A British historian has revealed how thousands of German prisoners of war (POWs) held in Britain during the Second World War were lulled by British intelligence into revealing secrets of the Nazi war machine.
According to Helen Fry, who has written a book called, The M Room: Secret Listeners who bugged the Nazis, the prisoners were tricked into believing that they were on their own even as they were being bugged by a group of “secret listeners” who were themselves German but working for British intelligence.
“Held in a stately home, they were allowed to keep personal servants, drink wine and eat good food. As a result they boasted of how stupid the British were, and one even wrote to his family to wish that they could join him at his prison, as he rated it so highly. But what the prisoners did not know was that British intelligence had bugged every part of their accommodation, from lampshades and plant pots right down to the billiards table around which they relaxed on lazy days. They were gleaning information about the psyche of the Nazi military from the idle gossip flowing between the prisoners,” the BBC reported.
It quoted Ms. Fry as saying the information thus gleaned was vitally important to the war effort.
“British intelligence got the most amazing stuff in bugging the conversations… It enabled us to understand the mind-set of the enemy as well as learn military secrets. If it wasn’t for this bugging operation, we may well have not won the war,” she said.
The prisoners were kept at three places — Latimer House near Amersham; Wilton Park near Beaconsfield; and Trent Park in north London. All were bugged with pro-British Germans, listening to prisoners in the ‘M room’ — ‘M’ standing for ‘microphoned’.