‘The Guineapigs’ by John McGuffin (1974, 1981)

Chapter 1
'Ill-Treatment' — A Brief History

It appears that the first recorded instance in English legal history of the use of torture to induce confession was in 1310 when, at the instigation of Pope Clement V, the Templars were tortured by Royal Warrant. Walter of Hemmingford reports that at that time 'torture was unknown in England and that no torturer was to be found in the realm'.[1] The English soon remedied this deplorable oversight and torture became something of a 'growth industry'. The Irish, however, seem in their usual awkward way to have been lagging behind in this field. Torture was not recognized by Irish Statute or Common Law.
     Torture to obtain 'confessions' raged unabated throughout Europe until the late seventeenth century (the Spanish Inquisition was finally abolished in 1809), and many learned tomes were written by earnest scholars and clerics on how to extract 'confessions' from the recalcitrant, chief among these being the awesome Malleus Malificarum of Sprenger and Kramer, first published in 1486. This massive treatise on demonology and witchcraft contains full instructions on torture and interrogation methods. It was not the only authority: there was the Directorium of Eymeric, the Grand Inquisitor of Aragon, with its five 'steps' of preparation before the actual torture, and of course Torquemada's Articles of the Inquisition.[2]
     By the twentieth century requirements had changed. Whereas in the past the State could take its time in breaking a man down, in the modern era speed was of the essence. Moreover, newer and more sophisticated methods were needed as more and more 'intelligence forces' recognized the truth of what Justinian had said in his great Digest nearly 2,000 years before.

Torture is untrustworthy, perilous and deceptive. For most men, by patience or the severity of the torture, come so to despise torture that the truth cannot be elicited from them, others are so impatient that they Will lie in any direction rather than suffer torture, so it happens that they depose to contradictions and accuse not only themselves but others.

The Russians seem to have been the first seriously to go into modern interrogatory techniques scientifically. Pavlov's experiments on dogs seem largely to have been ignored by the NKVD, despite claims to the contrary, but by the mid-nineteen-thirties, under the increasingly nightmarish regime of Stalin and with the almost unlimited resources of the Russian people to practise upon, they had evolved new forms of torture, pride of place amongst which went to what is now called SD. The torture had two distinct purposes. Firstly, to extract genuine information and confessions from political enemies and, secondly, to procure public confessions and conversions. This was the decade of the 'show trial' when internationally known and dedicated Bolsheviks such as Zinoviev, Bukharin, Rykov, Radek and Kamenev, as well as unknown technicians, could be made to appear in public and confess to treason, heresy, sabotage and a host of sins, recant in front of the world's press and be formally executed. (That some of the confessions were totally ludicrous seems not to have mattered, Stalin apparently being content to follow Goebbels's theories about 'the Big Lie'. For example one man pleaded guilty along with a host of other scientists to plotting to create artificial volcanoes which at a given signal would erupt and destroy large areas of the Motherland.) Indeed, by 1937 it had become apparent to most in the Russian Politburo that the whole process had got drastically out of hand; but by then it was too late.
     Article 128 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the RSFSR laid down that a prisoner must be charged within forty-eight hours of arrest. This hadn't hindered the Cheka, nor did it worry the NKVD. In order to break a person down stress is necessary (see Chapter 2), and so Russian political prisoners were kept in abominable conditions, not out of indifference, callousness or old-fashion sadism, but as a deliberate move in the policy of 'softening them up'. Thus solitary confinement in the dark for up to forty days was common. In the infamous 'Kennel' at Lubianka prison sixty men were packed into a heated basement fifteen feet square with no ventilation other than a slit under the door. Disease was, not surprisingly, rife.[3] Sleep was denied the prisoner in a number of ways – overcrowding, glaring white lights, constant noise, beatings, etc. This was usually the preliminary before the long interrogation, the 'Yezhov Method'.
     This could go on for up to two and a half years, though generally it lasted four or five months. Inadequate sleep, freezing cold cells, insufficient food, with the concomitant possibilities of scurvy and other debilitating diseases, all weakened the prisoner. Interrogation generally took place at night. The prisoner would be allowed to drop off to sleep but after fifteen minutes he would be brusquely awoken and dragged in his befuddled state before his interrogators. The Pole Stypulkowski, who was interrogated for hours on end on over 130 separate occasions, described the journey from the cell:

This journey was itself menacing. Everything contributed to make it so; the hands bent to the back, the gloomy behaviour of the silent guard. the dark empty corridors, the wire netting on the staircase, the rhythm of the movements and the echo of smacking lips. It stimulated imagination as to what would happen to me in a few minutes' time. Where were they taking me, and what for? The staging played an important part in the methods of inquest which were applied to me. It remained suggestive until the last day. although, after many migrations of this kind, I knew, like a well-broken horse, where I should have to turn my face to the wall, and whether the guards gripped my right or left arm.[4]

