Marie – José Villiers: British born Countess working with the Belgium Resistance. (30 April 1916 – 1 February 2015)

After Belgium was occupied Villiers reconnoitred German airfields in Belgium and northern France and passed the intelligence to London. She also worked for an escape line rescuing allied air crews shot down over Belgium and assisted them to reach neutral Spain but after several members of the resistance were arrested Villiers was warned the Gestapo knew her identity and was high on their wanted list. She then obtained forged identity papers, dyed her hair black and escaped to England though Spain and Portugal.

Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler: Attempting to escape British forces.

In this second episode, we follow Himmler as he goes on the run, heading south through the British occupation zone until his capture and identification by British forces.

Dr. Mark Felton is a well-known British historian, the author of 22 non-fiction books, including bestsellers ‘Zero Night’ and ‘Castle of the Eagles’, both currently being developed into movies in Hollywood. In addition to writing, Mark also appears regularly in television documentaries around the world, including on The History Channel, Netflix, National Geographic, Quest, American Heroes Channel and RMC Decouverte. His books have formed the background to several TV and radio documentaries.

Anna Leska-Daab: ATA Ferry Pilot in England during WW2.

Original B&W image source unknown.

Anna Leska-Daab obtained her glider and balloon pilot licence at the Warsaw Flying Club. After escaping to England through Romania and France she was one of three Polish women serving with the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary)

She was Stationed at Hatfield and Hamble and ferried a total of 1,295 aircraft including 557 Supermarine Spitfires. She flew 93 types of aircraft, including flying boats, and was airborne for 1,241 hours. 

She was the sister of col. pilot Kazimierz Leski, also known as “Bradl”, the legendary intelligence officer of the Polish Home Army and wife of Capt. pilot Mieczysław Daab. Anna Leska-Dabb died on 21 January 1988.

Alan Malcher.

British Home Front during WW2: Wireless Security Service – Tracking German Spies in England by Dr David Abrutat

David Abrutat recently published Radio War: The Secret Espionage War of the Radio Security Service 1938- 1946 and gave the following talk at the Buckinghamshire Wireless Museum. See book below.

Alan Malcher

WW2 Training Film for US Soldiers: How to Behave in Britain 1943. This must have been a culture shock for newly arrived GI’s


Disappearance of Lieutenant Commander Lionel ‘Buster’ Crab

On 19 April 1956 Lieutenant Commander Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabb, OBE GM RNVR disappeared in Portsmouth Harbour and Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden told MP’s it was not in the public interest to discuss the circumstances and the admiralty stated Crabb had disappeared whilst testing secret underwater equipment some distance from the harbour.

It is widely believed ‘Buster’ Crabb disappeared during a clandestine operation to examine the Soviet Cruiser Ordszhonikidze berthed in Portsmouth Harbour during a visit by Nikita Khrushchev. A headless body with both hands missing and dressed in a diving suit was later found floating in the sea. Even after the forensic pathologist who examined the body stated they were not the remains of Crabb because known scars on the legs were not present the body was reported to have been Lt Cdr Crabb and buried in Milton Cemetery, Portsmouth and researcher Sydney Knowles later claimed Crabb had not dived alone.

Since his disappearance there has been much speculation, many conspiracy theories and the files remain classified until 2057.

British Homefront during WW2: Marion Patterson GM (1911-1993)

Portrait at the IWM
On 7 August 1942 whilst serving as a Scottish fire warden she was part of a team extinguishing a large fire at a burning building after an air raid. She was inside the building when she heard cries for help coming from under a collapsed wall and found a sailor seriously injured. Whilst surrounded by smoke an flames she called for a rope to be lowered and after tying it around the sailors waist he was hoisted to safety. Within less than a minute after Patterson left the building the walls collapsed.
On 12 February 1943 Marion Patterson was awarded the GM by King George IV and the king also commissioned this portrait of her which was displayed at the National Gallery. (IWM) 

Alan Malcher.

Gabriel Adler: Wireless Operator SOE Italian Section

Gabriel Adler

Adler was born in Hungary on 15 September 1919 and was recruited by SOE on 21 September 1942. After infiltrating the Cagliari area of Sardinia, Italy by submarine he was captured soon after reaching the shore. The Italian Military Intelligence Service (Survizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza) attempted to playback his wireless to London but the incorrect codes were sent, and London was aware it was an attempted wireless deception.

