"German Propaganda and the German 5.7.43 - 20.10.43" - collection of weekly reports.1943 Stock Code: 135819
Data-mining during World War IIA remarkable survival: a half-yearly run of pioneering weekly propaganda intelligence reports produced by the German and Austrian Region Intelligence Section of the Political Warfare Executive. These reports were to provide the basis for a new approach to intelligence work for the British which would be carried forward after the end of WWII. Documentary material relating to the work of the PWE is uncommon institutionally and unheard of on the market.
The PWE was hived off from the Special Operations Executive in 1941, with the intention that they would take on responsibility for propaganda and political warfare; "It was intended that the two organisations would work together in that PWE would supply indoctrination material, propaganda, information, directives and other materials and SOE would organize and operate the agents in the field and be responsible for transport, security and other necessary operational functions. In theory this appears to be quite logical and an effective use of resources. In practice SOE and PWE found almost impossible to work together"(Elkes, The Political Warfare Executive: A re-evaluation based upon the intelligence work of the German Section, Staffordshire University, PhD thesis, 1996, p.4). Subsequent assessments of the work of PWE have been ambiguous at best, dismissive at worst, often coloured by persistent interdepartmental animus, and with most historians concluding that German resistance to the bitter end is clear evidence of the failure of Allied propaganda. That such efforts would have been seriously undermined by the declaration of the doctrine of Unconditional Surrender at Casablanca in 1943 is offered by way of a minor mitigation, but the criticisms remain.
Despite the periodic opening of archive material, and the publication of David Garnett's formerly suppressed official history of the PWE, the focus remains on the group's propaganda work, on their "bizarre operations", on the "diverse but undeniable talents" of a "varied galère" including Noel Coward, Freya Stark, Robert Byron and Sefton Delmer (Andrew Roberts, Introduction to The Secret History of the P.W.E., p.xvi). The present papers offer documentation relating to a part of PWE's role that is persistently overlooked; "the other activities in which the PWE was engaged have not been adequately considered in the historiography... the central problem is the focus on the PWE as an organisation which was only involved in propaganda activities, and the omission in the evaluation of the Executive of the specialistintelligence' sections working for and within the organisation" (Elkes, p.9).
In March 1941, Arnold Robert Walmsley of Section 'D' (SIS), based at Electra House - the precursor of SO1, SOE's propaganda unit, and thus PWE - obtained permission from his boss, Sir Rex Leeper, to set up a unit to carry out 'morale research'. He co-opted the services of Dr. Raymond Klibansky, a German-Jewish Heidelberg- and Oxford-educated specialist in mediaeval and renaissance Neo-Platonism, and began the production of the present weekly reports: "The information was presented in three sections. The first part of each report sought to anticipate the intentions of the Nazi regime from an analysis of the propaganda output of the Ministry of Propaganda. The second included direct quotations from the Press and broadcasts concerning what the German people were been told by the regime. The third section, the most important, constituted the analysis and conclusions of the intelligence officers, which incorporated the analysis of enemy propaganda and all the other information drawn from other sources which was available to the German Section... The important feature of these documents was the amalgamation of information of every grade of security up to and including 'Top Secret' and as such information represented an important systematic and co-ordinated intelligence report on social and conditions in Germany which no other department in the intelligence services in Britain at the time had developed. The German Section included in each report the most important issues of the week and usually reported them in terms of the past political important experience or information regarding each issue" (Elkes, p.83).
Walmsley's role has been described as "what would now be called intelligence analyst'" and he was perhaps one of the first to employ the concept of data mining (Warkentin, The Political Warfare Executive Syllabus, p.48). His expertise in and access to the latest radio technologies enabled him to gather a wide range of broadcast material which he subjected to quantitative analysis, this claimed by Walmsley as the Allies first systematic application of the process to propaganda (Garnett, p.15). Walmsley concentrated on discerning a communications loop; by discovering how the German people had reacted to Nazi propaganda and how the Ministry of Propaganda responded to public opinion and thereby identifying patterns of behaviour, he believed that it should be possible to discern or anticipate the intentions of the Nazi regime for future operations through the propaganda issued to prepare the populace. The creation of the 'Propaganda Man' - "what the 'ordinary Germans' may notice" - an interpretative tool appearing in a couple of these reports, has been interpreted as a precursor of reception theory (see Elkes p.82).
After the war Klibansky returned to a starred academic career, Frothingham Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at McGill, president of the International Institute of Philosophy 1966-9, fellow of Wolfson College, 1981-95, described in the citation for the award of his Companion Order of Canada in 2000 as "one of the greatest intellectuals of our time". Current biographies recognise his time with PWE, but his obituaries and earlier biographical sources make only passing mention of wartime work with the Foreign Office.
Walmsley, however, was to continue the work that he had begun in creating a new type of intelligence, professionalising Britain's intelligence services. The German Section produced their last report on 6 May 1945, but the Director General of PWE, Robert Bruce Lockhart had already persuaded the Joint Intelligence Committee to reprieve them from the blanket decision to "liquidate all sectors and regions wthin PWE" (p.238). Lockhart successfully argued that their experience would be"indispensable" in the production of handbooks and personality profiles for the post-war government: "In essence the plans made for the future of the PWE represented the continuation of the Executive, but under the guise of the Foreign Office Research Department. It would be staffed by the experts from the PWE... The plan was to keep together the organisation which represented the 'new type' of intelligence, but for operational purposes separate the ongoing and important work of the German Section (which was also to continue with their analysis of Russian propaganda etc.)... On 20th January, 1946 Walsmley produced a document describing his experience in Section D' (SIS) in 1938, Electra House and finally the PWE. He wrote this just "a few hours before my intelligence unit pupates - to reawaken in a new guise under the Research Department of the Foreign Office". Thus the PWE intelligence work of the Germany and Austria Section was continued, retained with the same people, expertise and the facility for the continued study of Russian propaganda" (p.241).
