Sabotage in the RAF - WW2

Imago

Old-Salt
#1
Not the Mail so have ventured to put it here. Did we know about this before? Sunday Times today: http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/newsreview/features/article1384505.ece

Bombs away: Tubby’s mission to expose the third man sabotaging the RAF

A centenarian who helped develop the technology to take the fight to Hitler tells Marcus Scriven his work was undermined by communist traitors who came close to costing Britain the war

“The dining room can be bloody noisy. I’ve arranged sandwiches and a mug of beer in the library. Would that be the answer?”

Group Captain EE “Tubby” Vielle OBE, parade ground moustache imprinted on upper lip, has been up since 5.30am, a self-imposed reveille followed by ablutions, exercises, breakfast, appraisal of the news and the markets (“online”), before starting writing, “till about 12.30pm, then again from about 2.30pm till about 5pm”.

Currently, the harmony of routine is diminished by Windows 8. “I hate the bloody thing: too complicated.”

It is unlikely to impede him for long. A bookcase in his rooms at his Wiltshire retirement home displays 85 editions of the books he co-wrote in the 1960s and 1970s; Hitchcock paid £100,000 for the film rights to the first, Village of Stars, though he got no authorial credit.

But his recently completed memoirs, Almost a Boffin, contain perhaps his most disquieting and startling story — extraordinary disclosures about the long-acknowledged Soviet penetration of Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, during the Second World War.

It is a suitably dramatic epilogue for a life of epic accomplishment and longevity.

Born on April 29, 1913, Vielle’s first memory is of a Zeppelin being hit by anti-aircraft fire over London. “Suddenly it burst into flames. Hydrogen, of course. I can see it exactly.”

Climbing in the Alps aged 15, second from right with his family (PhilYeomans/BNPS)A healthy appetite and robust frame had earned him his nickname by the time he arrived at Dulwich College, south London, where he was a prize gymnast with a problem-solving brain. At 15 he acquired a driving licence and a motorbike, and partnered a pretty 22-year-old in a game of tennis. Two years later he asked her father for permission to marry her.

“Absolutely amazing,” he says, awed by his own audacity. “Bunny was the second girl I ever met. We had a wonderful life together.”

Plans for university were derailed by the Depression of the 1930s, in which his father’s business perished. He became a clerk in a London accountancy firm — opposite the RAF’s administrative headquarters. Learning that prize cadetships were available to the top six in RAF Cranwell’s entrance exam, he tutored himself — and came fourth out of 700.

In a 25-year career, he flew 150 types of aircraft, beginning with an Avro biplane — flying wing-tip to wing-tip, without radio — and ending supersonic. Fatalities were frequent. His own survival, he says, was “very lucky”. As an exuberant youth, he hit a pylon cable. During the war, he displayed what a much younger air commodore describes as “extraordinary courage . . . the greatest feat of flying I have read about or witnessed”, piloting a Hudson, its wings overloaded with ice, its radio broken, below cloud cover that descended to just 50ft above the ground.

His adventures included flying Hurricanes (PhilYeomans/BNPS)Graded “exceptional”, he was seconded to the Fleet Air Arm before being transferred in 1939 to the special duty list at Farnborough to test emerging technology.

He was horrified by what he found. There was, for example, an oxygen system that “failed and failed. I had two air marshals killed simply because the bloody thing switched off itself.” The new distant reading (DR) compass — “a Heath Robinson job” — was no better. “They put it in the tail [of the bomber] on a swing, hoping that it would be mainly upright. It couldn’t work and didn’t work.” There was no gyroscope-stabilised bomb-sight, so those crews who “did find the target couldn’t hit it”.

This, he learnt, resulted not from incompetence but determination by eminent figures in Farnborough’s hierarchy “to make sure that Bomber Command could not operate”, with consequences far beyond the deaths of innumerable aircrew. “I think the war wouldn’t have started if we’d been capable — and shown we were capable — of navigating and bombing accurately. The Germans wouldn’t have dared invade France. We could have bombed the hell out of them.”