Interrogations were deliberately boring and repetitive. Interrogators would scream the same questions over and over again, for hours. The prisoner's past was meticulously gone over in infuriatingly minute detail in order to find 'pressure points'. The more confused the prisoner became the more confident his torturer became. Long questionnaires had to be filled in, then were torn up and the process began again. Sleep was always denied when possible. The prisoner's memory was constantly being tested. As he became more confused, so he became more open to suggestion, for the 'Yezhov Method' gave the job of constructing a 'confession' to the prisoner himself. Only after months of this would other 'more experienced' prisoners be allowed to help him formulate 'the correct' statement of confession.
     Sessions usually commenced with the time-honoured formula – it was used by the Holy Inquisition and is still used by the British Army today – 'Why do you think you've been brought here? What crimes have you committed? If you were innocent you wouldn't be here!'
     The other main method used by the NKVD was known as the 'Conveyor'. This consisted of continual questioning by relays of interrogators for literally days on end. Weissberg, who underwent many forms of torture, claims that it is as painful after three days as any other physical torture.[5] Anton Ekart claims that a week of it would break anyone.[6] However, Weissberg gives a vivid account of a veteran 55-year-old anarchist named Eisenberg who, on being called a counter-revolutionary by his interrogators, stolidly refused to utter a single word. Beatings were of no avail, and after an incredible thirty-one days on the Conveyor his interrogators gave up, probably more exhausted and shattered than their silent prisoner.[7]

In his account of his interrogation Weissberg describes one interrogator, Shalit by name:

He hated the prisoners because they resisted him and were not prepared to admit at once what he wanted them to admit. He was capable of bawling exactly the same question for six hours on end without the slightest variation and without showing any signs of fatigue ... He repeated exactly the same question in exactly the same loud voice and with exactly the same gestures hundreds – no. I really believe thousands – of times ... I often asked myself whether Shalit was utterly stupid. Couldn't he think of anything different to say? ... Gradually I came to the conclusion that he wasn't stupid ... All he could do was to try and exhaust his prisoners physically. and he used this technique with more determination and iron logic than any other examiner I have ever met. From the CPU point of view he was right.

Describing the latter stages of the Conveyor Weissberg says:

My eyes were two balls of pain in a head that felt as if it would split open but for the iron band being drawn tighter and tighter around it. For four hours Shalit repeated his favourite question ... When Weissbrand relieved him at eight o'clock in the morning. I was almost unconscious ... I was not taken down for my food until nine o'clock. Lavatory, wash and the meal had to be over in ten minutes and then I was taken back to the Conveyor'.

After over 140 hours of this:

Red rings whirled before my eyes and my brain no longer functioned. The room began to swim. The pain was worse than ever before and seemed to extend over my whole body ... But I managed to hold out till Weissbrand relieved Shalit in the evening ... It was midnight on the seventh day of my 'Conveyor'. I had fought till I dropped but now I was beaten. There was nothing left for me but capitulation and 'confession'.[8]

Weissberg subsequently withdrew his 'confession', underwent the Conveyor again, 'confessed' and again repudiated his 'confession'.
     Of course, immediately a confession began the whole pattern changed. A 'friendly' examiner was wheeled in. Food and cigarettes would appear like magic. Some prisoners recount crying with joy and their examiners crying with them. It was much the same catharsis as that experienced by the inquisitors who had just saved another soul from Hell – and consigned his body over to the executioner.

The Conveyor was not in itself completely new, of course – there are reports of similar methods being used on Scottish witches in the seventeenth century, for example – but under the reign of 'comrades' Yezhov and Vyshinsky it was refined to a high art. Unfortunately for the 'comrades', both of whom were soon to be purged themselves, the initial high success rate didn't last very long. Usually within three days 'confessions' were retracted. Generally they weren't worth the paper they were written on. It is not too difficult to turn a prisoner into a zombie, it is much more difficult to 'brainwash' him to stay that way. This was a technique that the Chinese and the Koreans were to improve upon after the Second World War.

Another major defect of the Conveyor was that it frequently drove the examiners themselves out of their minds. By 1937 the entire Russian secret police had become a self-perpetuating, insane bureaucracy involving thousands and thousands of secret police in pointless formality. All were only too aware that their turn to be purged or 'liquidated' might come at any moment – this in turn tended to improve prisoners' morale. 'Beck' and 'Godin' were proud of 'outlasting ten examining magistrates', for example.[9] As Sartre has said, 'whether the victim talks or whether he dies under his agony, the secret that he cannot tell is always somewhere else and out of reach. It is the executioner who becomes Sisyphus. If he puts the question at all, he will have to continue forever.'[10]

Stalin wanted confessions not merely to kill his possible rivals but for the purpose of turning them into scapegoats for Russia's failures. If the old-guard Bolsheviks could be made to discredit themselves publicly and take upon their shoulders the blame for the country's shortcomings he, Stalin, the man of steel, could be seen head and shoulders above the rest as the incorruptible, the Saviour. In the event, the Conveyor method was, in August 1937, deemed to have served its purpose. The secret police returned to the more traditional boot and fist methods of the Cheka. Yezhov was himself 'liquidated' by Beria early next year.
     But just because more primitive methods were encouraged, this did not mean that the Russians weren't doing research into interrogation techniques. The 'Stoika' was frequently used. (As those detained by the British Army know to their cost, this consists of being made to lean against a wall on tiptoes and supported only by your fingertips for hours on end.) Kravchenko claims that sustained use of this method can break most people.[11] There was also the 'Swallow', where the victim has his hands and feet tied together behind his back and is hoisted up into the air.

