Britain's secret war in Antarctica, part 1

    At the end of World War II, Britain sent a covert mission to
    investigate anomalous activities near its secret base at Maudheim in
    eastern Antarctica and to seek out and destroy a subterranean Nazi
    Part 1 of 2


Extracted from Nexus Magazine, Volume 12, Number 5 (August - September
PO Box 30, Mapleton Qld 4560 Australia.
Telephone: +61 (0)7 5442 9280; Fax: +61 (0)7 5442 9381
 Nexus Magazine

by James Robert © 2005
 Email James Robert



In 1938, Nazi Germany sent an expedition to Antarctica with a mission to
investigate sites for a possible base and to make formal claims in the
name of the Third Reich. To prepare them for their mission, they invited
the great polar explorer Richard E. Byrd to lecture them on what to
expect. The following year, a month after hostilities had commenced in
Europe, the Germans returned to Neuschwabenland to finish what had been
started, with many suggesting that a base was being constructed.


Nine years later, Richard E. Byrd, who by now had become an Admiral in
the United States Navy, was sent to Antarctica with the largest task
force ever assembled for a polar mission. In Admiral Byrd's own words,
the mission (code-named Highjump) was "primarily of a military nature".1
Many claim that the task force was sent to eradicate a secret Nazi base
in Queen Maud Land, which the Nazis had renamed Neuschwabenland and which
had never been explored as profoundly as the rest of the Antarctic. But,
and the big but is, the fact that Admiral Byrd spoke of "flying objects
that could fly from pole to pole at incredible speeds"2 and with
well-documented German activity before, during and in the immediate
aftermath of World War II, one can't help but wonder whether there is
some truth in the Nazi Antarctica myth. Even so, could Operation Highjump
and Byrd's quotes have overshadowed the truth about British excursions in
Antarctica by way of misinformation, bringing attention to his mission
and, by doing so, making sure that history only remembered one mysterious
Antarctic mission?


When the Antarctica mystery is mentioned, Britain is never given more
than a footnote. That fact is surprising in itself, especially as British
forces were active in Antarctica throughout the war and quite possibly
took the initiative in dealing with the Antarctic Nazi threat a whole 12
months before Operation Highjump was initiated.

Britain's activities on Antarctica, though less documented and more
clandestine, are just as intriguing as the supposed much-vaunted
Operation Highjump. Unfortunately for Britain, though victorious in the
War, it was bankrupted and humiliated by the two new superpowers. But
Britain was in a position to regain some pride and surreptitiously upset
its supposed allies with the final, decisive battle against the surviving
Nazis: a battle that would never be recorded in the history books; a
battle that would make its claims on the continent more legitimate; but,
most importantly, a battle that ended the war that it had been compelled
to wage.



Antarctic Postage Stamps: Claim or Commemoration?

On 1 February 1946, a set of postage stamps was released with His
Majesty's royal approval. The stamps caused international outrage and
brought on a diplomatic crisis for a war-weary Great Britain. The
offending eight postage stamps commemorated Britain's claim to the
Falkland Islands Dependencies, but one of them also depicted a
territorial map of Antarctica that completely overlooked Chile's and most
of Argentina's claims on the continent. Now why would Britain, when the
world economy was in such dire straits, bring about an international
crisis over an area of the world that appeared on the surface to be
totally devoid of life?

Many historians claim that Britain's postwar interest arose because, with
Britain in dire need of materials, Antarctica was deemed as the solution;
the stamps were a way of making Britain's claim valid. That assertion,
however partially true, does not explain why British forces, as part of
Operation Taberlan, were on the continent throughout and in the immediate
aftermath of the War.


Operation Taberlan was activated as a measure of monitoring German
activities on the Antarctic continent. The known British bases were
mainly on the Antarctic Peninsula, in places such as Port Lockroy and
Hope Bay, and on the islands surrounding the peninsula, such as the
secret bases on Deception and Wiencke Islands^×though some were set up on
the continent. The most secret of all has not, and more than likely never
will be, disclosed. The base at Maudheim, near the Mühlig-Hoffmann
Mountain Range in Queen Maud Land or, alternatively, Neuschwabenland, was
so secret that it was never given a name or even a grid reference on
official maps.

