in the
valley. Directly east of us on the Swedish side, the small town of
Stromstad was pointed out on the map as my immediate destination and
aiming point. Orientation and immediate objective clarified, before
beginning the next stage, the driver was farewelled with a handshake
and thanks, a goodwill investment in case of any early return. The
guide, Olaf, a German speaking Norwegian, led the way for Dahlmann
and me up a mountain track. The ice, snow and boulders were difficult
to negotiate in the dark. Progress was slow, physically demanding
and each of us had the occasional fall. Was there no limit to what
still might happen to upset things? Even a sprained ankle. After two
hours of searing lungs and exhausting climbing, the guide called a
most welcome halt. From here the frontier was now less than an hour
away and there was no improvement in the hostile environment. If anything,
the undulating peaks, which still loomed up ahead faintly outlined
against the night sky seemed more menacing and impassable than before.
A glow of reflected light was to be seen in the heavens over the mountains
straight in front. It came from Stromstad and would be an invaluable
direction finder. It all seemed straightforward enough, but the rugged
journey so far was going to be that much harder alone.
His task completed, the guide wished
me good luck and stepped back into the darkness. The Oberleutnant,
a barely visible outline, also wished to say goodbye. There had been
no need for Dahlmann to have come this far. His responsibilities had
ceased on arrival in Oslo and to him I was indebted for having kept
the local Nazis away. It was not duty which had brought him up a rugged
track to within a short distance of the Swedish border as far as any
German soldier dare come. We had enjoyed the time spent together and
for my part, under other circumstances, a genuine friendship could
"Alles gutes, Felix. Sehen wir
uns wieder.*" We gripped one another with both hands, and grasping
my shoulders the Oberleutnant made a final goodbye with an expressive
touch of the lips on both my cheeks and suddenly he was no more. I
have already mentioned that Boris was not the last German officer
I kissed. Dahlmann was. My two companions could be heard retreating
down the steep, treacherous path. As soon as their passage was no
longer audible, I adjusted the pack, took a deep breath and toiled
upwards towards the serrated skyline. No semblance of a track remained.
The only course was to keep in as straight a line as possible to the
brightness emanating from Stromstad. The terrain became even more
spiteful. Frustrating detours around unclimbable faces of rock and
snow hindered progress as well as taking physical toll of a waning
strength and adding to the bruises. Exhausted and in spite of the
best will in the world to press on, a rest was obligatory and lying
down curled up comfortably in the snow and dropping off the sleep,
proved a delightful sensation. Adjusting my body to an even more cosy
position caused, how much later I have no idea, the drowsy opening
of one eye. Had I not registered the glow in the sky from the lights
of Stromstad, the land of nod would have been promptly re-entered.
With no conception of my whereabouts and concerned only with getting
back to sleep again, the surroundings semi-consciously surveyed, happily
triggered off an internal alarm. It still took some time to collect
scattered thoughts, but in a few moments by dragging myself to stand
up, came an awareness of what might have happened. I had read somewhere
about the sleep in snow from which there was no awakening. Carefully
and slowly, the upward struggle continued. The first suggestion of
dawn tinted the sky directly ahead and as it became lighter faster
progress was possible. By the time the sun out of the east burst in
all morning glory and a small road leading downwards had been reached,
I knew that I was in Sweden.
Sitting down on a wayside rock and
gazing out over a neutral paradise, with fist clenched the air was
punched, "I've bloody well done it!"
On that beautiful, bright and crisp
morning, speeding on through the sparkling ice and snow, the aches
and pains of the bruises sustained overnight were spirited away. The
odd villa and cottage was passed. Then came the more built up suburbs
to be succeeded by the township which lay in front, peaceful and serene.
A few people were about. Nobody gave me a second glance. I had not
thought of being able to get all the way to Stockholm without being
apprehended by some form of Swedish authority, but there was no intention
of giving myself up. The farther away from the border without being
stopped and interrogated, the better. Were the Swedes to give me a
complicated reception and investigation so close to the Norwegian
frontier, Botkins real identity might be unmasked and leaked back
to the Oslo Germans. Little danger for me personally, but fatal for
Boris and the end of all our plans.
