Why was the SCHUB Declined?

Much community interest was aroused when the Community Library Samford declined the invitation to sub-lease space at the Samford Parklands Community Hub (SCHUB).

As the Community Library Samford’s Right to Occupy the old Rangers Clubhouse ended on 31st October 2020, with that building scheduled for demolished, the Library was  poised to move into the Samford Parklands Community Hub (SCHUB).


Following the decision by Library members to decline the sub-lease, which voted in the majority by members as unworkable, the Library packed the main collection of specialist reference and books to borrow for a period of hibernation, until such time as a building could be found which would be able to be occupied for at least three years.

Much community interest was shown in the Library decision to not occupy the SCHUB.  The 15,ooo plus books are an asset to the community. Many people have no concept of the size and extent of the collection of books, which are now listed very conservatively in the financial accounts as an asset at $30,000. The growth since the inception of the book collection idea has been phenomenal, with the community enthusiastically supporting the specialist reference and book borrowing concept through donating and borrowing books, puzzles, DVD’s, CD’s and games. High quality private collections of Art books, Aviation and Maritime, Gardening, Self Heal/Spiritual books have all been generously donated.

Given the unprecedented expansion of the book collections, the understanding on which the Library committed to the SCHUB changed so significantly, to think it possible the Library would be able to operate in the SCHUB became unfeasible.

Such growth also brought about manpower, accommodation and financial challenges.

At the time, the Library was managed by five people and a small group of occasional helpers, following the introduction of covid restrictions.

As SCHUB principal stakeholder, the SDPPA, and stakeholders RSL, Meals on Wheels, Samford Support Network and the library watched in anticipation as the SCHUB neared completion, many Library issues remained unresolved.

The Library never NOT wanted to move into the SCHUB – the decision to no do so left the Library without a home.

The decision to not occupy the SCHUB was based on a variety of factors:

  • Financial: Despite opening less than twenty hours per week, the proposed rental was equal to or greater than other stakeholders operating five days per week, with a proposed additional unspecified amount of commercial cleaning costs to be charged.  Entering into a five year lease on these terms was deemed unworkable, with the Library focus required to move away from community activities, to instead an increased focus on fund raising to enable continued residence in the SCHUB. Without a Memorandum of Understanding in place, the Library would also have been subject to any new conditions/requirements the principal stakeholder may have made.
  • Insufficient display space for books, puzzles, games etc for borrowing, specialist reference sections, as well as insufficient storage space
  • Inability to have a dedicated Children’s area – this whole section was required to be dismantled and packed away when larger functions were held.
  • The requirement to change from static book shelving to mobile shelving (reduced height of mobile shelving meant even less books on display) caused angst amongst Library members. Deespite offers of assistance by SDPPA the moving of all mobile shelving and books to against back walls when larger functions were held, was deemed unfeasible by Library members. Physically moving shelving loaded with books also raised WHS issues.
  • The designated sub-lease to the Library was a 4m x 4m office space with the book shelving area additional as shared space. Shared space meant anyone entering the building had access to all books – many of these books being specialist, out of print and many having significant value- a value far greater second hand value than books presented at the Library annual Book Sale at for $3 to $5 each.
  • The storage area for CLS books was exterior to the building and over 100m distance from the library entry – leaving volunteers subject to extremes in weather – heat, chill, rain etc. The distance involved raised Work Health Safety issues through physical effort moving books such a distance, as well as wear and tear on Library equipment not designed for such use.
  • CLS has always been dog friendly with many volunteers bringing their pooches and in turn many visitors look forward to meeting and greeting these special Library members.
  • While the above covers most of the Library concerns at the time, in summary CLS opinion was that what was believed to be a community based solution for book display, became more a user pays model and as such was unsuited to the Library low cost/no cost community model.

The Library began to fund raise to build a dedicated building to call home. In community consultation, the vision for the building is an eco-friendly building, with a stage and acoustics to musical arts as well as giving storage and display space for Creative Samford, of whom the Library is a full member and vice versa.

Duplicate copies and duplicate content of donated books are sold or redistributed to remote areas, underprivileged children, hospitals and as requested.

