Written in 1987 (not included in the book)
After my return to Austria that year, with no immediate prospect of the military occupation of the country ever ending, and the continued hardening of the cold war between East and West, it was not at all unexpected that I should receive a visit from someone representing British Intelligence to discuss the possibility of how my new situation in Austria might best be put to some useful purpose.
All the same, I was rather taken aback that my visitors – Major Brian Merritt and a Flt/Lt J A Kraemer RAF from Graz – should have chosen New Year’s Day (1950), of all days, to come and see me. Consequently, to the mystification of the family, I was called away from the dinner-table to attend to two British officers from the city who wished to speak to me.
They were accompanied by a woman who was introduced to me as the wife of Lt Kraemer.
I knew Major Merritt, of course, an Intelligence Corps officer who had been the next in the chain of command after my C.O. and was Head of Styria Area Security Office in Graz. If the RAF officer had not come in the company of the major I should have been very wary of him indeed. Lt Kraemer had a private address on the Freiheitsplatz, an old biedermeier (bourgeois) quarter of the town, according to his visiting-card. His wife was a native Austrian, as far as I could see.
They knew what I was doing in Weiz and that I was enrolled at the university in Graz as a full-time student. This did not surprise me as this information was easily acquired from anybody at my old Section at their Furstenfeld location who knew me, though it was true that I had parted company from the Section immediately following Ingrid’s death in May.
Lt Kraemer wanted me to form a “cell” inside the student community at the university and gather information on the extent of communist activity and infiltration amongst fellow-students. “Cell” was a rather odd word to use in this connection and one that we had only applied to describe a Soviet-communist group itself inside an organization or community.
I was not impressed by this faux pas and it really did nothing but confirm my overall impression that Lt Kraemer’s approach to the subject lacked a certain professionalism. I do not recall the major making very much contribution to the conversation; it was this that really clinched the matter for me. I was not at that time enthusiastic about the prospect of an involvement, as a civilian, in any form of espionage, and had many other things on my mind, much more important. I knew that this officer had made the journey on that particular day with every hope of recruiting a very useful ally; however, Kraemer had sadly overrated my usefulness in this respect as an intelligence source since I did not live in the city itself, for one thing, and therefore had no such thing as a social life amongst the students to fall back on. Additionally, the periods I spent in Graz were extremely limited and confined entirely to attending lectures or tutorials with Prof Koziol at the English Seminar, which were not conducive to making friends.
Without committing myself, therefore, I promised him I would contact him, or come to see him, if I had anything at all to report – I would certainly not put anything in writing however. I felt he had also made another faux pas when he said that, if he were not available, I could tell his wife about it. The last thing I was likely to do! It would have been reasonable to have expected Major Merritt to approach me, now that I was a civilian, and ask me to continue in an informal way to report to Graz HQ anything I thought to be worthwhile to Intelligence, which is basically what we had been doing as a matter of routine in our secret weekly situation reports.
There was no such request forthcoming, however, from the quarter I had most expected it. It was the fact of this, coupled with the “cloak-and-dagger” approach of Lt Kraemer himself that put me off the whole idea. So that apart from one solitary visit I had to his flat on Freiheitsplatz several weeks later to draw his attention to something about the university and the KPO in Austria in the provincial press I had no contact with the Kraemer’s whatsoever. In any case, if I remember correctly, on that occasion he told me he was leaving Austria for good. Today – nearly forty years after – the only tangible reminder of the events described here is Kraemer’s visiting-card with his Graz address and telephone numbers on it, which I still have in my files.
Nobody approached me to enlist my services in this way during the next twelve months: after initial visits from people who were my friends from my army days, including Captain David Stanley, latterly CO of my old Security Section, and his Austrian-born wife, Paula, in my home in Weiz to welcome me back from England, the Intelligence Corps stayed clear of me.
My two closest friends from my own Intelligence Corps days in Austria, Sgt.Major Ken Putter and Sgt Jimmy Seagrave, had meanwhile left to join 263 FSS Section in Graz anyway. And although I ran into them once or twice in the city, and on one occasion spent a whole afternoon at 263 Section’s new location in Andritz District trying to get the feel of what Field Security work had been like, I was never called upon to work for Intelligence in Austria.
Having therefore gotten used to having my private life as a British civilian living in Austria respected, I was very surprised this time, after so many months, to be contacted by Major Merritt of Styria Area Security, Graz, and asked to come and see him at the paulustor HQ. It was now April, 1951, and in the intervening period my own life had taken on a new dimension.
It is necessary at this point, by way of explanation, to give some technical details regarding the background factors which led to this unexpected call from Major Merritt. Namely, the US Counter Intelligence Corps was the military arm of the United States Army in the American Zone in Austria whose duties and responsibilities closely approximated those of our own Intelligence Corps in the British Zone.
