Winterbotham, Frederick William (Oral history)

Catalogue number
  • 7462
Department
Sound
Production date
1984
Subject period
Dimensions
  • whole: Duration 1060, Number Of Items 36
Alternative names
  • object name: Oral history
  • object category: IWM interview
Creator
Category
sound

© IWM

Purchase & License
Object description

British officer served with 29 Sqdn Royal Flying Corps on Western Front, 1917; POW in Germany, 1917-1918. Served as Head of Air Staff Department, Secret Intelligence Service in London, 1929-1945

Content description

REEL 1: Background in Gloucestershire, 1897-1914: family; education at Charterhouse School; story of world trip, 1913. Aspects of training with Gloucesteshire Yeomanry in GB, 1914-1915: description of training; intercepting German messages; reason for transferring to Royal Flying Corps. Aspects of training with Royal Flying Corps in GB, 1915-1917: description of training at Central Flying School, Salisbury Plain; flying training in Oxford trainer and Sopwith Pup; posted to 29 Sqdn Royal Flying Corps in France, 4/1917. Recollections of operations with 29 Sqdn Royal Flying Corps on Western Front, 1917: description of flying in Nieuport plane; problem of height; opinion of Nieuport; posted to Izel-le-Hameux; description of opening artillery barrage at Cambrai as seen from the air; problem of Howitzer shells hitting aircraft; nature of patrolling duties and question of vulnerability to German attack; role of Royal Flying Corps in boosting moral of infantry; description of German balloons; question of life expectancy of pilots; transferred to Passchendaele area, Belgium, summer 1917; description of role on reconnaissance patrols; story of being shot down while escorting photo reconnaissance plane, 13/Jul/1917. REEL 2 Continues: Recollections of period as POW in Germany, 1917-1919: description of crash and capture behind German lines; injuries sustained in crash; story of Mr Viegers; comparison of British and German pilots; description of interrogation by German officer; relations with German pilots after capture; story of being told Russia about to enter war; description of being take to POW cage and conditions in cage; food; exercise; relations with Belgian civilians; description of journey by cattle truck to Karlsruhe, Germany, via Cologne; memory of Russian POWs; question of being reported killed in action; description of daily routine and conditions in Karlsruhe prison; transferred to POW camp in Trier and description of conditions; transferred to POW camp in Schweidnitz, Silesia; description of daily routine and conditions; accommodation; problem of extreme cold; role as camp Adjutant; question of escape; story of learning German; story of Hauptmann Schmidt and attack on camp by German communists. REEL 3 Continues: opinion of Prussian generals; attitude to captivity; description of journey back to GB and reception for POWs at Leith, Scotland, 1919; reflections on period as POW; attitude to Germans; comparison of British and German air strategy; opinion of German intelligence operations during war; description of German balloons used in artillery spotting; comparison of British and German aircraft development; description of role on photo reconnaissance missions and question of danger; further comments on period as POW at Schweidnitz camp; medical care; types of prisoners on camp; escape plans; demobilised from RAF and amusing story of letter from Air Ministry concerning capture. Aspects of period in GB, 1919-1939: story of going up to Christ College Oxford and question of reduced fees for ex-servicemen; effects of war on male student numbers. REEL 4 Continues: question of disproportion of male and female students due to war; description of daily life in Oxford; graduation as lawyer and attitude to employment in legal profession; story of world trip; marriage into Horniman tea merchant family; employment as farmer; story of trip to Africa, 1928; problem of finding employment in London; story of being recruited to set up Air Staff Department of Secret Intelligence Service, 1929. REEL 5 Continues: Recollections of period as head of Air Staff Department, Secret Intelligence Service in London, 1929-1939: nature of duties; story of first meeting with SIS chief Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair at HQ in Broadway Buildings; description of briefings and setting up office; role of German agent Billy de Ropp; description of intelligence gathering on foreign air strengths; question of threat from Soviet Union; funding; role as head of Air Staff Department; question of obtaining information from American correspondents; problem of obtaining reliable and accurate information; description of intelligence activities in Middle East; attitude to rise of Hitler and Nazis in Germany during 1930s; attitude to pacifism and question of re-armament; problem of German re-armament; role of Billy de Ropp as double agent in Germany and connections with Nazi Alfred Rosenberg. REEL 