Recent donation include children’s books to BUSHkids – a program that has been running in Qld for over 85 years; Bush Heritage volunteers at the Qld section of the Simpson Desert and a Brisbane hospital for the oncology section.

The CURRENT PRIORITY is to locate enough storage space for the 15,000 or so books and other items in the process of being packed – anyone with shed space, a disused stable, garage space etc.  please contact CLS at info@communitylibrarysamford.org. Thank you to those who have already offered to store specific sections of this community asset.

Likewise, anyone who may have unused office/warehouse space from which the Library may be able to run a pilot library is more than welcome to contact the Library.

The Community Library Samford is and always has been, by the community, for the community.

The Real Imitation Game – Paul Hannah

Enigma Machine

Movies frequently misrepresent history, and The Imitation Game made some awful errors in the name of making an exciting movie. However the real story of the years of hard work, genius and secret machinations should be told as well.

At the end of the First World War, Arthur Scherbius a German electrical engineer applied for a patent on his cipher machine, which came to be known as ENIGMA. Little did he know that his invention was going to shorten the next war by being both too good and not quite good enough. After many knock backs, Arthur finally came up with a machine that convinced the German High Command that it was, like they thought themselves were, invincible. It had a complicated series of rotors, gears, cables and keys, but with a little training most soldiers could be taught how to operate it. The machine arrived on the German military horizon at the perfect time, although Arthur was to die in 1929, it became the principal coding method for the Nazi army, air force and navy – it became indispensable.

The British set to work on cracking the code as soon as German radio traffic was received, but they had a couple of serious disadvantages: Firstly, they had little idea of the nature of the machine but more importantly, they were attacking it linguistically – it took the Poles to show the key to the puzzle wasn’t with words, it was with numbers.

A few months before hostilities broke out two British cryptanalysts and their French counterparts visited Poland and were taken to a secret location in the Pryski Forest. In an amazing spirit of generosity, the Poles not only showed their Allies how to break the code using one of the first real computers (called a bombe for its ticking sound!), they had made a copy of the Enigma machine almost entirely by deduction alone!

From this start, the British were able to build bombes at their secret base in Bletchley Park and eventually crack the codes the Germans were using. Aside from the brute force method of trying every single combination, one by one – the British discovered ways to cheat the system. The German military made stereotypical errors which the Brits could exploit. For example, German submarines would invariably begin their day by transmitting a weather report – weather in Europe typically moves East to West so that a submarine in the Atlantic can help predict the weather in Europe. Also, just like in the movies, Germans finished each transmission with “Heil Hitler!”. The codebreakers called these cheats ‘cribs’. The movie ‘The Imitation Game’ gives a broadly correct description of the codebreaking process but with two serious errors.

Firstly it totally ignores the invaluable assistance of the Polish cryptanalysts, without which, years could have been spent fruitlessly following a linguistic approach – looking for patterns in words. Some of the original codebreakers were chosen for their ability to do crossword puzzles!
Secondly the movie makes a common mistake of being afraid to use the information gained from cracking the code in an operational environment. Turing is shown not reporting a Nazi submarine ‘wolf pack’ in the path of a British convoy.

Sinking of the Linda Blanche out of Liverpool

If the information gained from cracking the code could not be used, then what was the point of the crack? It was often used to detour convoys, many lives were saved as a result. Churchill designated the source of the intelligence to be ‘Most Secret’ and it was given the code name ULTRA. All ULTRA information was disguised and jumbled with other data so that if the decode got into enemy hands, they could not infer that their code had been cracked. Only a very few generals and similar ranks knew of the breakthrough, they were briefed by special liaison officers. The material was read in their presence and immediately destroyed. No secret was more closely guarded than the fact the allies could read every message the Nazis sent. Every single spy the Germans sent into Britain was compromised as a result of cracking this code. On one occasion a spy was identified because Bletchley had discovered the details of some dental work he needed when a parachute training exercise in occupied France had gone wrong! There were occasions when coded messages were sent to Hitler and his High Command that the codebreakers of Bletchley Park had received the message, decoded it, translated it into English and placed before Churchill, before Hitler himself had seen it. With this sort of intelligence, the Nazis were almost unable to spring any tactical surprises on the Allies. With the exception of Operation WATCH ON THE RHINE – the counter attack that led to the Battle of the Bulge, every major Nazi move and multitudes of minor ones was predicted, planned for and countered, to the total consternation of the German High Command. So many submarines were sunk before they could do any damage that the German Navy was convinced that the Allies had some sort of underwater radar. At the end of the war, some 28,000 – 75% of German submariners – did not go home. In 1939 and 1940 of the war, before ENIGMA was cracked only 33 German submarines were sunk. In 1943 and 1944 nearly 500 U Boats went to the bottom of the sea. Sinkings slowed down to only 120 in 1945 only because the Nazis were running out of submarines and men able to sail in them.

