Englandspiel - or 'Germany Game'
August 6, 2006 3:46 PM   Subscribe

Secret agent Huub Lauwers was parachuted into occupied Holland in 1941 to relay intelligence back to London. His capture by the Germans marked the beginning of the Englandspiel, a deadly game of cat-and-mouse intelligence that cost the lives of over fifty agents. Lauwers frantically tried to inform the SOE that he had been caught, but the Baker Street Irregulars just didn't get it. Or did they? [more inside]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (16 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Eventually Lauwers cooperated with the Abwehr and continued his transmissions to England under German supervision, both to save his life and hoping to make clear to the British that he had been captured. Still, the SOE kept sending agents into Holland, most of whom were immediately "welcomed" by the Germans upon arrival. Lauwers was instructed to include a deliberate mistake in every Morse communication; while the Abwehr was aware of this, they did not know each operator's personal security check. Cleverly, he convinced the Germans that his was to render every "STOP" as "STIP" (in reality, he had agreed to make a mistake in every sixteenth letter). Lauwers even went so far as to send a telegram that started with the letters "CHT" [sic] and ended with "CAU" - about the closest you can get to just transmitting "CAUGHT" without actually doing so. So he did. With desperation mounting, and Baker Street still replying dutifully as if Lauwers was still in the open, he managed to work three instances of the word "CAUGHT" into a single telegram. And London sent more agents.

It wasn't until the late summer of 1943 that agents Sprout and Chive (Johan Ubbink and Peter Dourlein) managed to escape to Switzerland, enabling them to finally warn the British that the entire Dutch resistance radio operation had fallen to German control. Upon arrival in England they were promptly jailed on suspicion of being double agents. Still, the SOE seemed to have finally taken the hint: from that point on the English communications became much less specific in content and smaller in number.

The Englandspiel finally ended on April Fools' Day 1944 with a cheery message from the Germans :

Messrs, Blunt, Bingham and Successors, Ltd. London. In the last time you are trying to make business in the Netherlands without our assistance. We think this rather unfair in view of our long and successful co-operation as your sole agents. But never mind, when you come to pay a visit to the Continent you may be assured that you will be received with the same care and result as all those you sent before. So long!

As a result of the Englandspiel, 54 Dutch agents died, almost all of them in the concentration camp at Mauthausen. Whether the Germans were gaming the British or the other way round remains a matter of heated debate, especially considering SOE cryptographer Leo Marks' claims that he was aware of the agents' capture, but that his superiors failed to take action on his warnings. Marks' story is chronicled in the book "Between Silk and Cyanide". His German counterpart Hermann Giskes shares his side of the story in "London Calling North Pole".

See also: SOE documents at the UK National Archives, a list of agents involved (in Dutch), this post from the old Cypherpunks mailing list archives.

Huub Lauwers died on June 13, 2004.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:48 PM on August 6, 2006

posted by cortex at 4:13 PM on August 6, 2006

And fascinating.
posted by cortex at 4:16 PM on August 6, 2006

"We feel that anything less than a full explanation would evoke a flood of questions and lead to the accusation that we were trying to conceal something (as indeed we would be doing). If we are eventually driven to making a statement of some sort, we feel that the best thing would be to take a high moral line and refuse to be involved in technical, factual or historical details of this appalling story."

No matter what, they'll keep their British sense of humour. Ha. This is all a great read, thanks gnfti. I wish there was a metafilter for intelligence, sometimes. Intelfilter?
posted by blacklite at 4:19 PM on August 6, 2006

The whole crypto thing in WWII was fascinating. Each side trying to play the other without giving up the fact that they knew more then they should. At least on the British side. Who knows what the German cryptologists knew or didn't.
posted by delmoi at 4:21 PM on August 6, 2006

Goodnews, there is a BIG problem with this otherwise excellent, excellent post.

You link to an article reprinted (without permission from the Independent) on David Irving's site. Yes, that David Irving. I really, really don't like the idea of MeFi driving traffic to that guy, for any reason, just as we don't usually link to hate sites here.

I am sure that it was accidental, and, as I said, the rest of the post is great. Any way that we could get the "cost the lives of fifty agents" link removed or redirected elsewhere?
posted by blahblahblah at 4:23 PM on August 6, 2006

Erm, blahblahblah: whoa, and completely agreed. I've contacted jess to see if she can remove the link.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:40 PM on August 6, 2006

Hate site link removed. Thanks jessamyn, and blahblahblah for alerting me to that fact.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:31 PM on August 6, 2006

Great, great post. The speculation in the final two links does seem rather thin; one might imagine the British sacrificing one or a few unwitting Dutchmen if they felt it would help hide the location of the Normandy invasion, but not 40+, starting in 1942.
posted by gsteff at 5:47 PM on August 6, 2006

goodnews, I just favorited* it - thanks!

* Is that the proper word?
posted by blahblahblah at 6:19 PM on August 6, 2006

Fascinating stuff. Cheers!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:02 PM on August 6, 2006

Great stuff, thanks!
posted by rfbjames at 1:40 AM on August 7, 2006

gnfti: thanks!, my granny's brother was lt. Bukkens, caught in 42. 'll pass this on to my family
posted by borq at 2:50 AM on August 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

A fantastic post. Thanks!
posted by ob at 3:06 PM on August 7, 2006

gnfti, thanks for the excellent post.
posted by The Monkey at 6:20 PM on August 7, 2006

This is, indeed, an excellent post.
posted by OmieWise at 6:53 AM on August 8, 2006

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