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News, Comment and Updates
Posted on 08 July 2020 at 15:03 pm
In 1943 Captain Con o’Neill, Intelligence Corps, organised on his own initiative a psychological warfare campaign against German forces in North Africa. In the process he re-invented the propaganda artillery shell for leaflet dissemination, conducted prisoner of war interrogations and formulated a war establishment for a field propaganda unit. He experimented with new propaganda techniques such as man-mobile loudspeaker broadcasts with a “Portavox” and direct signalling to enemy troops across the frontline. Here is his first report sent from Tunisia back to the Political Warfare Executive in London. It highlights many of the difficulties experienced and suggestions for future campaigns. Many observations are insightful and others perhaps more controversial. After the war Con o’Neill joined the civil service becoming a distinguished diplomat.
Posted on 03 July 2020 at 16:04 pm
"The genesis and handling of the story of Oberleutnant Fenn of the German U-Boat service is of some interest as an example of the way in which Black and White propaganda can be dove-tailed and used to support each other." How both white and black propaganda combined with the exploitation of first-class intelligence sources could be used to incite disaffection amongst German U-boat officers and crews.
Posted on 03 February 2020 at 09:09 am
IRD Special Operations: An Initial Survey of the Covert Propaganda Activities of the Information Research Department by Lee Richards
Over the last year, new operational files related to the covert propaganda activities of the Information Research Department (IRD) have been released to the National Archives. IRD was set up under the Foreign Office in 1948 to counter Soviet propaganda and to form the nucleus of a new Political Warfare Executive in the event of a global war.
A large part of IRD’s work centred around providing articles and unattributable background briefings to the press and other interested individuals and grey publishing activities to counter hostile Communist propaganda and expose Soviet front organisations. It maintained indirect control of, or had close relations, with a number of international press agencies. The department also analysed Communist disinformation and propaganda activities. Close liaison was maintained with the Ministry of Defence’s Directorate of Forward Plans on psychological warfare planning and training
The Special Operations Section (SOS) conducted what were described as black operations, the production of propaganda material which claims a false origin and can be disavowed by the Her Majesty’s Government. The recent releases to the IRD archive reveal details of these black propaganda activities, particularly those undertaken throughout the 1960’s and early 1970’s.
Posted on 02 February 2020 at 10:10 am
Posted on 24 January 2020 at 21:09 pm
Sir Leslie Charles Glass was an Army officer in the Psychological Warfare Division in South East Asia in the Second World War, Director-General of Information in Cyprus during the Emergency and later Chairman of the Counter Subversion Committee. In this lecture, given at the National Defence College in March 1973, he discusses the meaning of psychological operations, gives a brief history of these activities and his thoughts for the future at a time when the Information Research Department has been severely cut back, the Northern Ireland troubles are approaching their height and the United Kingdom has joined the European Economic Area. The end of the Cold War is still not in sight and the Falkland Islands war is not foreseen.
Posted on 29 December 2019 at 15:03 pm
A full-text searchable database of rumours produced by the Underground Propaganda Committee, (UPC), between 1940 to 1945. The Committee consisted of representatives of the Political Warfare Executive, Special Operations Executive, Secret Intelligence Service, the Foreign Office and other interested parties. Rumours, code named "Sibs", were spread by word of mouth using rumour networks or through the international press. SOE became the principle agency for rumour dissemination. To learn more about the Underground Propaganda Committee and the spreading of propaganda rumours throughout the Second World War see Whispers of War by Lee Richards.
This database has been compiled by Lee Richards using the archives of PWE, SOE, the Joint Intelligence Committee, Foreign Office and Cabinet Office. Additional information has been provided by the archives of the Museum of World War II and through Freedom of Information requests. Initial work on this database began in 1988 and continues.
The database currently records over 5,500 rumours of around 9,000 produced by the UPC and other agencies. The missing rumours is mostly due to the very incomplete nature of the UPC archives, the records of the N, P, Q series of Sibs are particularly deficient. A handful of rumours still remain classified.
Posted on 25 December 2019 at 07:07 am
Remembering today George Lowther Steer (22 November 1909 – 25 December 1944). Died on this day 75 years ago.