Given these extraordinary and very necessary security measures, it is hard to fathom the actions of the American General Eisenhower prior to Operation Torch. Torch was the invasion of North West Africa, where the Americans were to push from the west and with the British attacking from the east, leaving Rommel no choice but to face every General’s nightmare – to fight on two fronts. Much of north-west Africa was controlled by the French and to their shame and the disgust of many of their fellow countrymen, these French were fully prepared to oppose the landing. Eisenhower sent General Mark Clark to smooth the way with the French leaders on a British submarine with a few British commandos to guard him. He was lucky not to be captured by German soldiers or even betrayed by the treacherous French. If he had been handed over to the Gestapo, the consequences would have been disastrous for the entire allied cause. He could have told the Germans under torture that Enigma was cracked!

Estimates vary as to the impact of cracking the code, whether it shortened the war by two years or four, we will never know – Churchill said at least once that it made victory certain and without it, winning the war would have been a doubtful gamble. The ENIGMA machine was so good, Nazi generals were genuinely shocked when told it was broken, so good that they thought it was impregnable. But fortunately for western civilization, the men and women of Bletchley Park and their Polish forbears were just a little bit better.

I am indebted to my friend Paweł Żuk who researched the Polish contribution for me – I knew it was significant, but I didn’t know it was the single biggest factor in Allied success.
(c) Paul Hannah 2019


What kind of life could we enjoy? by Fiona Taylor

Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash

Royal Commissions into both the Banking and Aged Care sectors have and continue to reveal horrifying abuses in the name of profit. My question is; Why are we surprised? Dr Clair Brown, Professor of Economics at the University of California reminds us that western economics is based upon the belief that all people seek to maximise their individual position. Essentially, we are all self-centred and self-serving in our desire to improve our material wellbeing. All of our economic markers of positivity reflect material growth i.e. consumption and profits. They don’t however illustrate our quality of life, time available for leisure and family, emotional wellbeing, or environmental sustainability. So, why are we surprised that businesses place profits ahead of people or the environment?

          Does our surprise and our expectation that businesses “do the right thing” reveal that we are not as self-centred as the economists believe?  Prof Brown would like us to consider replacing “maximise your own position” with “everyone’s wellbeing is connected”.  The mountains of data collected over a 4 year experiment providing a Universal Basic Income in one region of Canada showed just how interconnected we are. Providing a non-means tested basic income to everyone in that region not only alleviated poverty but improved educational standards, health levels and decreased crime, i.e. the cost to the region was outweighed by the savings in both health and law enforcement.[1]

          One of the important things to take away from this study is that we (individuals/communities/governments) can and should plan the type of community and lifestyle that we would like to have.  For too long we have been led to believe that the ‘market’ is a natural force that we interfere with at our peril.  But the market is nothing more than a collection of people making choices. If we assume that our wellbeing is connected and act accordingly, what kind of life could we enjoy?

[1] For those interested to read more  – Evelyn Forget, “The town with no poverty” University of Manitoba, Feb 2011 https://utpjournals.press/doi/pdf/10.3138/cpp.37.3.283

Welcome to Provence – Richard Carroll

Vaucluse – Vallis Clausa – “Closed Valley”

We walked out of the station sniffing the air. It was the end of April and the Provencal sky had a whiff of mistral about it; luckily the cold north wind that blasts down the Rhone valley to assail Avignon was not blowing. It had been 12 years since I’d seen this sky; in the distance above the trees loomed the giant of Provence, Mont Ventoux, dominating the Department of Vaucluse from its height of almost 2000 m. And 12 years was the time Rose and I had lived on the flank of that same mountain.


