Luke Daly-Groves relates his experience of exchanging knowledge and stories with locals at a public lecture on the hidden history of MI6 in a town in North Rhine-Westphalia:
School of History
University of Leeds
On Tuesday evening I made my way from Bad Salzuflen to Herford where I was to deliver a public lecture entitled ‘Herford’s Hidden History: British Intelligence Division Headquarters, 1946-1951’. In doing so, I was retracing the steps of John Bruce Lockhart, the head of MI6 in Germany. Indeed, Bad Salzuflen was once MI6 Headquarters and Herford once home to the British Intelligence Division (ID), an organisation which is central to my thesis. Of course, there are modern differences. The building from which I departed was no longer a British Army Officers’ mess but a hotel run by a friendly family. Seventy years ago, I would have been imprisoned for revealing to my German audience the contents of my lecture. My historical knowledge made the contrasts stark and the experience surreal.
The day before, I had visited Christoph Laue at the archives in Herford. There, I discovered that an unassuming house on Bielefelder Straße was actually home to British Intelligence Team 8 and that local German government officials aided British intelligence significantly in their efforts to monitor youth activity. Later, using a map marked by Christoph, a 1952 photograph and the help of a friendly onlooker, I located Wentworth Barracks. Luckily, it is now being converted into university buildings. Consequently, the entrance was wide open, alert military guards now replaced by indifferent builders. I walked in and immediately went to block ‘C’. It was here, in room 68, where the Joint Intelligence Committee (Germany) met frequently in the 1940s to discuss and coordinate a variety of important intelligence matters. This is what often brought Lockhart to Herford. I took a photograph to use in my lecture.
The lecture room was almost full. It was decorated with wonderful images deriving from its history as a local government building, including a prominent black eagle. Eckhard Möller translated my speech into German perfectly with good humour. I felt honoured, with permission from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to show the audience, for the first time, an organisation chart of ID HQ in Herford which I obtained through a freedom of information request last year.
The questions I received following the lecture were the highlight of my KEP. This is where the real knowledge exchange took place. I was surprised to learn that many local people had no idea about the important intelligence history of the area and delighted to have shared the secret with them. Moreover, I was happy to hear passionate stories from contemporaries with both good and bad experiences of the occupation and from British soldiers both serving and retired. I learned much from them.
I am very thankful to WRoCAH, the University of Leeds and the Herford History Association for making this possible. I would also like to thank all the lovely people from Herford, Bad Salzuflen and surrounding areas who listened to my lecture and engaged with me afterwards. It is great to know that people are still passionate about history and that the subject of my thesis really does matter to so many.