Adolf Hitler… in a house in Perpignan, France


A RECENT TALK ABOUT CONSPIRACY THEORIES surrounding Adolf Hitler at the UK National Archives (1) focused on the enduring theories about his possible survival after April 1945.

As a prelude to the talk, the Archives exhibited copies of some documents that related to rumours – or ‘alternative facts’ concerning Herr Hitler.

One concerned him living in Perpignan two weeks after D-Day 1944.

An image of The National Archives copy of Alfred Duff Cooper’s signal alerting the Secretary of State to the fact that he had been told that Adolf Hitler was in Perpignan.

According to various internet sources the general story has been in the public domain for a while (2) (3) (4) but is interesting and illustrates what with hindsight are clearly outlandish rumours have a way of gaining credence in times of conflict or under other pressures.

Further research on the Internet brought up a memo to the Prime Minister from General Hastings Ismay, Churchill’s senior military advisor at the time mentioning the plot and Alfred Duff Cooper the British Ambassador to France (then based in Algeria). (5)

Hasting Ismay’s memo to Churchill concerning a letter from SOE and Duff Cooper’s signal on the subject of the killing of Adolf Hitler. Image from

In his diaries (6) Duff Cooper notes that on 19 June 1944 a French army Colonel Dur (who was on the staff of General Georges Catroux, the commander of Charles De Gaulle’s Free French Forces in North Africa).

Dur told the British Ambassador that the Adolf Hitler was in Perpignan until 24 June, the following Saturday, that he was there to assess the military situation and to reconnoitre escape routes to Spain if the war situation required.

The French colonel proposed this would be an ideal opportunity to ‘bomb’ the house where the Führer was staying – disguised as a Polish Jew.

Perpignan had been occupied by German troops since 12 November 1942 and by June 1944 following the landings in Normandy, allied troops were expected to land in the region. Operation DRAGOON – the start of the Liberation of Southern France began on 15 August with troops coming ashore between Hyeres and Cannes.

Although Dur had many details concerning Hitler in France – including that he was staying in a house at 2 Avenue Wilson – Duff Cooper was not entirely convinced.

Dur refused to name his source or to adequately explain why he had come direct to the British rather than taken the matter through his own French Army chain of command.

Duff Cooper spoke to Commander Francis Brooks Richards (7) who was head of ‘F’ Section SOE Algiers. That evening he came to see Duff Cooper and said that SOE were concerned regarding planning an attempt on the Führer and how this would affect British policy, whether the attack would make a martyr of Hitler and indeed if he had the authority to start making a plan. The Ambassador said he would take responsibility to authorise the plan.

The next day (Wednesday  20 June) Duff Cooper was having further doubts and could not reconcile Hitler being away from Berlin so soon after the Allies had landed in northern France.

Meanwhile Brooks Richards told Dur that an aircraft was standing by – but that the operation would only proceed if Dur revealed his sources.

The Head of ‘F’ Section, Algiers had also spoken to Henri Frénay a senior French Resistance figure who had fled to Algiers in July 1943 and it was decided that Dur must reveal his sources for the sake of credibility.

When this was put to him again Dur asked for 24 hours to think the matter over. And then promptly disappeared.

Duff Cooper concluded that Dur had come up with the plan as a way of revenging himself on enemies in the southern French town.

Meanwhile the General Hastings Ismay had received both Duff Cooper’s signal and (it appears from his letter to Churchill) information from SOE on the possible assassination plan.

It’s interesting that (in the same letter to Churchill) he remarks that the view from the British armed forces Chiefs of Staff was that ‘it was almost an advantage that Hitler should remain in control of German strategy, having regard to the blunders that he has made but that on the wider point of view, the sooner he was got out of the way the better’,


(1) Hitler Lives! Alternative facts and conspiracy theories – a talk by Sir Richard J Evans, FBA, FRSL, FRHistS, FLSW, President Wolfson College, Cambridge and Provost of Gresham College, London, 30 August 2017.

(2) – retrieved 3 September 2017

(3),703094.php – retrieved 3 September 2017

(4) – retrieved 3 September 2017

(5) – retrieved 3 September 2017

(6) The Duff Cooper Diaries, 1915 – 1951, edited by John Julius Norwich – retrieved 6 September 2017

(7) – retrieved 6 September 2017


Part way through an incomplete story


IN 1999 IWM ACQUIRED THE REMAINS OF AN IMPERIAL JAPANESE NAVY MITSUBISHI A6M3 ‘ZERO’ FIGHTER, the sort of aircraft that was launched from aircraft carriers to attack Pearl Harbor and which fought so tenaciously in later battles.