Photo by OT Avignon

The first records, for Avenio, from which Avignon is derived, are from 1st century BC Roman texts. Avenio means “town of violent winds” or “town of the river”. Avignon’s rich history dates back to the Neolithic era when people lived in the area called Le Rocher des Doms in the centre of the city. Avignon’s situation on the Rhone River has made it a port since the Celtic-Ligurian period – in the centuries before (Palace of the Popes Wikipedia)   the Roman occupation – when it was called Cavares. It remained a major Roman centre until around the 5th century. The magnificent Palais des Papes is testament to the role the popes who ruled from here, played throughout the medieval period.

Photo by ChrisO

The new TGV station in Avignon was impressive, a giant cocoon straddling the rails. We breathed a sigh of relief. We’d almost missed the stop and could have been on our way to Marseille. As arranged, we had met our friends Suzanne and Chris on the train at the Gare de Lyon in Paris. On the trip south we caught up and time slipped by. Suzanne, Chris and I decided to go to the bar for a coffee. They got theirs and moved off. I was still waiting for mine when I heard the announcement: “Avignon!.. Avignon! . . Trois minutes d’arret!”(Three minutes stop). What, already? Couldn’t be. We hadn’t been that long on the train, surely. Panic. I grabbed the coffee and took off back to my seat where I was surprised to find Rose, frantic, by herself. Suzanne and Chris hadn’t come back, where were they? No time to look for them as the train had already stopped at the station. We grabbed our bags and struggled them to the platform, scorching coffee in one hand, luggage everywhere. Should we take their bags, which ones were they? At the last moment they arrived and hastily quit the train just before the doors closed and it headed off to Marseille. Apparently I’d rushed past them in the bar without seeing them and they hadn’t realised we were in Avignon until the last minute. A near thing. Welcome to Provence.

© Richard Carroll                                                        

The Battle of Stalingrad by Paul Hannah

What D-Day was for the Allies in the West, the Battle of Stalingrad was for the Russians in the east. 

The people of Stalingrad suffered two great misfortunes in the Second World War. Firstly they had the poor judgment to be in between Hitler and The Eastern European oil fields and secondly, Stalin named the city after himself. Both factors made it a make or break battle for both the Germans and the Russians. If Hitler could not reach the oil he was destined to lose as soon as his supplies ran out. Synthetic oil plants were being bombed by the Americans by day and the British and Commonwealth at night. The strategy behind the bombing was to find areas of German production that could not be substituted and try to deprive them of it by bombing the factories. So, along with communication lines like roads and railways, ball bearing factories and the industries of the Ruhr were natural targets. But for Hitler, it was all about oil. He needed those Russian oil fields more than anything. 

Stalin knew the strategic importance of stopping the Germans at the Volga, but more importantly, the political and symbolic importance of the river in the heart of Russia was vital in his mind. Plus his defending generals knew that Stalin would have been apoplectic with rage if ‘his’ city had been captured and when Stalin raged, people died.

It was a battle that moved from floor to floor in buildings, sometimes a single room would be the only prize at the end of a hard fight. The biggest German mistake was to weaken the line on either side of Stalingrad so that the Russians could brilliantly burst through on both flanks and encircled the Germans in an ever shrinking trap. The German commander Paulus wanted to save his men and break out of the trap, effectively retreating from the city to do so. Hitler forbade it and promoted the General to Marshal using valuable cargo space to send him the elaborate baton that goes with the rank. No German Marshal had ever surrendered. But Hitler’s blind stupidity made this Marshal’s surrender inevitable.

Goering boasted that his Luftwaffe could keep the encircled army supplied from the air, but like his other boasts, it soon hit the brick wall of reality. The army was starved of food and ammunition, the two things a soldier needs to fight. Medical supplies were almost non-existent. The German doctor Hans Dibold had the care of thousands of wounded men, no nurses, no drugs, no equipment. Lots of things in war stories are funny, crazy, miserable and deeply saddening, but the one thing that struck me as truly shocking is a story from this particular doctor.

