Research by Professor Richard Aldrich of Warwick’s Department of Politics and International Studies (PAIS) played a central part in a new Channel 4 documentary, broadcast this weekend, exploring how British intelligence enlisted the Royal Family as part of its scheme to mislead the Nazis about plans for the liberation of Europe.
King George VI was an enthusiastic support of the “secret war,” and spent a week with SOE, reviewing the James Bond style gizmos and gadgets and watching secret agents being launched from North Africa into France.
When asked to be part of the grand deception being planned to persuade the Nazis that the Allies might launch the D-Day invasion via Calais or even Norway, he didn’t hesitate.
But details of how he played his part proved elusive. Professor Aldrich (pictured above in the University's Modern Records Centre) and Dr Rory Cormac of Nottingham University searched wartime archives to uncover the full story of the King’s role, told for the first time in the Channel 4 documentary.
Professor Aldrich said: “The most important breakthrough in our research was discovering that railway enthusiasts at the National Railway Museum had reconstructed all the movements of the royal train during the war.
“This allowed us to know the King’s movements hour by hour in the months before D-Day and which formations he visited – which revealed how active he was on this deception work.
“This was the missing piece of the jig-saw - so we ought to dedicate the programme to the trainspotters of Britain - our invisible friends.”
The documentary was commissioned to help mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
Professor Aldrich added: “The story tells the public a lot about intelligence history - something that Warwick specialises in – and shows that even a story like the D-Day deception, that is quite well known, still has hidden secrets for scholars to unearth.”
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