For long, a knowledge of German and
Polish had been the first line defence preventing my recapture on
many occasions. Helplessly unable to speak or understand Swedish was
a fresh handicap. I marched boldly into a modest railway station and
up to the ticket booth, requesting in German without any fluster a
ticket through to Stockholm. The booking clerk understood and answered
quite clearly in the same tongue. The journey, he said, was via Goteborg,
a well known Swedish port and a train would depart within the hour.
There was little to do but wait, uncomfortably exposed in the empty
station. Oh, for the cover of a Warsaw crowd!
So far everything had gone too smoothly
to be true, which shortly proved to be the case. After cleaning up
in the rest room, as I came out two policemen were talking to the
man in the ticket office. Without delay, fuss or ill feeling, I was
soon sitting in the back seat of an official looking car, wedged in
between my captors who very politely had asked me in German to accompany
them to the police station. Until being ushered into the presence
of a senior policeman at the station, not more than a few words had
been spoken. The politely offered seat was accepted and from the way
the Swede looked quizzically at me across the desk, there was little
doubt that many visitors had been escorted to his office after a telephone
call from the booking clerk at the railway station.
Thinking it politic to fire the first
shot of the interview, I quietly addressed myself to the man in Polish.
"Czy pan mowi p0 polsku?" A negative shake. "Sprechen
Sie Deutsch?" A modestly positive nod. My papers as Jan, a Pole
working with the Todt organisation were examined. The overcoat, a
recognisable part of a German Todt outfit, seemed to help my statement.
I told of having been caught by the Nazis in a Warsaw manhunt in 1942
and of an unfailing ambition to get to Allied territory and join the
many thousands of Poles who were fighting the Hitlerites on land,
the sea and in the air. After taking particulars of my papers which
were handed back, a résumé of what had been said was typed.
Over lunch, the inspector told me that
his superiors had been contacted. That afternoon I would be taken
to Goteborg and tomorrow on to Stockholm. The Swedish policeman who
took me on the train to Goteborg spoke no German, and it was not yet
time to try English. After frustrating contortions in sign language,
using both hands and facial expressions, trying to communicate was
abandoned. Except for the odd friendly exchange of grimaces and heartily
agreeing about 'Hitler kaput' our knowledge of one another can hardly
be said to have advanced at all by the time he delivered me to the
very much larger police establishment in Goteborg. The policeman at
Goteborg spoke neither German or Polish. We managed, however, to understand
one another quite well. His fluency in English was more than a match
for my broken efforts in that tongue. No further attempts were made
in Goteborg at interrogation or to add to the report which had been
handed over by the escort gendarme from Strombad. The news was apologetically
broken that until reaching Stockholm I was to be kept under lock and
key, although by then so tired that had my complete freedom been offered,
my first request would have been to find a place to lie down and sleep.
A comfortably furnished cell with an equally comfortable bed awaited.
After a good meal, a bath, the toll of the overnight mountaineering
jaunt with no rest other than the episode lying in the snow, fatigue,
mental and physical was overwhelming. The next morning with breakfast
on a tray, found me still weary, very stiff and adverse to getting
out of bed and continuing the journey to the Swedish capital.
The reception at Stockholm's version
of Scotland Yard was polite and clinical, befitting a seat of bureaucratic
power. The following morning after another good night's sleep, except
for painful bruises all over, I felt rejuvenated and primed for action.
From a study of the cell it was abundantly clear that liberation would
have to come from outside influences. There seemed no possibility
of individual escape. The white walls of the cell were stone hard
and thick. No sound penetrated within. A heavy metal grill, well out
of reach, up near the ceiling comes to mind. What shattered any thoughts
a prisoner might have conjured up in the way of escape plans, was
the sight of the massive door to the cell, which closed with a loud
and dismal finality after every visit by a warden who, it may be noted,
was always accompanied by a colleague waiting outside in the corridor.