Instead, British aerial supremacy was first undermined and then eradicated during the inter-war years. “From 1920 to 1939, three scientists in particular prevented Bomber Command from being able to operate — made it impossible to drop a bomb accurately, or to navigate accurately. The lack of a bomb-sight was critical.”

Two of the key figures responsible he names as Ben Lockspeiser and FW Meredith. Both, Vielle argues, were thwarting innovation at Farnborough so as to benefit their true masters — in the Soviet Union. Meredith became managing director of Smiths — “producing instruments for aircraft” — while Lockspeiser, knighted in 1946, became the first president of Cern, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. He died in 1990.

Farnborough’s records show that Lockspeiser and Meredith were monitored by the security services because of communist sympathies that had become apparent during the General Strike in 1926.

Documents at the National Archives in London additionally record that Lockspeiser’s mail was intercepted, though there was insufficient evidence to justify his dismissal from RAE. Both, says Vielle, were eclipsed by a third man who has, until now, eluded mention — Jack Richards, the wartime head of Farnborough’s instrument department, a man who went out of his way to befriend Vielle.

When Richards asked if he could spend a week with him and Bunny, while his wife was in Wales recuperating from illness, Vielle agreed. He was staggered by what followed. Night after night, Richards tried to “turn” his intended protégé. “He got very impassioned, said that in Russia they were all equal. Extolled the virtues of communism.”

Not long afterwards, it was almost unanimously agreed that RAF bombers should be fitted with the American-designed Sperry autopilot; Richards alone dissented, insisting that Farnborough’s own autopilot should be installed instead. Its performance proved as abject as that of the oxygen system and DR compass.

The pattern recurred after the war, when radar developments repeatedly fell behind schedule: Richards had by then become head of the Telecommunications Research Establishment in Malvern, Worcestershire.

Asked why he was delaying a particular project, Richards replied: “I do not think it will benefit the world for the RAF to have it.”

Vielle reported the remark to the RAF’s director of intelligence, who, a week later, warned him that his life could be in danger, explaining that Richards had allies “in even higher positions”.

Later that year, in December 1949, while piloting a Meteor, Vielle inexplicably stalled. Both wings, both engines and the fuselage disintegrated in the ensuing crash; the cockpit — and Vielle — survived. “Miraculous,” he agrees. Only afterwards did he notice that the airspeed indicator was of a superannuated type, calibrated in mph rather than knots, with indistinct markings, as if they “had been rubbed with a bit of emery paper”.

The director of intelligence, investigating why an obsolete instrument had been fitted to a modern aircraft, concluded that an attempt had been made on Vielle’s life, but added that it would be “unwise to try” to discover by whom.

Vielle concentrated, instead, on developing an idea he had had during the war — of gyroscope-guided missiles — and another, exploiting sideways-facing radar to allow aircrew to plot their positions precisely over land. He produces the original folder, headed: “Vielle Bombing System: Report on Visit to USA, October 1950, by Group Captain EE Vielle OBE.”

The Americans embraced his ideas, initiating what became the first cruise missile programme; Britain did not. “Richards was on the distribution list,” observes Vielle. Offered double the salary of an air marshal to develop an anti-collision system, Vielle left the RAF aged 43. In 1962 he started on his memoirs. “Then I thought, ‘This is dangerous; I’d better not.’”

Today, 24 years after Bunny’s death, he sees Pat, the middle of their three daughters, once a week, and has 15 great-grandchildren — and “a girlfriend who rings twice a week. A bit of a problem with my prostate, therefore the sex side is rather out of it.”

He gave up skiing “at about 85, and driving at 95”. Cancer meant that “a bit was cut out here” — he touches his right ear.

But his appetite is good. “Nothing like a bit of red meat — very rare.” He laughs, then stops. He describes what happened at Farnborough as “evil”.

The man from the Zeppelin age has opened up the battle on Facebook and YouTube.

