The book shows every sign of having been cobbled together from a synthesis of the books produced by two key interrogators after the Second World War – Lt Cols Scotland and Stevens, who,between them, were influential in the establishment of the specialist interrogation functions at Camp 020, the London Cage and, after the formal end of the war, Bad Nenndorf.
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After a shaky introduction,which would probably have benefited from some editorial oversight (a typical mistake is the consistent reference to Vernon Kell and the ‘Security Service Bureau’, established 1911) – the book moves into a series of essentially anecdotal accounts of individual interrogations with some digressions into technical support for these, including rather a lengthy account of the use of hidden microphones, a cursory look at U-Boat crew interrogations and some musings on torture. Interestingly, the author tells us of Col Scotland’s activities as a purchasing agent for the German Army in South Africa just after the Boer War. One can only suspect that the good Colonel was actually active in the then German colony of South-West Africa, but it is a confusing narrative Ms Jackson constructs and one wonders whether she fully grasped what Col Scotland’s memoirs had to say.
There is little attempt to place interrogation in context, either in terms of how it fitted in to the broad machine of counter-intelligence and intelligence operations, or indeed in terms of how the product was evaluated and disseminated. There is a brief insight into the Bletchley Park-derived agent intercepts and how these were used against the (generally pathetic) German agents interrogated after their arrival in the UK, but every little which could not have been learned from study of Stevens’ and Scotland’s books – which formed part of the wave of war memoirs which hit the book shops in the Fifties.
The book partially redeemsitself, to this reviewer at least, with a rather good summary of the BadNenndorf scandal of the post-War period, when it became apparent that British interrogators and centre staff were engaging in overt torture, involving physical force, sleep deprivation, starvation and accommodation in inhumane environments, in order to ‘break’ suspected Soviet agents arrested in the British Zone.
The book is thus neither a scholarly account of the British strategic interrogation organisationduring the war, nor a pacy anecdotal look at a little-known and commonlymisunderstood skill, nor a detailed examination of the precise techniques employed by British interrogators (the target audience for which would be, one suspects, limited).
One-and-a-half mushrooms, for being mostly spelled correctly.