George Steer was a journalist for 'The Times' and later the 'Daily Telegraph'. He famously reported on the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935 and the Spanish Civil war, particularly the bombing of Guernica on 26 April 1937. During the Second World War Steer organised forward propaganda in Ethiopia and then worked for the Special Operations Executive in the Middle East. In 1943 he was transferred to India and working with Alec Peterson set up the Indian Forward Broadcasting Units (IFBU). He and three others were killed in a vehicle accident on Christmas day 1944. The following letter written by Alec Peterson puts on record his valuable contribution to the forming of the Indian Field Broadcasting Units.
Posted on 18 November 2019 at 08:08 am
Posted on 15 November 2019 at 17:05 pm
Posted on 03 October 2019 at 06:06 am
Major William H Crafter’s report on psychological operations conducted in Sarawak, Borneo from April to November 1966. The report highlights problems encountered, what was done to resolve these problems; and to suggest certain improvements which could be helpful in a similar situation in the future. The report was written at the request of Information Research Department.
Posted on 29 September 2019 at 10:10 am
Chapter seven “Intelligence, Psychological and Public Relations Aspects of Internal Security Operations” of War Office pamphlet: 'Keeping the Peace' Part I – Doctrine, 1963. The pamphlet was written to “give guidance in the conduct of those operations in which the British Army is called upon to ‘Keep the Peace’. Such operations cover a wide variety of circumstances and may range from the task of suppressing an unlawful assembly on the one hand to operations against Communist insurgency on the other.”
Posted on 29 September 2019 at 08:08 am
Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell, (1864-1945), can rightly be described as the father of modern British military psychological operations. From June 1916 until the end of the First World War, Chalmers Mitchell headed the MI7(B)4 branch of military intelligence conducting propaganda against enemy forces on the Western Front. Following the war he authored this article for Encyclopædia Britannica on the development of propaganda in the war.
The article begins with a discussion on the meaning of propaganda. Chalmers Mitchell defines the difference between propaganda and information in terms of propaganda being communication principally for the benefit of the communicator whereas information, or knowledge, being communication for the benefit of the recipient. Although, of course, overlap of the two is common where the communication is mutually beneficial. The article also acts as a corrective to recognise the efforts of Military Intelligence in the propaganda field in the First World War, where the full extent of its activities were not acknowledged and with much of the credit for its accomplishments being “assigned to organizations more accustomed to work before the floodlights”. Here Chalmers Mitchell is referring to the Ministry of Information and Lord Northcliffe’s Crewe House organisation of propaganda to enemy countries.
Posted on 16 August 2019 at 15:03 pm
New Europe was a clandestine black propaganda radio station operated by the Political Warfare Executive. The station pretended to be a German station directed to the Bulgarian population. It closely followed the style of the real German service to Bulgaria but presented news and talks in an arrogant and boastful way intended to antagonise its Bulgarian audience. For most of the time the station operated it was directed by Wing Commander Charles Burt-Andrews. Reproduced here is his final report on New Europe.
Posted on 08 August 2019 at 11:11 am
From the Fall of France in June 1940 until the Allied landings at Normandy in June 1944, the Political Warfare Executive conducted a ‘war of nerves’ seeking to undermine the morale of enemy coastal troops. It sought to keep them constantly on edge and to expect attack from land or sea at any time. The small and medium scale raids, such as the St Nazaire and Dieppe raids, executed by Combined Operations Headquarters were a key element of this plan. The following document, transcribed from the PWE archives, discusses the useful cooperation between political warfare and combined operations. It points out that an optimum raid would be one in which strategical, political, subversive and economic objectives were combined.
Posted on 07 August 2019 at 16:04 pm
19 August 1942, a large raiding party of Allied troops land on the northern coast of France at Dieppe. The raid, organised by Combined Operations Headquarters, numbers around six thousand troops, mostly Canadian. The Political Warfare Executive had some envolvement in the planning of Operation Jubilee, principally in order to ensure the operation was clearly publicised as a coup-de-main raid rather than a full-scale invasion to open up the Second Front. As the raid begins to stall, so does the political warfare plan. This report was written several days after the raid to analyse “the battle of political warfare during the Dieppe Raid”.
Posted on 28 July 2019 at 17:05 pm
Posted on 08 July 2019 at 09:09 am
Posted on 25 February 2019 at 19:07 pm
This Information Research Department brief was prepared in August 1961 as the Berlin Wall was being constructed to divide the city. It outlines how the East Germans had conducted subversion activities in West Germany, including the use of forged documents, fake newspapers, and the slandering of West German leaders. It notes that this activity may be hindered by the closure of the border between East and West.
