Letter: `Red plot' just a signals mix-up

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The Independent Online
`Red plot' just a signals mix-up

Sir: In citing "mid-1943" as the time when British liaison officers with Mihailovic's Chetniks in Serbia began to think that Special Operations Executive (SOE) Cairo moles must be sabotaging their telegrams, Aleksa Gavrilovic (Letters, 11 July) evidently did not know about the cipher crisis which hit SOE just at that time. It affected all of us in the Balkans, as the number of missions expanded more quickly than anyone had foreseen.

Staff shortages mainly affected the cipher office, which was fast approaching gridlock, pending the arrival of additional trained staff being rushed from Britain. Many of our more senior liaison officers in the field, familiar with conventional army procedures and radio networks, could not understand that clandestine communications from enemy territory had to be organised along completely different lines. Unfamiliar with all the technical problems involved, some officers, perhaps not surprisingly, were inclined to attribute the delays to sabotage.

We in Signals investigated some of the worst cases at great length. Of course some mistakes were made. But I never came across any examples of culpable negligence, let alone deliberate sabotage.