The British spy who captured Hitler

The British spy who captured Hitler

He took remarkable pictures of the Führer – and the story of the man behind them is even more amazing. Kim Sengupta reports

The British spy who captured Hitler

He took remarkable pictures of the Führer – and the story of the man behind them is even more amazing. Kim Sengupta reports

Published: 24 May 2007

Bayreuth in July 1939. The music lovers flocking to the town would have
known that this could be the last time they would be able to enjoy the
Wagner Festival for a while. The stormclouds were gathering and the
conflagration of the Second World War was less than a month away.

It was here that a chance meeting took place which would lead to a
unique set of photographs recording Adolf Hitler relaxing and imbibing
culture as he prepared for the invasion of Poland.

The historic
pictures, which surfaced yesterday, were taken by Charles Turner, a
young English composer who had been visiting Bayreuth for the previous
five year and who the Führer had invited to his entourage, which
included Joseph Goebbels and Rudolf Hess, after being introduced by a
mutual acquaintance.

What Hitler and the Germans did not know
was that Turner was, in fact, a British secret agent who had been
tasked with using the Festival to gather information and infiltrate the

Mr Turner had been sending back regular dispatches to his
intelligence handlers in London after each of his visits to Bayreuth.
Much of it is said to be about what people close to Hitler were saying
about the impending conflict. A lot of it has been described as gossip,
but "gossip which some pretty important people were engaged in".

conversation between Hitler and Turner is still, somewhat surprisingly,
deemed so "sensitive" that records are locked away in the vaults of
MI6. The musician was, however, the only Briton to have such an
audience. Sir Neville Henderson, the ambassador to Berlin, was also at
Bayreuth hoping to engage in some last-minute diplomatic talk, but the
Führer refused to see him.

The images produced by Mr Turner show
Hitler in evening dress on his way to a concert followed by his
personal SS bodyguard in uniform. Another is of him in his official car
in a raincoat and fedora, rather than the usual peaked military cap.
There are others of him accepting a bouquet from two suitably blonde,
Aryan-looking girls.

Turner had high society contacts in England
and this would have helped him makecontacts in influential circles in
Germany. He was a ward of the Duke of Newcastle who had put him through
Cambridge and then supported his musical endeavours.

photographs were released by Mr Turner’s son, David. He said last night
"They have been special in a sentimental way. My father regarded these
photos as an extraordinary souvenir of a remarkable event."

Turner, of West Bridgford, Notts, said " They are very important to me
and my family and for all that period of time – my father died in 1977
– I have regarded the possession of these photos as an intimate family

Mr Turner said he decided to release the photos after
embarking on a project to retrace his family’s roots, "My father never
spoke to me about it. That’s not to say I didn’t know what happened,
but as a child your perception and awareness of things are very

"The photos were not available to me until after my
father’s death. They are pretty remarkable given he was using only a
Kodak Eastman folding autographic camera."

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