Posted on 24 February 2019 at 19:07 pm
The extent of the espionage activities conducted by the Soviet Union has been brought home by the numerous “spy” cases in the United Kingdom, the United States and elsewhere since the war. Much less attention has been focused on another essential aspect of the Soviet campaign against the West, namely the use of subversion. Soviet subversion is carried out through a number of organisations and may be likened to the technique of a “pincers” movement of which the upper jaw is operated by the Soviet authorities and the lower jaw by local Communist parties and front organisations, where such exist...
Posted on 05 February 2019 at 11:11 am
At the start of the year a number of new files were added to the Political Warfare Executive’s archive at the National Archives. The files mostly relate to the work of Arthur A Foss. The document below was discovered amongst some of these papers, mixed with miscellaneous others associated with the PWE Military Training Depot and School and Force 133 at Bari, Italy. The document is undated and unsigned but appears to be a transcript of a lecture given to the PWE School around the beginning of 1944. The author is undoubtedly John Baker White, a member of PWE military wing and sometime lecturer at the school, he later gave a similar account in his book “The Big Lie”. The document discusses the spread of rumours, known as Sibs, for political warfare and deception purposes with some examples given. Enemy rumour-mongering is also mentioned with examples of German attempts to malign Churchill as a drunkard and to claim that Polish General Sikorski had been murdered on Churchill’s orders. The original document is a rather faded, badly-typed, carbon copy on yellowed, brittle paper. Part of the text is difficult to read and there are numerous spelling mistakes; for readability these have been corrected and obviously missing words have been added here in square brackets.
Posted on 01 February 2019 at 14:02 pm
An Information Research Department note from July 1960 summarising attempts by the Soviet Union to spread propaganda and disinformation through the forgery of American and British Government documents. The note was written in response to the dissemination across Africa of a forged British Cabinet paper on alleged trade union policy in the region.
Posted on 27 December 2018 at 18:06 pm
These lecture notes by Lt Col R L Sedgwick were put together for the Political Warfare Executive Training School. Although undated they were likely produced at some time between mid-1943 to mid-1944. Despite being written for a 1940's audience the thoughts expressed certainly contain lessons for today.
Posted on 04 September 2018 at 08:08 am
Report on the interrogation of eight German Air Force prisoners of war conducted by Cyprus Brooks at the London Cage, between 16th and 19th September 1940. The report was passed to the Special Operations Executive for potential use in British propaganda.
The report is notable because it includes the opinions of Oberleutnant Franz von Werra, a Luftwaffe fighter ace shot down over Kent a couple of weeks previously. His exploits were immortalised in the book and film, starring Hardy Krüger, “The One That Got Away”. Following several escapes attempts, he managed to escape on route to a POW camp in Canada. After crossing the border in to the then still neutral United States, he finally managed to make a home run back to Germany. The interrogation report shows that von Werra was an arrogant, ardent and determined Nazi.
Posted on 25 August 2018 at 15:03 pm
Posted on 20 August 2018 at 13:01 pm
Posted on 30 July 2018 at 08:08 am
Posted on 04 July 2018 at 19:07 pm
Posted on 02 July 2018 at 13:01 pm
Posted on 09 June 2018 at 08:08 am
"...to weaken the non-Soviet world, Soviet propaganda tries to undermine the confidence of peoples in their Governments, to aggravate class conflicts ... to foment discord between the great Powers of the West."
A November 1947, Foreign Office analysis of Soviet Propaganda in the Middle East including a discussion on how it should be countered by exposing Soviet falsehoods with an aggressive and disruptive, rather than defensive, policy.
Posted on 16 May 2018 at 00:12 am
On this night seventy-five years ago, 19 specially modified Lancaster bombers of 617 Squadron took off from RAF Scampton. The now famous Operation Chastise had begun. Commanded by 24-year-old Wing Commander Guy Gibson, their mission was to attack the major dams of the Ruhr and Weser valleys in Germany's industrial heartland. As well as striking a severe physical blow to the war making capabilities of the Third Reich, the morale effect of the raid was also of prime importance. Not just the depressing of enemy morale but also bolstering the people of Occupied Europe and on the home fronts, to show to the world that the British Commonwealth was fighting back and had the means and will to defeat the Axis.
(This article was originally published at the time of the 70th anniversary of Operation Chastise, the famous Dambusters raid. It has since been updated and reposted to coincide with the 75th anniversary on 16th May 2018.)