In May 1943 Adler was transferred to the Regina Coeli Prison in Rome that was taken over by the German SD (Sicherheitsdienst) following the Italian surrender. After being interrogated by the SD he gave away no important information and convinced his interrogators he was a British officer named John Armstrong.  After the war it was discovered that a ‘John Armstrong’ was in a prison at Lake Bracciano approximately 35 miles from Rome and after the liberation of Rome by Allied forces in June 1944 an investigation attempted to find out what happened to Gabriel Adler aka John Armstrong.

After extensive enquiries it was discovered that on 3 June 1944 Adler was one of 80 prisoners selected by the SD to be transferred to a prison in northern Italy ahead of the Allied advance.  The group of prisoners had been assembled in the courtyard at Regina Prison with their hands tied behind their backs. They were put into the backs of lorries and told they were being taken to the SD headquarters at the Via Tasso in Rome, now the home of the Museum of Liberation, and then onto Florence. At 0:30 hrs on 4 June a second group of prisoners were assembled in a similar manner as the first group and put into the back of lorries.

It was later claimed a few of the prisoners believed they were going to be killed and after leaving the compound attempted to escape and though shots were fired a few managed to get away. Another report states the first batch of prisoners also attempted to escape after their convoy of lorries were attacked by Allied aircraft but there was no mention of Adler. According to a priest at the Santo Spirito Hospital in Rome a large number of bodies arrived, and one was listed as an unknown English Soldier, but Investigators concluded Adler was not among the bodies because he was known to be wearing a battle dress over which was a pair of Skiing trousers and a wind jacket and none of the bodies were wearing such clothing.

When the Allies reached Rome the Regina Coeli Prison was empty and a witness said even after the last German lorry was leaving the remaining prisoners were being released. There is a plethora of confusing and contradicting information and the investigating team concluded Adler was most probably dead and was eventually listed presumed dead with no known grave.

Alan Malcher.

Private Ian Ray (Australian Army)

19 year old Private Ian Ray

19-year-old Ian Ray from Melbourne Australia, was serving with the 2nd/31st Infantry Battalion, Australian Army when he was wounded in the left arm during the Battle of Morotai.

After receiving medial treatment at a field hospital, on 18 September 1945 the aircraft used for his evacuation failed to arrive in Australia and a subsequent investigation failed to locate the crash site.

In 1967 the wreckage of an aircraft was found in a remote valley in Papua New Guinea (formally Dutch New Guinea or Netherlands New Guinea) but after several failed attempts the crash site was not reached until 2005.

This fountain pen given to Ian Ray by his father in 1944 which he used to write letters home was found among his personal belongings.

The remains of Private Ian Ray were later buried at Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery, Papua New Guinea.

(Photograph credit: Australian War Memorial)

Alan Malcher.

Alexander Vass: SOE Hungarian Section wireless operator

Alexander Vass was born in Limburg, Germany, he spoke fluent Hungarian and was a child when his family moved to Canada and became naturalised Canadians.

 In early 1943 Vass enlisted into the Royal Canadian Medical Corp and several months later he came to the attention of SOE’s Hungarian Section who were looking for agents who could speak fluent Hungarian and after passing selection and training in England he went on to pass the wireless and security course at Thames House in Oxfordshire.

Vass and three other agents boarded a converted Halifax bomber of 148 Special Duty Squadron RAF to be dropped by parachute north of Lake Balaton in western Hungary and after the aircraft failed to return it was assumed all had been killed.

Several months after the war it was discovered the Halifax had been intercepted by German night fighters and Luftwaffe documents stated the aircraft exploded after hitting the ground and all the crew were killed.  After three SOE agents were liberated from a German prisoner of war camp Alexander Vass was not among them and the three surviving agents later described what happened.

They were not aware the aircraft had been lost because the agents had been dropped before its interception. One agent named Broughay said they had been dropped at the wrong location and landed in a forest and he found himself about 30 feet up a tree and there was no way of concealing their presence. After splitting up into two groups he and Vass avoided enemy forces for over 24 hours but were eventually captured, stripped searched and interrogated. They were then taken down a hill where the other two agents were in custody and were told they would be shot. The three agents were then taken to a Secret Police Headquarters were the interrogation continued and the following morning were put into the back of a lorry and were greatly relieved after finding themselves at a German Prisoner of War Camp controlled by the Luftwaffe.

During an allied air raid sometime in December 1944 a bomb hit the camp and Alexander Vass was killed.

Alan Malcher