See my new book on this Station http://soe-stations.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/new-book-briggens-soes-forgery-and.html
© Des Turner (Researcher and Author).
Thank you to all who kindly contacted me regarding the following appeal for information especially Dr John Roberts son of Captain Charles Roberts Second in Command of Station 14 also Dorota Zerkowska niece of Jerzy Maciejewsky Forger/Printer and Dr Judith Collins daughter of Sergeant Dennis Collins Forger/Artist.
I am concentrating research on this particular station at Roydon, Essex. Please contact me if you have any memories of wartime Briggens. If I can gather sufficient information and pictures the result will be a book. I am fortunate to have met the first C.O., Captain Morton G. Bisset, and I am extremely grateful to him for his help and generous donation of personal papers and photographs.
I would particularly like to hear from the following personnel who were at Briggens (or members of their family), in the hope of gathering more memories and/or pictures. You are assured that full acknowledgement will be given Do please contact me by e mail at email@example.com
These are the names I have linked with Briggens during World War 2:
- Lord and Lady Aldenham (owners),
- Col. Harold Perkins,
- Lt. Col. Evans,
- Lt. Col. R. Hazell,
- Major C. H. Edwards,
- Major C.B. Ince,
- Major Jozef Hartman,
- Capt. C.H. Roberts,
- Mr J.R. Sedgwick,
- CSM. A.R. Gatward,
- and Pauline Brockies
- J.E. Barber,
- S. Broadbent,
- H.W. Bloy,
- F.J. Coles,
- D.W.A. Collins,
- E.J.G. Furguson,
- J.A. Smith,
- G.A. Thaxter,
- and H.J.West.
- Cpl. G.F.C. Clarke.
- Mr Rubens,
- Mr Sobarayajek,
- Mr Majievski,
- Frank Kaprovki,
- Mr Groholski,
- Aleksander Ihnatowicz,
- and Maksymilian Kruezala. (Spelling may be incorrect?)
- Also, I would like to hear from any papermakers and printers who did special work for Briggens at Messrs. H Allnutt and Son Ltd, Maidstone, and Messrs Edwin Amies and Son, both based at Maidstone. Plus any residents of Roydon village, etc., etc., etc.
Captain Morton Bisset
In the early years of the war, I, a young R.E. officer, was given the job by SOE HQ in Baker Street, London, of starting up and running a forgery unit at Briggens, with the object of providing forged documents for our agents operating with the various underground Resistance movements in occupied Europe.
At Briggens, we occupied the cellars of this country house, while above ground and in the surrounding countryside, Polish officers and NCOs were being trained as saboteurs, using plastic explosive and captured German weapons.
My staff originally consisted of just three Polish civilians, only one of whom spoke any English, who had probably been doing similar work in Poland before the war; but with the recruitment of Sapper technicians from the RE Survey companies, a handwriting expert from New Scotland Yard, an engraver from de la Rue the stamp and banknote printers and some additional machinery, we were able to get into production.
We fully realised that agents lives were at risk who used our documents, so every effort was made to ensure that the latter looked really authentic. To this end, no expense was spared, and even if only a couple of hundred identity cards for a job were required, we would think nothing of having tons of special board or paper made. We faithfully reproduced all the imperfections on the original document that we had obtained from our agents, and had, at times, to age certain documents artificially to make them look genuinely old.
We knew that the SIS were carrying out similar work, but we each worked in completely separate, watertight compartments, and up until the time I left the unit, I think we can claim to have been fairly successful, as the two letters from SOE HQ and the Free French show.
Certainly we were able to forge practically anything our agents brought back; but the job had also to have a less serious side at times.
On one such occasion, the FANY'S at the adjoining Free French station had decided to throw a party, and we decided that for this, we would produce a couple of hundred copies of the then current five pound English banknote, substituting Brigadier Gubbin's signature for that of the Governor of the Bank of England - as the banknote was only printed in black, this was easy to forge, and during the course of the evening, we dropped the notes onto the dance floor from a balcony. The Brigadier was amused, but warned us to make sure none of them finished up in the hands of the Police!
We had to smile too, when, on another occasion, some of the Polish would-be saboteurs were sent out on a demolition exercise, when they were supposed to blow up a spare bit of railway line that was lying near the main London-Cambridge line. With somewhat misplaced zeal however, they fixed the explosive to the rails on the main line itself, and blew it up, causing the line to be out of commission for half a day. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but our OC, a Ghurkha major, was none too pleased!
Yes, life was never dull at Briggens, but as we were always working against the clock because parachute drops by our agents were governed to a certain extent by the state of the moon and the distance to be covered, there was not a lot of time for leisure. If there was any time in an evening that was free, we would spend it learning Polish swear words round the snooker table, or go off down to the woods and blow up old trees, or try our hand at shooting with the German weapons available.
In 1942, SOE HQ decided to experiment with the dropping of office-type printing machinery by parachute, in the hope that if this was successful, these machines could be got to the Resistance to produce seditious literature on the spot and make things more difficult for the Germans.
So, one bright, sunny, summer day found a circle of officers, including a number of 'brass hats' from London, gathered in a circle round the intended dropping zone in the grounds of Briggens.
I was one of those present, and standing next to me was a good looking young Scotsman dressed in a kilt; to our mutual surprise, we found that we had both been in the same class at Kelvinside Academy in Glasgow many years before the war, and before I and my family moved South. I did remember his surname, Torrance, but before I could ask him to remind me what his Christian name was, the drop had taken place, and it was too late. I have since learnt that his initials were DW. What I did learn however from our few minutes conversation, and it filled me with admiration for his courage, was that he belonged to the Norwegian Resistance set-up, and was living in a house in Norway which was actually occupied by German troops.
I was never fortunate enough to meet him again, and have spent years trying to find out if he ever survived the war. Perhaps someone who searches this website knows what happened to him? If so, I would be delighted to learn more about his wartime exploits, as so far, I have been quite unable to obtain any information about him through official channels. The above text is from the BBC People’s War Website. © Captain Morton Bisset.
See my new book on this station here http://soe-stations.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/new-book-briggens-soes-forgery-and.html