Ultra secret blown by careless talk – May 1940

Apr 2014
259
Liverpool, England
Valiant Wings, Norman Franks p. 219-22. 26 May 1940. British Intelligence had reason to believe that a conference of about twenty senior Luftwaffe officers was being held at the Chateau Roumont near Ochampes airfield, now being used by the Germans. The result was that ten Battles from 103, 142 and 150 Squadrons were sent to attack the chateau soon after 10.0am, each with several 250-lb bombs. An escort of Hurricanes was provided by 1 and 73 Squadrons. The attack was carried out in foul weather with varying success and some losses.

The Aeroplane of 7 June 1940: “Much mystery surrounded the target allotted to a Squadron of bombers – presumably Blenheims – on May 26. It was located in a clearing in a wood and was strongly defended by A.A. guns. Bombs were seen to fall on the target. A New York message named this objective as Hitler’s headquarters, but speculation on this point is irregular if it comes from a British source.”

Great Interruption Laurence Irving (RAF Intelligence, in Paris) p. 54-5. Notes flap when reports of raid on a secret target appeared in press. Traced to a Reuter’s correspondent’s dispatch dated 28 May. “Special target bombed – raid followed London tip that interesting happenings probable at target.” Apparently one of the pilots had spilled the beans to him. Irving attributes the raid to “an assignation between Field Marshal Goering and his generals.”

British Intelligence in the Second World War, F. H. Hinsley and others, vol. 1, p. 148. “The first Enigma decrypts containing intelligence of operational value were obtained on 26 May when they gave eight hours’ notice of the time and place of a meeting between the Chiefs of Staff of four GAF Fliegerkorps – and there was much disappointment at GC and CS that the meeting was not attacked.”

Can anyone shed further light on these events? The last entry is hard to reconcile with the others. It would have been unfortunate if the Ultra secret had been blown so early, but if there was in fact an important meeting taking place when the chateau was attacked the Germans would surely have twigged that there had been a leak somewhere without having to rely on the Allied press.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,768
Dispargum
These kinds of inconsistencies are very common when dealing with classified information. The truth never comes out in pure form which would most likely require documentation which is easily controlled. What seeps out in bits and pieces is rumor and gossip which is what you have here. There are other inconsistencies in your four accounts. For instance was the target attacked by Battles or Blenheims? Was Goering present or not? One source describes the target as Hitler's headquarters. The problem with the history of military intelligence is that "those who know don't say and those who say don't know." The disappointment that the target was not attacked may have actually been disappointment that the target was not successfully attacked, but once the rumor mill finished with the story and the historian heard it and wrote it up the word 'successfully' had disappeared from the story.
 
Apr 2014
259
Liverpool, England
These kinds of inconsistencies are very common when dealing with classified information. The truth never comes out in pure form which would most likely require documentation which is easily controlled. What seeps out in bits and pieces is rumor and gossip which is what you have here. There are other inconsistencies in your four accounts. For instance was the target attacked by Battles or Blenheims? Was Goering present or not? One source describes the target as Hitler's headquarters. The problem with the history of military intelligence is that "those who know don't say and those who say don't know." The disappointment that the target was not attacked may have actually been disappointment that the target was not successfully attacked, but once the rumor mill finished with the story and the historian heard it and wrote it up the word 'successfully' had disappeared from the story.
There is some very fair comment here. However, it seems clear that the aircraft used were Battles - the Blenheims are admittedly speculation. Given the absence of any record of sudden mortality among senior Luftwaffe staff officers it certainly appears that the raid was not very successful - or perhaps the meeting was not taking place as planned..
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,768
Dispargum
Something else just occurred to me. The inconsistencies in these different accounts could be British disinformation. You're absolutely right that if the Germans thought their codes had been broken they would change their encryption, and the British would lose an important source of intelligence. So the British leaked to the press certain clues suggesting their source of information was something else, not Enigma. At least two of the accounts above are based on press reporting.

If the Enigma intercepts just said it was a meeting of generals, then by saying it was Hitler's HQ or that Goering would attend, the British tried to make the Germans think that British intelligence was not very good and had just been lucky that day. "Hitler's HQ" or "Goering is coming" might be the kind of mistake a human spy might make, but a mistake like that wouldn't be contained in a radio message. Deliberately adding these kinds of false details and leaking them to the press was a way of hinting to the Germans that the source of the intelligence was something other than Enigma.
 
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