6 Continues: description of Billy de Ropp and activities with Nazis; question of de Ropp's wife sleeping with top Nazis to obtain information; story of visit to GB by Rosenberg; opinion of Rosenberg and role in Nazi Party; attitude of Nazis to British and desire to receive good publicity in press; question of rivalry between von Ribbentropp and Rosenberg; story of briefing Edward VIII about Nazi threat; amusing story of Rosenberg's diaries; question of appearing to maintain friendly relations with Nazi government; attitude to Air Staff and Cabinet to work of Air Staff Department. REEL 7 Continues: story of first visit to Germany at Rosenberg's invitation, 2/1934; description of journey and VIP treatment; question of awareness of persecution of Jews in Germany; reception at Berlin station; first impressions of Nazi Germany; question of maintaining cover and reason for pretending not to speak German; description of visit to Chancellory and meeting with Todt; description of meeting Hitler and first impressions; nature of conversation with Hitler and topics covered including Hitler's attitude to communism and British Empire; question of Hitler revealing plans to invade Soviet Union; amusing description of Hitler ranting against communism; Hitler's opinion of Anthony Eden; opinion of Hitler as statesman. REEL 8 Continues: further comments on Hitler's character; question of planning future strategy following visit; Rosenberg's comments on burning of Reichstag; description of fundraising event in Weimar and question of popularity of Nazis; story of telephone call from British Embassy and danger of cover being blown; description of visit to Nietzsche museum with Rosenberg and importance of Nietzsche's philosophy to Nazis; description of visit to Hitler Youth college. REEL 9 Continues: further comments on visit to Hitler Youth college; reaction to visit to Germany and reason for criticism from Sir Samuel Hoare; story of Rosenberg revealing list of prominent Frenchmen working for Nazis; description of luncheon party at Horsher's Restaurant in Berlin with senior Nazi military leaders; story of General Walther von Reichenau revealing plans to invade Soviet Union and use of Blitzkrieg strategy; question of gathering intelligence information during luncheon and opinion of Nazi leaders; question of German re-armament and attitude to Treaty of Versailles; story of suggesting Ralph Wenniger as Air Attache in London; reflections on visit to Germany and importance in determining future strategy. REEL 10 Continues: further comments on mixed reaction to visit to Germany; attitude of British government to threat of German re-armament; role of Desmond Morton in gathering intelligence and contacts with Winston Churchill; relations with Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin; story of being questioned by Armed Forces Committee about intelligence gathering activities; description of expansion and re-equipping of RAF, 1935; description of intelligence operations in various countries, 1934-1935; use of 'Goering's Bible' to obtain information on Luftwaffe; relations with head of French Secret Service George Ronin. REEL 11: further comments on relations with George Ronin and use of 'Goering's Bible'; use of Italian sources of intelligence; description of intelligence gathering operations and contacts during mid-1930s; story of visit to GB by Luftwaffe pilots and setting up of Luftwaffe Club, 1935; role of Ken Bartlett at Bristol Aircraft in obtaining intelligence from Germany; attitude to development of Stuka bomber and German Blitzkrieg strategy; problem of communication with War Office over threat of German re-armament; attitude of War Office to role of RAF; story of second visit to Germany, 1934; question of German pilots being trained for possible war; description of developments in air technology, 1936; use of 'shadow' aircraft factories; re-equipment of RAF; development of Spitfire; attitude to German air re-armament; reaction to German re-occupation of the Rhineland, 1936. REEL 12 Continues: further comments on use of 'Goering's Bible'; source of information; relations with French Air Staff and Secret Service; question of French commitment to war against Germany; attitude to French; story of third visit to Germany, 1936; assigned own ADC Karl Boeme; description of summer solstice ceremony in Lubeck; story of Rosenberg and Nazi religion; description of naval exercise in Lubeck; intelligence gathering techniques used; ease of access to people and information due to Hitler's support. REEL 13 Continues: story of garden party in Wannemunde and meeting Yugoslav dancer Josephine; role of Josephine as agent; attitude to treatment of Jews in Wannemunde and increasing anti-Semitism in Germany; story of conversation with Rosenberg over treatment of Jews; attitude of Nazis to possible war with GB, 1936; description of intelligence gathering activities about Luftwaffe while in Wannemunde; attitude of Nazis to GB; description of