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Saturday, January 20th 2018, 12:41pm

12 July
The Atomic Energy Research Establishment (AERE) has been officially formed at Windscale in Cumbria to oversee all Atomic energy research with several smaller research facilities across the country.

14 July
At Hucclecote, Gloucestershire, following taxi trials the prototype Gloster AXP-1001 jet fighter took to the air on its maiden flight. The aircraft, designed to meet Argentine specifications with the assistance of thirty FMA engineers should enter service in 1950. Current plans see the third prototype being shipped to Argentina and assembled there for a first flight.

15 July
The first London chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous held its first meeting today.


Friday, January 26th 2018, 11:30am

A Conspiracy at the Barley Row?
Another Falls into the Net

After Palmer had relented and identified all the dead letter boxes used by the network, three were deemed feasible to keep under observation. One was concealed outside a garage inside a tyre adverting sign, the top of the pole screwing off to enable a letter to be stuffed inside. The day before the observation began, Herbert Setter came along at seven o’clock in the evening, walking his dog. He casually paused while the little Spaniel scratched itself, unscrewed the top of the pole and inserted a letter. He then replaced the cap and carried on. The next day, as scheduled, he went to his pay drop located in a hollow in a tree trunk. Of course, it was empty. Herbert realised something had gone wrong. He hurried back to retrieve the letter from the advertising sign. That was a mistake, unknown to him the spot was now being watched, by pure chance it was the first day under observation and he found himself bundled into a car and whisked away with the incriminating evidence in his hand.

Detective Inspector Grice too had stumbled across something. On the surface it looked innocuous, a missing person’s report from Stamford Hill. Some concerned customers noticed that Charles Schrod had failed to keep his appointments. His shop was locked up and after several days he still failed to appear. His telephone went unanswered as well. The Police found no signs of life and no obvious sign of a break-in or anything amiss. So his name was added to the missing persons list. Grice was glancing at the list while at his desk, what drew his eye was the listing of Schrod’s occupation, antiques dealer. A check on Schrod’s passport showed it had been used on Wednesday 7th July at Dover for the cross-channel ferry to Calais. It could be an innocent business trip, but none of his friends and business contacts were aware of it, indeed they were worried something had happened to him. Schrod too was a German immigrant. It was possible this was the ‘Joe Smith’ who had recruited the network. If so, it was proof the London end had fled. It was another lead to follow.

Herbert Setter was taken straight to the Mansion House in Surrey. It was clear he was no super spy. Indeed, he was short in stature, a rather plan ordinary old man who blended into the background. He wanted a little extra money in his twilight years but in no way was an ideologue or seeking fame. He called it a “way to earn some self-respect”, to once again, “have a trade.” It was perhaps a tragic case but Herbert was forthcoming with details. He usually sat near the Liverpool docks, watching the ships coming and going and noting any particular interesting cargoes being loaded. The letter had been regarding a shipment of armoured cars in Desert yellow colours. He also confirmed contact with Joseph Smith, who he called, “a gentleman, a man who understands the old traditions.” Herbert was to remain at the Mansion until the case was settled, but he could walk his dog in the grounds with a guard and generally Michael didn’t want to pester the old man any more than necessary. Even the hardened Grice wondered whether a prosecution could be avoided.