Apparently, there was a US Army CIC Detachment currently operating in Graz — with the blessing of the British authorities, needless to say – attached to a US Refugee Mission based in the Burg in the city center. Was I pre-pared to work fall-time for the Americans on a civilian basis? Qualifications were an Intelligence background, local knowledge and fluent German. I could see that the major had already recommended me for the post and that was mainly why I accepted what I supposed was an assignment, wrongly as it transpired, from our own army Intelligence.
I reported that same day to a Major J.J. MacQuillan, a CIC officer, in the Burg who tested my German and sat me down at the typewriter to write a fictional intelligence report. After coming to a compromise regarding time I should require off in order to keep abreast of my university course/studies so that my semesters would be not be lost, Major MacQuillan had me put on the official payroll under the classification “special investigator-agent”, unlike the civilian Austrian staff in the office I was paid in US “script” (army) dollars and put on a per diem basis as well in view of the field (outside) duties I would be required to perform.
Both the organization and methods the Americans employed were completely different to anything I had experienced in the British Intelligence Corps: on top of which, the American personnel made up of two officers and two non-commissioned officers, always in civilian clothes, had an entirely different approach to the requirements and objectives of an intelligence service. Having been five years in our own intelligence with a non commissioned army rank and coming, as I did, highly recommended by Major Merritt, it would appear my credentials were impeccable. In spite of that, I was vetted by US security in Salzburg after having filled in a very comprehensive application form with particulars, inter alia, of my politics and grandparents — and heard no more about it. However, I was sufficiently au fait with the American mind to know that Salzburg were only interested to know whether I was a communist or not.
As to my standing within the small group in the Burg, American and civilian Austrians, that made up Graz Branch, 430th CIC, it was quite impossible to define it. I was treated with a great deal of deference from both sides and I believe that the American staff believed me to be seconded from British Army Intelligence in Graz – and that was the only way they could explain the presence of a mysterious Englishman in their midst!
They were all on assignment, special duties, from Salzburg, Us Army Headquarters in Austria, always referred to as the City of Salzburg (only one of the special peculiarities of terminology favoured by our American allies that I had to get used to.’). Although I left the unit a year later with two documents as tangible evidence of time with them – which I shall deal with at a later point in this narrative – I must admit that neither of them throw too much light onto the specific duties I performed with the Americans. The Americans categorized all their field operatives as “agents” and as I often had a jeep and driver at my disposal I was able to roam far and wide from our Graz base in the course of my duties. However, having said that, I must say that I never thought of myself as an agent in its accepted espionage connotation; and I believe Major Rice, my later Chief, Graz Branch, summed it up best when he used the expression “delicate investigations” in his reference.
The US was very concerned about certain of the refugees (we were attached to a refugee mission, after all) wanting to emigrate to the USA, largely because some were of dubious political backgrounds and the US authorities had an almost pathological dread of allowing Soviet agents, or Nazi war criminals for that matter, to slip through the immigration net on the other side.
It became necessary to investigate applicants resident in the British Zone in Austria in situ, as it were, hence the presence of the American security officers in Graz. How one went about it, as field operatives, was quite an arbitrary affair. At the end of the day I had to do what I had so often been used to doing in our own Field Security Service: making a decision one way or the other that would ultimately affect the life of individuals I had not even met.
The end of my twelve months with the detachment coincided with their being withdrawn on the completion of their assignment in Graz at the end of the following April, 1952, to rejoin their parent unit in Salzburg. Major John J Rice, who had meanwhile taken over from the original Head of Graz operations, Major MacQuillan, offered me the option of either returning to Salzburg with the American personnel to join 430th CIC on unspecified intelligence duties or, because I believe he was genuinely interested in retaining my services within a US organization, of going to Munich to work for the OS Intelligence-run transmitter “Die Stimme Amerikas”. This radio station in Germany beamed the Voice of America literally twenty-four hours a day across the Iron Curtain, interspersed with anti-communist propaganda disseminated in this way to the countries of Eastern Europe with the aid of a huge staff of multilingual employees. Naturally, most of the propaganda material used in their programmes was fed to the authorities by uS Intelligence services in Europe and I presume that it was this intelligence material that I would have been concerned with.
I was not able at that time to give Major Rice an answer one way or the other; however, he supplied me for the eventuality with a reference which would help me on my way into any future liS agency, if that were my final decision. Another “souvenir” of my association over this period in Austria is a second document which I also have on file here. This is my Identity document in both languages signed by the then Chief, Graz Branch, Major MacQuillan. In retrospect, I guess only he knew why he had asked British Intelligence in Graz to recruit an Englishman of known background for his organization. Had I had no other options open to me at that time it is quite conceivable that I would have fallen in with one or the other of Major Rice’s suggestions for a continued association with US Intelligence. However, anticipating the run-down of the American office in Graz, I was already negotiating a post with a language school in Bremen, North Germany, where I hoped to be able to satisfy my apparent need to find a permanent niche for myself, and a home for the family, in Europe, as obviously I was as yet not psychologically prepared to come back to England.
In the event, it was twelve years before I did so – five of those having been spent in Germany where it had been impossible to disguise my acquired Austrian accent!