The memory of the door lingers clearly. Heavy and about a foot thick,
it swung ponderously shut in dovetail style. The noise of its locks
and bolts shooting home sounded like the colliding buffers of shunting
trains. In the very centre of the door was a fixed deeply inset glass
porthole. The glass was of such thickness that nothing could be seen
through it from inside except a suggestion of light from the corridor.
To protect Boris from possible Nazi
suspicion as to his attempted connections with the British was of
paramount consideration. The problem was to ensure that in making
contact with my own people the name Jeffery would not leak back to
the Oslo Nazis via one of their listening posts. A pretty kettle of
fish would ensue were the connections between Jeffery, Botkin, Boris
and the Pole from the Todt organisation to become traceable by the
Hun. Machinations as far as police headquarters in Stockholm were
concerned had been so cloaked, that possibly nobody in the world was
aware of my whereabouts and correct identity inside an escape proof
tomb. Sobering thoughts. Under the prolonged, detailed and professional
interrogation which could now be expected, the claim to be a Polish
escapee from the Todt organisation would soon be established as false.
Were Ito persist in concealing my true origin, the Swedes could certainly
detain me with every legal and moral justification. There was, however,
one considerable consolation to which I had long become unaccustomed.
In Swedish hands there was not the urgent necessity of bracing oneself
to resist the torture, which any prisoner of the Gestapo could rely
on being applied as a matter of course.
I was escorted down the corridor for
what could only be the interrogation, the course and result of which
was giving much concern. All the confused thinking had produced even
more confusion. Entering the imposing office of an important looking
Swedish policeman, I was ushered into a seat to face across a large
desk, a man who sat unaware that my godmother and fetish were marshalling
their powers on my behalf. We got off to a good start. Middle aged,
in civilian clothes, the official had a kindly voice which matched
his looks. With a friendly smile he enquired in good German as to
my health and comfort. Politely acknowledging his concern for my welfare,
I refrained from commenting any further so early during our discussion.
It might have been mentioned that the thought of being locked up for
much longer in that forbidding cell with its cyclopean door had brought
on a bad attack of claustrophobia, an ailment to which I am very prone,
and in the past had nearly expired while effecting a self cure. The
Todt passport and other papers lay on the desk. After thumbing through
the various documents the Swede looked up and regarded me quizzically.
"Why have you come to Sweden?"
"Hopefully on my way to fight the Germans."
"If Sweden had been invaded by the Nazis and so brutally occupied
as was Poland, most Swedes would have the same ambition.~~
Full of understanding and sympathy, the policeman nodded.
Warming to the task I described the
struggle in Poland quietly and unpretentiously enlarging on the grim
plight of the Polish people. The barbaric treatment of the Jews was
also outlined. The reaction of the man was that of a person who had
heard much of these distasteful matters, and believed them to be true.
More questions were posed about my past and as anticipated, although
in a friendly manner, there was more depth to the probing of the story
compared to the cursory screening undergone at the other two Swedish
police stations before arriving in Stockholm. It would happen sooner
or later. My story would eventually break down to be fully exposed
as untrue. Fairy godmother's voice was loud and clear. "Time
to make your move, Ronnie," she urged from on high.
Apologising politely I sought permission
to digress from the question and answer session. Assent was readily
given. The co-operation sought stemmed, I said, from the humanitarian
treatment received since arriving in Sweden. An enthusiastic concurrence
was not to be expected but the look of approval and a sympathetic
nod of the head was just the encouragement needed to proceed with
confidence. The man was clearly no fool and whether my story had already
wakened suspicions was hard to ascertain. In any case the timing of
the request was opportune as evidenced by its reception. The Swede
listened carefully and showed no reaction to my plea that he contact
the British Embassy and request an immediate visit from the Military
Attache or a member of his staff. The reply was awaited for in suspense.
