The September 1944 Surrender attempt
On 18 September 1944, it was decided at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) HQ to allow the Psychological Warfare Division (PWD) to bring a captured German General (Mr Black) into contact with General Von SCHMETTOW, Commander of the German garrison in the Channel Islands and ask for terms of surrender. The mission would be executed only after the fall of Brest.
On 21 September 1944, Brest, having fallen and the meteorological forecast was favourable, a green light was given to the PWD mission. The US Chief of Staff at Cherbourg (Captain Clark) arranged with the RAF Leaflets Section to make a night drop of a letter to Von SCHMETTOW (in duplicate). This letter stated that, under article 32 of the Hague Convention of 18 October 1907, That Major Alan Chambers, was an accredited representative of SHAEF and would be accompanied by two companions. They would arrive at a point 4½ miles South of St. Martins Head, Guernsey, 142 degrees (True North) at 1100 hours (GMT) on 22nd September 1944. It invited von SCHMETTOW to come to the same point at that time. It was further stated that our party would travel in R.A.F. sea air rescue craft No. 2632, flying a white flag and completely unarmed and that our course would be due west from the mainland at Cap Carteret to the point specified.
At 0150 hours on 22 September 1944, Captain Fox (RAF Leaflets Section) telephoned from London to advise that the pilots reported the result of the drop to be poor. It was possible that the letters had been received but that due to drift, they more probably had fallen in the sea off St. Peter Port.
PWD had a discussion, and it was agreed unanimously to take the chance that one of the letters had been received. Major Chambers would be joined by Lord Aberfeldy, who was actually Ian Monroe, an officer in MI19, the part of British intelligence responsible for obtaining information from enemy prisoners. They would bring "Mr John Black" in civilian clothing and who was believed to be German General Ramcke.
22 September 1944, R.A.F. sea air rescue boat No. 2632 (FO Robert Chandler, R.A.F.) left Carteret for the rendezvous at 1045 hours. About 25 minutes after leaving Carteret, the craft sighted the northeast coast of Jersey and ran due west along it at about 16 knots. Visibility was poor, and it was certain that the enemy could not see the white flag and probably not even the craft. The enemy batteries took no action.
At 1200 hours on the same course, they sighted Sark, but visibility was still poor. The enemy took no action. At 1240 on the same course, they sighted St. Martins Head, Island of Guernsey and arrived at the rendezvous 4½ miles to the south of the Head at 1246 hours, being then 46 minutes late. There was no sign of anyone, so they proceeded in at about 10 knots and prepared to drop a dinghy overboard.
At 1320 they reduced speed and stopped outside of St. Peter Port about 1½ miles offshore at Sardrier Buoy.
At 1325 hours, the enemy fired one white flare, and we replied with two flare lights. They did not know what the signal meant but took it as an invitation to come in. They headed further in and then attempted to launch a dinghy at 1335 hours. Unfortunately, despite repeated efforts by several of the hands, the outboard motor refused to start.
At 1350 hours, They decided to take the craft in further and row the dinghy to shore.
At 1355 hours, An enemy motor boat, S112, fully armed without a white flag, put off from the inner harbour and approached at speed with her guns manned. We continued to move in and made contact at 1400 hours by hailing in German over our loudspeaker.
The enemy boat was commanded by a naval Lieutenant Oberleutant Kurt Meyer-Lodding and a crew of eight. Major Alan Chambers told them his orders were to contact von SCHMETTOW personally. They invited him aboard. In his cabin, MEYER requested the Majors's authority and my mission. He produced a written authority signed by It. General Morgan, on behalf of the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, then communicated the exact German text by light signal to the Admiral on shore about one mile away.
The Major then suggested we should proceed in, in his boat. The German commander said, "not until I have permission". Adding, "if you have come about a surrender, let me tell you now that it is useless. He asked MEYER why no one had been at the rendezvous to meet them. He stated that they had no knowledge we were coming. He asked if they had seen the drop the night before. He said, "Yes, I was on sea patrol last night and saw two parachutes fall in the sea about one mile east of St. Martins Head."
At about 1455 hours, the German reply came back, "specifically, what matter does Major Chambers want to discuss". At this point, the Major decided not to answer the fact that they had a high-ranking German on their boat, as it seemed very likely the sailors would take him back to Guernsey at gunpoint. The major conferred over the ship's rail with Major Lord Aberfeldy, and they agreed that the answer should be that they wished to discuss the "general military situation" with von SCHMETTOW.
At 1520 hours, the reply came back, "It. General on SCHMETTOW is fully informed as to the military situation and therefore declines any discussion"
This meeting took place in full view of a number of interested civilians in and about St.Peter Port, approximately 1 mile offshore - and would also have been clearly visible to our people on Sark.
At 1530 hours, they got underway and set course for Cherbourg by way of Little Sark without interference from the enemy.
At 1700 hours, 6 miles off Alderney, the German batteries fired a salvo at us, scoring a near miss, the burst falling to port and starboard simultaneously at a distance from 10 to 50 yards. Only prompt evasive action by the skipper Robert CHANDLER, R.A.F, saved the craft and the occupants. Some damage to the hull on both sides, and one casualty was reported.
At 1840 they arrived at US held Cherbourg Harbour.
The following notes are from Major Alan Chambers
" The result of joint observations and from my conversation on board the enemy craft held during the intervals between the despatch and receipt of messages to shore: It was clear that we were not expected and from remarks on the boat that we had probably not been seen at all until close to St. Martins Head. Their watch was apparently poor. From the behaviour of the crew, the conduct of the two German officers and their remarks, it would appear that the enemy's will to resist is not unanimous.
The Officer indicated by his conversation that as the Division had been on the Islands so long, their relations with the civilians were friendly. The troops regarded themselves as prisoners of war in effect already and saw no reason why we should not leave them that way.
It was noticeable that their craft was poorly found - except for their weapons. Their uniforms were threadbare, and ordinary supplies like cigarettes and sugar etc. were lacking
We saw no sign of mines or underwater obstacles anvwhere. Major Lord Aberfeldy, Mr. Black and I agreed that it seemed probable that von SCHMETTOW like the other remaining German commanders still holding out in the West had received a definite order not to speak with the Allies and to refuse all demands for surrender. Compliance with this order being assured by control in Germany of the families of the officers.
We agreed, however, that it was quite possible that MEYER's communication to shore had been dealt with by the SS and that von SCHMETTOW had not been entirely in the picture. We agreed that force would be necessary to get a surrender but that not much force would be required.
In view of the above, I believe that no further specific Psychological Warfare attempt should be made except in conjunction with a show of force. May I be instructed, please, to discontinue the nightly air-dropping of information leaflets on the Islands."
Signed Alan Chambers