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[Sticky] A Private Little War. chapter 1: Hints of the unseen

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Chapter One
Hints of the Unseen

Three years ago, whilst doing some perfunctory research for some equally perfunctory military history book, I encountered a strange annotation beside a small note, in a standard piece of staff work, in a forgotten file of the National Archives. The document was one concerning reports, supply requests and general administration during the Norwegian Campaign of 1940.

The handwritten note (seen in the image below), scrawled next to a underwhelming and incredibly vague request for supplies and further instruction, simply stated “222 authorised” and under this, adjoined to the request for further orders, was written “refer Col. Weaver”. I had not encountered any military code or shorthand of '222' and was stumped to what it meant. I had also not come across a Colonel Weaver in any of my previous research on the period. I Filed the information away and finished the book I had been tasked to write, but immediately upon completion I decided to do some further work into this anomaly.

My initial search for such an officer yielded no results and so I widened my scope of inquiry outside of the military files I had been combing through. Due to the marvels of technology I was able to search for the newly computerised archives for key phrases. As I was trawling through Industrial Department reports by Col. Johnson, on the weaving industry in Derbyshire I stumbled upon a very happy coincidence – a censors mistake.

The picture below shows the document I found. Although the document was heavily censored – as time and my research progressed I would come to see this as one of the less redacted finds I made – it mentioned a mill, under the supervision of a colonel. The following paragraph mentions that “whilst overseeing work in the mill, weaver will Continue to liaise with...” Was this the Colonel Weaver I had been looking for? Had the typing error which left his name uncapitalised led the censor to miss the name, assuming the document referred to a worker? If so then it was sloppy work, but I finally had a lead: this Springfield Mill, and that the document was filled under a collection of correspondence from the Secret Service archive.

Searching for documents relating to this mill I found a further document in the recently de-classified MI6 archive (see below), although it was still heavily censored. The document referred to the continued use for this mill for “their particular and very specific needs.” This document was, however, to yield much more information regarding what was rapidly becoming my obsession.

For starters it was located in an archive of materials from the desk of a single person. Other documents in this collection were entirely redacted, or entirely mundane, but in the bottom of the folder there was a photograph. It showed a selection of allied officers in a group picture. Although looking like a picture more commonly seen as propaganda pictures from Colditz, taken by the Germans, on the back was an inscription.

“Bill Weaver and “the Committee', London, Oct, '40”

The British officer in this photograph was very likely the man I had been hunting. But where I started with a name to put a face to, I now had five faces for which I needed names.

The next direction of my research came from the censored document mentioned, and shown, above. For on closer inspection I noticed the large censor on the side was originally a handwritten note that had been removed. Luckily for me the note had been scrawled hastily on the document, and had left an impression on the page beneath. An impression which was still legible and uncensored. “Operation Copenhagen!” I had never heard of such an operation but that document also gave me a clue of where to look, mentioning “events that occurred between 26 June and 30 June, in the area of Nîmes...”. I had previously come across a reference to those dates and place before.

Not in the British archives, but in the German ones.

Topic starter Posted : 20/01/2014 5:23 pm