Propaganda Pound Note from the deserts of Africa

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Arrse_onist, Dec 14, 2011.

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  1. Hi all,

    As a child my deceased Grandad (may he rest in peace) passed to me a piece of paper he had taken from North africa during WW2. I understand he was in the REME but unfortunately that is where my knowledge of his past ends.

    I think he told me these notes were dropped from airplanes onto the troops on the ground. Essentially it is a piece of tan coloured paper, one side as a replication of a British pound note and the reverse side is covered with Arabic script.

    Has anyone encountered these before? Can anyone shed any light as to what its exact purposes was.

    I will take a photo and post this evening.


  2. Never heard of one before, but first thoughts would be some kind of promisary note, either to help escapees or to trade for goods ? Translating the Arabic script would give more idea I would think. :)
  3. Sounds like it might be a blood chit promising reward to Arabs who help downed aviators or other Allied troops.
  4. I've seen a very similar game played by the USAF Pysops teams in Gulf War 1. They gave me a set of leaflets they had been dropping from Spec Ops Herc over Saddams troops positions. The reason for the 'bank note' effect was that people were far more likely to pick the leaflets up if they thought it was money. I presume they put one or two real bank notes amongst them just to add to the affect. The arabs would pick them up and keep them, occasionally reading what was on the other side, which was usually along the lines of "free surrender pass, give this to the first allied troops you see and they will accept your surrender and not harm you", or "Saddam is an evil chap who has dragged all you innocent arabs away from your homes, so surrender now to thwart his evil plans" and the more threatening "this time we dropped leaflets, but if you don't surrender we're coming back tomorrow/the day after with lots of big bombs".
    Very collectable little items.

  5. Thanks for the input gents. Honor Roll Flapjack, thats the badger! Good job! I wonder which one my grandad got, i will stick a pic up and see if anyone would be so kind as to try and translate. :)
  6. Agreed, i hadn't expected it to have been dropped by ze Germans.
  7. My great uncle dropped leaflets pre WW2 on villages in the Khyber pass area telling the inhabitants that because they'd not paid their taxes, or compled with edicts, they'd be back the next day to bomb the village flat. The trouble was that all the villages looked the same, evacuees often looked on while a still occupied tax paying neighbour got bombed.
  8. The RAF were sub-contracting to the USAF, way back then???????
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Weirdly, I first heard about this just yesterday in Alan Moorehead's (very good, OOP, but cheap on African Trilogy.

    According to him- and he wrote the book(s) as it happened- the notes were dropped on Cairo and Alex in 1942, not 1943, when the Gazala Line crumbled and it looked like Rommel would roll up Cairo and the Delta within days.

    On one side it looked like £1GBP; on the other, it said in Arabic 'this used to be worth something; now it's not even worth a beggar's time to pick it up.'

    As Moorehead laconically said, 'good propaganda.'
  10. All you ever wanted to know and more:

    " [h=2]Great Britain[/h]
    The Germans were also busy preparing propaganda against other Allied Nations. Their propagandists prepared millions of parodies of the British one pound note.
    The London Daily Mirror of 17 April 1943 had a headline that read: "German planes ‘bomb’ Cairo with fake one pound notes." The story stated that "Egyptians and Arabs walking the streets of Alexandria or Cairo have sometimes picked up what at first sight was an English one pound note. But on turning it over they have found that it is a worthless reproduction, with a German propaganda message written in Arabic. These notes have been dropped in the Egyptian towns from German aircraft in an attempt to lower the standing of the British currency among the population. One of these propaganda one pound notes was sent to the Daily Mirror by the wife of a Highlander serving in North Africa, who had enclosed it in one of his letters home.
    R. G. Auckland quoted the unknown soldier's letter in more detail in his booklet Air-dropped Propaganda Currency, 1972 edition. According to Auckland, the letter read in part: "Here is a funny one pound note which I picked up in the streets of Alexandria after a German air-raid on the city. I have heard that other soldiers also picked up some of these worthless reproductions in other places, too."
    Years later, the London Daily Express ran a similar story on 20 November 1972. When a reader wrote to ask about the rarity and value of the propaganda banknotes, Gordon Wilkes, the "Letters" editor stated: "I am sorry to disappoint you, but these pound notes are quite common and hundreds of readers have written or telephoned to say that they own one."
    I have seen a file of such letters and quote from several:
    From Colchester: "I found hundreds of these during our stint in the desert. I was a mechanic in 238 Squadron of the Royal Air Force from September 1940 until our withdrawal in December 1943. We found the notes in a shot-down Junkers 88. 1 believe it was at Fuka or El Adem aerodrome ... I brought at least a hundred of them home ... Our children played with them as monopoly money until they were thrown away."
    A Londoner writes: "This was taken at Daba Airfield in 1942. They were intended for Egypt."
    From Bexleyheath: "I took one of them from a captured German aircraft while serving in the Middle East in 1942."
    From Southend-on-Sea: "I picked up one outside of Alexandria soon after one of the propaganda raids. I know that some of the lads in the R. A. F. unit I was with at the time also picked up some."
    There are also numerous published references to these banknotes. Garry Marsh, writing in his book Sand in My Spinach, states that upon entering Rommel’s advanced air base at El Fuqa in November 1942, "While the others were nosing around to see what else was there, I went outside and saw a wooden box about six feet long and three feet high. I tried to open it but it was firmly padlocked. I shouted a warning that I was going to fire a shot or two, in order to save their nerves, and blew the lock off. When I opened it I could scarcely believe my eyes. It was packed stiff with one pound notes. There must have been a million ... The grey light of dawn was now taking on the true light of the day, and in so doing the notes looked an unfamiliar green color that made my spirits drop. The were ‘stumers,’ there was no doubt about it. Unhappily we examined them closer, and turning one over saw on the back a message written in Arabic."
    Other written references indicate that the German parodies were ordered burnt, but many British soldiers were seen filling their pockets with souvenirs at the last moment.
    It is common knowledge that the Germans produced millions of these British one pound notes for use in North Africa. What is not commonly known is that they were imitations of two different British issues. At least three different Arab-language messages are known on the back.
    Genuine British 1 pound note​
    German parody of British 1 pound with Arabic text​
    The first German parody of the British pound appears to be an imitation of the 1940-48 pink and blue one pound note. The Wehrmacht propaganda section (OKW/WPr) produced an imitation in green, serial number H86D729630, signed "Peppiatt." For years it was believed that this was a copy of the British green one pound note. However, close examination of the background indicates a diamond pattern at the top and bottom that is found on the pink and blue note. The Germans apparently printed this parody in the wrong color.​
    All evidence points to the Luftwaffe dropping these notes in November and December of 1942 over a 200-mile area of Northern Egypt that included Cairo, Alexandria and El Alamein. On the back is the following eleven-line message in Arabic:
    Signs of Disintegration. If you inspect this banknote, you will remember the time when it was worth ten times its present value in bright shiny gold. That was because at that time the strength and riches of the mighty British Empire supported such notes. But that greatness is fading as is the value of this worthless piece of paper. What is this note worth today? You certainly know the answer to that. With each passing day of this British inspired war, the strength of the Empire is depleted. Each battle that England loses causes a further weakening of their currency. The day draws near when even the beggars in the street will refuse the British banknote, even as a gift. Truly, Allah wills the collapse of Britain, which will surely come to pass.
    Some translators have stated that the Arabic is poorly written and the note contains both typographical and grammatical errors. One Arab scholar who studied the note said "While not full of errors, it is definitely written in a stilted, dictionary style that would not be expected from a Arab. There are a few outright errors, and some dangling expressions. The style is schoolbook rather than colloquial or fluent." There are rumors that British "Tommies" passed these notes in Egyptian bazaars until the Arab shopkeepers caught on.
    The second German parody of a one pound note came to light almost twenty years after the war when a former British officer stated:
    I picked up currency leaflets in Tunisia in the area of the Mareth Line (Gabes/Sfax) in April 1943. The success of the drop was obviously negligible, at least as far as the British were concerned. We never used English currency, but that of the country we were in. Egyptian money was used, as far as I can recollect, well into Cyrenaica, also the British Military Administration notes that were, after the initial suspicious phase, readily accepted by the local Arab population.
    This officer brought back several copies of the one pound notes, as well as German parodies of United States $2 and $10 notes with identical messages that were air-dropped at the same time.
    Genuine 1 pound Banknote of 1928-48​
    Since the battle for Tunisia occurred after the battle of Egypt, this note should be a later variety. However, a close investigation of the background shows that it has the same wavy line engraving as the genuine green British one pound note of 1928-48. In other words, the Wehrmacht parodied an earlier British note and in the proper color, except for the serial number which is copied in green instead of the red of the genuine currency. It is therefore possible that this note was produced first. They might have set up for green parodies and used the same inks when they copied the pink and blue note. No documentary evidence exists and the reader will have to draw his own conclusions from these comments.
    The 11-Line propaganda Text
    This second variety of pound note has the serial number C78A419669 and is once again signed "Peppiatt." This note is a deeper green and far more striking in appearance than the first parody. The eleven line Arabic message reads:
    To our Brother, the Moslem:
    The note depicted is that with which the British and Americans seek to enslave the world. Remember, Oh Moslem brother, that the blood of your brethren has flowed like rivers in order to increase the fortunes of these robbing overlords who sponge on the lands of Allah and his faithful followers. Look at the current events and those which have occurred in all areas of Islam under the disastrous occupation of the Anglo-Americans. This is an auspicious time for rapid action to salvage what is left. Join those who have revolted against the Anglo-Americans, hated enemies of Islam. You will secure not only your own lives, but also those of your children. Allah supports you and will shield you from danger in driving off the Jewish occupation which has been sucking your life blood and controlling the lands of Islam.
    Nine-line British Pound parody in Arabic ​
    A second Arabic message exists on the C78A419669 variety of one pound note. Its nine-line message reads:
    Muslims of North Africa:
    The time has come for you to fight the criminal Anglo-Americans and their agents, the Jews. Announce your revolt against them. Fight them. Don't let them achieve their goals. Deny your enemies all hope. The result will be that you have obeyed the commandments of Allah the Omniscient. You will have liberated the beloved nation from those thieves. Remember, the Anglo-Americans hate you just as much as the Jews. Beware of their propaganda. Don't trust their promises. Do not be deceived by the money they offer to pay for your help, or afterwards you and your children will be given to the Jews as spoils of war.
    It is likely that this second message was also used in Tunisia in April of 1943. The Nazis were in full retreat, having lost Sfax on April 10th, the Faid Pass on the 11th and Sousse on the 12th. These notes were very likely a last gasp attempt to sway Arab public opinion. A military victory was obviously out of the question, but the Wehrmacht still hoped that the Muslim population could be convinced to resist the Allied occupation."