“I feel I’ve too short a time, probably, to do much,” he says, “but I’ll do anything I can to get that bloody man Richards — and the others — into public knowledge.”

 
#2
Let's throw in the Dockers who kicked off in 37/38(not sure of the dates) who refused to load ships with war supplies for Poland 'cos' they gave the Soviets a good kicking in 1920/21 working its way all through the war to Eden/Churchill/Rooselvelt for the ultimate betrayal. And yes, Millipedes father was RN and he loved his 'adopted' country.
 
#3
A Reds under the beds article designed to remind people of the Russian menace?
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#5
'Traitors' by Chapman Pincher explains how the whole Red thing was stitched together (but doesn't cover Veille's stuff, CP can't be everywhere).
 
#6
If true, it's ironic that the real beneficiaries of most of this were not the Soviets but the Capitalist Pigs in America.
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#7
I picked up a second-hand copy of Chapman Pincher's 1987 'Traitors' the other day. Having read its catalogue of (to my mind) convincing if circumstantial evidence that under Roger Hollis MI5 was effectively controlled by Moscow, and he was influencing things at a senior level long before he became DG. Time and again, it would seem, efforts to rid the public service of traitors were frustrated at a high level - and politicians and the Americans gratuitously misled.
 

AfghanAndy

On ROPS
On ROPs
#8
Aces,Irks and back room boys touches on sabotage in WW2 of brand new aircraft. Clogging up the oxygen supply with grease was a classic.
 
#9
I picked up a second-hand copy of Chapman Pincher's 1987 'Traitors' the other day. Having read its catalogue of (to my mind) convincing if circumstantial evidence that under Roger Hollis MI5 was effectively controlled by Moscow, and he was influencing things at a senior level long before he became DG. Time and again, it would seem, efforts to rid the public service of traitors were frustrated at a high level - and politicians and the Americans gratuitously misled.

I hate to burst your bubble, but the alleged treachery of Roger Hollis has been 'done to death'. Chapman Pincher's research was flawed (and particularly nasty) and he was determined the blacken the name of Hollis because of earlier professional associations. John Cairncross was later identified as the '5th Man' and he admitted it late in life; moreover another Cambridge alumni was identified about 5 years ago - principally Paddy Costello, who ended up with the NZ Mission to Moscow at the end of WWII. Although his descendents have defended Costello, recently released NZSIS records make it clear that he was working for the KGB, and he spent time at Trinity college with Blunt and Philby, and was recruited by Dr Arnold Deutsch.

With respect to Hollis, can I refer to you to Christoper Andrew's masterly tome 'Defence of the Realm'?
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#10
My eldest brother was born in 1942 (I was born in 1955). He provided me with a link back to the war as he could recount stories he'd heard himself, including the effect of the death of my uncle, bayoneted in a field hospital bed up the Irrawaddy in 1944, on my grandfather.

My father and his brother, coal miners (reserved occupation) but their everything into the war effort (all three services told my father to get back down the pit). At some point in the war (presumably pre-Barbarossa), the union called a strike in support of their Soviet comrades. I have never grasped the logic of how stopping mining coal to fight the Hun was supporting Uncle Joe Stalin. Father and uncle refused to strike and each of them managed to break the single-day tonnage of coal shifted by a single man, shaming the miners (if not the union) into returning to work.
 
#11
Let's throw in the Dockers who kicked off in 37/38(not sure of the dates) who refused to load ships with war supplies for Poland 'cos' they gave the Soviets a good kicking
"In 1943 there were two major stoppages, one was a strike of 12,000 bus drivers and conductors and the other of dockers in Liverpool and Birkenhead. Both were a considerable embarrassment to Bevin since they involved mainly TGWU members. 1944 marked the peak of wartime strike action with over two thousand stoppages involving the loss of 3,714,000 days' production. This led to the imposition of Defence Regulation 1AA, supported by the TUC, which now made incitement to strike unlawful. "

That's from the TUC's own website - http://www.unionhistory.info/timeline/1939_1945.php

I remember reading something by a Tank officer who wrote about trying to get his regiment's armour loaded on to a ship to get it to N. Africa where it was desperately needed. The Dockers knocked off at 5.00 p.m. on a Friday and buggered off for the week-end because of some overtime dispute, leaving the Tankies to try to load the ship themselves.

