Bodyguard of Lies

Title:                      Bodyguard of Lies

Author:                 Anthony Cave Brown

Cave Brown, Anthony (1976). Bodyguard of Lies. London: W. H. Allen

LCCN:    77359736

D810.S7 C36 1976


Date Updated:  March 7, 2017

Bodyguard of Lies is a narrative of intelligence coups during WW II, which Brown sees as a fight against the upstart Hitler led by an alliance between American football players and that “group of men who represented the aristocratic cream of a caste of blood, land and money.” As everyone knows, the football players took almost everything after the war, but at least until D-Day the British upper class played a decisive role in the sphere of intelligence and counterintelligence. Brown begins with the 1938 reproduction of the German code machine, a coup so devastating that Churchill reportedly forbade warnings of Luftwaffe attacks against Coventry lest the Germans suspect the code-breaking. At least that is the urban myth. It is highly doubtful that Churchill even knew about the raid from ULTRA before it happened.

Fifty thousand homes were blitzed; however, the British did risk the code secret to trap the battleship Bismarck. Other Allied triumphs are familiar but well-told. Camouflage and double bluffs at E1 Alamein; the Special Operations Executive (SOE) undercover work in occupied Europe (although overall it was a failure owing to ignoring reports of compromise and deliberate errors in messages by captured agents.)

A high point is Operation Bodyguard, the decoy of the Wehrmacht away from the Allies’ Normandy landing sites – these deceptions were perhaps less decisive than Brown suggests, since vast numbers of German troops had been transferred to the Eastern front. Brown also bestows exaggerated praise on Admiral Canaris’ attempts to stop Hitler and aid the British, promoting Canaris to a “deeply moral and tragic” figure rather than the intelligent and wholly guilty Nazi collaborator that he was.

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

Deception in World War II attracted the attention of researchers and writers relatively late. Cave Brown’s enormous book (828 pp.) stimulated interest by focusing on this subject. Stupendous research taking some seven years produced the story of the Allied deception organization and operations connected with the 1944 invasion of Europe, culminating in the greatest of them designed to mislead the Germans. A potentially great study and reliable reference work on the subject, this has been severely criticized by knowledgeable British personalities. Reviews by Sir Dennis Wheatley, Hugh Trevor-Roper, and Michael Howard not only refute the book’s central thesis on deception but also cite some errors that so mar it as to render it untrustworthy as history, according to Trevor-Roper. Sir Dennis, a member of the London Controlling Section (LCS), the body that coordinated and directed Allied deceptions in London, wrote in RUSI that Cave Brown’s book was a source of “historical misinformation” and agreed with Trevor-Roper’s judgment that it was “a congeries of stories united only by a thesis which gravely distorts the truth.” Trevor-Roper’s detailed review in the New York Review of Books makes a number of critical points among which are the following. Its thesis that the deception program and all British intelligence were controlled by MI6 is wrong; too much initiative is ascribed to LCS; the most striking successes were not by LCS but by deception specialists in the war theaters or by BlA of MIS; Menzies, the head of MI6, was not the hero of the intelligence war; and it was Ultra that was central to intelligence operations and successes, not MI6. The association of Menzies and Canaris, the head of the Abwehr, and the identification of the latter as a source for MI6 are called “purest fantasy.” So, too, is his story of the reason for the assassination of Heydrich. Wheatley calls the stories of Menzies’ relations with Canaris “complete nonsense.” Howard in the Times Literary Supplement judges Cave Brown to be a journalist writing popular history, not a serious historian. He finds the book lacking in discrimination on accuracy of accounts and says “facts, gossip, rumor, irrelevancies, [and] speculation” are all included. Some errors he felt were dangerously misleading. These criticisms seem justified, and the list can be expanded.

A work like this that stimulates research has its shortcomings revealed as new material becomes available. New findings have shown up Cave Brown’s sections on Ultra, the Coventry raid, the extent of forewarnings of German intentions, and the exact role of Ultra in the sinking of the Bismarck. Insistence that the Germans “had consistently broken into every Russian cryptosystem from the highest commands down to battalion” is contrary to other evidence and is not ascribed to a source; neither is his story that Colonel Fellers of the U.S. Army was used for deception by the British. The use of such material as was available did not prevent errors of detail, such as making it appear that William Friedman was in charge of the 1920s Black Chamber or mistaking the intelligence consequences of the loss of the courier just before the Torch invasion. The exact role of the agent King Kong in Holland is still being debated. It is a paradox that in his wish to be encyclopedic on the subject of deception operations, Cave Brown produced a history of many Allied and especially British intelligence operations in the war in certain theaters that can be used as a reference on particular operations only if it is used as a starting point and further research is pursued on the matter elsewhere. Mure in Practise to Deceive[2] supports Cave Brown on his controversial version of Allied deception in connection with peace feelers by the German satellites.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[3]

An extraordinary history of intelligence and deception in World War II. Heretofore it has been necessary to research numerous sources for fragments of the total World War II deception operations, but Brown has pulled it all together after more than seven years of research into British and American military archives, using documents declassified as late as 1975, and interviews with knowledgeable persons. The author, a former foreign correspondent and British journalist, reveals the entire scope of deception operations conducted to disguise Allied military movements, especially the Normandy landings. Considerable attention is given to the British code breakers of the German coding machine, the ULTRA operation, and how deception operations were planned and tuned according to feedback obtained from ULTRA. Another branch of the deception game investigated by the author was that practiced by anti-Hitler officers of the German armed forces in seeking to obtain a separate peace with the Allies. This is the best single source of information on intelligence and deception operations, expertly researched, with generous bibliography and source material

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[4]

The author, a British journalist, has made an attempt to detail the story of Allied deception operations in World War II. His sources include declassified documents and personal interviews. The book is so replete with errors and erroneous embellishments, as well as irrelevancies and side excursions into matters far afield from deception, as to render it approachable only with great caution. Knowledgeable British reviewers have been highly critical, one noting that this book “can be enjoyed as narrative, as history it cannot be trusted.”

According to Roy Berkeley[5]:

Here too [in the Cabinet War Room], in. April, 1941, Churchill established. the London Controlling Section to plan the stratagems of British (and later American) “special means.” This “vaguely sinister term,” writes Anthony Cave Brown in Bodyguard of Lies, “included a wide variety of surreptitious, sometimes murderous; always intricate operations of covert warfare designed to cloak overt military operations in secrecy and to mystify Hitler about the real intentions of the Allies.” The major use of special means during WWII and the creation of a central agency to co-ordinate them, writes Brown, was “probably [Churchill’s] greatest single contribution to military theory and practice”. Every British ( and later American) war planning staff was linked to the LCS in an extraordinary effort to utilize the most comprehensive deceptions alongside the more normal military methods of war. Trying to trick the enemy is as old as war itself, writes Brown, but “Churchill undertook to institutionalise deception both in military affairs and statehood; and that was startlingly new”.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[6]

A single source of information on deception and intelligence operations in World War II. Written by a British journalist after more than seven years research, it brings together all the deception operations used by the Allies in disguising their military landings, including the Normandy landings. See chapter 21, section B, for main annotation.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 112-113

[2] Mure, David (1977). Practise to Deceive. London: William Kimber

[3] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p.

[4] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature (7th ed Rev.). Washington, DD: Defense Intelligence School, p. 14

[5] See Berkeley, Roy (1994). A Spy’s London. London: Leo Cooper, p. 3

[6] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., pp. 167-168


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