Radio Caledonia

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Radio Caledonia
Slogan The Voice of Scotland
Frequency 42.86 metres
First air date 27 June 1940; 77 years ago (1940-06-27)
Last air date August 1942 (1942-08)
Language(s) English
Owner German Foreign Office/Propaganda Ministry
Sister stations New British Broadcasting Station, Workers' Challenge, Christian Peace Movement, Irland-Redaktion, Radio National

Radio Caledonia was a German wartime propaganda station aimed at listeners in Scotland, which operated between June 1940 and August 1942. It was one of a number of 'black clandestine' radio stations operated by Büro Concordia, an organisation controlled by the German Foreign Office and Goebbels' propaganda ministry. Designated internally as Büro NW, its broadcasts were mainly written and broadcast by Scottish fascist Donald Grant, known on-air as 'Jock Palmer'. He argued in his broadcasts that a Hitler-controlled Scotland would be vastly preferable to "an England run by a war-mongering Churchill". The Scottish newspaper journalist, Edward F. Balloch (who worked in London for Allied Newspapers titles such as the Press and Journal) described it as a station "which discusses the grievances — exaggerated a hundredfold by the enemy — of Scottish Nationalists".[1]

Programming

"Radio Caledonia — The Voice of Scotland" was broadcast on 42.55 metres (shortwave) wavelength and used Auld Lang Syne as a signature tune. Its only broadcast was the daily ten-minute talk, entitled New Caledonia, which was mainly written and broadcast by Scottish fascist Donald Grant, known on-air as 'Donald Palmer' or 'Jock Palmer'. There was also a 'Mary Fraser' who broadcast frequently and was said to adopt "quite a good Highland accent". However, she was confirmed by the BBC's foreign broadcasting department as being Phyllis Markgrah, a German member of Goebbels' propaganda staff and Hitler's "sob sister", according to press accounts.[2]

The recordings were made between 4 and 6 pm at the Funkhaus, Masurenallee, Berlin from June 1940 until July 1941, then at the Reichssportfeld (Berlin Olympic Stadium). The tapes were taken to the house of senior official, Herr Augustin, from where the programme was transmitted — initially at 19:20, then, after February 1941, at 18:00 and subsequently 19:45 and 21:15.[3]

Grant described the purpose of the station to his British interrogators after the war:

The object of this radio programme was to create the impression that a radio station was being operated by Scotchmen in Scotland with a view of bringing an understanding between the British people and the German Government.[4]

The programmes were aimed at dockyard workers on Clydeside, appealing largely to Scottish nationalist sentiment. Grant claimed that he "chiefly devoted the talks to the economic betterment of Scotland and a better future for her people". Although German Foreign Ministry officials were dubious about the likely receptivity of the Scots, they nonetheless approved of the Propaganda Ministry's plan.

This message of peace was in line with Grant's own professed views, but Grant added the disclaimer that there was sometimes interference on the part of the German authorities and, in particular, Dr Erich Hetzler, chief of the department.

Grant initially wrote the broadcasts with a Scottish POW, Sergeant Macdonald, but later Susan Hilton of the Concordia's Irish service claims she also wrote many of the talks until January 1942:

I wrote three to six talks a week. These were of a varying character, touching upon industry, economics, farming, and every subject to do with Scotland. To assist me I was given by Hetzler extracts from BBC broadcasts and from newspapers, magazines, etc., and the theme of my scripts was to re-act against the British point of view as expressed in their propaganda. The idea was to lead the British people to the German point of view.[5]

Early broadcasts

It is thought that Radio Caledonia began transmissions on 27 June 1940, but it was not until 19 July that it was first observed by British monitors. The Press and Journal newspaper first mentioned the existence of the station on 2 August:

The enemy's war of nerves has proved a flop. The people of Britain have not disintegrated as Hitler hoped. They become more united that ever. We learned lessons from Scandinavia, Holland and Belgium. And here it is amusing to think of the desperate efforts of the enemy propagandists to drive a wedge of class distinction between what they call the "plutocrats" and the "poor working man". The latest phase in this plan is the introduction of a new radio station called 'Radio Caledonia', whose principal aim is to so play upon the minds of the Scottish people that they will rise up in rebellion against "the English Government", and seek a separate peace with Germany. It sounds ridiculous, but the Germans are great triers.[6]

On 21 August, The Times reported that "at least four German stations now pretend to be secret British broadcasting groups": the New British Broadcasting Station, Workers' Challenge Station, Christian Peace Movement and...

