Friday 13 June 2014

Operation Tabarin

A new book has just been published called Operation Tabarin by Stephen Haddelsey with Alan Carroll (The History Press 2014), and it reveals a previously untold story about a mission in 1944 to establish a British military presence in parts of Antarctica. It was very similar in nature to Operation Highjump which took place three years later, except Tabarin was far more low-key. Only two small ships were involved with a core crew of fourteen Royal Navy sailors. One of them was George James who is interviewed in The Daily Telegraph article at the bottom. He describes his life in the bitter cold and isolation of the south polar region. The ships sailed along the coast of Antarctica, setting up scientific bases on the islands and coves that lined the Graham Land Peninsular on the western area of the continent, south of Argentina. The crew were attacked by leopard seals which are fierce predators and even the penguins could be quite aggressive when they outnumbered the humans so much. At one point Mr James ate foul-tasting penguin egg omelettes. They encountered an Argentine base where half the men there had died of starvation; it's a brutal environment where humans are not meant to be, and he was very pleased to return to his native Cardiff where still he still lives today. The book is well-designed and has a foreword by none other than HRH Princess Anne, daughter of her Reptileness the Queen. It is furthermore described by the explorer Sir Ranulph Fienness as "a truly remarkable story". What's more it is praised by Lieutenant Ian Graham, the skipper of HMS William Scoresby, one of Tabarin's ships. After the war Tabarin gradually became semi-demilitarized and morphed directly into the British Antarctic Survey.

The UK Government has never made a formal statement about why Operation Tabarin took place and the question has been left to historians to speculate. George James was never briefed into the mission's purpose. It is usually considered a strategic action related to World War II, which was in full spate at the time. Germany was using some of the Antarctic islands as fuelling stations for its U-boats and other ships. Conflict between Germany and other powers over the Nazi seizure of New Swabia in Queen Maud Land had broken out before World War II. There was also concern that Japan would try to annex the Falkland Islands as a base, to enter the Atlantic and the rest of the western hemisphere, or to give them to Argentina; an officially neutral country, but nonetheless very sympathetic to Hitler's Germany. It was even suggested that the whole thing was just a disinformation exercise. The Allies had a top secret information source from breaking the German Enigma code at Bletchley Park. They knew about the Nazi bases and ships in the Southern Ocean from Enigma, but in order not to tip the Germans off, they had to make it look as if the information had been obtained via more conventional methods, purely for appearance's sake. It has also been suggested that Operation Tabarin might have been decided upon because the Foreign Office was concerned by American post-war objectives; this materialized with overwhelming grandiosity in 1946 when Operation Highjump sent a huge fleet of ships into Antarctic waters in order to... well who knows? The theme of Haddelsey's book is that Operation Tabarin, rather than being related to World War II, was instead effectively the first shot in the Falklands War of 1982. Its purpose was to assert British territorial claims to the south polar region and head off Argentina's ambitions to do so. Argentina had placed a base and flown its flag on Deception Island off the coast of Graham Land already, just like they did much later. Indeed, this clash once more came to a head thirty-eight years later when Argentina invaded and occupied the Falklands before being unseated shortly afterwards by a British taskforce. As with Tabarin, the real motives for the Falklands Conflict, on both sides, remain nebulous, and official pronouncements ring of insincerity and deception, see: Another element we must consider comes from the possibility that British military involvement activity in Antarctica did not end with World War II. There are stories of another expedition that took place in 1947-8. This led to an armed confrontation with the remnants of Nazi Germany and I've even met a man who claims to have fought in that war, see: A similar report has been uncovered by James Robert about "Britain's secret war in Antarctica", see: Why did all this happen? Was it to finish off the Nazi's and capture or kill Adolf Hitler? Or is even that a cover story for something else? Something involving extraterrestrials and the notorious "Black Goo"? I state this as a possibility in all seriousness; my friend David Griffin has researched this area thoroughly, see: At the moment it's hard to say, but I think this topic is worth uncovering because the people of the world have a right to know; not least George James and Ian Graham, members of the Operation Tabarin crews who are now very old. I hope they live to see the day when the truth is revealed.


Anonymous said...

very interesting!

Ben Emlyn-Jones said...

Thanks, X. It is a fascinating subject.