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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Hitler´s Hangmen: The Secret German Plot to Kill Churchill

German prisoners of war in the UK had ambitious plans for December 1944.

Years of research by retired Queen´s Counsel Brian Lett has led him to present spectacular conclusions about German plans for the UK connected to the German 1944 Ardennes campaign. This book is of special interest both to those into late German plans and fans of exploring WWII places. 

Recently I have reviewed two other books by Brian Lett that have expanded my knowledge of WWII special operations, see my blog posts "A Deniable Operation Under the Swedish Flag" and "SOE:s Mastermind". Here I will review Hitler´s Hangmen: The Secret German Plot to Kill Churchill, a 2019 book by Lett about British fascists, Axis POWs in the UK and how these, possibly even working together, might have affected world history during the German 1944 Ardennes offensive.

Having practiced law for almost half a century it is no wonder that Brian Lett begins his book with a thorough explanation of the Vehmic court, a German punishment court with medieval origins. This vigilante court system was revived among German POWs, also in Britain. Vehmic "justice" seems to have made many German POWs feel that the Third Reich was present also in very small and rural British locations. Lett has visited and photographed a number of these German POW places, and the book will surely inspire several readers to themselves visit them. Few camps are as unchanged as Camp 21 in Scottish Comrie ("British Colditz"), but I must say that even the rather small traces that remain of Camp 17 in Lodge Moor, Sheffield, hold a strange attraction (I confess to being a bit fascinated by WWII-related sites, my latest book is about visiting 200 WWII sites in Sweden).

Now, most readers will be aware of the British Union of Fascists (BUF) under Oswald Mosley - and the BUF certainly is part of this book - but Brian Lett shows that Mosley at the time was only one of several influential fascists in British society. Lett paints portraits also of British fascists like Arnold Leese and his Imperial Fascist League, and MP Jock Ramsay and his Right Club. The latter seems to have had special opportunities to cause serious damage. 

Considering the information that Brian Lett has provided about British fascists I would say that most (or even all?) authors outside Britain have underestimated the original British fascist groups and are largely ignorant of the Right Club.

Another reason to read Brian Lett´s latest book is that he writes eloquently about characters like the head of Churchill´s personal security, Detective Inspector Walter Thompson, and the officer of the German Army who became the head of the London Interrogation Centre (London Cage), Colonel Alexander Scotland.    

Well, what evidence does the author present to justify the sensational subtitle of this book, The Secret German Plot to Kill Churchill? Quite a lot hangs on the plans developed in the Devizes Camp in Wiltshire and I would like to know more about the interrogation team from the US XVIII Airborne Corps that discovered the Devizes plan. To begin with I will read the whole book one more time, not least for the sheer pleasure, but then I hope to some day get more details both about the interrogators and the interrogated.

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