The Dennis Wheatley 'Museum' - Dennis Wheatley in World War II: a supplement
Dennis Wheatley in World War II: a supplement
While Room 8 of the virtual Museum described DW's various activities in World War Two - starting as a novelist unwanted for other tasks, moving on to being a 'one man think tank' consulted by some of the most influential persons in the war effort, and thence into being one of the handful of top secret 'Deception Planners' who in a deliberate and concerted fashion misled the enemy as to what the Allies were intending to do next, and who by diverting enemy resources to where they were not needed, increased the chances of success and minimised the casualties of major operations like 'Operation Torch' and the D-Day landings, although it contained a goodly amount of material never before seen by the public, by its very nature the Room gave something of a broad-brush account.
This supplement aims to follow the same storyline, but to look at it from some new angles, and to go into more detail. This seems appropriate, given that DW considered that - notwithstanding that he was one of the country's best-selling authors - this was the most important period of his professional life.
First of all - and this is a source that most biographers have neglected - this supplement includes material from The National Archives, where I commissioned a professional historian¹ to do a search, and with their permission I am including tens of exhibits which help to show the very high regard in which DW's civilian 'War Papers' were held, and which illustrate some of the actual documents that DW was working on later. They also demonstrate the utter secrecy in which DW and the London Controlling Section worked.
The supplement also benefits from being able to display - thanks to one of his relatives - some of the small but very interesting private archive kept by one of the civil servants working with the London Controlling Section and with DW, Mr W.V. Bell. I am most grateful to one of Mr Bell's relatives for contacting me and for allowing me to exhibit this material, which has never before been seen in public.
Finally, in the almost ten years since I constructed the main Room, more of DW's unpublished World War Two material has come to light. This includes not only further correspondence with people like Maxwell Knight, the probable inspiration for Ian Fleming's 'M' and correspondence with Desmond Morton, the man who fed Churchill with information about the German re-armament between the wars, but also two earlier versions of DW's war memoirs. The second and last of these differs little from 'The Deception Planners' (which formed the skeleton of the main Museum account, onto which the various exhibits were 'hung'), but the first, assembled in the 1960s but clearly based on much earlier - and presumably destroyed - work, only came to light in the last six months, and this is an account almost twice as long, and which is interspersed with verbatim copies of almost fifty 'Top Secret' documents, of many of which we have not seen copies in The National Archives.
That DW considered this version 'sensitive' is without doubt, because he kept it in a box labelled:
DENNIS WHEATLEY NOT TO BE OPENED UNTIL AFTER MY DEATH BY MY EXECUTORS
It is highly doubtful that Anthony Lejeuene ever saw this version, as 'The Deception Planners' seems to have been based on DW's much later 'second version', from which Anthony Lejeune mainly struck out some of the character sketches which might have offended those who were still alive; but this first version is a much fuller and franker document, and I have sought to use this to fill in some of the gaps and to give a better understanding of what it was like to work in the London Controlling Section, while avoiding the reproduction of lengthy planning papers which would only have interest to specialists.
Nonetheless, some of the incidents in this version - such has how DW managed to survive his Officers' Training Course at Uxbridge, and how he went so far as to amend/falsify an instruction in order to bring back one of his friends who was languishing in the Middle East - give a fascinating insight into how DW and his colleagues worked, and de-stressed, in this period of great National stress.
How DW managed to copy all the material required to write such a frank and detailed account we can only guess, but we can be grateful that he did.
I hope you will find this supplement informative and entertaining, and that it will help to give you the feeling of 'being a fly on the wall' on one of the more interesting walls on which a fly might have chosen to alight in World War Two.
Note¹ I am indebted to historian Dr Andrew Lewis, whom I commissioned specially for the National Archives search.
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