Could the stamps have been released to commemorate a successful mission
in Queen Maud Land? The facts and rumours, as well as a story dispensed
by a wartime SAS officer, may shed some light on the many mysteries of
the Antarctic arena^×a front that has been kept secret for 60 years^×and
on a hostile encounter that will never be divulged to the public.


Britain has suppressed so many wartime events in the name of national
security that now, even 60 years on, many people are still none the wiser
about the secrets of the war^×from Rudolph Hess to the peace parties, to
the even more sinister happenings including Britain's knowledge of the
Nazi extermination camps, the Irish Republican Army's flirtation with
Nazis, and the lesser known secrets such as SS concentration camps on
British soil on Alderney in the Channel Islands. With just those few
listed, a pattern of suppression is emerging^×and on some, a total denial
is normally forthcoming. Antarctica is no exception.

With the passing of time, all those who served in the Neuschwabenland
campaign are no longer with us. The last survivor gave me the following
account of the forgotten battle. I hasten to add that the story was told
on two separate occasions, 10 years apart, and there was not one
discrepancy in either account.

[Editor's note: We have deleted opening and closing quotation marks in
the next section for ease of reading.]

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The Neuschwabenland Campaign

When Victory in Europe was announced, my unit was resting in a cave in
the former Yugoslavia. I was thankful that the War had finally ended,
though with war still being waged in the Pacific and tensions rising in
Palestine, we were warned that our war could continue.

Thankfully, I was spared from participating in the war against Japan^×but
alas, I was posted to Palestine where the influx of Jews, allied with a
rise in Zionist terrorism, was causing anguish not only to the
inhabitants of Palestine but also to the British forces that were sent to
stem the Jewish influx and quell the uprisings. I was warned that my
posting in Palestine would continue indefinitely. I saw many of my fellow
soldiers die. Thankfully, I received an order at the beginning of October
1945 to report to my commanding officer, as I had been selected for a
mission so secret that none of my senior officers knew why I had been
requested to go to Gibraltar. I was not told why I had to report, but I
went, hopeful that I would soon be discharged into Civvy Street. How
wrong I was: I would be spending another Christmas on a war footing.
Once I arrived on Gibraltar I was secreted away by a Major and informed
that I would be sent to the Falkland Islands Dependencies for further
briefing and that I would be joined by several other soldiers from other
elite British forces. The mystery thickened as we were all flown to the
Falklands under complete silence. We were ordered to not even speculate
about why we had been selected and where we were going.

Upon reaching the desolate and forbidding Falkland Islands, we were
introduced to the officer who was leading the expedition and a Norwegian
who had served in the Norwegian Resistance, an expert in winter warfare
who was going to be training us for the mission that we had no inkling

The Falklands is now considered the best-kept secret in the British Army,
and being posted there normally meant an easy few years; however, things
were different in the 1940s^×even more so for those who had been selected
with me.

We were forced to undertake a gruelling month's training where we were
prepared for cold-weather warfare. From being plunged into the icy
Atlantic to facing the elements in a tent on South Georgia, the training
was arduous and there seemed little sense in the madness that we were
forced to undertake. However, after the month's training we were briefed
by a Major and a scientist, and as the mission was relayed to us we all
realised that there would be little chance of us all returning,
especially if the suspicions proved correct.

We were informed that we were to investigate "anomalous" activities
around the Mühlig-Hoffmann Mountains from the British base in Maudheim.
Antarctica, so we were told, was "Britain's secret war". We were then
briefed on British activities in the South Pole during the war.