Friday, February 2nd 2018, 3:35pm

A Conspiracy at the Barley Row?
The Old Antiques Shop

The Police, with Grice in attendance, broke into Schrod’s antiques shop to gain entry to his rooms above. A thorough search was made. To the trained eye it was clear Schrod had cleared out in a haste. Some toiletries were missing from the bathroom, like his toothbrush and toothpaste. Some clothes had gone but most were still hanging in the wardrobe or tucked away in his drawers. There were some unwashed cutlery in the kitchen and some mouldy bread and stale milk in the pantry. Everything was examined; every book, item of clothing, every antique object in the shop. Grice wondered if the small ceramic vases sold overseas had been crammed with photographs and letters. He could ship materials in and out quite easily. He had cameras too and could convert his bathroom into a tiny home-made darkroom as well. There were albums of photographs of antiques but Grice felt sure Schrod wasn’t just photographing his antiques for sales brochures. His diary was full of names and details, each one would have to be painstakingly checked. There were dates referring to Warrington and visits to Manchester and several other places, as well as brief trips to the continent. There seemed to be little incriminating evidence left lying around. Then, one of the policemen inspecting a Dresden china shepherdess found a roll of camera film hidden inside the cavity underneath. Holding to the light, Grice could just make out what looked like military aircraft on the negatives. Schrod was indeed alias Joseph Smith.


Sunday, February 4th 2018, 3:40pm

20 July
The Iraqi Academy of Sciences in Baghdad was formally founded today.

27 July
The first prototype De Havilland DH.106 Comet 1, registered G-ALVG, was first flown today at Hatfield.
The Comet has been developed to meet Specification P.3/43 for a jet-powered airliner for BOAC. It was designed by a team led by chief designer Ronald Bishop, initially a tailless sweptwing design was chosen but eventually a more conventional design was chosen as the final configuration. The DH.108 programme was partly to investigate the original tailless layout. The Comet is powered by four DH Ghost turbojets buried in the wingroots. The Comet can accommodate 44 passengers in a pressurised cabin, although BOAC examples will only seat 36 in a more spacious arrangement. The second prototype G-ALVH will fly later this year.

28 July
The first Stoke Mandeville Games were held today, a multi-sport event for wheelchair users. The Games are the brainchild of neurologist Sir Ludwig Guttmann and are held at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital rehabilitation facility in Aylesbury.

30 July
Regional Gas Boards came into formal operation today as the nationalisation of the gas industry takes effect.


Tuesday, February 13th 2018, 3:33pm

A Conspiracy at the Barley Row
Downing Street

Atlee was ambivalent towards the intelligence services. As a Labour Party member he knew too well its members had been closely watched by MI5 and that it had been a tool used to combat the rise of socialism. On the other hand, he saw the potential it offered in protecting the state and the nation. More than any other previous Prime Minister he had striven to create a true Whitehall committee atmosphere to organise and direct the intelligence services and as Prime Minister he held the controlling strings. He held frequent meetings with Sir Percy Sillitoe, the Director General of MI5. Sillitoe had been the Chief Constable of Glasgow when he broke the power of the notorious Glasgow razor gangs during the 1930s. He was a tough and no-nonsense man. Atlee was shy and apt to be brusque, not the greatest pairing but it was an effective team.

So it was that Sillitoe found himself in the Cabinet Room in Downing Street for another meeting. This time the topic was what was becoming known as the Aston Circle.
After a few minutes silence as Atlee read the briefing he cleared his throat, “What’s being done?”
Sillitoe wondered how best to answer this open-ended question. “Well the investigation is not yet completed. We suspect some measure of involvement by the German Abwehr in the organisation of the network. Naturally I thought the decision whether or not to prosecute Aston, Palmer and Setter was up to the Home Secretary to decide.”
Attlee sat in silence a few moments, he had witnessed the Gardner Case while he was in Opposition in the Commons and wanted to avoid a repeat of that. “A trial in camera is advised by our legal advisers. The main question is what would the Germans do in return if we took steps against their Abwehr representative at the Embassy?”
“They would deny it of course, we only have circumstantial evidence. My advice would be to prosecute the three defendants by all means, but not involve the Germans in this. We have learnt several lessons about how they operate and it would be unwise to tip our hand at this time.”
Attlee nodded but said nothing else.