And there was always humiliation. This was a standard technique and is still much in use with the British Army. Prisoners were spat on, urinated upon, forced to do menial and revolting tasks, like licking toilet bowls – all practices used in Girdwood Barracks in 1971 – forced to wear loose and shapeless clothing, for example oversize trousers with no belt, necessitating that the prisoner shuffle around holding his trousers up all day, the belt having ostensibly been taken away to prevent the possibility of suicide. Similarly people have their heads shaven in the holy name of hygiene but in reality to humiliate and degrade them. Refusal to allow prisoners toilet facilities so that they have to piss and crap in their trousers is another standard ploy – again, as is admitted in the Compton Report, this was done to one of the 'guineapigs', Paddy Joe McClean. Abusive language is another common tactic, firstly to humiliate the defenceless prisoner, but secondly to reassure his guard or torturer into believing that his charge is in some way subhuman. Similarly, it is insisted that the prisoner call his tormentor 'Sir' throughout and that he thank him for every blow, threat or insult. In addition to these techniques there are the old ones of the use of 'stool pigeons', concealed microphones, bribery, threats of reprisals upon the prisoner's family, etc., and all of these were used by the Russians. Nonetheless, by August 1937 it would seem that their experiments into the use of SD were curtailed for the time being. (Instead, in a secret telegram dated 1939, Stalin authorized 'more physical pressure' since 'it is known that all bourgeois intelligence services use methods of physical influence against the representatives of the Socialist proletariat ... Why should the Soviet Intelligence be more humanitarian against the mad agents of the bourgeoisie?')[12]

The Second World War saw little attempt by the Allies to make use of these 'advances' in interrogatory techniques. According to Sir Robert Thompson the British government regarded torture as 'ineffective'. 'A suspect can be interrogated on the basis of a mass of information already available to the intelligence organization. This shocks the truth out of him far more effectively than torture.'[13] The commandant of Britain's interrogation centre in the Second World War agrees. In a letter to The Times Mr. L. St. Clare Grondona stated that the methods used upon German POWs were 'processes of painless extraction seasoned with legitimate guile ... It is the simple truth to say that if one of our interrogator had suggested submitting any prisoner to any form of physical duress (which would certainly not have been permitted) he would have been a laughing stock among his colleagues.'[14] There is no reason to doubt that this was true of the 1939-45 period. Certainly the memoirs of German POWs in England contain no allegations of torture or even 'ill-treatment' – although, of course, some were shot 'while trying to escape'. Britain had not used, and did not appear to be about to use, the methods of the NKVD.

Korea was to change all this. It is from the time of the Korean conflict that the phrase 'brainwashing' gained popular currency. The Chinese and Koreans, eager to convert American and British POWs to Communism, began to experiment on ways to achieve this through psychological manipulation. This is not the place to give a lengthy explanation of how 'brainwashing' works or doesn't work; suffice it to say that in order to convert an unwilling person to an ideology it is first necessary to induce some degree of nervous tension or to arouse sufficient anxiety or rage to secure the person's attention. As William Sargant puts it:

By increasing or prolonging stresses in various ways, or inducing physical debilitation, a more thorough alteration of the person's thinking processes may be achieved. The immediate effect of such treatment is, usually, to impair judgement and increase suggestibility; and though when tension is removed the suggestibility likewise diminishes, yet ideas implanted while it lasted may remain. If the stress or the physical debilitation, or both, are carried one stage further, it may happen that patterns of thought and behaviour, especially those of recent acquisition, become disrupted. New patterns can then be substituted, or suppressed patterns allowed to re-assert themselves; or the subject may begin to think and act in ways that precisely contradict his former ones.[15]

However, the Chinese did not have a great deal of success with the POWs. Language and cultural difficulties were hard to overcome and the techniques used were, by and large, fairly primitive. Nonetheless, enough was achieved to worry the Allies. A Ministry of Defence publication quoted by Sargant claims that Chinese brainwashing had little or no effect 'on senior British officers' (presumably Sandhurst had got in first with their own form of brainwashing) but that 'some of the more impressionable junior NCOs and privates were affected'.[16] They admit to some forty 'converts'. The Communists claim many more, of course, and the truth probably lies in between.[17]
     One of the British Army officers whom the Chinese tried unsuccessfully to brainwash has written his memoirs on the subject. He was then Capt. Tony Farrar-Hockley of the Glosters and his jolly schoolboyish account contains some remarkable ironies:

They were not unfriendly. That is to say they did not maltreat us. It never occurred to us, of course, that they would maltreat us – much less kill us. After all, this was the mid-twentieth century and we had every right to expect to be treated as human beings by troops of a nation constantly proclaiming its humanitarianism.[18]
My mind could not conceive the truth that my senses offered ... I knew that I was in a torture chamber. Yet my mind could not conceive it. I was living in the twentieth century – the year nineteen hundred and fifty-one. Surely these men would never bring themselves to torture me in cold blood. Looking around at their faces, I saw neither passion nor compassion in any one of them![19]

Farrar-Hockley then goes on to claim that he was subjected to the water torture, much beloved by Britain's ally France, and hitherto by the Holy Inquisition, and there appears to be no reason to doubt him; presumably, however, Sir Edmund Compton would have acquitted his tormentors of any charges of torture since they do not appear to have derived sufficient pleasure out of the whole business. Frequently throughout the book, Farrar-Hockley invokes the Geneva Convention. In a foreword commending the book Maj.-Gen. T. Brodie (CB, CBE, DSO, etc.) tells us that it is the story of 'gallant officers who fought not only in battle but in captivity under appalling conditions and against inhuman captors'.
     That British and American officers and men, including Capt. Farrar-Hockley, were badly treated and in some cases tortured by the Koreans and Chinese is not denied. Clearly the Chinese had scant regard for the niceties of the Geneva Convention. However, some twenty years later Farrar-Hockley, as Commander of Land Forces in Northern Ireland until he left in September 1971, must surely have been perturbed by the persistent allegations of disgraceful behaviour by British troops during such incidents as the illegal curfew of the Lower Falls,[20] and by the existence of 'interrogation' centres such as that at Palace barracks. If so, however, he has remained silent. Moreover, as will be shown, the treatment meted out to the 'guineapigs' was far worse than any given to the 978 British POWs in Korea by what Maj.-Gen. Brodie deems 'their inhuman captors'. And when the Geneva Convention was invoked by the author when he was being illegally held in Girdwood Barracks in August 1971 his interrogators laughed. 'Nobody here gives a shit for that scrap of paper,' he was told.

The Chinese experiments into brainwashing may have been fairly primitive but they were enough to worry the Americans at least. As early as 1953 they were claiming that 'the methods of Pavlov' were being used to try to get GIs to confess to using poison gas against the Korean people. As the prisoners were released and returned home some of them were still 'infected with the virus of Communism' and were hastily shipped off to army camps to be 'debriefed' – and studied.
     There it was found that of the seventy-eight airmen accused of carrying out bacteriological warfare missions thirty-eight had 'confessed'.[21] (Eugene Kinkead in Why They Collaborated, Longmans, 1960, gives the figure as thirty-eight out of fifty-nine.) This was accomplished by the Chinese and Koreans partly through brutality and poor camp conditions but also through intensive interrogatory techniques. When fatigue, despair or confusion elicited a partial and halfhearted 'confession' the prisoner, who was at this stage generally sullen and basically unconvinced of his 'crime', was put into a cell with about seven other 'confessed war criminals'. The usual process of 'self-criticism' was continued, as was the continual rewriting of his 'autobiography'. Each time the prisoner returned to his cell after a further interrogation his cell-mates would surround him and with evangelical fervour 'struggle to help him with his confession' by shouting at him, reviling him and accusing both themselves and the prisoner of unspeakable crimes. Man is a social animal and the strain of such lengthy and monotonous sessions was often enough to make a man crack. Bewildered, anxious, weak and confused, he was left with no privacy, no shell into which he might withdraw. Nothing in his past life was left sacrosanct. Degraded to the point of collapse, he had only one straw to grasp at – the acceptance of the basic 'decency' of Communism, which was often portrayed to him initially as 'early Christianity'.
     Following the catharsis of the 'conversion' the 'educational' process was accelerated. Up to fifty-six hours a week of ideological lectures, more self-criticism and of course better living accommodation, food and medical care. For, unlike the Russians who could and generally did dispose of their 'brainwashed' victims after they had served their purpose at the show trial, the Chinese, with true evangelical zeal, really did desire to 'save' the POW from Imperialism and receive him into the Communist fold. They wanted permanent conversions.
     But with American as with British POWs, they had little real success. The North Koreans had been ill-equipped to deal with the POWs and there was a serious lack of English-speaking interrogators. Moreover, their lecturers tended to have little or no knowledge of what conditions were like in the US, and this tended adversely to affect their credibility. Of those subjected to the 'brainwashing process' Hinkle and Wolff, who were 'consultants to the US Department of Defence' state:

Statistical correlations made by research groups of the US Air Force indicate that resistance did not correlate with rank, education, religion, geographical area of origin, length of service or regular or reserve status. The information from our own studies suggests very strongly that resistance or non-resistance is related to highly personal factors involving motivations, value systems, character structure and circumstances of imprisonment.[22]

Hardly very valuable conclusions for their military masters, for the caveat must be made that Messrs Hinkle and Wolff cannot be taken as impartial scienfitic investigators. Witness their bland statement that when the American POWs returned home and 'began to read back-copies of popular magazines and papers they began to compare what had been told them by the Koreans with the facts as observed and reported in the US press,' (my italics). Hinkle and Wolff also appear to be totally unaware that such a phenomenon as American Imperialism actually does exist – a severe mental block on their parts.
     But China was not the only Communist country to be experimenting with SD techniques. The Russian secret police had not forgotten the lessons of the thirties, and with increasing numbers of 'recalcitrant elements' in the new satellite countries of Eastern Europe to deal with they began again to resort to these experimental methods. One of the most bizarre accounts of the treatment is given by the Hungarian Lajo Ruff who was arrested in Budapest in 1951 and jailed for several years. The treatment accorded to him seems to have been designed to induce an artificial state of schizophrenia. He was constantly drugged, both with narcotics and hallucinogens. Frequently he would awaken from a drugged sleep to be told by apparently concerned and solicitous examiners that he had tried to commit suicide. Looking down he could see and feel the razor marks on his wrists or feel the bruises around his neck. A 'spontaneous search of his cell would reveal a hidden razor-blade or necktie in his mattress. Reality and fantasy were constantly blurred. He was shown pornographic films for example where the 'leading man', whose face he never could quite see, bore a striking resemblance to himself. He would awake briefly to discover the blonde from the film in his bed, fall asleep again and awake only to discover that his hand was cut and his shoes muddy, fitting in with what he remembered of the 'hero's' activities from the porno movie. Ruff does not appear to have been that important an 'enemy of the State' and for the secret police to have expended so much time, money and effort indicated that he was used primarily as a guineapig. Many of his friends and acquaintances were driven insane during their interrogations at this time and Ruff only escaped in the end by feigning insanity.[23]


Britain continued to take part in colonial campaigns – no fewer than ten of them from 1945 to 1971. There were four main areas – Malaya (1948-60), Kenya (1952-6), Cyprus (1955-9) and Aden (1963-7). It is instructive briefly to look at the development of British interrogation methods during these four campaigns.

Firstly Malaya. This is the only area where the British can lay claim to a 'victory'. The Communist guerrillas were defeated, and Britain was able to make the transition from overt colonialism to the much less expensive and much more profitable neo-colonialism. The 'victory' nonetheless was expensive. The 'security force' admit to 1,865 killed and 2,560 wounded (though of these only 506 killed were actually British soldiers) and official figures give the civilian casualties as 2,473 killed, 1,385 wounded and 810 missing, presumed dead. But the Communists were contained and then defeated despite the cost, and the methods used are interesting. Most of the credit for their defeat has been given to Robert Thompson who rose to be Secretary for Defence in Malaya until 1961 when he headed the British Advisory Mission to Vietnam and received his knighthood.[24]
     He developed a policy of massive resettlement of Chinese workers (over 600,000 were moved) into what the Americans in Vietnam were euphemistically to call 'strategic hamlets' and the local people 'concentration camps', extensive deportation to China, internment – under Regulation 17D 29,828 people were interned without trial during 'the emergency' – as well as a wide-ranging set of special powers; these methods all contributed to the defeat of the Communists. But it is interesting to note that the British did not resort to torture, nor even much brutality – the occasional atrocity such as the Batang Kali massacre when men of the Second Battalion of the Scots Guards shot down unarmed villagers (11 December 1948) definitely seems to have been an isolated, unauthorized 'incident' – (it was nevertheless hushed up). Instead of trying to torture prisoners to obtain information the British adopted the unorthodox, but highly productive, method of bribery. That this was effective is conclusively proven by the fact that leading Communist guerrillas such as Lam Swee, Osman China and Hor Lung were all persuaded to surrender with their groups in this manner. Rewards were, by local standards, enormous – Hor Lung for example got $120,000 and a complete pardon. In May 1952 the price on Communist leader Chin Peng's head was $250,000 and the price-scale ranged down to $2,500 for an ordinary 'private'. This may have been expensive and raised a few hackles from the local 'Pukka Sahibs', but it was certainly more beneficial to the British than the lunatic schemes of men like General Templer who wanted collective fines and twenty-two-hour curfews.
     And so, by 1961 when the 'emergency was officially declared to be at an end, Britain had succeeded in countering the Communist threat without having to resort to torture. At the same time, however, her record was by no means as untarnished elsewhere.

