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Norfolk police chief ordered to keep eye on Hitler Youth

PUBLISHED: 06:30 09 March 2010 | UPDATED: 08:40 02 July 2010

Previously secret MI5 files have revealed how the chief of police in Norfolk was ordered to keep an eye on a group of Hitler Youth teenagers cycling through Britain

Previously secret MI5 files have revealed how the chief of police in Norfolk was ordered to keep an eye on a group of Hitler Youth teenagers cycling through Britain

Sarah Hall

Previously secret MI5 files have revealed how the chief of police in Norfolk was ordered to keep an eye on a group of Hitler Youth teenagers cycling through Britain - and how a scoutmaster from the county met the so-called 'spyclists'.

Previously secret MI5 files have revealed how the chief of police in Norfolk was ordered to keep an eye on a group of Hitler Youth teenagers cycling through Britain - and how a scoutmaster from the county met the so-called 'spyclists'.

In the years before the outbreak of the Second World War, parties of German boys criss-crossed the UK on bicycle, receiving warm welcomes almost everywhere they went.

But newly released files released from the National Archives, show the Security Service was so concerned about the danger posed by the youngsters that it ordered police to report whenever a group of touring German cyclists arrived in the country.

Among the files is one dated July 17, 1937, and marked as 'secret' from the chief constable of Norfolk Constabulary to MI5 chief Colonel Sir Vernon Kell.

Sir Vernon had written to police in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex the previous day stating a group of Hitler Youth cyclists would be arriving in Britain.

He said: “Should they come into your jurisdiction I should be very grateful for any information you can obtain regarding the places they visit.”

The letter in reply from Norfolk police stated: “With reference to your letter, regarding German students of the Hitler Youth Movement, should they come this way, which is unlikely, I will let you know any information that I can obtain.”

In August 1937, a report by a special branch officer of the Metropolitan Police with the subject 'Hitler Youth' detailed how a party of 22 Germans from a Bavarian branch of the movement arrived at Liverpool Street station in London after arriving at Harwich in Essex - and met a Norfolk scoutmaster.

The Scotland Yard officer wrote to Sir Vernon: “They were met on the platform by H.Cole, scoutmaster of the 1st Attleboro' (sic) (Norfolk) troup (sic) and another British boy scout.”

The officer said he followed the group, who were wearing the uniform of the Hitler Youth, on the Tube to Euston, where they were catching a train to Liverpool, but said there was “no untoward incident.”

The fear that German cyclists were carrying out covert spying operations in Britain appears to stem from a May 1937 article in the now-defunct Daily Herald newspaper.

Under the headline 'NAZIS MUST BE SPYCLISTS', it warned that the Nazi Cyclists Association had issued orders to its members who were spending holidays abroad.

A similar article in a magazine called The Cyclist a month later said touring German cyclists had been told: “Impress on your memory the roads and paths, villages and towns, outstanding church towers, and other landmarks so that you will not forget them.

“Make a note of the names of places, rivers, seas and mountains. Perhaps you may be able to utilise these some time for the benefit of the Fatherland.”

MI5 was sceptical about the authenticity of these instructions because it could not trace their source in German publications, but the intelligence agency collected dozens of reports of groups of uniformed Hitler Youth touring Britain.

The newly released files also revealed how Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scout movement, was invited to meet Adolf Hitler after holding friendly talks about forming closer ties with the Hitler Youth, although is no evidence the meeting ever took place.

Do you remember the visits of the 'spyclists'? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

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