Japanese Mitsubishi Zero A6M3 Imperial Naval fighter IWM Catalogue number: 2012.220.2
Image from:

Placed in store at IWM Duxford it would wait until IWM London reopened after modernisation in 2014 before it was put on public display in the Second World War Gallery at IWM London almost (except for some conservation work on its fragile frame) as it was found. (1)

Built around May 1943 this example was served as assigned to Naval Air Group 252 at Taroa airfield on Maloelap Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific where the Air Group were based between February and July 1943. (2)

Damaged in combat – repair patches can be seen on the fuselage around the lower cockpit area – it was finally decided that the aircraft was beyond repair given the resources available at the time and so it was probably stripped of usable parts and then dumped at the edge of the jungle. (3)

Forgotten after the Islands fell to the Americans and with the jungle camouflaging it better than any human hand ever could, that should have been the end of the story.

But of course it wasn’t.

The airframe was recovered by John and Tom Sterling and their team in 1991, along with several other Japanese aircraft. Some of these were used to rebuild another Zero (A6M3 3148) which was placed on public display at the Evergreen Aviation Museum, Oregon before being sold on. (4) (5)

Work underway to conserve IWM’s Mitsubishi Zero A6M3 Imperial Naval fighter at Duxford, Cambridgeshire. Image from:

Interestingly while the IWM airframe was being conserved at Duxford the dried remains of a Lotus flower – a Buddhist symbol of enlightenment – were found in the cockpit.(6)

That together with a British bullet lodged in the forward part of the airframe (7) point to a fascinating and as yet incomplete story.









Mallock and Paulin – a story of the Royal Tank Regiment Memorial in Whitehall Court, London


SCULPTOR VIVIEN MALLOCK FRBS is well known for her public and private figurative work, much of which is of military or political subjects.

Working mainly in bronze her sculpting career started almost 30 years ago with a commission from the Museum of Army Flying in Hampshire, England to sculpt portraits of a number of well-known Second World War aviators to mark the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Since then she has produced a wide number of pieces ranging from small animal and bird pieces, through statues and busts of subjects as diverse as the Queen Mother, English football manager Brian Clough and player Arthur Wharton – the first professional black football player in the world – to military commanders.

She also sculpted the ‘Closing the Gates’ piece at Hougoumont Farm on the Waterloo battlefield site in Belgium unveiled on the bi-centenary of the battle in 2015 (1).

As well as these ‘heroic’ pieces, her work is often reflective such as the Soldier of World War One at Tidworth in Hampshire and Soldier of World War Two; pieces that show respectively a WW1 British soldier returning home and a seated soldier resting, having read a letter.

Placed outside the D-Day Museum in Southsea, near Portsmouth this second work acts as a counterpoint to the statue of Field Marshal Montgomery (a second casting of another of her works installed at Colleville in Normandy) nearby.


Her Royal Tank Regiment Memorial in London was unveiled by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth on 13 June 2000 and depicts the crew – Commander, Main Gunner, Loader, Driver and Machine Gunner of a British ‘Comet’ tank from the late Second World War (2).

The sculpture is based on a maquette made by fellow artist and sculptor George Henry Paulin ARSA in 1953 and in her interpretation are approximately 11/2 life size.


Mr Paulin at work on the 51st (Highland) Division Monument before its installation at Beaumont-Hamel

Like Mallock, Paulin made many examples of public art, including those with a military theme. Having served in the First World War he worked on a number of war memorials including the massive 51st (Highland) Division Monument (unofficially known as ‘the Stane Jack’) (3) as well as those in a number of Scottish towns.


The legend at the base of the RTR Memorial (‘Through mud and blood to the green fields beyond’) is an interpretation of the Regimental colours of brown, red and green and signify the ‘journey’ of tanks in battle (4).

When the Tank Corp (the direct antecedent of the Royal Tank Regiment was first formed in 1917 it had no Corp colours. Just prior to the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917 Brigadier General Hugh Elles, Commanding the Tank Corps in France wanted to make his tank visible to his troops.  Obtaining some coloured remnants his wife sewed them together to make a flag that could be flown from ‘Hilda’ Mk IV tank and the lead tank of ‘H’ Battalion his selected command vehicle.