"Of course it can be done."
A telephone call in unintelligible speech except a recognition of
the word 'British' confirmed the implementation of his statement,
and he smiled knowingly at me.
"Somebody will be along immediately."
It could well be that all along my
story had not been swallowed. I refused to worry, now optimistic that
the Nazis would not learn anything from the Swedes which would enable
them to unravel the hoax. The name Botkin had never surfaced. In spite
of the promising turn of events, no more than was absolutely necessary
to keep me on course for London need be divulged.
My reverie was interrupted. "You
speak English, of course," said the policeman with faultless
delivery in that language. "Fluently, sir," I replied, likewise
His satisfied smile was bigger than
before, almost a laugh. He rose, walked round the desk and shook my
hand. "You are among friends." The Boris conspiracy looked
to be out of danger.
A nice and efficient looking young
man was shown into the room. He knew the policeman, greeted him affably
in English and turning to me, shook hands firmly. The Swede casually
stating that he would welcome any details later, left me with the
newcomer, who purported to be from the British Embassy. Reading my
mind, a passport was produced confirming his status. Even long, long
acquaintance with all kinds of false documents did not prevent accepting
his credentials as genuine. Facing less dire penalties for making
a mistake, it was noticeable how much more trusting one became after
quitting Nazi territory. Suspicious of a listening device and requesting
a pen and some paper, I wrote my name, rank, army number and regiment,
together with the dates of capture in France by the Germans and subsequent
escape. Transport without delay to the War Office in London was urgently
requested, together with a further request for all secrecy possibly
under the circumstances.
That afternoon I had tea with the British
Military Attache Colonel Clifton Brown, or it might have been Browne
with an 'e'. I never can remember.
Before I left the station, the Swedish
policeman bade me a warm and complimentary goodbye. How much he knew
or had been told was not discussed. Yet another good ship was passing
in the night. His name was Daniellson.
London had been contacted and a reply
was expected the next day. Unmarked Royal Air Force planes were still
making frequent trips from the United Kingdom and back, bad weather
the most common reason for hindrances to a well organised ferry service.
Made very comfortable at the embassy
for the night and with no developments by the next morning, a bright
young member of the staff, a London girl, was charged with showing
me something of Stockholm. Before setting out on this jaunt I drew
and signed for the equivalent of one hundred pounds sterling from
the colonel to supplement the kronor I had brought with me from Oslo.
I also handed over the thousand American dollars a donation from the
Nazis in Oslo. That was the last I ever saw of them. Sometime later
it was realised that I had been a little too hasty, spurred on at
the time by a curiosity to trace the origin of the cash. My enquiry
at the War Office as to the ownership of the money resulted in its
leaving my company, forfeited as captured enemy property. Even if
my gesture was wasted I hope the transaction was legally entered into
the Army bookeeping system. I should have asked for a receipt.
Sightseeing in a city at peace was
a bewildering revelation. The kind of life I had been surrounded with
for years and almost come to accept as normal in places like Warsaw
and Berlin contrasted vividly in every way with the affluence, orderliness
and prosperity presented by Stockholm. Later that afternoon after
lunch in a well patronised restaurant, the young lady and I drifted
back through the clinically clean and almost sterile city in time
for a further cup of tea with Colonel Clifton Brown, still not sure
about the 'e'.
There was a reply from London. A plane
would arrive that night and after dark during late evening on the
morrow I would be on it.
A young British captain in civilian
clothes was introduced. It was common practice before passengers took
off, he said, to record as much about them as possible. It was comforting
to hear that the procedure was designed to minimise the adverse effects
were somebody lost in an air accident or shot down over Norway before
debriefing in England. Still influenced by a reticence to disclose
the Boris plan, a fairly comprehensive rundown on my career since
escaping was dictated with emphasis on my wedding and the arrival
of Punia. The captain took me out to dinner that evening pointing
out his German counterparts also in mufti, who were seated at various
tables. The brightness inside the buildings and out in the streets
was still blinding in intensity after years of blackout.