Posted on 15 May 2018 at 16:04 pm
Posted on 21 March 2018 at 14:02 pm
An Information Research Department analysis of Soviet propaganda directed against the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in the run up to and following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. On the one hand Soviet propaganda proclaims NATO to be weak, its existence unnecessary and on the brink of break-up. On the other it accuses NATO of being militaristic, complains of increased defence spending by member countries and that it is threat to the peaceful coexistence of Eastern European countries. Soviet propaganda also sought to divide and conquer by suggesting that the alliance is dominated by, and ran purely for the political objectives of, the United States, that Europe would be America’s battlefield; it accuses Germany of seeking to be the dominate European country in the alliance; and suggests that the smaller Baltic countries are being sidelined and exploited.
Posted on 14 March 2018 at 16:04 pm
Posted on 11 March 2018 at 13:01 pm
Allied Information Service on the Western Front: Historical Survey of Operations of the 6805th Allied Information Service Group
The invasion of Northwestern Europe by the combined armed forces of the United States and Great Britain brought to the Continent not only the physical weapons of war, but also the weapon of the spoken and written word. Psychological combat, though not a novel instrument of war, was developed in World War II to truly gigantic proportions. Within its broad framework was a form of psychological warfare called “consolidation,” conducted in support of military operations in liberated territory by the Allied Information Service in conjunction with indigenous national authorities. Consolidation propaganda activities — which were to consolidate the socially disorganized liberated areas — aimed at ensuring the friendly cooperation of the civilian populations, particularly in such matters as the restoration of essential public services, and at influencing opinion favorable to the conduct of the war and the post-war aims of the United Nations. When they were conducted in the immediate combat zone, the consolidation activities were tactical in scope and nature, but once the military emergency period was over they became more ambitious and acquired a long-term or strategical character. In other words, consolidation work meant psychological warfare designed to stabilize — to consolidate — the friendly populations in and behind the fighting areas and to ensure their willing compliance with the measures of army commanders conducting military operations.
Posted on 11 March 2018 at 10:10 am
This background brief was prepared by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Research and Analysis Department in July 1989. The brief gives an overview of Soviet Communist Party (CPSU) external propaganda activities in light of President Gorbachev’s policies of perestroika and “new thinking” on foreign policy.
Posted on 11 March 2018 at 10:10 am
This background brief was prepared by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Research and Analysis Department in March 1985. The brief gives an overview of how the Soviet Communist Party (CPSU) coordinates external propaganda and policy, in particular through the sponsorship of international front organisations.
Posted on 28 February 2018 at 21:09 pm
The following account of early RAF Nickel Raids in the Second World War is taken from Chapter 4 - 'White Bombs: The Leaflet Raids' of 'Bomber Command: The Air Ministry Account of Bomber Command’s Offensive Against the Axis, September, 1939—July, 1941', published by His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1941, pages 30 to 34.
Posted on 28 February 2018 at 16:04 pm
From Paris and Brussels to Manchester, in 2017 we saw an alarming increase in successful terrorist attacks on major European cities. European nations have been stepping up security-led countermeasures to combat violent extremism yet prevention methods and soft influence must be improved dramatically if we are to make full use of the resources available to us.
In this context, I am delighted to announce that Defence IQ’s 17th Annual Countering Violent Extremism event will be taking place on the 22-24th May 2018, in London. Here, an opportunity to examine the tools and strategies available to the CVE community for improving intelligence and prevention will be explored in full.
Featured thought-leaders and CVE experts speaking at the event include:
Join us for the regions only conference addressing the challenges of countering violent extremism and hear thought leading presentations and discussions. Register before the 9 March and save up to £300, for more information, please visit cveevent.iqpc.com, contact our enquiries team on +44 (0)207 036 1300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that the earlier you book, the more you will save.
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Posted on 26 February 2018 at 19:07 pm
US Army Field Manual. “This manual provides doctrinal guidance for commanders and staff officers for the conduct of psychological operations (PSYOP), discusses U.S. Army PSYOP objectives, roles, and missions, and serves as the doctrinal basis for development of PSYOP techniques and procedures. This manual is applicable to general, limited, and cold war operations to include stability operations. Consideration is given to the employment of, and protection from, nuclear munitions and chemical, biological, and radiological agents.”