Imagine the subterranean scene of this ‘hospital’. No lights beyond what the doctor carried, he passed from cellar to cellar doing the little he could for the men in his care. His lamp makes a moving pool of light, showing each awful case in turn. He says that when a man dies in such circumstances, his temperature is suddenly and briefly elevated. The lice on the dying man’s body would sense the imminent death of their host and immediately create two bluish smears on either side of the poor wretch. They would then descend migrate to the patients in the adjoining beds, to jostle for space with the resident lice on them.

What Wellington called “The Butchers Bill” for Stalingrad is as follows: In a little over five months, the Russians lost over 1,000,000 men, women and children killed. The Germans 800,000 dead and 110,000 captured. Of these 110,000 only 6000 returned home. The remainder died at the hands of the Russians. No one counted the wounded. There were too many. Stalingrad was not Hitler’s first defeat, but it was the first time the Nazi regime admitted defeat, and after Stalingrad, Hitler lost every battle.

What D-Day was for the Allies in the West, the Battle of Stalingrad was for the Russians in the east. 

(c) Paul Hannah

Fiona’s Musings on National Identity

Photo by Mark Galer on Unsplash

As confusing as individual identity may seem, imagine a country full of individuals all with their own ideas on how they belong together. What does it mean to be Australian? Is it a representation of our shared history, a reflection of our culture and values, a product of our lives lived in a dramatic environment of ‘droughts and flooding rains’ or all or none of the above?

The Australian population is made up of people whose ancestors have been here for 60 000 years and connected strongly to the land, descendants of Irish political prisoners, the poor of London and rural England, soldiers, seamen and landed gentry escaping scandals, all of whom initially didn’t want to be here. The families of American, European and Chinese gold hunters, Italian, Greek and German farmers seeking a better life, and refugees from Vietnam and more recent conflicts in the Middle East and Africa. The latest arrivals have always been pressured with the task of fitting in, of assimilating within the national identity. Given our very disparate individual and family histories and consequent cultural differences what is the basis of this national identity?  Is it merely a remnant of an idealised history that never really was?  Have we ever had a shared history, culture and values?

Aboriginal Australian philosophy observes the impact of the land on culture and identity; recognising that there are fresh water people, salt water people, desert people, rainforest people and many more. Although we like to think that we are separated from our environment now, it may be more accurate to say that we are no longer aware of how it shapes us.  Anyone who has travelled Australia will have experienced the cultural differences between rural and urban, country and city, tropical and temperate people.  Is it time to reconsider our national identity then in terms of this place that we all share and are adapting to rather than on any particular history that we do not? 

Angela’s Reviews

Christmas at the Beach Cafe by Lucy Diamond

This is pure poolside/ rainy afternoon fodder. Not difficult to read and lovely characters – set in an off-beat place that leaves you feeling happy and content.

Evie has inherited her aunt’s beach-side cafe in some lonely spot in the UK.  The story follows the compilation of a recipe book: some of her aunt’s recipes, some from other sources. 

There are some real laugh-out-loud moments, and lots of warm fuzzy moments too. The Chocolate Log Recipe is fantastic – I made it over the Christmas break.

I read this in an e-book but I did copy the recipes into my recipe folder. I love a book that leaves you with something tangible.

Singularity by Bill DeSmedt

This book is essentially a thriller set in contemporary times.

Throwing together some global warming – some,  let’s say “dodgy” but plausible-in-theory physics, a beautiful girl, a ruggedly handsome bloke, a luxury super yacht – and it’s basically James Bond and his chick against the forces of evil.

But it is well written – the moments when they are somewhere where they shouldn’t be are described so well that you feel nervous for them and if you are like me you read faster – lol.

It won’t win a prize but it’s a great story with a really innovative premise at its core.

Maybe not a poolside book but if you love the Ludlum/LeCarre style you will enjoy this.

The Sisters by Kate Forster

Not a literary classic by any means but a thoroughly enjoyable feel good storyline with some laugh out loud moments.

Basically the sort of three sisters: the spoiled brat, the aloof one, and the hard working conscientious one. Enter family upheaval and what ensues is a delightful tale about adults growing up.

The characters are interesting and engaging but there is no real depth to either them or this book; it’s just a great read, the perfect escape from a frantically busy work week or that mountain of ironing.