In Kenya the Mau Mau were not motivated by fanatical Communism, but they were bound together by strong traditional tribal loyalties and oaths. Robert Graves, for instance, reports how he had heard Mau Mau men condemned to be executed the next morning, laughing, joking and singing all night in the hut.[25] The Mau Mau may have been brutal – though judging by the very small numbers of white casualties their threat seems to have been exaggerated – but as John Stonehouse MP has pointed out, the movement could never have arisen or gained such a hold on the Kikuyu if the Kenyans had been allowed some legitimate outlet for their very real grievances' over land reforms and political representation.[26] The British response was barbaric. Over 80,000 men and women were rounded up and the vast majority were interned without charge or trial in truly appalling conditions. Even after seven years, over 7,000 men were still interned. The worst of the excesses were justified under the infamous 'Cowan Plan' whereby uncharged and untried prisoners were forced to work scraping soil with their bare hands in temperatures of 1200° F, while sadistic guards brutalized and beat them. The raison d'être for this was given by the English Secretary of State for Defence Lennox-Boyd after the murder of eleven men in Hola camp. Speaking on 3 March 1959 he told his fellow MPs: 'Experience has shown, time after time, that unless hard-core detainees can be got to start working, their rehabilitation is impossible. Once they have started working there is a psychological breakthrough and astonishing results are then achieved.' Sydney Silverman then intervened to ask: 'Who told the Right Honourable Member that? Stalin?'[27]

Duncan McPherson, Kenyan Assistant Commissioner of Police, in charge of the CID, claimed however that

hundreds of these men and women were just listed and detained on the whim of various clerks with no authority at all ... All seemed well, provided a 10 per cent quota was returned for detention ... I would say that the conditions I found existing in some camps in Kenya were worse, far worse, than anything I experienced in my four and a half years as a prisoner of the Japanese.[28]

But there was little or no outcry about the conditions in Kenya – after all, weren't the victims black?, and the press had constantly 'blackened' the Mau Mau's image. Not only were the murderers at Hola Camp exonerated, but Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II saw fit to award Mr. J. B. T. Cowan, author of the 'Cowan Plan', the MBE in the June Honours List for 1959.
     Interrogation methods in Kenya seem to have been primitive. The boot, the baton, the fist, all were common. On several occasions prisoners were actually beaten to death – according to Barbara Castle MP, for example, Samuel Githu, a warder at Aguthi camp, beat a detainee to death in September 1958, with the apparent approval of his superiors.[29] In the same camp, which was one of the more notorious ones, a detainee was given twelve strokes of the cane for the heinous offence of daring to write a letter to an MP. Mr. Paul Williams, MP for Sunderland South, approved, calling it 'a perfectly natural punishment for the crime'.[30] Transgressing warders did not always escape reprobation, however – a chief inspector was actually fined $60 and a former district officer $24 for causing actual bodily harm to a Kikuyu prisoner, and two European officers who beat Kamau Kichina so badly that he died from the injuries even got eighteen months! Brutality there was aplenty, but few examples of torture to obtain information and certainly no signs as yet of SD-type experiments, contrary to the assertions of the Parker Commission.[31]

Cyprus was a rather different matter. Here, too, the police were nominally responsible for the interrogations, but the Army, increasingly exasperated at their inability to capture Grivas or smash EOKA, eventually took over completely when Maj.-Gen. Kenneth Darling was appointed as Director of Anti-Terrorist Operations in October 1958. But by then the crisis was almost over. There were sporadic examples of the troops 'disgracing themselves', as the British press reluctantly put it – such as the incident on 3 October 1958 in the streets of Famagusta when they used such force in rounding up over 2,000 Cypriot civilians that at least 200 were taken to hospital; needless to say, no one was reprimanded officially for this 'excess of zeal'. Had an inquiry been held in any case, it is hard to believe that it would have been any less of a 'whitewash' than that which exonerated the men of the Royal Horse Guards who had taken a number of Greek Cypriot detainees just released from custody to the Turkish Cypriot village of Gunyeli and handed them over to the tender mercies of the local villagers. Several were killed. (This was a practice used later in Aden and also in sectarian Belfast.)

The most serious allegations against the British concerned detainees. In 1957 these culminated with Britain being taken to the 'dock' of the Council of Europe at Strasbourg and in front of the UN by Greece. Forty-nine cases of torture were alleged, and it took some sordid behind-doors dealing between the British and the Greeks before the cases were dropped – no one consulted the Cypriots about it, of course. But in Cyprus itself the torture allegations became so numerous that eventually something had to be done. Members of the conservative Cyprus Bar Association set up a Human Rights Committee to investigate some of the allegations and by December 1956 had submitted fifty-seven complaints to the Cyprus government. Reluctantly, the British disciplined four men – a police superintendent convicted of assault was bound over, an assistant superintendent was fined $60, a PC was given an absolute discharge for assault and an auxiliary PC got three years for shooting and wounding two Cypriots.[32] Soon, however, Archbishop Makarios produced a further list of 317 cases where it was alleged that torture had been used, and two men had died under torture.

