By R.G. Auckland
The British Prisoner of War Postal Censorship intercepted many letters from the relatives of German soldiers who still believed their husband, father or brother to be living despite the fact that no trace could be found in a PoW camp, or even in Western Europe.
Certain of these original letters were passed over, by request, to Sefton Delmer, leader of the Psychological Warfare Department, 'black' section. He read many of the moving letters which contained details of family life. Intimate letters which would now be used to further the desertion of German soldiers.
Typewritten letters were sent to the senders of the letters - those usually chosen were a wife or a mother - telling them not to worry about Martin or whatever name. He was safe and well in a neutral country and when the war is over he will either return or send for you. Best greetings were sent all with a request not to mention this letter to anyone. The letter was signed only with a red circle and posted inside Germany.
Naturally, the recipient of a letter could not possibly refrain from passing on such good news after months and months of silence. The British hoped that when German soldiers also heard the news they would consider deserting to a neutral country.
Sefton Delmer tells the story of these faked letters in Black Boomerang (Secker & Warburg, London, 1962) and adds that he feels a little ashamed now at what he did. To somewhat ease his conscience he arranged for food parcels to be sent to the relatives who had been so viciously hoaxed. The receiver of the gift parcel was also given the dead soldier's Christian name - but a different surname from his own. This was to foster the belief that the deserted soldier had started life anew under an assumed name.
Delmer's propaganda team produced many leaflets and other kinds of literature signed solely with a red circle. These were sent to the German soldiers and civilians by three main media. Firstly, by infiltration into Germany itself where the items could be posted to individuals or left lying about by agents. Secondly, by disseminating literature from RAF planes who were on normal bombing missions and thirdly, for use against German soldiers in occupied countries by stuffing them in parachute containers as packing for the weapons and ammunition, etc., which were dropped to Resistance groups.
Nothing, except what Sefton Delmer has written, is known about the Red Circle leaflets, but collectors have managed to find copies of several productions and by research work are able to make a tentative listing. 1
The Red Circle was, of course, intended to encourage Germans of all kinds to believe that an anti-Nazi resistance group was responsible for the leaflets, lists and tracts. But no such organisation existed - except in the fertile imagination of Delmer and his teams.
1. See British Black Propaganda to Germany 1941-1945, published by the Psywar Society. This includes a section on 'Red Circle' and other leaflets by fictitious anti-Nazi groups.
The Falling Leaf. No. 61. June 1973.
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©1973 PsyWar Society