Samford’s Best Kept Secret

© Mary Mageau

Whenever the yen for discovery returns, it is time to pack a picnic lunch and be off for the day. Not for us—the freeways with their endless lines of speeding traffic and sterile scenery. Instead we head for the back roads and byways, where many surprises are found.

   High in the hills of remote Upper Wight’s Mountain Road rests an early treasure, Queensland’s last remaining Aboriginal bora ring. Thankfully this has been gazetted as a reserve, and the Queensland University’s Anthropology Section has accepted nomination as its trustee. The ring is maintained by the local Rotary Club.

   Prior to European settlement, the Samford Valley and Pine Rivers area was home to a number of Aboriginal clans. These all belonged to the Turrbul, Kabi and Wakka language groups. The basic unit of Aboriginal society was a self governing clan of about 70 persons.  All were responsible for their own homeland. Their ties to the land were unique as they believed that each one belonged to their land—not the land to them. A tribe included several clans, all sharing a distinctive ceremonial and a common dialect.

  The Samford Bora Grounds include a large man made ring, 26m in diameter, enclosed by a raised earthen mound. From this central ring a sunken path, 700m long and known as the Sacred Way, is linked to a second smaller ring. The rings were dug out by hand with sharp sticks and stone tomahawks and the earth was carried on sheets of bark to the outer mound. Women took part in the ceremonies at the large ring but were forbidden to walk beyond it. If this law was disobeyed, the woman’s penalty was death.

   In the ceremonial bora rings, neighbouring tribes gathered regularly to celebrate and perform important tribal rituals. At the Samford Bora Ground the boys, age 12 to 15 were transformed into young men—Kippas. Their noses were pierced with a small sharp spear and then plugged. The boys received tribal body paint markings and were given new names. This ceremony lasted for several weeks and marked their official graduation into manhood.

   While the women and men sang, the boys were made to sit in pairs around the mound as a female relative stood behind each of them. Men carrying boomerangs entered the ring each pointing their boomerang at a particular boy. The boy caught the end of it and as he did so the woman behind him clutched his hair and lifted him up. Man, boy and woman continued walking across the ring to the start of the Sacred Way when the woman was ordered back. This gesture symbolically removed the boy from the influence of his mother or another female relative. 

   The Samford Bora Grounds were last used by the Aboriginal clans in the 1870s when the Wight family, living on the next ridge, heard their corroborees. Occasionally we still visit the large central ring as this is the only section now being cared for. Here a deep quiet always lingers, and I experience an eerie feeling when I stop to reflect here. Thankfully this archaeological site still exists to remind and teach us of our rich, Aboriginal cultural heritage. It must be preserved.

Note:     This photograph (courtesy of the Samford Museum) portrays a Bora ceremony in miniature, displayed in a diorama at the museum.

Another Bora Ring was built nearby on the Redcliffe Peninsula. It was as large as the Samford ring but has never been preserved, and lies buried beneath the suburb of Kippa Ring.


Photo by Glen Noble on Unsplash

Our lovely little library in the old Blue Building on the old CSIRO site at Samford Commons is closed. We have had the enormous pleasure of sharing this quirky little hut with the most delightful people who have bent over backwards to be of help and who have come to share our amazing collection. I guess this funny little place is/was the forerunner of the community hub. It became a centre where people gathered to share skills, read, have a cuppa, talk, learn, do craft, help those in need. Our hard working library crew were/are very privileged to be part of that. Very shortly work will begin on site preparation for the much-needed new Samford Community Hub which will provide a home for many of our service organisations. The building site will not be publicly accessible. Many of the buildings on site will be demolished. The Blue Building and our storage hut (the secret library) are two of those. There are those who will protest but it would cost three arms and two legs to refurbish them to current building requirements, according to the engineering reports. The iconic glasshouses, though they need squillions to do up, will stay.