We sat intrigued as to what was being divulged; none of us had heard
anything so fascinating or frightening. It was not common knowledge that
the Nazis had been to Antarctica in 1938 and 1939, and even less known
was the fact that Britain began to set up secret bases around Antarctica
in response. The one we were to visit, Maudheim, was the biggest and most
important as well as the most clandestine Antarctic base of them all. The
reason for its importance was the fact that it was within 200 miles of
where the Nazis had supposedly built their Antarctic base.

We sat there stunned, but still the mystery deepened. We were told about
German activity in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. We were also
informed that an inestimable number of U-boats were missing and
unaccounted for; but worse, some of those that had surrendered months
after the War had ended fuelled even more speculation.

British forces had captured three of the biggest names in the Nazi
party^×Hess, Himmler and Dönitz^×and with their captures Britain was
given information that was not going to be shared with Russia or the
United States. That information compelled Britain to act alone, and we
were spearheading that operation.

We were told in no specific terms what was expected of us and what
Britain expected us to find on Antarctica. Britain had more than a strong
suspicion that the Germans had built a secret base and had spirited many
of the unaccounted Nazis away from the turmoil in Europe.
Still, more and more revelations were forthcoming. The summer before, we
were told, the original scientists and commandos had found an "ancient
tunnel". Under orders, the force went through the tunnel but only two
returned before the Antarctic winter set in. During the winter months,
the two survivors made absurd claims over the radio about "Polar Men,
ancient tunnels and Nazis". Radio contact was finally lost in July 1945,
and ominously for our mission, going into the unknown, the last broadcast
brought us all further anxiety as we listened to the fear in the voice:
"...the Polar Men have found us!" was screamed before contact was lost.

After the radio broadcast was played, we were then given a rousing speech
from the Major who would be leading the expedition to investigate what
had happened. "We are to go to the base at Maudheim, find the tunnel,
investigate the enigma of the Polar Men and the Nazis and do what we can
to make sure the Nazi threat is destroyed."

When asked for questions, we all had so many, and thankfully the answers
were honest and direct. We were informed that evasive action was being
taken because Britain was well aware of US and USSR intentions in
mounting their own expeditions, and Britain did not want to risk the
chance that the US or the USSR would discover the base and gain further
Nazi technology. Both countries had a technological advantage over
Britain because of the scientists, equipment and research both countries
had recovered. Nevertheless, Britain wanted to be the nation to destroy
the menace because Britain viewed Antarctica as under the British
Empire's jurisdiction, and if the Nazis were there it was their duty and
their desire to eradicate them first and thus deny both the USA and the
USSR the propaganda value of fighting the last battle of World War II.

We were flown to the pre-designated drop-off point which was 20 miles
from the Maudheim base; snow tractors had already been despatched and
were awaiting our arrival. After parachuting into the icy wilderness,
full of fear and trepidation, we reached the snow tractors and from that
moment on we were on a war footing. We had to operate under complete
radio silence. We were alone, with no back-up and no chance of retreat if
our worst fears were confirmed.

We approached the base wary of what was awaiting us, but when we got
there the base appeared devoid of life, a ghost town. Instantly, our
suspicions were roused, but, just like all the previous campaigns I had
fought during the War, we had a job to do and so our personal fears could
not shroud our judgement.

As we split up to search the base, a trip wire was detonated and a siren
sounded, destroying the silence and startling the whole force. A shout
was soon heard, demanding us to identify ourselves, but the voice could
not be targeted. With our guns raised the Major introduced us to the
voice, and then, thankfully, the voice was given a body. The voice
belonged to a lone survivor, and what he divulged made us more anxious
and had us wishing that there were more troops amongst our ranks.

The lone survivor claimed that in Bunker One was the other survivor from
the "tunnel" trip, along with one of the mysterious Polar Men that we had
heard on the recorded broadcast. Despite obstructions and objections from
the survivor, Bunker One was ordered to be opened. The survivor had to be
held back and his fear and anguish panicked us instantly, and none of us
wanted to be the one to enter the bunker.

