Blogs > Liberty and Power > Revealed: UK Wartime Torture Camp

Nov 11, 2005 11:13 pm

Revealed: UK Wartime Torture Camp

Saturday’s Guardian reports that “[t]he British government operated a secret torture centre during the second world war to extract information and confessions from German prisoners…The centre, which was housed in a row of mansions in one of London's most affluent neighbourhoods, was carefully concealed from the Red Cross, the papers show. It continued to operate for three years after the war, during which time a number of German civilians were also tortured. A subsequent assessment by MI5, the Security Service, concluded that the commanding officer had been guilty of" clear breaches" of the Geneva convention and that some interrogation methods" completely contradicted" international law…Not all the torture centre's secrets have yet emerged, however: the Ministry of Defence is continuing to withhold some of the papers almost 60 years after it was closed down.”

A second article, The Secrets of the London Cage, provides a detailed account of how beatings, sleep deprivation and starvation were used on SS and Gestapo men. The torture center, the London office of the Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre, known colloquially as the London Cage, occupied Nos. 6-8 Kensington Palace Gardens in the West End of London. It was run by MI19, the section of the War Office responsible for gleaning information from enemy prisoners of war. And boy, oh boy, did they do a thorough job! The Cage was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Paterson Scotland whose memoirs entitled The London Cage (London: Evans Bros., 1957; paperback reprint, London: Landsborough Publications, 1959) were eventually published after a seven-year delay, and only after all incriminating material had been deleted.

“As the work of the Cage was wound down, the interrogation of prisoners was switched to a number of internment camps in Germany. And there is evidence that the treatment meted out in these places was, if anything, far worse. While many of the papers relating to these interrogation centres remain sealed at the Foreign Office, it is clear that one camp in the British zone became particularly notorious. At least two German prisoners starved to death there, according to a court of inquiry, while others were shot for minor offences.

“In one complaint lodged at the National Archives, a 27-year-old German journalist being held at this camp said he had spent two years as a prisoner of the Gestapo. And not once, he said, did they treat him as badly as the British.”

I remember, when I was a young school teacher, thirty or so years ago, being told by a much older colleague who had fought in the Second World War, that the British had played as dirty as the Germans. Perhaps he had British interrogation centers and, in particular, the London Cage in mind.

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carrol spncr - 7/23/2009

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Mark Brady - 11/12/2005

No, the only edition that was published was the heavily censored edition that I cite. (I checked the British Library catalog for the references that I gave.) Perhaps now, sixty years on from 1945, the authorities will permit an unexpurgated edition to be published, but don't count on it.

Kenneth R. Gregg - 11/12/2005

Was there ever an unexpurgated edition of The London Cage? In light of today's situation, it would certainly be worth having it available.

Just a thought.
Just Ken