Undoubtedly allegations regarding torture can be, and at times are, exaggerated. But not all that much. Field-Marshal Harding must have been very naive if he seriously expected Cypriots to be convinced by his concluding paragraphs in the Cyprus White Paper:

If the price of immediately clearing the security forces of these allegations is to impair their ability to deal effectively with fresh outbreaks of terrorism and to gain information which will assist them in protecting the public from murder, violence and brutality, then the security forces will continue to place their duty first. They will be content that one day they will be vindicated. Meanwhile Her Majesty's Armed Forces and the police in Cyprus will rely on the world-wide knowledge of their traditions of humanity and decency to convince the public of the free world of the falsity of the allegations which emanate from men who have no scruples in aiding and abetting murder.

Such slobber would not disgrace Sir Edmund Compton. It had the effect of giving the 'interrogation squad' carte blanche.

In fact the torture used during interrogations in Cyprus was almost all physical rather than mental, and of little or no practical use. Despite the fact that Cyprus is only a small island Grivas was never captured and EOKA, a very small group with few arms, was not smashed.[33] EOKA also claims that in addition to physical beatings (in one isolated incident a captain of the Intelligence Corps and an acting captain in the Gordon Highlanders were cashiered for beating detainee Christos Constantinou with an iron chain[34]) men were forced to stand on nails, sit for hours on blocks of ice or were given narcotics. If this is true, the views of Peter Hamilton, the security adviser to the British government, may not be far from the mark.[35] He claims that one of the main reasons for British Intelligence's lack of success was that many of the interrogators had a lot of sympathy for the Cypriots, who 'were very close to us'. 'My heart wasn't in it,' he adds – an inhibition which certainly was not to hinder later British interrogators in Aden and Ireland.

Interrogation methods in Cyprus were still rudimentary, but a pattern was emerging which was to develop even more strongly during the British Army's next major conflict – Aden.
     Against the wishes of a large majority of her people, in February 1963 Aden was incorporated into the Federation of South Arabia for the better protection of British oil interests. For the next four years Britain had another guerrilla war on her hands, this time mainly urban guerrilla war. Wholesale arrests and internment soon produced enough suspects for the interrogation teams to get to work on. The usual brutality, made worse by the innate racism of the average British soldier, further alienated the Adenis, and 'Cyprus-like' incidents such as when detainees were handed over to a neighbouring Sultan to be tortured and kept in abominable conditions for sixty-two days didn't help. But it was the infamous Fort Morbut 'interrogation centre which aroused most hostility amongst the Adeni population.
     As guerrillas had done in Malaya, Cyprus and Algeria the NLF and FLOSY, the two main guerrilla groups, concentrated initially on eliminating the Adeni Special Branch, whose local knowledge they rightly regarded as a threat. This forced the Army more and more into the role of 'intelligence gathering' and in the summer of 1965 the torture HQ at Fort Morbut was set up. Torture complaints soon poured in. In 1964 the International Red Cross had been refused permission to visit Aden. In the next year they were grudgingly allowed in but refused permission to see any of the detainees.
     Meanwhile Amnesty International was trying to investigate the torture allegations made to them by the Civil Service Association of South Arabia. In the summer of 1966 Dr. Salahaddin Rastgeldi, a Swede, travelled to Aden to attempt to determine whether there was any truth in the serious allegations made. Rastgeldi was to suffer the traditional British 'cold-shoulder' treatment from the authorities. They refused to let him investigate or to interview any of the 164 detainees whose names and dates of arrest he had. The High Commissioner, Sir Richard Tumbull, informed him with polished casuistry that there were 'no political detainees in Aden'. According to Rastgeldi, 'I produced the list of 164 names and asked if all, without exception, were terrorists?' 'How can we know? We cannot produce any evidence against them,' the Commissioner replied. Reporting back to Amnesty, Rastgeldi stated that he had convincing proof that many innocent people had been arrested since the declaration of the emergency and that their cases hadn't been brought to court. 'But, he added, 'this is not in contradiction to the British constitutional laws. Once a state of emergency is established for a certain area ... no application can be made to any higher order of justice in favour of the detainees.' He went on to point out that the UN itself had condemned the idea of 'states of emergency', so beloved by Britain for her troublesome colonies. (The emergency laws provided that whenever the High Commissioner or Governor was satisfied that for the purpose of maintaining public order it was necessary to exercise control over any person, a detention order could be made against that person. In detention suspects could be held indefinitely, subject to a periodic review by a special tribunal. For interrogation purposes a suspect was only supposed to be held for twenty-eight days.) As Rastgeldi pointed out, such 'states of emergency' are in flagrant contravention of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

It is instructive to examine the tortures alleged against the interrogators in Fort Morbut and Waterloo interrogation camps, for they show an increasing use of techniques allied to SD, though still only in rudimentary stage. Ten main allegations of torture were made:

  1. Undressing detainees and making them stand naked during interrogation;
  2. keeping them undressed in very cold cells with air conditioners and fans running at full speed;
  3. keeping them awake by constant irritation until they were exhausted;
  4. offering food to hungry detainees and then removing it before they could eat it;
  5. hitting and twisting their genitals;
  6. forcing them to sit on poles directed towards their anuses;
  7. extinguishing cigarettes on their bodies;
  8. banning visits to toilets so that they had to soil their cells;
  9. at other times keeping them in filthy toilets;
10. forcing them to run in circles until they were exhausted.

