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  #1  
Old 6th April 2005, 21:18
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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Old 7th April 2005, 17:39
Hawk-Eye Hawk-Eye is offline
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Re: WWII Clandestine Photo Reconnaissance

Too bad I know virtually nothing of interest to you.

Just this : please note the firm name was IG Farben. It was dismantled after WW II because big German "Konzern"s were accused of having helped Hitler to come to power but today they have been re-created and beyond.
In one issue of the wonderful French review "Icare" a veteran mentioned that on some French airfield 1940 a recce-Spitfire was kept in a hangar which was "severely guarded". No more details. This is not much. If you want me to I'll give you the issue number etc.
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Old 7th April 2005, 17:48
Dave Lefurgey Dave Lefurgey is offline
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Re: WWII Clandestine Photo Reconnaissance

Hawkeye:

Yes, please. I would like the information you spoke re: the recce Spitfire. May give me a lead throught the vet that said it, or some other way. Thanks!
Dave
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Old 7th April 2005, 18:06
Dave Lefurgey Dave Lefurgey is offline
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Re: WWII Clandestine Photo Reconnaissance

Hawkeye:

If you're into reading the French material. I'm having trouble getting information on Colonel Georges Ronin, mentioned in my first post. He was head of the air branch within the Deuxieme Bureau. He was quite a character and had an amazing story himself. The original idea to use a civilian spy plane was likely his and he collaborated with Winterbotham (RAF/SIS/MI6). They both began looking for a suitable pilot. Ronin found Cotton through a mutual associate who worked for the American Armaments Corporation based in New York, and run by Alfred and Ignacio Miranda. They were 'gunrunners' and were of Mexican descent, and one of Cotton's daughters told me that Ignacio often reminded her of Pancho Villa with ammunition bandoliers across hia chest, while Alfred was a superb dancer. Alfred contacted Cotton and met him in London, then they went to Paris, where Cotton Met Ronin. Cotton returned to London and was met by Winterbotham. That's how he was recruited. Shortly after that, Pat Conran (Cotton's girlfriend/mistress) was going to visit Lord Bennett (a former Prime Minister of Canada) and called my uncle to see if he wanted to go along. My uncle knew Bennett through his dad and had likely met Pat through him. They discussed his plans after leaving the RAF and Pat suggested he contact her boyfriend, Cotton. he did and the rest, as they say, is history.
I am having trouble getting information from the French air force archives. The French army and archives have been fantastic in their assistance. Air force archives stated they did have a file in Ronin, but that was the end of our correspondence, in spite of messages I've sent them on how to obtain copies of the information. Any ideas, thoughts, suggestions?
Thanks, Dave
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Old 9th April 2005, 01:20
Dave Lefurgey Dave Lefurgey is offline
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Re: WWII Clandestine Photo Reconnaissance

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hawk-Eye
Too bad I know virtually nothing of interest to you.

Just this : please note the firm name was IG Farben. It was dismantled after WW II because big German "Konzern"s were accused of having helped Hitler to come to power but today they have been re-created and beyond.
In one issue of the wonderful French review "Icare" a veteran mentioned that on some French airfield 1940 a recce-Spitfire was kept in a hangar which was "severely guarded". No more details. This is not much. If you want me to I'll give you the issue number etc.
Hawkeye:
Don't know if you received my response to your message or not. Thank you and yes, I would like to know the issue number, etc.
Dave
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Old 9th April 2005, 14:22
Hawk-Eye Hawk-Eye is offline
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Re: WWII Clandestine Photo Reconnaissance

Yes I read your reply. I'll try to find that old Icare issue but, as I said, there are no details, only that a severely guarded recce-Spit was in a hangar on some French airfield. The only detail I could find is the name of this airfield. Stand by, be patient.
As for SHAA, now unified military archive (I have forgotten the new name), I am surprised by their behaviour. Try to ask them again but IN FRENCH, it could work. As a last resort you could announce your visit there, at least one month before (preferably 3 months before, repeating the announcement 1 month before) - except if you write or phone them and they tell you it's all right - and go there. After all it's virtually Paris, not so far away.
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Old 9th April 2005, 21:40
Hawk-Eye Hawk-Eye is offline
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Icare and PR-Spitfire

Well, I screened half a dozen "Icare" issues for this passage but I found nothing. Every issue contains a lot of text. Now I really don't know where this mention could be. But I think you could find this piece of information easier in the RAF or IWM-archive : only 2 PR-Spits were based in France 1940. Finding where should not be all too difficult.
Sorry pal but I can't re-read 17 complete Icare-issues from 1970 to 1997. Good luck!
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Old 10th September 2005, 00:16
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Matzos Matzos is offline
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Re: WWII Clandestine Photo Reconnaissance

If its any help, before the fall of France, the reconnaissance Spitfires from the Heston Special Flight were renamed to No.2 Camouflage Unit and a detachment was sent to France.
At the time Spitfire PR 1Bs were being used, fitted with F24 cameras in each wing. These were up graded later to PR 1Cs.
During the Dunkirk evacuation, the French detachment of No.2 CU was disbanded and the aircraft and personnel re-absorbed back to Heston.
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Old 11th September 2005, 11:01
JeffK JeffK is offline
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Re: WWII Clandestine Photo Reconnaissance

Have you read the book about Cotton?

I'm unsure of the name, I'll check my files.
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Old 18th November 2005, 04:18
edwest edwest is offline
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Re: WWII Clandestine Photo Reconnaissance

Here's a link to a site about Sidney Cotten:

http://www.adastron.com/lockheed/electra/sidcotton.htm


Ed
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