structure of Nazi Party; attitude of Nazis to role of RAF; description of German air re-armament; story of visit to see Erich Koch's programme of resettlement in East Prussia, 1936. REEL 14: further comments on visit to East Prussia; character of Erich Koch and role in resettlement programme; story of visits to castles and opinion of hospitality; memory of sleeping in Goering's fortified bed; question of the role of women in Nazi society; story of meeting Rudolf Hess; impressions of Hess and commitment to Nazi ideology; reaction to Hess's flight to GB, 1940; question of not being allowed to interrogate Hess; story of Erich Koch settlement area being requisitioned for military use. REEL 15 Continues: reason for refusing to visit submarine base at Pilau; description of display by Hitler Youth in Konigsberg; further memories of Rudolf Hess; attitude to Hess's post-war imprisonment in Spandau; description of Nuremberg rally, 1938; ceremony and organisation; reaction to Hitler's speech; reaction of crowd to Hitler; story of English Nazi supporter; story of visit to anti-Semitic exhibition in Berlin; description of Nazi Remembrance rally held for founders of Nazi party; reaction to Hitler's speech; opinion of Himmler. REEL 16 Continues: further comments on Himmler and role in Nazi party; opinion of Goering; amusing story of Goering stuck in doorway; opinion of Kesselring; attitude of Nazis to question of British neutrality, 1937; question of development of radar in Germany and GB during late 1930s; story of visit to Germany, 1938; question of increased security by Nazis; description of attending reception given by Hitler; opinion of Hitler's sense of humour; question of factions and rivalries in Nazi leadership. REEL 17 Continues: description of atmosphere in Germany, 1938; further comments on Erich Koch and conversion of resettlement areas in East Prussia into military bases; story of cover being blown by Italians and help from Rosenberg in leaving Germany; returned to Paris and further contact with George Ronin; question of obtaining information and importance of photo-reconnaissance and cryptography; further comments on breaking of cover by Italian Intelligence; opinion of Czech Intelligence; attitude to Chamberlain's appeasement policy; reaction of Secret Intelligence Service to Munich agreement, 1938; question of possible agreement with Hitler in 1934; Hitler's belief in horoscopes and outbreak of war; opinion of War Office attitudes; importance of RAF. REEL 18 Continues: description of intelligence operations during 1930s and problem of lack of co-operation between departments; story of setting up first Inter-Service unit at Bletchley Park, 1940; attitude of Foreign Office to Secret Service; story of sacking of Vansittart; relations with Anthony Eden; attitude of government to intelligence information; reflections on importance of intelligence work during inter-war period; description of German military strength and political power prior to outbreak of war 9/1939; reaction to 'Night of the Long Knives'; opinion of Hitler as C-in-C of the German Army; reaction to Nazi-Soviet Pact; comparison of readiness of Allied and Axis powers for possible war; opinion of situation in France and retreat from Dunkirk, 1940. REEL 19 Continues: description of role in development of aerial photography, 1938-1939; use of three-dimensional overlapping; relations with George Ronin and French Secret Service; description of converted Lockheed aircraft used for photo-reconnaissance missions; story of trial run over Italian positions in North Africa and Italy; support of Air Ministry and other services for reconnaissance missions; story of pilot Sidney Cotton's cover story as film tycoon; story of Sidney Cotton taking Kesselring as passenger during Frankfurt air show; use of Wilt machine to obtain three-dimensional images; question of Air Ministry taking over photographic unit and use of camouflaged Spitfires for aerial photography; story of setting up of Photographic Reconnaissance Unit; opinion of Sidney Cotton's plan to kidnap Goering. REEL 20 Continues: question of German fleet being photographed prior to outbreak of war; story of Sidney Cotton evacuating wealthy Frenchmen for money; description of the Oslo Report and setting up of Scientific Intelligence Unit under Henry Tizard; role of R V Jones in development of beam bombing; opinion of R V Jones and Professor Lindemann; relationship between Churchill and Lindemann and question of receiving Ultra messages; role in development of air communications; story of Polish and French co-operation in obtaining Enigma machine, 1938-1939; question of French secrecy over Enigma; story of Stewart Menzies obtaining Enigma machine, 6/1939; description of Enigma machine and problem of complexity of codes; description of work of code and cipher experts at Bletchley Park; method of decoding messages using repeated standard phrases; story of identifying Rommel's Quartermaster; question of success of