Control, the secretive head of MI6, loathed contact with politicians and bristled at Atlee’s requests for meetings. Control would grudgingly attend, making sure his visits were under cover of darkness and relatively brief. Never a Whitehall operator, he try to remain in the shadows as much as possible. He also disliked socialists in general and had no time for the Labour Government but he accepted that Atlee seemed to be efficient in his job and they had briefly known each other during the War in their younger days. Both were equally terse but they respected each other.
Attlee opened the conversation, “Who do you think is the Abwehr representative in London? MI5 suspect von Bolschwing the commercial attaché.”
Control shook his head, “No. Schellenburg, the military attaché is. We’ve had our eyes on him since he arrived in London. The existence of this network proves he has been industrious. I don’t doubt he has other networks, but he may well become more cautious now.”
“If we could prove this network was the work of the Abwehr, how should we proceed?” Atlee asked.
Control shrugged, “Schellenburg is a shrewd man, he will have his tracks well covered. The network is blown. We need to strip the rest of it bare before we do anything else. There must be several other members at large and of course Schrod escaped to the Continent.”
“So you advise against any action, not even through back-channels?” Atlee asked.
“It’s all part of the game Prime Minister, sometimes one side or the other loses. Aston was the diamond in an otherwise mediocre network. We would never run an important agent like that, muddled up with a mixed bag of ner’do wells. If Schellenburg had really valued his material he would have run Aston separately. If we squawk now then the Abwehr might realise what value Aston’s reports might have had. Schellenburg already knows he has lost this round and he might not be able to hide it from his superiors in Berlin. If he wants this material badly he will try again.”
“Then what?” Atlee asked tersely.
A thin smile crept over Control’s lips, “We will be ready.”


Yesterday, 3:43pm

A Conspiracy at the Barley Row?
Erich in the Bag

Erich Stoben was put under surveillance. His mail to his home and the Saint Luke’s Chapel in Wansdworth was intercepted, as were all his telephone calls. A watch was put on the Chapel and all his movements were logged. The days rolled by and no incriminating evidence emerged. He seemed unaffected by the flight of Schrod and showed no tendency to go underground himself. Time ticked by and nothing happened. An operative even broke into the Chapel to search his desk and papers but nothing was found. Stoben seemed a solid and respectable citizen. However, the chain of command wanted answers and Michael Braithwaite debated whether to pull him in for interrogation anyway. Detective Inspector Grice had a better idea, until now Schrod’s disappearance had been kept out of the newspapers. He had a hunch if Schrod’s disappearance was made public that it might stir Stoben into action and then they could make their move and scoop him up. A couple of days later the Evening Standard ran a small item on the strange disappearance of the antiques dealer.

Michael Brathwaite was growing inpatient. Through their shadowing of Stoben, they knew he read the Evening Standard every day and would see the news item of Schrod’s disappearance. The story of course did not reveal Schrod’s fate or destination. All the reporter was told was that it was a missing person’s case.
Stoben seemed reluctant to follow his co-conspirators into hiding. Michael even toyed with using Aston as bait to draw him into a trap but his superiors were unwilling to take the risk. With increasing pressure for results, Michael decided to throw Tom Measure back into the fray. He was to visit Saint Luke’s Chapel and bring Stoben in for questioning.

