Helen Fry – Digging for Victory: Refugees in the Pioneer Corps

Dr Helen Fry’s talk on the Pioneer Corps is now available on the Wiener library’s YouTube channel.

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The London Cage

Kitchener families – especially those with relatives involved in military intelligence operations in the UK and overseas – may want to take a look at Helen Fry’s The London Cage

“In 1940, behind locked doors on one of London’s most exclusive streets, British intelligence discreetly established a clandestine prison. It was called the London Cage, and was run by military intelligence officer Colonel Alexander Scotland whose home was at Bourne End in Buckinghamshire. 

At the London Cage, German prisoners of war, including top-ranking Nazis, were subjected to ‘special intelligence treatment’ designed to break their will and make them spill their secrets. The stakes could hardly be higher: the very outcome of the Second World War might hinge on obtaining information that the detainees were determined to withhold. At the end of the war, the interrogators turned to the grim task of uncovering the truth about German war crimes, and the cage was transformed into a crucial centre for gathering evidence against those who had perpetrated atrocities. Until now, what happened there has remained a closely guarded secret. Helen’s book reveals the full details of life inside the cage as well as the subsequent efforts to hide them.”

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Trent Park Museum: Home of the Secret Listeners

Trent Park at Cockfosters, North London, has been formally recognised by Historic England as ‘of considerable national and international historical interest which bears comparison to the code-breaking work at Bletchley Park.’ 

However, Trent Park’s secrets have remained hidden in the former home of Sir Philip Sassoon for over 70 years. 

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Intelligence officer Ernst Lederer – grandfather of actress Helen Lederer

During World War II, British intelligence housed captured German generals and senior officers at Trent Park. In a technological first, this vast mansion was bugged and an army of ‘secret listeners’ recorded the private conversations of top-ranking Nazis. These secret listeners were German-Jewish refugees who had fled Hitler and were now working for British intelligence. The majority of them, like Fritz Lustig and Eric Mark, had started out in the Pioneer Corps, “digging for victory”. Their chance to make a difference began in 1943, when 103 refugee Pioneer soldiers transferred to the Intelligence Corps and to the clandestine bugging operation. 

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Secret listener, Eric Mark
“So much progress has already been made towards realising this new museum. And it is beholden on us to provide a lasting tribute to the men and women who worked here in the utmost secrecy. Now the nation can honour their legacy and never forget.” 

Dr Helen Fry, historian and Deputy Chair of the Trust

The Grade II mansion house at Trent Park is now being transformed into a museum to honour the work of the secret listeners.

You can read more about this exciting project here: www.trentparkmuseum.org.uk

Recreating the ‘upstairs/downstairs’ world of the secret listeners  

© Douglas Ingram

Trent Park is the last and only national site where the story of the secret listeners of WWII can now be told.

Materials and images on this page: permission for use kindly granted by Dr Helen Fry, Deputy Chair of the Trent Park Museum Trust