The original flag in is the Tank Museum’s collection at Bovingdon in Dorset, England (5).

Paulin is said to have modelled the Commander figure in the maquette on his own son. It is also said that  when she came to make the finished sculpture, Mallock  used Paulin’s grandson (himself as former member of the British Army) as the model for the same figure (6).


(1) retrieved 13 July 2017

(2) retrieved 13 July 2017

(3) retrieved 13 July 2017

(4) retrieved 13 July 2017

(5) retrieved 13 July 2017

 (6) retrieved 13 July 2017

A significant little strip of paper – the obituary of three British prisoners of war shot at Stalag VIII B on 19 June 1943


THE SLIP OF PAPER SHOWN BELOW was taken by RAF prisoner of war, 516826 Sergeant Ernest George Rawlinson of No. 952 Squadron, RAF Balloon Command, from a notice board at Stalag VIII B POW camp outside Lamsdorf, now within the boundaries of Poland and about 350 km southwest of Warsaw.

The obituary notice kept by Sergeant Eric Rawlinson RAF relating to the shooting of three British prisoners of war while escaping from Stalag VIII B. Image © R Maddox 2017.

The site was the location of one of Germany’s biggest POW camps and had originally held men captured during the Franco-Prussian War (1850 – 51) as well as housing prisoners in World War 1.

During the Second World War Polish and then British and Commonwealth (together with Soviet and men from all the Occupied European countries) were incarcerated there. (1)

According to his Liberated Prisoner of War Questionnaire, Ernest Rawlinson was captured at Dieppe on August 19 1942, having enlisted in the Royal Air Force in December 1933.

He writes that he was ‘Slightly injured’ when captured and after a period in hospital (and an initial spell at the ‘Dulag Luft’ aircrew interrogation centre near Frankfurt) he was sent to Stalag Luft VIII B sometime in September 1942. (2)

In June 1943 he and at least one other prisoner – Sergeant Alan Ronald Cook, RAF who was part of a Vickers Wellington crew from No. 101 Squadron RAF that crash landed near Mannheim with mechanical problems on 28 August 1942 while on a low-level raid to Nuremburg (3) (4) (5) – planned an escape.

They may have been joined by Sapper Douglas Hugh Arthur of 42 Field Company, Royal Engineers and Private Albert Francis Kitchener Parker, 2 Battalion, the Gloucestershire Regiment (6).

On or about 19 June they made their attempt.

Cook made it past the camp gate with (presumably) fake identity documents. Rawlinson was stopped.

A man of few works. Sergeant Rawlinson’s handwriting succinctly indicates that he attempted to escape. It appears that the details were filled in by his interviewer (at or shortly after his interview) and who also pinned the obituary notice Rawlinson gave him to the questionnaire. Image © R Maddox 2017.

What happened next is not clear but Cook and the two soldiers were shot while escaping, their deaths promulgated in an obituary notice dated 30 June 1943 and posted on a camp notice board.

Rawlinson took it down.

Coincidentally, on 5 June 2017 – almost 74 years after the three prisoners were shot and the notice was typed – I stumbled across Sergeant Rawlinson’s questionnaire.

The pin holding the slip of paper was tarnished and slightly rusty.

I look at it for a while.

Then I gently pulled it out, slowly unfolding the slip of paper Ernest had probably kept hidden until he had sat with an interviewer from Military Intelligence on April 17 1945, completed his form and (so it seems as part of the section is written in another hand) was coaxed to tell the story of his attempted escape and the deaths of his three fellow prisoners.

It’s easy to imagine the tension and sadness in that room on that Tuesday in April as Rawlinson recalled what had happened.

Perhaps only when his story was committed to paper, did he shift slightly in his seat and pull out his wallet, glanced one last time at the little folded strip of paper and handed it across the desk.

It’s easy too to image the intelligence officer unfolding it, reading it and perhaps asking if he could keep it and then – when Ernest had said his goodbyes and the interview was over and as the office door closed quietly- picking up a bright shiny pin from the dish on his desk and attaching the strip to the completed questionnaire.

And finally it’s easy to imagine Sergeant Ernest George Rawlinson RAF, walking down the stairs of the ministry building with a mixture of sadness and a feeling of accomplishment, that now, almost two years later the story of the deaths of Sergeant Alan Ronald Cook, Sapper Douglas Hugh Arthur and Private Albert Francis Kitchener Parker was finally known to the authorities.