Saint Luke’s Chapel in Wansdworth, London, was easy for Tom to find. It was a drab little stone building, in the dark wet light the façade looked sinister. Stepping inside he found a woman sweeping the floor and she directed him upstairs to the Reverend’s little office. The Reverend was out but Erich was sitting at a small desk crammed into the corner of the tiny room.
“Can I help you Sir?” Erich peered over his glasses.
“Are you Mr Stoben?” Tom asked, “I was most anxious to speak with you about the Withington Shelter for the Homeless.”
Erich smiled, “Ah, come in. Yes, I know the shelter well. How can I help you?”
Tom sat down on a spare chair, “Well I’m trying to trace somebody that I think you helped to get into the Shelter. A Michael Aston, he was a friend of mine you see.”
Erich looked blank then let out a smile, “I help so many poor cases, its hard to remember them all.”
Tom knew he was stalling but played along, “He was at the YMCA in Brixton, I believe you got him a ticket to Manchester.”
“Hmm, I’ve been to Brixton many times, too many times sadly.” Erich shook his head. “We do what we can, give them a train ticket and the Shelter gives them a secure roof until they can get resettled into the locality.”
“The last he wrote to me he said he had some money from you.”
Erich thought a moment, “Well we give them something to see them through until they get settled on the right path. We give whatever we can spare from the donations box here.”
Tom nodded, “Oh yes indeed, he got onto the right path right enough. With a hundred pounds in his pocket and a friend who got him a job, who wouldn’t do alright?”
Erich shifted uneasily in his chair, “It wouldn’t have been a hundred pounds, we don’t usually give more than a couple of pounds at the most. You must be mistaken.”
“There was no mistake. We are most anxious you see to trace that money and the man who you directed to find Michael a job.” Tom’s face was stony and hard.
“We? Mr, err”, Erich stumbled over his words.
“Oh I forgot to say, I’m Detective Sergeant Latham of Special Branch,” Tom whisked out his false identity card, “you see Michael is in a spot of bother. A rather delicate matter in fact.”
Erich’s face turned white and he fumbled with his spectacles.
Tom nodded towards the door, “We have a car downstairs, there are questions we’d like to put to you in more formal surroundings. Voluntarily helping us would avoid any bother. Tom got up and motioned to the door.
“I am an honest man, I only help out for the Shelter, I can’t be held responsible for every man’s behaviour once outside,” Erich’s cheeks were now red as he tried to bluster a defence.
Tom tugged on Erich’s jacket sleeve, “I think you should come with us, it won’t take long and we’ll clear everything up.”
Reluctantly, Erich rose and followed.

The car whisked Tom and Stoben to the local police station. Tom’s partner Henry Golding was driving and Michael and Detective Inspector Grice were waiting. Stoben was bundled into the small interview room by Tom and Henry. Tom remained to sit in on the interview, while Henry waited outside the door.

Michael did the formal introductions and before Stoben could put up much of a protest, he waded into the questions.
“Now Mr Stoben, we are anxious to know how you made acquaintance with Michael Aston.”
Erich tried to stall until he could form a coherent argument, “I deal with a lot of cases requiring charity, I can’t remember all the circumstances.”
“Well try this time to remember this one,” Michael growled.
“Well,” Erich gulped, “it must have been when I arrived at the YMCA in Brixton,” he pointed towards Tom, “as your colleague has already mentioned to me.”
The words had barely left Erich’s mouth when Michael shot back, “So who told you Aston needed help and to meet him there?”
“Probably someone who was concerned about his welfare,” Erich shrugged.
“Was it the same man who gave you the hundred quid for Aston?” Tom chipped in.
Erich turned to face Tom who was to one side of the small room, “It might have been, I’m not sure. A young man brought it to the Chapel the morning I went to see Aston.”
“We need names,” Michael said, “we know you know so there is no point stalling.”
Erich shook his head and paused before finally speaking, “The man who told me where Aston was and that I was to arrange his transport to the Shelter in Manchester I know only as Konservendose, Tin Can. I don’t know who the young man was that brought the money, he gave no name but identified himself to me with the words “Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget, what thou among the leaves hast never known. The counter was “The weariness, the fever, and the fret, here, where men sit and hear each other groan.”
“That’s a poem, by Coleridge,” Grice interjected, “The Nightingale I think it’s called.”
Michael was impressed that a policeman was so cultured but had other concerns to dwell on. He pushed a photograph of Schrod across the table towards Erich, “this ‘Tin Can’ is it not, better known as Charles Schrod, antiques dealer, late of Stamford Bridge.”
Erich nodded silently.


Yesterday, 5:14pm

Speaking out of character here...

Since Stobin reported his presence in Dublin to Schellenburg we have a disconnect here - or MI5 is attempting to play a deep game. Moreover, I think it unlikely that the low-level agents would know the operational codename of people higher up in the hierarchy, though that in itself is not impossible.