Last year I spent a large amount of time chasing up documents from the UK National Archives held at the Public Record Office at Kew. At the time I was doing research for a documentary on Keith Park, the New Zealand commander of 11 Group during the Battle of Britain in 1940, and as a result my e-mail address was added to their mailing list. As the Archives gradually become digitised, enormous quantities of material are now becoming easily accessible. Previously it require a trip to Kew and hours of wading through unrelated material to find what you were after.
Unlike many mailing lists, the unsolicited content occasionally sent through to me is utterly fascinating. Random glimpses into history appear in my inbox weekly and occasionally a gem appears that has me procrastinating doing important work for hours. One such example was the online publication of all the Second World War air combat reports covering RAF units based in the United Kingdom including the United States Army Air Force. The main search page can be found here and, as an example, here’s a look at the last page of Douglas Bader’s combat report for September 15th, 1940 (now remembered as Battle of Britain Day).
The Archives have also released Army, Navy and Marines records plus the UK Government UFO files. If you wish to find out more about close encounters, strange illnesses, flying ‘Toblerones’ and unidentified objects tracked on radar you can find the link to the files here.
Occasionally though the records turn up events lost to popular history and this week is a good example.
In 1937 MI5 began to monitor a group of German boy scouts, members of the Hitler Youth, who were on a cycling holiday through England. The spy agency warned local police and authorities to be on the look out for cycling Nazis wearing…
dark navy blue uniforms, consisting of shorts and loose open-neck tunics
No piece of information was deemed too small for the agency to register and, although no solid evidence was gathered to prove the boy scouts were spying, their itinerary included local sights such as steelworks and gasworks. The Metropolitan Police were tasked with shadowing them in London and police in Denbighshire noted the scouts “swapped hats” with local scouting groups in Colwyn Bay. At the Spalding Rotary Club it was noted the boys had a “sausage and mashed potato supper”.
Needless to say, I won’t be demanding to be removed from the mailing list anytime soon. This stuff is gold!
Filed under: Culture |