In my mind’s eye he stands in the doorway for a moment, ignored by the people behind him briskly walking by with their files of papers, the April sun on his face.

Then he puts on his hat, and strides out into the London streets.


Carefully I let the paper strip fold itself again. I put it back as I found it, making sure the pin went back in the same holes.

It was the least I could do.



The three shot men now lie not far from each other in Krakow Rakowicki Cemetery. Search for their details at  or use the individual links below.

Although this account has Arnold Cook‘s rank as Sergeant RAF he was apparently promoted to Flight Sergeant in the Supplement to The London Gazette dated 14 January 1944, page 279 (retrieved 15 August 2017).

This is the rank used by CWGC, shown on his page at the CWGC website and also on the Grave Registration and Grave Concentration documents relating to him and downloadable from his CWGC page.

Interestingly he is the only one of the three that is shown as ‘K/A’ (killed in action) on all his documents.,%20ALAN%20RONALD – retrieved 15 August 2017

Documents relating to Private Parker at his CWGC page (Grave Concentration Forms – downloadable from the page) show him as having ‘Died’ .,%20ALBERT%20FRANCIS%20KITCHENER – retrieved 15 August 2017

Sapper Arthur is listed as a correction to an ‘Unknown’ serviceman and having ‘Died’ on the Grave Concentration documents relevant to him dated 18 January and 25 January 1949.,%20DOUGLAS%20HUGH  – retrieved 15 August 2017

Perhaps Ernest’s information went some way to giving Sapper Arthur back his identity and to again showing how both he and Private Parker had their lives ended.


(1)  – retrieved 17 August 2017

(2) WO 344/264/1 – The UK National Archives, Kew England

(3) – retrieved 17 August 2017

(4) – retrieved 17 August 2017

(5) – retrieved 17 August 2017

(6) Commonwealth War Graves Commission website – Find War Dead – various pages retrieved 15 August 2017

Illuminated by a Chance Light…


They are always won by ordinary people and mundane things – like boots and ball-bearings (also known as roller bearings).

Searching IWM Collections online – as usual for something totally different – I came across the image below of a British De Havilland ‘Mosquito’.

This type of aircraft was well known as the ‘Wooden Wonder’ (the construction process used much plywood) and variants served with the RAF and Royal Navy as day and night fighters, fast light bombers and reconnaissance aircraft. It also served with the air arms of many foreign countries.

This however is an example flying with British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) Fast Freight Flight, taking off from RAF Leuchars in Scotland on a night flight to Sweden.


Illuminated by a Chance Light, ‘civilianised’ Mosquito FB Mark VI, G-AGGF (formerly HJ720) of BOAC, taxies onto the flare path at RAF Leuchars, Fife, prior to a night flight to Stockholm. G-AGGF was lost on 17 August 1943 when it crashed at Invermark, killing its crew. Its remains were found on 8 September. © IWM (CH 10664)


The same image as above but digitally enhanced to show the mix of camouflage and large civilian markings. This aircraft has light undersides but others in the Flight were painted black below the camouflage upper surfaces. © IWM (CH 10664)

The BOAC’s Fast Freight Flight had an interesting and somewhat secretive history, being for passenger and freight service (as well as ‘courier flights’) to and from neutral Sweden.

These flights were ostensibly civilian operations using crews of the Merchant Air Service, many of whom had previously served in the RAF to deliver a passenger and freight service.

But the aircraft on these flights – civilianised military types such as Hudsons, Liberators and Whitleys with the aircraft’s civil registration painted large on the fuselage, upper and lower wings complete with red, white and blue underlining – flew such people and things as diverse as diplomats, intelligence agents and evading British servicemen and of course ball-bearings (1) (2).

Sweden (as a neutral country and perfectly entitled to do so) was also trading with Germany and supplying them with… ball-bearings.

And of course ball-bearings were so vital to the war economy that the US Army Air Force attacked a ball-bearing factory at Schweinfurt in southern Germany from bases in England twice in 1943, enduring high losses of both machines and men.

Although Sweden was neutral, Norway had been occupied by Germany since June 1940 and although the BOAC flights were marked as civilian aircraft they were still from a country at war with Germany and legitimate targets

Luftwaffe aircraft based in Norway were a constant danger and because of this the BOAC aircraft often flew in bad weather as this could hide them. But it didn’t always work out that way.