Beyond this, Arnold Robert Walmsley (1912 - 2000) lived perhaps a typically obscure life. From public records we find very little, other than that in the 1939 England and Wales Register he is described as "temporary civil servant" living in Luton, just 10 miles from Woburn Abbey. He marries in Marylebone in 1944, and in the late 40s he was living in Greenwich. Surprisingly a slightly fuller picture emerges from his entry, under the nom de plume of Nicholas Roland, in Reginald's Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature: a Checklist (Vol. 2, p.1053). Here, from the style and content, no doubt gleaned from Who's Who, we find that he was born in Sri Lanka, the son of an Anglican priest; he took an MA from Hertford College, Oxford in 1935; from 1935 to 1938 he was a private secretary in Vienna: "with the British Foreign Office, 1939-1945" and "the British Diplomatic Service, 1946-70, serving in Jerusalem, Khartoum and Lebanon"; he received the MBE in 1946 "employed in a Department on the Foreign Office", and CMG in 1963, "lately Foreign Office". As Roland he wrote three novels, The Great One (1967), Natural Causes (1969), and Who Came by Night (1971). The first was warmly welcomed by the Kirkus Review as an "original satire on the neo-imperialism of British diplomacy and the making of African statehood" in which the " points are all barbed and delicately placed", while the New York Times was similarly encouraging, seeing it as "a delightful change from the feverish, shrill, perpetual-motion type of humor that abounds in contemporary American fiction", describing Walmsley as "pseudononymous Englishman in Government service, Mr. Roland who writes in the spirit of Evelyn Waugh and the early Aldous Huxley". The Spectator dismissed his next, Natural Causes, as "light rather than slight, and improbable, an unserious satirical comment on the pursuit of holiness", a "pleasantly-written piece of inconsequence", while two years later the Financial Times reviewer considered Walmsley/Roland's last novel, an "actional reworking of biblical material", to be "both scholarly and extremely readable", noting that the author takes an "orthodox Christian viewpoint", but as a former Consul in Jerusalem "his sympathies arc wide, and his knowledge of the religio- philosophical background deep". This in a column where John Le Carré's Naïve and Sentimental Lover is dismissed as "over-long and self-indulgent". How Walmsley occupied the last 30 years of his life following his variable success as a novelist remains in genuine obscurity.
As has been remarked PWE, have been badly served by history, for example in his The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second World War, Thaddeus Holt makes only two direct references to PWE. Once remarking on PWE and SOE as "organizations reporting to the War Cabinet" which "were to be important to deception work" (p.167), and again to make reference to Dennis Wheatley's visits as PWE liaison on the London Controlling Section "to get the new line (and stop by Harrod's, Jackson's, and Fortnum & Mason to shop at opening time their limited supply of unrationed luxury items)" (p.202). Garnett's "chronique scandaleuse" (Garnett, p.xiv) makes scant mention of PWE's intelligence work, concentrating more on the more eye-catching propaganda efforts, and engrossing interdepartmental manoeuvres. We do learn that in the first instance "no arrangement had been made for intelligence" and that Walmsley's pitch to continue Electra House's fortnightly analyses of German propaganda was initially turned down as "Mr Valentine Williams war correspondent, popular novelist, and later Hollywood screenwriter having abandoned a posting in the Washington embassy in 1941 did not think the idea a practical or useful one" (pp.15-6). There are no direct references to the work of the German and Austrian Region - Intelligence Section, or to these reports thereafter. Walmsley himself merits around a dozen mentions, most often as providing support to particular propaganda efforts, for example during the V-weapon campaigns, as well as giving a quite riotous picture of life at Woburn - "Those were the days in which whole gallon jars of sherry and bottles of gin enlivened the evening working hours... somewhat to the surprise of regular civil servants who visited us from time to time" (p.31), and a piquant character sketch of his notorious Sefton Delmer.
Primary source material on the inner workings of the PWE is thinly spread. The PRO holds a small group of these reports, some 147 pages, 7 or 8 issues, covering a period through late 1944 to early '45, the Hoover Institution has a single copy from 1944; in his autobiography, Black Boomerang, Sefton Delmer reports that a large number of PWE's files were destroyed after the war. This substantial and consistent run of the section's pioneering secret report offers detailed insight into the motives and methodologies behind their groundbreaking work, to the great credit of the sadly undervalued pioneers of the PWE's intelligence arm.
Foolscap, 26 mimeographed typescript reports, one a slightly variant duplicate, over 450 pages in all, each stapled at top left, most with date-stamped P.W.E. SECRET classification overslips docketed as the copies of Dr. Klibansky; hole-punched and retained with treasury tags in contemporary manila light card folder, folder titled in pencil inverted on the lower panel which also has a typed card suspension file label, title as above, stapled to it.
The folder a little handled, contents lightly toned, very good indeed.
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