Since reading that I've always thought Dockers are a bunch of lady parts.
 
#12
With respect to the attitudes of pro-Soviet unions, a particularly interesting read is the recently-published 'Listening to Britain', (Addison and Crang, (ed)) consisting of Home Intelligence reports on public opinion accross the UK. It was clear that early on in the war, not only were some unions unconvinced about the struggle against Hitler, but that 'working classes' frequently cited as asking 'would we be worse off under Hitler?'

More animosity was levelled to Belgians after the capitulation of Belgium's army of 300,000, exposing the BEF Flank, as well as the 'betrayal' by France. Assessed 'hate' of Germany only started when British cities were being bombed.
 
#13
"In 1943 there were two major stoppages, one was a strike of 12,000 bus drivers and conductors and the other of dockers in Liverpool and Birkenhead. Both were a considerable embarrassment to Bevin since they involved mainly TGWU members. 1944 marked the peak of wartime strike action with over two thousand stoppages involving the loss of 3,714,000 days' production. This led to the imposition of Defence Regulation 1AA, supported by the TUC, which now made incitement to strike unlawful. "

That's from the TUC's own website - http://www.unionhistory.info/timeline/1939_1945.php

I remember reading something by a Tank officer who wrote about trying to get his regiment's armour loaded on to a ship to get it to N. Africa where it was desperately needed. The Dockers knocked off at 5.00 p.m. on a Friday and buggered off for the week-end because of some overtime dispute, leaving the Tankies to try to load the ship themselves.

Since reading that I've always thought Dockers are a bunch of lady parts.
Well actually I wrote "war supplies for Poland"..in fact It was "military purchases for the pre- war Polish re-armanent program
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#14
With respect to the attitudes of pro-Soviet unions, a particularly interesting read is the recently-published 'Listening to Britain', (Addison and Crang, (ed)) consisting of Home Intelligence reports on public opinion accross the UK. It was clear that early on in the war, not only were some unions unconvinced about the struggle against Hitler, but that 'working classes' frequently cited as asking 'would we be worse off under Hitler?'

More animosity was levelled to Belgians after the capitulation of Belgium's army of 300,000, exposing the BEF Flank, as well as the 'betrayal' by France. Assessed 'hate' of Germany only started when British cities were being bombed.
Histories of my regiment, 15/19th Hussars make it plain that expecting the Belgians to fall back from their eastern border to north of Brussels and conveniently conforming with our and the BEF's left flank was idiotic.

When we got eaten by the Wehrmacht who just kept right hooking behind our open flank on 18 May 40, disaster was all that could be expected. I remember stumbling on some Belgian CVR(T)s about 1978 and wondering why my commander (the RSM) was so cold toward them. Obviously the RSM was hot on regimental history (and possibly first hand word of mouth).
 
#15
When you read things like this "head of this, DG of that, chief of the other" and all of them working against the country it really does make me wonder, who is at it now and where are they working as I doubt this type has just disappeared.

Will we ever know which of the "high and mighty" are traitors?
 
#16
When you read things like this "head of this, DG of that, chief of the other" and all of them working against the country it really does make me wonder, who is at it now and where are they working as I doubt this type has just disappeared.

Will we ever know which of the "high and mighty" are traitors?
That assumes 'this type' was/is as numerous as Pincher, Wright, Angleton and their followers would have us believe.
 
#17
That assumes 'this type' was/is as numerous as Pincher, Wright, Angleton and their followers would have us believe.
That comment makes you suspect.

I think I might be channeling McCarthy!
 
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