On 17 August 1943 the aircraft pictured above crashed near Easter Balloch in Scotland shortly after take-off, having apparently suffered an instrument malfunction (3) (4). Both crew members – Captain Louis Armstrong Wilkins (5) and his radio operator/navigator Harold Beaumont (6) – were killed.

The aircraft was missing until it was found by a gamekeeper on 8 September 1943.

It was the airline’s first Mosquito loss.


In what appears to be a staged picture a passenger (right), who has been carried in the Mosquito bomb-bay from Stockholm congratulates Captain Wilkins and his navigator on their safe arrival at RAF Leuchars. Captain Wilkins (together with his Radio Operator Harry Beaumont who MAY be in this image but is not credited) would lose his life when his aircraft crashed on 17 August 1943. Note the BOAC ‘Speedbird’ logo on the crew entry door above Wilkins’ head, the female member of BOAC or the Air Merchant Service, the faired over gun ports above the passenger’s head and the open bomb bay. © IWM (CH 20958)


I was struck by the ‘Illuminated by a Chance light’ reference in the IWM caption and found that Chance Brothers Glassworks innovated and made a variety of glass products ranging from lighthouse optics (7) through rolled plate glass for shop fronts, to cathode ray tubes, laboratory and medical glass products, dinning ware and even souvenir ash trays and the like.

Chance Lights runway illuminators were positioned to guide approaching pilots to the threshold and the end of the runway (6).


And you think Easy Jet is bad! A passenger travelling in the bomb bay of a De Havilland Mosquito of BOAC, on the fast freight service between Leuchars, Fife and Stockholm. The bomb bay was apparently felt lined and the passenger was given a blanket – little comfort when (as on occasions it apparently did) the bomb bay opened of its own accord or the passenger had to be ditched because of German air activity. © IWM (CH 14389)



September 5 1915… 1940… 1986 and 1987… how strange Fate can be for one man



The German Military Cemetery at Cannock Chase, England.
Image from Image copyright rests with ‘A Bit About Britain’. Please contact the site for further details.

AVIATION HISTORIAN ANDY SAUNDERS documents a fascinating story in his book ‘Finding the Foe(1).

Briefly, it goes like this…

Helmut Thomas Strobl (or Ströbl) was born on 5 September 1915 in Spittal, Austria.

During the Battle of Britain, Leutnant Helmut Strobl and his Messerschmitt bf 109E-1 fighter were shot down on 5 September 1940 by Sergeant Charles Alexander Lyall (known as ‘Alex’) Hurry RAF, of No. 43 Squadron.

Sergeant Hurry had taken off from RAF Tangmere near Chichester in Sussex in the mid-afternoon.

Flying Hawker Hurricane P3386 FT-E he encountered a number of Messerschmitt fighters near Maidstone in Kent.

According to his combat report, (2) – one of four in his name at the UK National Archives – he singled out one enemy aircraft from a group of five, (this group being part of a larger force of 30 – 40 aircraft) and started his attack as the other four in the group turned their attention to him.

Still following his quarry, Hurry finally caught the Messerschmitt which crashed not far from Appledore Station (near Dungeness a wild, windswept part of Kent).

On fire and in a vertical dive, the doomed aircraft crashed into marshland and rapidly sank.

Undisturbed for almost half a century, the remains of the pilot and his aircraft – Messerschmitt Bf 109E-1 Wk-Nr 3627 of 5./JG 27 – were discovered on 5 September 1986 and the process of an inquest and tracing any surviving family started.

In a departure from the accepted norm – where newly discovered Luftwaffe aircrew are buried at the Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof Cannock Chase (the central German Military Cemetery in Staffordshire, England) – Helmut Strobl was repatriated to Austria.

On 5 September 1987 – 30 years ago today – he was buried in Kolbnitz, Austria where his family had made their home.

And Sergeant Hurry?

A pre-war member of the RAF, Sergeant Hurry had joined as an Aircraft Apprentice before qualifying as a Metal Rigger in 1934. In 1936 he applied for pilot training, beginning his training in 1938.

On 14 September, just over a week his victory over Leutnant Strobl he too was shot down spending a period as a patient of Archibald MacIndoe, the well-known plastic surgeon.

He returned to duty in a variety of posts until discharged from the RAF in 1946.

He moved to Canada in 1970, where he died in 1995. (3)


(1) ‘Finding the Foe’ by Andy Saunders, published by Grub Street, 2010.