Posted on 25 February 2018 at 21:09 pm
A forgery purporting to be an official U.S. Government document appears in a West European country. In a developing country, false rumours are spread of U.S. involvement in a coup attempt. A clandestine radio station beams anti-Western broadcasts into Iran. A Western firm is warned that its commercial ties with the Soviet Union will suffer if it also sells equipment to China... This anonymous and undated report circulated to NATO in Autumn 1981 gives a concise overview of the use and techniques of Soviet Active Measures.
Posted on 23 February 2018 at 19:07 pm
US Army Field Manual. “This manual provides detailed psychological operations techniques for psychological operations commanders and staff officers. It discusses relationships, capabilities, tactics, and techniques of psychological operations during general, limited, and cold war operations... The techniques and procedures discussed in this manual augment doctrine published in FM 33-1. By integrating the tactics and techniques described in this manual with those concerned with general and limited war, counter insurgent operations, and guerrilla warfare, the commander and the staff officer will gain maximum benefit from psychological operations as a weapons system.”
Posted on 18 February 2018 at 10:10 am
US Army Field Manual. “As a military weapon, psychological warfare is no newer than the rumors whispered about Hannibal, the wave of terror spread in advance of the armies of Genghis Khan, Philip of Macedonia, and Attila the Hun, and the methods used by George Washington to increase desertion among the Hessians. What is new about psychological warfare is the manner in which it recently has been systematically organized and used as an integral part of military operations. Experience has demonstrated conclusively that psychological warfare is a highly effective weapon which can be used to minimize expenditure of human life and destruction of property. It is not a substitute for battle, but a supplementary means of combat which can facilitate and exploit success on the battlefield. Psychological warfare has limitations and disadvantages. One American army commander who achieved outstanding success in World War II expressed this idea when he said, “Psychological warfare had an important place in the European Campaign. It can accomplish much good. It can also be extremely harmful.” It is the duty of commanders to understand how to secure the beneficial effects and to avoid those which are harmful.”
Posted on 06 November 2017 at 18:06 pm
This sixth auction of the aerial propaganda collection of the late Dr Rod Oakland. Lots include more Second World War German propaganda to Allied troops, OSS and PWE black propaganda, EH/SOE leaflets to Germany, propaganda to South East Asia, Soviet Front-Illustrierte colourful magazines for German troops, and US leaflets dropped in the Korean War.
CLOSING DATE 9 DECEMBER 2017 MIDNIGHT GMT
Posted on 15 October 2017 at 16:04 pm
Posted on 20 September 2017 at 11:11 am
Posted on 09 July 2017 at 11:11 am
Recently I have been re-examining PWE and SOE archives in even greater depth with a vague idea in mind of writing a greatly expanded version of my book ‘The Black Art’. The document below was found during this renewed trawling. It is a definition of terminology included as an appendix to a draft memorandum discussing the current situation of Research Units in November 1943. One member of PWE comments that the draft memorandum is not only excellent but “the first comprehensive and lucid treatment of this subject.”
Posted on 03 July 2017 at 14:02 pm
This next PsyWar.Org auction of Dr Rod Oakland's propaganda leaflet collection includes more very rare OSS Morale Operations and British PWE black propaganda items, German leaflets for Allied troops, and PsyWar leaflets from the Korean War. Other items include a small selection of colourful Japanese leaflets for Allied troops and PWE leaflets dropped over Occupied France.
(As the start of this auction was delayed, it will run for a shorter time than previous ones)
CLOSING DATE 4 AUGUST 2017 MIDNIGHT GMT
Posted on 02 July 2017 at 17:05 pm
Last week the Ministry of Defence released a further batch of documents to the British National Archives relating to the Falkland Islands Conflict (Operation Corporate). One document in this batch covers the role of psychological operations. Although much has already been written on this subject, the document provides new details regarding the planning of psychological operations and the difficulties experienced. Lessons learned are outlined in the paper reproduced below.
Posted on 26 May 2017 at 10:10 am
Black propaganda covers all those forms of propaganda which are not identified with HMG and which have the appearance of springing spontaneously from the local population without British inspiration or connection. A memorandum by Reginald Leeper, head of the Political Warfare Executive’s Country Headquarters, July 1942.
Posted on 24 April 2017 at 21:09 pm
Raymond Schuhl is the stuff of legends. Hardly anyone knows his name and yet in WWI as a member of the French Army he went to Switzerland and produced anti-German leaflets. In WWII, after the fall of France, he did it again. He faked his death, went to Switzerland where he joined with the American OSS to head their propaganda campaign against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.