Moving a library and trying to keep things sorted is no easy task. The enormity of the job and the paucity of our time to achieve it hit home this week as we faced the massive problem of storage of all the wonderful books, jigsaws, CDs, DVDs and furniture you have so kindly donated. We have to be completely out of the Blue Building and our storage space by May 31. Of course, as is the general way of things when pushed to the limit, things go awry. Two of our fabulous crew have to have serious surgery, one has a fractured leg (we wish them speedy recovery), and three have family holidays overseas booked. It seems we will have to close until the Community Hub is built as, in spite of a desperate search for an affordable space to operate, there is nothing we can find in Samford Valley. We were given a glorious ray of hope when kindly Nettie Carroll of Samford Support Network offered us her shed to store our resources and generous Jenny of Cedar Creek offered space to store furniture. These offers came when we were at our lowest and most desperate so we haven’t given up hope of a miracle space suddenly being offered so we can continue providing a safe, friendly place where folk can do what they want, have a cuppa and a chat, as well as borrow books. Whatever the outcome, the fantastic groups who have met in our funky little library will continue to operate. Watch our Facebook page and our website for details as well as the next hopefully exciting development in our library saga.

Agent Zigzag by Paul Hannah

Eddie Chapman

Eddie Chapman had told his new girlfriend Betty Farmer, that he was in the film industry. That wasn’t entirely true, yes he had worked as an extra in a couple of films but she had no idea his main income came from crime. Eddie was a career criminal. He began with burglary, graduated to blackmail and was now the leader of the Jelly Gang, a notorious criminal group known for using the new explosive, gelignite to crack safes. She also didn’t know that he had a fiancé, nightclub dancer Freda Stevenson, and even Eddie didn’t know that Freda was pregnant.
One night in the spring of 1939, Eddie had appeared at Betty’s door saying breathlessly “Do you want to come to Jersey?” She quickly packed a bag and jumped into the car waiting outside and thus began the adventure of a lifetime.

Betty also didn’t know that Eddie had just been caught by the Scottish police, was out on bail and on the run as he had no intention of appearing in court. His plan was to go to the little island of Jersey in the English Channel, and then escape to France. They landed on Jersey that night and checked into the Hotel De Le Plage as Mr and Mrs Farmer. After a night of roulette and dancing they were having lunch in the hotel dining room when Eddie looked up from his trifle and saw two men in overcoats having an animated discussion with the headwaiter. That they were wearing overcoats told Eddie that these men weren’t on holiday and that they were probably looking for him. He stood up and kissed Betty once and said “I shall go, but I shall always come back.” And with that he turned, ran to the closed window overlooking the beach and jumped clean through it. The two policemen gave chase but could not catch him. Eddie needed money to get away so he cracked open another safe, a crime which set him on a path of international intrigue and espionage. Ironically it was this crime that ensured that he would be tried and sentenced on the island before he could be sent to the mainland to be tried for the crimes he committed there. And it was this crime that made sure he would not spend the next 14 years in an English prison.

Eddie was caught the next day but he made sure that the Jersey authorities knew that Betty Farmer had no knowledge of and took no part in, his many crimes, so she was allowed to leave for England and would not see him again for five years.
Eddie served three years in the little prison on Jersey. Meanwhile, momentous events were taking place in Europe. Hitler had invaded France and the British evacuated from Dunkirk. The island of Jersey is much closer to France than it is to England and so the British government had no choice but to abandon it to occupation by the Nazis. When Eddie was released, he found the island occupied and run by the Germans for the Germans. Eddie had no intention of going straight so he and his cellmate started up a barbershop from which they ran the island’s black-market operation. The pair cooked up a scheme to offer to spy for the Germans in the hope that they would send them to England on a mission where they would surrender to the British secret service – MI5. They submitted the proposal to the German commandant of the island and heard nothing of it and then some months later they were both arrested on charges of sabotage. They both thought that as they were innocent of the charge that this was some sort of ruse by the German authorities to get them off the island and into the hands of the Abwehr – the German military intelligence arm. But they were mistaken and they were taken to a notorious prison outside of France where beatings and starvation were the norm. However, with the glacial speed of bureaucracies everywhere their application to spy for Germany was wending its way through to the people that could actually do something about it. It seems that Eddie Chapman was just the sort of fellow the Abwehr was looking for.