    German Propaganda Currency of WW II


    [TD]The green and blue wartime Peppiatt pounds (B239 & B248) were used as propaganda leaflets[/TD]
    [TD] dropped over North Africa in 1942. There are four variations, each has on the reverse Arabic text
    [TD] stating the pound is worthless and defeat is imminent.
    Air dropped over North Africa in 1942
    Translation (below) of Arabic writing on reverse side of propaganda money dropped by the Germans over Egypt October 1942. There are four versions.
    [h=5]Marks of Defeat:[/h] If you look at this money you will remember when you could get ten times its weight in gold. That was because the paper was guaranteed by the Bank of England with its great resources of strength and riches, but England’s greatness is gone with her possessions. It is waste paper now. What is its value? Certainly you know the cause of this. Each day that passes, a war which Britain declared, has tired the Imperial Forces, and every battle lost by England has been the cause of belittlement of British finance. The day is quickly approaching when each beggar in the street will refuse to accept a British pound note although you give it away. God our father has wished defeat of England, and it will be so.'

    odd banknote stories part two - Pam West British Bank Notes

  11. Fake money has been a regular ploy for distributing propaganda. In WWII Britain also forged German military canteen money with the message on the back, "I am Hitler's arrse wipe". And throughout the Cold War numerous banknotes were copied with added propaganda messages. A big article on the subject here:
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  12. Bet the bosche PsyOps team felt foolish in 1945.