Fortunately, I was not selected to enter; that honour was bestowed on the
youngest member of our unit. He proceeded inside, hesitating slightly as
he struggled with the door. Once inside, a silence descended across the
base, followed moments later by two gunshots. The door was opened and the
Polar Man dashed to freedom. None of us was expecting what we saw, and
the Polar Man had fled into the surrounding terrain so quick that only a
few token shots were fired.

Out of fear and awe at what we had seen, we all decided to go into the
bunker. Go in we did, and two bodies were found. The soldier who had
pulled the short straw was found with his throat ripped out, and, more
heinous, the survivor had been stripped to the bones.
What we had witnessed demanded answers; and with our abject anger at
seeing one of our unit die within hours of our landing on the continent,
our anger was taken out on the lone survivor who had warned us against
opening Bunker One.

The whole unit listened categorically to the Major's questions, but it
was the answers that were to provoke the most intrigue. The first
question that needed answering was just what had happened to the other
survivor, and how he had become trapped in the bunker with that Polar
Man. However, the lone survivor preferred to start from the beginning,
from when they had first found the "tunnel". Whilst he narrated what had
happened, the scientist who had accompanied us scribbled down everything

It transpired that the area near the tunnel was one of Antarctica's
unique dry valleys, and that was how they managed to find the tunnel with
such ease. Every one of the 30 personnel at the Maudheim base was ordered
to investigate and, if possible, find out exactly where the tunnel led.

They followed the tunnel for miles, and eventually they came to a vast
underground cavern that was abnormally warm; some of the scientists
believed that it was warmed geothermally. In the huge cavern were
underground lakes; however, the mystery deepened, as the cavern was lit
artificially. The cavern proved so extensive that they had to split up,
and that was when the real discoveries were made.

The Nazis had constructed a huge base into the caverns and had even built
docks for U-boats, and one was identified supposedly. Still, the deeper
they travelled, the more strange visions they were greeted with. The
survivor reported that "hangars for strange planes and excavations
galore" had been documented.

However, their presence had not gone unnoticed: the two survivors at the
Maudheim base witnessed their comrades get captured and executed one by
one. After witnessing only six of the executions, they fled to the
tunnel, lest they be caught, with the aim to block up the tunnel^×though
"it was too late; the Polar Men were coming", claimed the survivor.

With enemy forces hot on their tail, they had no choice but to try to get
back to the base so that they could inform and warn their superiors about
what they had uncovered. They managed to get back to the base, but, with
winter approaching and little chance of rescue, they believed it was
their duty to make sure the secret Nazi base was reported; and so they
split up, each taking a wireless and waiting in separate bunkers. One of
the survivors tempted one of the Polar Men into the bunker in the hope
that they'd believe only one had survived. The plan worked, but to the
detriment of his life and to the radio. Unfortunately, the brave soul in
Bunker One had the only fully operational wireless radio, which was
destroyed in the fracas. The other survivor had no option but to sit,
wait and try to avoid going stir crazy.

The mystery of who or what the Polar Men were was explained, not
satisfactorily but explained nonetheless, as a product of Nazi science;
and the enigma of how the Nazis were getting power was also explained,
albeit not in scientific terms. The power that the Nazis were utilising
was by volcanic activity, which gave them heat for steam and also helped
produce electricity, but the Nazis had also mastered an unknown energy
source because the survivor claimed: "...after what I witnessed, the
amount of electricity needed is more than could be produced, in my
opinion, by steam".


The scientist amongst the party dismissed most of what was divulged, and
rebuked the survivor for his lack of scientific education and implied
that his revelations "could not possibly be true". Though the scientist
dismissed the survivor's claims, the Major didn't. He wanted to know more
about the enemy that we were facing, but, more fundamentally, just what
the Polar Man was going to do next. The answer from the survivor did
nothing to comfort us and provoked the scientist to announce that the
survivor was "certifiable". Disconcerted is too weak a word to describe
how we felt when the survivor replied to the Major's questions about the
escaped Polar Man's intentions: "He will wait, watch and wonder just how
different we taste."


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