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Program Information
 Bristol Broadband Co-operative 
 Author of 'Rudolf Hess: Treachery and Deception (2015)' John Harris
 Weekly Program
 Bristol Broadband Co-operative  
 For non-profit use only.
 Attribution No Derivatives (by-nd) 
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The von Hassell diaries were first published in 1948 as early evidence of the German wartime resistance to Hitler. Harris and Wilbourn were intrigued to find that the 2011 unexpurgated edition of the famous diaries revealed more about Borenius:
He has very intimate connections with the Royal House [principally with the Queen].
Harris and Wilbourn admit at first failing to perceive that von Hassell and Burckhardt were not talking about the wartime Queen of England, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, but about Queen Mary, widow of George V, an active art collector and grandmother of our present Queen Elizabeth II.
And then they got lucky. Borenius had died of a cerebral embolism and valvular heart disease in 1948 at Laverstock House, near Salisbury and when Harris examined the Salisbury phone book in 1998 he found a Borenius. It was Tancred’s son Lars Ulrich, a retired lawyer often known as Peter.
His father’s wartime trip had caused some [post event] amusement in the Borenius household on two accounts: firstly that he had been asked to deliver a ‘book’ to Switzerland, disguised as a novel, and secondly, that he had been given a poison pill the size of a golf ball.
Lars also told John Harris that he had been given the book by a ‘Claude Dansey’ prior to his departure. Upon its delivery there was much relief.
Had we been perhaps a little more alert and knowledgeable, we would of course have soon realized that Claude Dansey was the then deputy head of MI6…
After twenty years on the case, Harris and Wilbourn have drawn some important conclusions in this truly thrilling investigation.
The ‘book’ that Borenius carried to Switzerland was clearly one of the MI6 ‘one-time pads’ that the late Keith Jeffery, official historian of MI6, reported as being in ‘very short supply’ in Switzerland in 1941.
Harris and Wilbourn no longer accept Jeffery’s assurance that there were no signs in the archives of MI6 involvement in the Hess Flight. Harris told me last week:
We know that the Borenius mission was organised by MI6 under Dansey. Consequently, one can conclude that either MI6 destroyed the evidence, or Dansey operated outside his authority, or the Hess flight was an unforeseen consequence of the Borenius mission, rather than a direct result of the Borenius mission.‘
Ulrich von Hassell’s diary entry shows that Borenius delivered much more than a code book. He detailed terms under which a peace might still be possible in 1941, crucially with the restoration of some kind of Polish government in a divided Europe that would leave the British Empire untouched.
Borenius returned to London in March 1941 and lunched at the Dorchester with Colonel Victor Cazalet, MP for Chippenham and liaison officer to the exiled Polish Army in Britain, and with the Polish army’s commander-in-chief General Wladyslaw Sikorski, prime-minister of the Polish government in exile.
Secret peace talks between the British and Germans, in the absence of a Polish government, would have unnerved the thousands of exiled Poles in Britain. Many of the 40,000 Polish soldiers, airmen and sailors in Britain were stationed in Scotland.
Sikorski and Cazalet sailed for the USA soon after their meeting with Borenius. But on May 10, 1941, Sikorski took a terrible risk by flying in haste back to Britain from New York, via Gander in Newfoundland.
The general huddled aboard one of the very first operational B-24 Liberator bombers, tricky planes with a bad reputation for crashes. In July 1943 Sikorski and Cazalet were killed in a Liberator that crashed into the sea 46 seconds after take-off from Gibraltar.
On May 10, 1941, Sikorski’s new B-24 left Gander just thirty minutes after Hess took off from Augsburg in Bavaria in the modified Bf110 fighter bomber. Both were bound for Scotland.
But by the time Sikorski landed at RAF Prestwick at 11:30 on May 11, Hess had already been captured and interviewed in custody by the Duke of Hamilton.
No-one has yet explained why the first man to act as an interpreter for the as-yet unnamed pilot just happened to be Polish. The recently-appointed Polish consul in Glasgow, Roman Battaglia, turned up at the boy scouts hall in Giffnock barely an hour after Hess had fallen into the hands of the Glasgow Home Guard.
For Borenius the mission to Geneva was dangerous but probably lucrative.
Neutral Switzerland, the best gathering ground for intelligence out of Nazi Germany, was becoming increasingly isolated.
MI6 historian Keith Jeffery saw from MI6 records that the money paid to couriers prepared to cross Vichy France to reach Switzerland from neutral Portugal and Spain on neutral or forged passports was so generous that it was said to be ‘two journeys and retire for life’.
Borenius, who carried a Finnish passport but was never interned by the British, acted as guardian to Dolly Wilde, the ‘beautiful but frail’ niece of Oscar Wilde. Dolly’s biographer, Joan Schenkar, described Borenius to Harris and Wilbourn – ‘as adroit as a seal and just as slippery.’
Harris and Wilborn see Borenius as ‘a brilliant man whose story has remained uniquely hidden for over seventy years’.
It is not overstating his role to say that without it, a 1941 invasion of Britain would have been certainly more likely.

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