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Old 6th April 2005, 22:18
Dave Lefurgey Dave Lefurgey is offline
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WWII Clandestine Photo Reconnaissance

I am doing family history research on my uncle, Canadian, Bob Niven, and the man he worked with, Australian Sidney Cotton. They were recruited by G/C Winterbotham of the British Secret Service (SIS/MI6) and Col. Ronin of the French Deuxieme Bureau, then were provided with civilian Lockheed 12A Electra Juniors (x3), in which they installed secret camera compartments during late 1938 and early 1939. Before the war began they flew clandestine aerial photo reconnaissance flights in North Africa, the Middle East, the Mediterranean area (Including the Dodecanese Islands, Sicily & Italy) and Europe, photographing German & Italian war preparations and military installations. They had also developed a technique for keeping camera lenses defrosted above 8,000'.
Cotton owned a color film company called Dufaycolor and was contacted by a Herr Schoene about purchasing the patent rights for the process for German Agfa films (I.G. Faber Industries?), so they could market his film process on their film base. Schoene became the Dufaycolor representative in Germany and it is suspected he worked for German intelligence. He had flown with the Richthofen Flying Circus in WWI with herman Goering and later lost a leg in an air crash in South America. Schoene introduced Cotton & my uncle to Herr Traeder, who was Goering's business manager. All business deals had to be approved by Herman Goering at this time. This gave Cotton & my uncle an excellent cover for their clandestine activities inside Germany.
They also photographed Goering's secret underground bunker system while it was being built at Karinhall, from the ground and presented Goering with complimentary photos of his mansion. They were invited to the Frankfurt Air Races in August 1939 and took many high dignitaries for flights in their civilian aircraft, all the while taking secret aerial photos. Dignitaries included Albert Kesselring and the C.O. of Tempelhof Airport, Boetger.
Just before the war began they were in Berlin and had invited Goering as a personal guest for a trip to England. The purpose was for a secret meeting for Goering with P.M. Chamberlain and Lord Halifax, to convince Goering (who could hopefully convince Hitler) that England would go to war if Germany invaded Poland. The trip didn't happen and Cotton & my uncle were barely able to escape Germany a day or two before war began.
They also flew missions for Ian Fleming (Naval Intelligence) over Ireland to learn if the Germans were constructing secret U-boat pens. May have done some work for Sir William Stevenson (Intrepid), but I'm trying to learn about that. The results of their missions were usually handed over directly to Churchill by them or one of the two female members of their group, who would sometimes accompany them on missions. One was Patricia Conran, Cotton's secretary and girlfriend, and the other was Andrea Johansen, Cotton's cousin, who later married my uncle. They operated the cameras.
Once war began the RAF took over their tiny unit and they were sent to France with specially modified Spitfires to continue their work. The women weren't taken on by the RAF. Andrea married my uncle and Pat was sent to Italy to spy on the ground. The RAF now called their unit the Special Survey Flight, then by other names, like the Photographic Development Unit, The Photographic Reconnaissance Unit, 212 Squadron, etc. One part of their unit photographed the Russian oilfields when Russia was allied with Germany and a sabotage/bombing/commando raid was planned that didn't happen. Documents were recovered by German intelligence when Germany invaded France that outlined their activities and Hitler & Stalin made good use of the propaganda value in speeches they made. I suspect many of those documents went to Russia at the end of WWII.
Interestingly, the Germans were doing the same thing to the west. A Luftwaffe officer named Theodore Rowehl, was flying a civilian Junkers aircraft fitted with hidden cameras. Apparently he answered directly to Hitler and took clandestine aerial photos of southern England, France, the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries and the Baltic coast up to Leningrad. He posed as a representative for Lufthansa Airlines, scouting out new air routes.
I am asking for help in learning anything I can about my uncle, Bob Niven and Sidney Cotton; their female companions, and Herrs Schoene and Traeder. Was Schoene with German intelligence? Did German intelligence know of their activities? My mother told the story her brother (Bob Niven) had told her that at one point the Gestapo had warned them that they knew what they were up to and never to returnto Germany or they would never be seen again. Are Traeder, Schoene or Rowehl still alive? and is there a way to find out and/or contact them? I'm also trying to learn about the business dealings Dufaycolor had with Agfa. Any other ideas, thoughts, suggestions will be appreciated. Thank you.
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