Then there is "Radio Caledonia", which broadcasts supposedly depressing accounts of stocks, shares, and savings in Great Britain — clearly with the hope of appealing to the canny Scots mind.[7]

The following is a transcript of a broadcast made on 26 August 1940:

Neutral correspondents in Britain are complaining about the Censor. Names of harbours, docks and railways are cut out by the authorities. Newspapers and BBC news bulletins are severely censored. But there are occasions when correspondents do get the truth into the newspapers.

It is reported that the British Government has asked American newspapers not to publish news of the very desperate situation in which we are now. The general opinion in America is that the position is hopeless and that it's too late for America to come to our aid.

The papers and the BBC only publish what Churchill wants to be known. If people knew the truth about our defences, they would realise what a fool's paradise we are living in to hope to win the war. If the truth were known the war would not last another day.

During the last few weeks and the last few days terrible damage has been done — Ramsgate: wrecking of gas works and aerodromes. We are only told a faction of what goes on. Some areas are receiving continuous air attacks. A. A. Defences are suffering from too much work. Our efforts must be increased to acquaint people with the facts, to save our country from utter destruction.

This war is the result of capitalism — we have known nothing but unemployment, hardship and poverty from capitalism. The English will not allow their country to be destroyed. We can and will save our native land by getting a separate peace for Scotland. [8]

A month later, Edward F. Balloch wrote that the broadcasts were "sheer bathos":

There are sickening references to the "Bonnie Scotland" which the Nazis will build up if they get the chance; there is an appeal to Scots to have nothing to do with Mr Churchill and to "protect your own lovely hills and glens." There is a threat to Scots which says unless, from now onwards, they support Hitler, thye will be bombed out of existence.[9]

Two days later, the Daily Record reported:

Having tried for days to induce Scotland to make a separate peace with Hitler, this station now tried to play off Glasgow against Edinburgh. The workers of Edinburgh are described as 'having a damned good time," while the Glaswegian is pictured as a poor, dissatisfied individual who gets little or no pay and who is anxious to "get to grips with Churchill". Get rid of "Edinburgh swank," says the announcer. "Stand up for your rights."[10]

Three-month period off-air

Reception of Radio Caledonia in Britain was invariably poor.[11] It is believed that transmission ceased on 31 October 1940 and did not recommence until 8 February 1941. Indeed, in January, the Press and Journal stated that Caledonia had been "off the air for weeks. It just faded away." Indeed, reception of all four propaganda stations was on most nights "so bad that not even the monitors are able to translate the rubbish broadcast".[12]

Silence over Hess landing

On 10 May 1941, Adolf Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess parachuted into Scotland, landing in a field near Eaglesham. The prominent Nazi had flown solo for nearly 1,000 miles from Bavaria in a Messerschmitt Bf 110, apparently on a peace mission in the days leading up to Germany's invasion of Russia.

But while listeners to the BBC heard the brusque Scottish voices of David Maclean and his mother describing the event, Radio Caledonia announced that it "will be off the air for a few days as our transmitter in Scotland requires spare parts".[13]

Even after the station was back up-and-running, it was strangely quiet on the Banffshire spy case.[14]

New line

In September 1941, the press reported that Radio Caledonia was "trying out a new line on Scotland".

Our Scottish people would not only prefer, but would feel much safer, if our native soil were defended by our own Scottish lads. England's Dictator, however, without consulting us, has sent our men all over the Globe, and replaced them with Czechs, Poles, and Heaven knows what.[15]

And in October the station reported that:

Relations between England and Scotland are almost at breaking point. Scots returning from London, it would appear, have brought reports of violent unrest everywhere and, adds Berlin, the Scots are utterly tired of England's conduct of the war and wish to get out now.[16]

Demise

Grant claimed that he had "long been of the opinion that the station was serving no useful purpose" and, in August 1942, he "begged Dr Hetzler that it not be continued". This was agreed to and the last transmission was made a few days later.