codebreakers and development of Colossus at Bletchley Park. REEL 21 Continues: reaction to decoding of first messages; attitude of Chief of Air Intelligence to decoding of messages; story of role in co-ordinating Enigma intelligence operations and protecting secrecy of source; description of ciphers in 1939; memory of outbreak of war, 9/1939. Recollections of period as head of Air Staff Department, Secret Intelligence Service in London, 1939-1945: description of role in organisation of deciphering and distribution of Ultra material; role in setting up inter-service intelligence department and distribution of agreed translation of messages to service chiefs; description of activities and staff in Hut 3, Bletchley Park; nature of messages deciphered; question of decoding Abwehr messages and effect on German spies in GB; memory of Hut 3 chief Squadron Leader Humphreys; attitude of Chamberlain and Chiefs of Staff to value of Ultra material; reason for Chiefs of Staff receiving Ultra information before Churchill; question of conflict between Navy and other services; description of Ultra traffic received during spring, 1940; role of Ultra in Battle of France, 1940; reaction to Churchill becoming Prime Minister, 5/1940; description of Churchill's attempts to prevent French surrender. REEL 22 Continues: comments on Churchill's statement 'now we are all alone'; description of role of Ultra during Battle of Britain and monitoring German preparations for possible invasion of GB, 1940; interception of messages by Goering to commanders; description of increasing activity in Hut 3; question of using Ultra intelligence about air raids; description of air raid on London docks; reason for Germans changing from day to night raids; problem of smaller raids not being detected by Ultra; opinion of RAF preparations for Battle of Britain; story of intercepting message from Goering and consequent change in strategy by Fighter Command; use of Ultra to obtain information about German losses; amusing story of message about delousing; role of Ultra in determining Fighter Command strategy on 'Eagle Day', 13/Aug/1940; activities of George Ronin and French Secret Service in France, summer 1940; description of operational procedure during Battle of Britain; importance of radar during Battle of Britain; effects of losses on RAF; story of £5 bet with General Ismay. REEL 23 Continues: question of date of possible German invasion; story of deciphering Ultra message canceling invasion; description of watching air raid on London; attitude of Churchill to air defence; importance of Ultra in success of Battle of Britain; story of enquiry into Dowding's strategy during Battle of Britain and question of maintaining secrecy about use of Ultra; relations between Dowding and Churchill; further comments about Goering and Eagle Day; role of Ultra in identifying targets for German air raids including Coventry,1940; description of beam bombing system; story of Ultra intelligence about intended air raid on Coventry, 14/Nov/1940. REEL 24 Continues: further comments on raid on Coventry and question of maintaining secrecy of information source; reason for accepting rank of Group Captain; memory of American General Mark Clark; question of discouraging SOE operations to obtain information already received through Ultra; reason for not sharing Ultra information with French; description of incendiary raid on London; working relations with Churchill; story of resignation of Henry Tizard; description of providing Churchill and Eden with Ultra information; reaction to American entry into the war, 1942. REEL 25 Continues: further comments on working with Churchill; description of role in briefing American generals including Mark Clark; comparison of use of Ultra by British and Americans; attitude to treatment of Dowding after Battle of Britain; description of developments in Ultra and use in North Africa, Europe and Mediterranean, 1941; question of use of Ultra during Battle of Crete, 1941. REEL 26 Continues: further comments on Battle of Crete; description of role of Ultra in obtaining information about Rommel's supplies and movements; opinion of Rommel; question of Rommel exaggerating shortages; story of intelligence operation to prevent Germans finding out that Enigma codes had been broken; disadvantages of Ultra; further comments on importance of Ultra in North African theatre; question of Montgomery using Ultra information during Battle of El Alamein, 1942; attitude of General Alexander to Ultra; story of 'stand to the last man and die' message sent by Hitler to Rommel. REEL 27 Continues: story of Ultra information used to warn Soviet Union about impending German invasion, 6/1941; question of not sharing Ultra secret with Russians; opinion of Soviet intelligence services; question of Swiss and use of intelligence; question of sharing Ultra intelligence with Americans prior to entry into war; post-war reaction of Russians to Ultra; description of use of Ultra by Royal