No. 29, 31, & 33 : Messages from Gerald Shepherd to Halifax on Danzig

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28 Jun 1939

ww2dbase----- The British War Bluebook No. 29 -----
From: Gerald Shepherd, British Consul-General in Danzig
Sent: Wednesday, 28 Jun 1939
To: Viscount Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

(Telegraphic.) Danzig, June 28, 1939.

IN contrast to calm in Warsaw, the last week has been increasingly eventful here.

2. For the past fortnight the S.A. men have been nightly preparing defences around the Free City, and on the night of 26th-27th June were ordered to stand by for a possible emergency, perhaps in connexion with celebration in Gdynia of Polish Feast of the Seas or because Polish frontier on Danzig-Gdynia road was closed to traffic from midnight on 26th-27th June until 4 P.M. on 27th June, presumably in connexion with completion of anti-tank defences.

3. The approaches for a pontoon bridge are in active construction on both sides of the Vistula.

4. On 23rd June Danzig members of German Automobile Club received an urgent request to complete and return a questionnaire regarding their cars.

5. All Danzig owners of motor lorries, trucks, &c., were recently ordered to leave them over-night at military police barracks for inspection after which each vehicle was numbered and returned to its owner.

6. To-day several hundred draught and saddle horses have been similarly ordered to barracks nominally for inspection, but as some of them have come from distant parts of the Free City, it seems possible that they may be retained, especially as carloads of saddles have also been delivered there.

7. Formation of Freicorps is proceeding rapidly.

8. In addition to unusually heavily advertised programme of week-end events, nearly 1,000 S.S. men from East Prussia and a number of high S.S. officers from Germany arrived here almost unannounced on 25th June ostensibly for sporting contests with local S.S.

9. Dr. Boettcher was absent from Danzig and presumably in Berlin on 26th June and 27th June.

10. In a speech on 25th June Herr Forster said: "Before us lies a new era and for Germany a great epoch. During recent weeks our Danzig has become the centre of political events. We are all aware that we are in the final throes of our fight for freedom. The Free State of Danzig has taken the longest time. Today everyone knows that the Free State will soon come to an end and we also know how it will end."

11. A considerable number of visiting S.S. men remained here when others left last Sunday night. Those remaining are reputed to have performed their military service in Germany and to be members of Adolf Hitler's Verf√ɬľgungstruppen. They are readily distinguishable by their deportment and slightly different uniforms from local S.S. men. About 300 of them are in military police barracks, which are now very full, and others are in other former local barracks which are capable of accommodating from 1,000 to 1,500 men, and have hitherto been occupied by Danzig social welfare organisation which is being transferred to an hotel that has been requisitioned for the purpose. According to sub-editor of Dantziger Vorposten, the largest youth hostel in the world, which is approaching completion here, is to be used as a barracks.

12. A number of workmen's dwellings at Praust are said to have been requisitioned for storage of ammunition, and my Argentine colleague informs me that he saw a number of military police equipped with gas masks.

13. All Danzig civil servants and students are required to remain within the Free City during their vacations, and the latter must devote their holidays to harvesting. All categories of military police have been kept in barracks yesterday and to-day, and to-night members of various National Socialist organisations are apparently again standing by, as remarkably few of them are visible about the City.

----- The British War Bluebook No. 31 -----
From: Gerald Shepherd, British Consul-General in Danzig
Sent: Friday, 30 Jun 1939
To: Viscount Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

(Telegraphic.) Danzig, June 30, 1939.

HORSES continued to arrive yesterday, and about 600 of them are being kept in barracks at which large quantities of hay have also been delivered.

2. For the last few nights the two great shipyards here which normally work all night were closed under strict guard and all workmen evacuated from them.

3. As from to-night Danzig and suburbs were to be blacked out until further notice and, in case of air raid alarm, all inhabitants were ordered to take refuge in their cellars or public shelters. This order was cancelled this afternoon.

4. Former local barracks are now occupied by large number of young men with obvious military training who wear uniforms similar to Danzig S.S. but with deaths-head emblem on the right collar and "Heimwehr Danzig" on sleeves. Courtyard is occupied by about fifteen military motor lorries (some with trailers) with East Prussia licences and covered with tarpaulins, also by about forty field kitchens.

5. Two thousand men are working twenty-four hours a day in three shifts on construction of barracks at Matzkshuter to accommodate 10,000 men. Work is stated to be well advanced.

6. All dressmakers here are said to be working on bedding, clothing, &c., for barracks and their occupants.

7. It has just been announced that Tiegenmorse-Einlage section of Danzig-Elbing road is closed for major repairs until 1st August, and it seems unlikely that pontoon bridge will be ready before that date.

8. My personal impression is that extensive military preparations which are being pressed forward so feverishly are part of large-scale operations but not intended for use before August, unless unexpected developments precipitate matters and that emergency defensive measures, referred to in paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 of this telegram, may be due to fear lest those preparations should cause the Poles to substitute a sudden offensive for defensive measures which they have hitherto adopted.

----- The British War Bluebook No. 33 -----
From: Gerald Shepherd, British Consul-General in Danzig
Sent: Saturday, 1 Jul 1939
To: Viscount Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

(Telegraphic.) Danzig, July 1, 1939.

YESTERDAY morning four German army officers in mufti arrived here by night express from Berlin to organise Danzig Heimwehr.

2. All approaches to hills and dismantled fort, which constitute a popular public promenade on western fringe of the city have been closed with barbed wire and "Verboten" notices.

3. The walls surrounding the shipyards bear placards "Comrades, keep your mouths shut lest you regret consequences."

4. Master of a British steamship whilst he was roving Königsberg from 28th June to 30th June observed considerable military activity, including extensive shipment of camouflaged covered lorries and similar material by small coasting vessels. On 28th June four medium-sized steamers loaded with troops, lorries, field kitchens, &c., left Königsberg ostensibly returning to Hamburg after manoeuvres but actually proceeding to Stettin. Names of steamers were Hohenhorn, with heavy derricks each capable of lifting about 50 tons, Sharhorn, Tilsit and Utlandhorn, all modern well-equipped vessels, each about 5,000 tons gross.

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