The London Cage
November 12, 2005 8:16 AM   Subscribe

The London Cage. Kensington Palace Gardens is one of the most exclusive addresses in the world. Between July 1940 and September 1948 three magnificent houses there were home to one of Great Britain'smost secret military establishments: the London office of the Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre, known colloquially as the London Cage. It was run by MI19, the section of the War Office responsible for gleaning information from enemy prisoners of war, and few outside this organisation knew exactly what went on beyond the single barbed-wire fence that separated the three houses from the busy streets and grand parks of west London. The London Cage was used partly as a torture centre, inside which large numbers of German officers and soldiers were subjected to systematic ill-treatment. In total 3,573 men passed through the Cage, and more than 1,000 were persuaded to give statements about war crimes. A number of German civilians joined the servicemen who were interrogated there up to 1948. More inside.
posted by matteo (12 comments total)
(chief interrogator) "Scotland went on to argue that the Red Cross need not be admitted, because his prisoners were either civilians, or "criminals within the armed forces", and neither, he said, were protected by the Geneva convention. Should the Red Cross be allowed inside the Cage, he added, he would instruct the RAF to stop sending him prisoners suspected of involvement in the Stalag Luft III murders. "The interrogation of these criminals must proceed in Germany under conditions more closely related to police methods than to Geneva convention principles."
Furthermore, he wrote: "The secret gear which we use to check the reliability of information obtained must be removed from the Cage before permission is given to inspect the building. This work will take a month to complete." It is unclear what sort of "secret gear" Scotland wanted to conceal from the Red Cross.
As the work of the Cage was wound down, the interrogation of prisoners was switched to a number of internment camps in Germany. And there is evidence that the treatment meted out in these places was, if anything, far worse. While many of the papers relating to these interrogation centres remain sealed at the Foreign Office, it is clear that one camp in the British zone became particularly notorious. At least two German prisoners starved to death there, according to a court of inquiry, while others were shot for minor offences.
posted by matteo at 8:18 AM on November 12, 2005

Hmmm...think I've heard this story before somewhere
posted by jsavimbi at 9:11 AM on November 12, 2005

German officers and soldiers were subjected to systematic ill-treatment
Yeah, well they started it.
posted by Joeforking at 9:26 AM on November 12, 2005

It is unclear what sort of "secret gear" Scotland wanted to conceal from the Red Cross.

prolly bugging equipment, which was illegal under the GC.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:45 AM on November 12, 2005

Today's Guardian: Revealed: UK wartime torture camp.

The British government operated a secret torture centre during the second world war to extract information and confessions from German prisoners, according to official papers which have been unearthed by the Guardian.

More than 3,000 prisoners passed through the centre, where many were systematically beaten, deprived of sleep, forced to stand still for more than 24 hours at a time and threatened with execution or unnecessary surgery.

Some are also alleged to have been starved and subjected to extremes of temperature in specially built showers, while others later complained that they had been threatened with electric shock torture or menaced by interrogators brandishing red-hot pokers. ...

The official papers, discovered in the National Archives, depict the centre as a dark, brutal place which caused great unease among senior British officers. They appear to have turned a blind eye partly because of the usefulness of the information extracted, and partly because the detainees were thought to deserve ill treatment.

posted by russilwvong at 9:55 AM on November 12, 2005

Oh no! The poor nazis.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:00 AM on November 12, 2005

Links 3-5 do not back up or contribute anything to the story. The link to MI19, for example, goes to a page that mentions that an organisation called MI19 did exist, but that's all. Do better.
posted by Hogshead at 11:11 AM on November 12, 2005

it's not true. if you bothered to read the main link, you'd know already what MI19 is (it is explained clearly), the MI5 page I linked elaborates on that -- it explains what happened to MI19. the National Archives link shows you where the Guardian found the material in the first place.
the Willian Glynn link tells you that A P Scotland wrote a book about his experiences there.

but reading the main link in its entirety is always helpful, as a general rule, before surrendering to the joys of the snark
posted by matteo at 11:44 AM on November 12, 2005

see: snark

Do better.

posted by matteo at 11:45 AM on November 12, 2005


Oh no! The poor nazis.

yeah Mayor, this guy said "poor Osama" all the time, too
posted by matteo at 11:52 AM on November 12, 2005

Interesting and disturbing post. I find it hard to believe that the British systematically tortured German POWs during the war, as it might have caused the Germans to take reprisals against British POWs. After the war was over, though .. that's a different matter, and I don't find it so hard to believe in the extreme measures allegedly taken against German POWs suspected of involvement in war crimes.

The Guardian report sounds credible, but strange things have been happening at the National Archives lately, and I think I will reserve judgement until I find out more about the nature and contents of these documents. Still, thank you, matteo, for drawing attention to this.
posted by verstegan at 4:05 PM on November 12, 2005

In 1941 my grandmother, a 45 years old a nursery school teacher, was deported to KL Ravensbrück (women's concentration camp) and survived there for 2 years after which she was transported to KL Sachsenhausen - 60 years later her final fate is still unknown. What would a 45 year old woman be in terms of a military threat to the Nazi regime I wonder? In this context the 'special treatment' of some SS and Gestapo men at the hands of the British will never equal her suffering - one crime does not deserve another some may say - I would say it was 'natural' justice!

posted by sjam at 8:42 AM on November 22, 2005

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