Navy; question of separating from other services; co-operation with Coastal Command and Western Approaches Liverpool; use of Ultra in identifying position of Bismarck; description of German 9/10 ciphers; problem of being unable to decipher German naval codes,1942-1943; use of Ultra in identifying and destroying German submarine supply ships; role of Ultra in Mediterranean theatre. REEL 28 Continues: importance of naval and air co-operation in Malta; question of maintaining secrecy of Ultra at expense of spotter-plane pilots; opinion of American cryptography; description of expansion of Bletchley Park including Hut 3 following American entry into war; description of selection procedure and training for Special Liaison Units; question of maintaining secrecy and threat of death penalty for betraying source; reason for nickname 'The Guardian of Ultra'; question of limiting access to Ultra; opinion of American use of Ultra; opinion of General Spaatz. REEL 29 Continues: importance of German meteorological reports to plan bombing raids over Germany; story of Major-General James Doolittle and Ultra security; role of aerial photography and Ultra in bombing campaign against Germany; opinion of General Patton; relations between Montgomery and Patton; opinion of General Omar Bradley. REEL 30 Continues: further comments on General Bradley and use of Ultra in France, 1944-1945; opinion of General Simpson, US 9th Army; use of Ultra by American commanders to decide strategy; problem of German radio silence prior to Ardennes offensive; attitude of Eisenhower to value of Ultra; attitude of Montgomery to Special Liaison Units; story of visit by Montgomery to General Bradley; description of offensive and defensive uses of Ultra. REEL 31 Continues: use of Ultra by Canadian General Crerar; importance of Ultra in forward planning; description of use of Ultra during Italian campaign; use of Ultra to safeguard Churchill on all foreign trips except to Soviet Union; question of King George VI being on Ultra list; story of Mark Clark using Ultra prior to entry into Rome, 1944; description of role of Ultra during planning for Normandy landings; reaction to development of German V1 and V2 rockets; question of Ultra messages revealing Hitler's state of mind; description of messages sent by Rommel; further description of build-up to Normandy landings; question of Germans regarding Normandy landings as decoy for real invasion, 6/1944; reaction to Rommel being wounded; opinion of Rommel; description of Allied bombing of Caen. REEL 32 Continues: reaction to death of Rommel; description of role of Ultra in Battle of Falaise, 8/1944; opinion of Montgomery's strategy during battle; relations between Montgomery and Americans; description of supplying Allied armies in France along Red Ball Route; story of conflict between Eisenhower and Montgomery; question of Montgomery ignoring intelligence warnings prior to operations at Arnhem, 9/1944; question of Hitler's responsibility for German military failures. REEL 33 Continues: description of messages sent by Hitler to generals on Eastern Front; story of Hitler's death and black magic; opinion of Kesselring; story of message from Goering to Hitler requesting to take over as Chancellor; story of Rosenberg asking for help at Nuremberg trials; description of poison false tooth used by Goering and Himmler to commit suicide; description of Hitler's final messages; attitude to closing down of Ultra operations; story of trips to India, Ceylon and Australia to check security, 1944; attitude of General MacArthur to British; story of being locked in hotel room on orders of General MacArthur; description of Anglo-American intelligence operations in Washington; reflections on role with Ultra during war and question of maintaining secrecy. REEL 34 Continues: opinion of contribution of Ultra to Allied victory; question of Churchill's support for Ultra during war; story of sending final message to Allied commanders to maintain secrecy about Ultra following end of war. Post-war life and employment: story of publication of book 'Ultra Secret' in 1974 and reaction in GB and US. REEL 35 Continues: attitude of military and naval historians to publication of book; story of joining board of BOAC; description of role as Director of Public Relations and Publicity with BOAC; employment with Colonial Development Association and as farmer. Further recollections of period as head of Air Staff Department, Secret Intelligence Service in London, 1939-1945: story of helping Barnes Wallis to get bouncing bomb approved by Air Ministry. REEL 36 Continues: further comments on relations with Barnes Wallis and idea of attacking German dams; attitude of Arthur Harris to dams raids; story of being replaced by character of doctor in film 'The Dam Busters'; question of recognition of role of Ultra in Dams raids; comments on the development and importance of aerial reconnaissance during Second World War.

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