The current issue of the Times Literary Supplement is a wall-to-wall Dickensian extravaganza. Then there’s the main article — page three of the TLS is a major event, any week.
It is a Richard Clogg’s review of Susan Heuck Allen’s Classical Spies. For the record, Clogg is a historian with a Grecian bent and Allen an archaeologist. So, can the twain ever meet?
Whereas the book’s subtitle suggests an exclusively American perspective, Clogg spends a lot of useful time considering what the Brits, dispossessed to Cairo and elsewhere, were up to for the duration. We come to a different view to the norm of the WW2 activities of the archaeologists and Hellenists:
the classicists and archaeologists appointed to the American and British schools were indeed engaged in intelligence work, while their counterparts in the German, Italian and Vichy-controlled French schools carried on digging on behalf of the German occupying forces.
Digging, that is, in the broadest sense of the word.
Clogg drops names who were SOE types:
C.M.Woodhouse, N.G.L.Hammond, Anthony Andrewes, Stanley Casson, J.M.Cook, T.J.Dunbabin, Peter Fraser, Eric Gray, T. Bruce Mitford, David Talbot Rice, J.D.S.Pendlebury and David Wallace.
In the ’60s you didn’t get very far reading (or, in Malcolm’s case, barely scanning) Classics or early History without hitting hard against many of those names.
- Bruce-Mitford, for example, was a fixture at the British Museum for four decades — and wrote the definitive study of the Sutton Hoo burial.
- If anyone needs a right-wing hero figure, Monty Woodhouse (there he is, right, in full Greek mountain fig) might qualify. Straight out of New College, Oxford (with a double first, to boot), he was into the Royal Artillery. By 1941 he was in Crete, liaising with the resistance, then onto the mainland with the Harling Force, and by 1943 (still in his mid-20s) a full Colonel in charge of the British Military Mission in Greece. After the War he was still spooking: first in Athens (machinating as Second Secretary against the Muscovites), then in Tehran overthrowing the Mosaddegh government and establishing the Western-friendly Pahlevi régime (a certain Kermit Roosevelt was doing his bit for the CIA). Oh, and in between Woodhouse was a Tory MP for two terms and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. And was among the first to finger Kurt Waldheim, sometime secretary general of the United Nations and President of Austria, as a Nazi executioner, ignorant of Jasenovac concentration camp and deaf and blind to summary executions of Titoists outside his office.
Let’s change the location to Dublin, well out of the climactic events of the wartime period (By the way, when will “historians” recognise that, unlike Switzerland, Ireland seems never to have formally declared “neutrality?)
Surely, there’s no parallel?
Mahr, not less
Well, there was Adolf Mahr, an Austrian whose dedication Nazism predated the Anchluss. In his spare time from being Director of the National Museum he quite openly ran the Nazi Auslandorganisation in Ireland, complete with its own Hitler Youth. That involved him with the strange ménage around Maud Gonne, which included her daughter Iseult and son-in-law Francis Stuart. Mahr’s reports back to Berlin had identified certain Germans as “Juden”, thus guaranteeing their ends. A cynic might also go looking for a rationale of the remarkable Goethe-Plakette in 1934 to WB Yeats, soon after Mahr’s appointment as Director of the Museum.
At the outbreak of War in 1939, Mahr was — conveniently for the Irish government, which then didn’t need to expel him — “on holiday” back in Germany (and, in 1945, when he came looking for his job back, made him extremely unwelcome). `Marooned in wartime Germany, Mahr went to work for Goebbels’ propaganda radio and Irland Redaktion. By 1944 Mahr was running Ru IX and Ru II, which broadcast to Britain, Ireland and the British Empire, usually immediately after “Lord Haw-Haw”.
Nice guy: the dirt on him and Ireland’s other Nazis was well dished by David O’Donoghue for History: Ireland. A small detail: even with Mahr in Berlin, Nazis were running the Turf Board and the ESB, with a niche in the Department of Finance.
The extraordinary Richard Hayes
Passing Mahr regularly, and probably on nodding terms at least, would have been Richard Hayes, the director of the National Library. Take care here: there are two Richard Hayes around at this period: the other one was censoring films, and not every writer (and even fewer indexers) has sorted the one from the other.
Librarian Hayes was another of those polymaths made extinct by ever-greater specialisation in higher education: he had three honors (correct spelling, Malcolm assures you) degrees from Trinity — in Celtic Studies, in Modern Languages, and in Philosophy. By the time of the Emergency, Hayes too had a sideline. Having polished off the administration at the National Library, daily he bestrode his sit-up-and-beg bicycle up to Collins Barracks in Arbour Hill. There he devoted himself to the systematic decoding of all and anything that came his way. He was Ireland’s one-man equivalent of Bletchley Park.
The National Library hold a remarkable collection of Hayes papers, relating to his crypto-analysis. We can see he worked on double-folio broadsheets, ruled into harlequin squares. Clearly, as early as 1939 Hayes was breaking the German and American diplomatic cyphers. The “approved” version is that Hayes was into the British cypher by late-1941. That may well be true, except it is a very useful date for “previous offences” not to be taken into account. Equally, it may be that Colonel Dan Bryan, who became head of G2 in 1942, was felt by some to be too close to the British MI5; and not all the material Hayes accessed crossed Bryan’s desk. We must also be aware that the Hayes papers we have have probably been “weeded”. In any event, the British were extremely impressed by Hayes’s results: he had a hand in the arrest of all of the dozen German spies during the Emergency. If there is one particular success, it must be the cracking of the code used by Hermann Goertz, who managed to stay “on the run” in Dublin for nineteen months (another suspiciously convenient arrangement: in that time Goertz was repeatedly face-to-face with the greatest in the land and in the Irish military).