Other Büro Concordia stations

Büro Concordia was the code-name of a secret organisation which operated a series of 'black' propaganda stations aimed at Britain:

  • The New British Broadcasting Station (NBBS or Büro N) was the first and most important secret station for Britain, aimed at patriotic dissidents horrified at the disastrous course of action which the British government had dragged its people into by going to war with Germany. Programmes included an Uncensored News Review and Between Ourselves talks for the station's 'collaborators'. A senior BBC official later remarked: "The activities of this station caused considerable concern to the authorities in this country and quesitons about it were asked and answered in Parliament." The same official also described the NBBS talks as "rather clever broadcasts to begin with and rather above the average... their best effort really". It launched on 25 February 1940 and continued almost daily until 9 April 1945. The quality of reception in Britain was variable. There were initially four transmissions per day but the number varied throughout the lifetime of the station. Broadcasts were introduced by Loch Lomond or Annie Laurie and sometimes ended with the playing of the British national anthem.
  • Workers' Challenge (Büro S), purported to represent the downtrodden British working class who, it was claimed, were being sacrificed in an unwinnable war in the interests of capitalism, and called upon them to stop the war immediately by withdrawing their labour from the service of the state. The broadcasts attracted a good deal of attention in Britain primarily because of the shockingly rude language which they employed — words like 'bugger', 'bastard' and 'sod' were typical. William Joyce appears to have been the main scriptwriter, while one of the chief speakers was William Griffiths, a Welsh guardsman who had been in a POW camp and was persuaded to broadcast. The station commenced broadcasting on 7 July 1940 and continued until 26 January 1945.
  • Christian Peace Movement (Büro P) directed extreme pacifist, religious propaganda to Britain, aimed at an audience of the Peace Pledge Union Type. The scripts were written by Private Cyril Charles Hoskins and spoken by Corporal Jones. It began broadcasting on 15 August 1940 and closed down in April 1942. The CPM broadcast twice daily at 19:45 and 20:45 on 31.76m. Reception in Britain was always poor.
  • Radio National (Büro F) was sharply anti-Jewish in tone and, according to one of its broadcasters, had as its main function "to be a Fascist station run on the same lines as the BUF in Britain". It broadcast from summer 1943 and lasted for about a year.
  • Irland-Redaktion: was on air from December 1939 (??) until May 1945, bringing a mixture of jigs, reels and Nazi propaganda to an Irish audience that was both small and largely indifferent to Berlin’s overtures. The Germans knew that Irish was not widely spoken but, nonetheless, they wanted to target extreme nationalists with a hardhitting anti-English slant which included lurid tales of British Army brutality in preindependence Ireland. In addition, the regime in Berlin wanted Dublin to stay out of the war.[17]

References

  1. 'Aggressive Spirit in Our Foreign Propaganda', Press and Journal, 15 January 1941, 4.
  2. 'Goebbels Exploits Air Truce', Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 1.
  3. Statement of Herbert Krumbiegel, Electrical Engineeer, Berlin, National Archives KV2/424.
  4. National Archives, KV2/424
  5. Statement of Susan Hilton, National Archives KV2/424.
  6. 'Hitler's 'Nerves War' Proves Flop', Press and Journal, 2 August 1940, 4.
  7. '"Billingsgate" On The Air', The Times, 21 August 1940, 4.
  8. http://www.psywar.org/caledonia19400826.php
  9. 'Nazis Claim Rush of Recruits for Luftwaffe', Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough, 17 September 1940, 5.
  10. 'Hail, Caledonia', Daily Record, 19 September 1940, 6.
  11. Workers' Challenge and NBBS attracted significant audience, but the constantly poor reception of Radio Caledonia and Christian Peace Movement, as well as to a lesser extent NBBC, was a constant problem. See Doherty (1994?), 182.
  12. 'Aggressive Spirit in Our Foreign Propaganda', Press and Journal, 15 January 1941, 4.
  13. 'The London Letter' Press and Journal, 17 May 1941, 2.
  14. 'Caledonia Myth', Daily Record, 9 August 1941, 4.
  15. 'Nazis and Scots', Daily Record, 9 September 1941, 4.
  16. 'From the P and J Listening Station', Press and Journal, 27 October 1941, 1.
  17. See The History Show — RTÉ Radio 1