Next day brought a further pleasant
expedition with the charming escort from the embassy. Her heart had
been seriously claimed by a young Polish officer stationed in London
and to assist the romance she was struggling, not very successfully,
to pick up his language from a grammar book. Much of the final day
in Sweden was spent in coaching the smitten young lady, who was as
keen to learn as I had once been, although her effort was for love,
mine had been to stay alive. Of the two motivations hers was by far
the preferable. By the time we came to say goodbye, in addition to
some progress with the basics of Polish grammar and pronunciation,
she had learnt to sing parrot fashion a Polish army ditty. My only
regret was that I should not be present during the first performance
for the boyfriend, of a melody with a humorous inclining to bawdy
Stockholm's late winter evening closed
in. Colonel Brown was kindness itself. The young captain who had recorded
my final will and testament was to drive me out to the airport. The
plane from the United Kingdom had arrived overnight on schedule, the
weather forecast was favourable and the next day, said the colonel,
would see me in London. A feature of the drive to the airport, was
once again the blaze of street, traffic and domestic lights.
Well out of the normal airport illuminated
area, a grubby looking Douglas aircraft, the DC3 was parked discreetly
in the shadows. After donning a flying suit, I strapped myself in
one of the primitive interior seats. Two young civilians, RAF pilots,
bade a welcome and without fuss the runway lights were soon roaring
past as we droned steeply up into the dark. Eardrum reaction indicated
the high altitude to which we had climbed and levelled out to commence
sometime later a very deep descent. The pain in my ears as we plunged
down was excruciating, and while the torture lasted, being shot down
by a German night fighter would have been a welcome release. The North
Sea, after reaching the Norwegian coast, was being crossed at wavetop
level. We eventually taxied to a stop by a dimly lit building inside
which an army officer was the only inhabitant.
Some form of arrival questionnaire
required attention. Name, rank number and other details were subjected
to a searching scrutiny and being compared with another list the officer
had in front of him. Attention was being sharply focussed on my army
number which contains a seven. I had written the seven in the same
way as I had been obliged to write a seven ever since escaping. This
tail of my figure seven as was the custom in Europe was crossed ~
thus, differing from the 7 in English use. Recognising this difference
to be the cause of conjecture I commented in advance that printing
my sevens that way had become a force of continental habit.
The name of the place where I had at
long last arrived home in the United Kingdom was Leuchars. It is not
far north of Edinburgh, but to me a more significant reference is
its close location to the home of golf, St. Andrews. The small airfield
just in from the Scottish coast specialised in the kind of aerial
service which catered for trips of a like nature to mine. Before departure
early next morning for London a long awaited breakfast of bacon and
eggs was a recordable highlight on a first day really free.
With a travel warrant, a few pounds
in my pocket I was driven to the local station, and joureyed a few
miles south to pick up the through train to London. The rest of that
wonderful day was spent roaring peacefully south and drinking in the
sight of my long lost homeland rushing by. In vivid contrast to the
German civilians I had so recently observed, the British population
in the train and on the platforms at which we stopped had a sense
of purpose with a spring in their step. The tide was ebbing in Germany
but in Britain the flood had began. For the first time in the war,
I was on the side going forward. France in 1940 had been a rout of
British arms, say what they might about the glory of Dunkirk. Prisoner
of war status had been no booster of military morale and the fight
in occupied Poland had been basically a slaughter of heroic patriots.
Now everything was going well, during the long train journey to London,
the thought of a fight advancing instead of retreating was a pleasant
change to anticipate. A concern for the well being of Marysia and
Punia was always in the background. Tomorrow "Niech Stas powie
Marysia Pawel jest u siebie" would be a priority radio message
to Warsaw. Still surrounded by the Hun, news of my arrival in safety
would be a great lift to family morale in Poland.