Willingham History & Iducation Group
Next: Tuesday, September 13th, 2022
Runs until Tuesday, December 13th, 2022 (See all dates)
- 7:30pm - 9:30pm
- Octagon, St Mary's And All Saints Church, Willingham, CB24 5HS
Willingham's Nazi Spy - the inaugural meeting of the WHIGs
On the 17th September 1940, Wulf Schmidt, code name Leonhard, jumped from a Luftwaffe Heinkel aircraft in the skies above Willingham to start his crucial mission in England, part of Operation Lena on behalf of the German Abwehr, the German intelligence service.
The United Kingdom stood alone, Britain's army was in tatters with most of its equipment left on the beaches of Dunkirk. France, it’s main ally against Nazi oppression, surrendered and had accepted German occupation only a few months previously. The United States was refusing to give any assistance. With an election coming up President Roosevelt, although sympathetic, wanted to keep the U.S. out of the European war. While the USSR at this point was actually benefiting from its treaty with the Nazis by sharing in the occupation of Poland.
The American Ambassador and father of the future President Kennedy believed that it was inevitable that the British Empire would fall under Nazi control.
It was a very perilous time for Britain as Wulf Dietrich Christian Schmidt floated down to the Cambridgeshire countryside.
Wulf’s mission started to go wrong as soon as he bade farewell to the pilots Leutnant Wolfgang Nabel and Hauptmann Karl Gartenfield. As Unteroffizier Achtelik assisted him from the aircraft at 11500 feet, Wulf hit a strut on the aircraft injuring his hand, breaking his watch and things were only to get much much worse!
Wulf’s parachute training was in the form of hints and tips that he had picked up in the days leading up to his first and only operational flight, while the Germans waited for favourable weather conditions. So, not only did Wulf find himself heading towards a searchlight, part of the defences for RAF Oakington (Now within the Northstowe development), but he was unable to control the parachute when the wind took hold of him in the last seventy feet. Wulf was suddenly entangled in telephone lines that he then dragged down to the ground with him, landing very hard some 100 yards away from the personnel manning the searchlight near Belsar’s Hill (A future WHIGs topic).
About five minutes after he landed Wulf heard air raid sirens coming from Willingham, still in agony from spraining his right ankle with his clumsy landing he was surprised that he wasn’t immediately arrested by the military personnel just a stone's throw away. Maybe luck was on his side after all?
The next morning Wulf hid his equipment in the fields around Priest Lane. The parachute was hidden in a haystack while his harness, overalls and flying helmet were covered in a ditch. He found a home for the radio equipment under a hedge and covered it with long grass. Everything else that he needed to dispose of ended up in another haystack as Wulf found the ground was far too hard to dig with a sprained ankle.
After this, Wulf headed down Priest Lane towards Willingham in search of some breakfast, aspirin and a new watch.
Wulf bought a new Ingersoll watch in a barber’s shop (Now MAC Hair Studio) and aspirin from a chemist in Church Street. Then Wulf hobbled his way to Mrs Fields' newsagent (Now this could very well be the One Stop but there were two newsagents in Church Street in 1940) where he bought a copy of The Times and then limped back to the water pump on The Green to wash his swollen ankle. Next he had breakfast in a local cafe (many people opened their homes at this time as cafes and so the WHIGs have drawn a blank on where this was, but if you know where Wulf had breakfast, where the chemist was or which newsagent belonged to Mrs Fields then please get in touch: email@example.com).
His English, which he had learned while working on a plantation in Cameroon was good but with a distinct accent and since he had appeared in a rural area only to wash his feet with the village pump, Wulf did arouse a lot of suspicion amongst the locals.
So at around 10 am Wulf was stopped by a villager on his way back to his equipment and asked for his identification. Tom Cousins of the Home Guard was then dispatched to find Wulf and upon finding him asleep in a field off of Priest Lane he took charge of Wulf and marched him to his headquarters in the Three Tuns Pub (Now the Royal Bengal). There Wulf was interrogated by Lieutenant Colonel Langton of the 1st Cambridgeshire Battalion of the Home Guard. With suspicions clearly aroused the County Police in Cambridgeshire were contacted and Wulf left Willingham for a cell in Cambridge just over 12 hours after he had landed.
MI5 were then contacted only to discover that they had been waiting for the arrival of a certain Wulf Schmidt and were only too happy to pop out to Cambridge to collect him.
Wulf then went on to be one of the most influential and longest serving double agents during World War Two, assisting the allies right up to the final days of the war.
To find out more about Wulf Schmidt or Harry Williamson, the photographer for the Watford Observer as he was known for the rest of his life, please come to the WHIGs inaugural meeting on the 12th July 2022 at 7.30pm in the Octagon £3 on the door to cover the cost of the room.
Octagon, St Mary's And All Saints Church
The event runs from 7:30pm to 9:30pm on the following dates.
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