He was taken out of the French prison and trained in the espionage techniques of explosives, weapons and Morse code. He became fluent in German and quite friendly with his captors. Months later he was in a German aircraft flying over the countryside of England. He got stuck in the hatchway and had to be pushed through into the darkness below. Landing in a celery field he immediately went to the closest farmhouse to call the police and surrender. He offered his services to MI5 as a double agent. His mission from the Abwehr was to blow up part of the factory making the Mosquito fighter-bombers as well as to gather intelligence of a general nature along the way. Fortunately for Eddie MI5 had a structure and process ready to deal with German spies – they gave them a choice, work for the allies or be shot. Almost all chose to work for the allies, but these threats were not necessary in Eddie’s case – this was his plan all along. And so began a career of a double agent, full of danger and threat of discovery.
His principal mission for the Abwehr was to blow up part of the de Havilland Mosquito aircraft factory at Hatfield. MI5 concocted a plan to fool the Abwehr into thinking this had been done using the skills of a professional magician. To this end one night they scattered rubble, bent gates and overturned machinery around where the explosions were to take place and arranged for a newspaper to print a small article about an attack on the factory. It was hoped that German reconnaissance aircraft would photograph the building and confirm Eddie’s story. Eddie then made his way back to Germany by posing as a sailor on a ship bound for Portugal, but not before Eddie convinced MI5 to take in his fiancé, Freda Stevenson and look after her while he was away. After days of interrogation his German masters accepted his story presented him with a lot of money and the highest award given to a German soldier, the Iron Cross – Eddie Chapman was the only Englishman ever to receive this honour.

de Havilland Factory

Eddie’s Abwehr unit was then sent to Norway where he met a beautiful Norwegian underground operative Dagmar Lahlum. At which point he thought she was collaborating with the Germans and thus a traitor to Norway and she thought he was a German spy and a traitor to his country. Despite this the two fell in love and he proposed marriage to her as well. Eddie then prepared for another mission back to England during which he convinced the Abwehr to look after Dagmar. So Eddie Chapman, known as ZIGZAG to the British and FRITZ to the Germans had Betty Farmer and Freda Stevenson waiting for him in England (and being looked after by MI5) and Dagmar Lahlum being looked after by the Abwehr. Before his next mission to England he confided with Dagmar that he was in fact a British spy and she responded telling him she was actually working for the underground. It is fair to say that both were pleased to hear the other’s news. He parachuted again into the English countryside with three new missions. He was tasked with stealing a portable radar unit from a British warplane, discovering the technology that was enabling the British to destroy so many submarines in the Atlantic and to correct the aim of the German missiles known as the V1. He also brought back intelligence of inestimable value. He had a roll of film that had photographs of every senior Abwehr agent in Norway, numerous potential targets like ammunition and fuel dumps and he had committed to memory addresses of much of the military establishment in Oslo.

MI5 did nothing about his first mission but for the second they concocted fake plans and letters describing a type of proximity fused depth charge that simply did not exist. Eddie duly sent these to Oslo where they sent the German scientists off on a wild goose chase trying to solve a problem that wasn’t there. His next mission was a little trickier. The V1 missiles were in fact dropping a little short but in consultation with some physicists they worked out how to mislead the German scientists into thinking that their missiles were going too far. This meant that rather than landing in the centre of London, the missiles would fall even further short, many into open countryside. This deception meant that Eddie Chapman, master criminal, saved thousands of lives.
By this time the V1 launching sites were being overrun by the Allies in France and of those that were still being launched many were able to be shot down by radar guided aircraft. As the V1 threat was substantially overcome that the British establishment decided that they had no further need for criminals in MI5 and with a lecture on going straight they unceremoniously kicked him out of his flat and sent him on his way. He received no honours or medals or even recognition for what he did for his country, save that from the Nazis – just a threat that if he told anyone about it he would go back to prison.

Eddie hired some former policemen to find Betty Farmer the blonde he left at the Hotel De La Plage some five years before, but in wartime England, finding a woman without a photograph or an address was a near impossible task. He was having lunch with these men and discussing the problem and how she might be found when one asked “Is there anyone here that looks a little bit like her?”

Eddie looked around, and saw a woman at the other end of the dining room and said “That girl, she looks just like from behind.” At that moment Betty Farmer turned around and Eddie said “Jesus!” He got up and walked over to her. They were married within a couple of months and stayed together, despite his numerous affairs, for the rest of their lives. He kept his promise, then and always “I shall go, but I shall always come back.”

© Paul Hannah 2019 

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