Rastgeldi gave accounts of interviews with various people who had been through the Fort Morbut process, and they have a ring of truth about them. One example was twenty-five-year-old Hashim Jawee, a local Aden councillor, of whom Rastgeldi said, 'He seemed to be deeply shaken by the interrogation and showed feelings of shame for the humiliating treatment to which he was subjected. There was no doubt about the truth of his description of his arrest and interrogation. Jawee was stripped, thrown into an isolation cell, and left naked for a time before interrogation began. His buttocks and genitals were examined in order to humiliate him; the examiner was not a physician and the examination was not a medical examination. During the first three days the barrel of a gun was pointed at him through the cell window and Jawee was told he was going to be shot within a short time. Although the cell had a temperature of over 100° F. He was not allowed to wash or have a shower. At times he was kicked and had his hair pulled; he was also forced to run around the courtyard until he was exhausted and when he asked for water they spat in his face. At no time was he allowed to see the lawyers and visitors who tried to see him. His elder brother Hussein, who was Chief of Police for the Crater district, was also taken to Fort Morbut and threatened with execution. In another case a law graduate of Hull University, Adel Khalifa, was arrested on the day that he was to have been appointed a magistrate. He was systematically beaten, denied sleep and drink and subjected to psychological tortures, such as being blindfolded and told that a youth in the same room was his younger brother who was going to be shot if he didn't confess to something. The interrogators also told him that they had his wife in the barracks and that she was having 'a nice time' with the soldiers. He also met the mysterious French torturer, fresh from the torture-chambers of Algeria, whom several other detainees report as having threatened and beaten them.[36]

The Amnesty report caused a stir, and reluctantly the British government in October 1966 appointed Roderic Bowen QC to 'examine the procedures current in Aden for the arrest, interrogation and detention of persons suspected of terrorist activities and to advise upon any ways in which they might be improved'. Bowen spent only eleven days in Aden and presented his report on 8 November.[37] He found that there was 'a most regrettable failure to deal expeditiously and adequately with allegations of cruelty'. He admitted that senior British legal advisers had been sending in memoranda concerning torture allegations for some time and urging an inquiry, but that nothing had been done. 'Why should anything be done?' was the Army's reply. Had not the Foreign Secretary, George Brown, claimed in his introduction to the Bowen Report that the Fort Morbut centre had 'operated with considerable success, having provided information leading to the discovery of numerous arms caches and to the arrest of a large number of terrorists', etc. etc.? Armed with this testimonial the Army certainly didn't feel inclined to pay any attention to the complaints of 'bleeding hearts', 'liberals' and 'pinkoes'. And so the memoranda sent by the legal advisers to the Deputy High Commissioner from 18 October to 26 December 1965 were ignored, and it might seem to those of a particularly cynical bent that Bowen made little or no attempt to get at the truth, not considering it to 'be part of my task to investigate in detail any specific allegation'.[38] He claimed that there had only been three 'bad apples'. Three torturers were spirited away, one of them a 'veteran' of the Cyprus interrogations. The Deputy Superintendent of the Special Branch, sent belatedly to 'investigate', submitted his report but he hadn't even bothered to look at the medical records – a 'surprising' omission when we consider that the Director of Health Services was one of those who had been protesting about ill-treatment of detainees. Following this up, the Director of Army Intelligence refused to allow any of his gallant officers to be identified, let alone charged or tried.
     The alleged tortures reveal several interesting developments in interrogation techniques. SD 'auxiliary' treatment appears more consistently than hitherto. Deprivation of sleep and food are cited, and the ploy of causing stress through humiliation is very clearly evident – it should be taken into account that different cultures have different mores and that nakedness implies a lot more 'loss of face' for an Arab than for an Englishman. Similarly the refusal to permit toilet visits and the insanitary conditions were deeply humiliating to most Adenis. As we have seen, these attempts to humiliate the prisoner were standard NKVD practice in the 1930s, and all were to be used in conjunction with overtly SD methods in Northern Ireland in 1971. This time they were used as an experimental test.
     There is evidence of one other brief 'dry run' by the Intelligence Unit before the Northern Ireland experiments. In 1967, during the disturbances in Hong Kong, many Hong Kong Chinese were rounded up and interrogated. Here yet another variation was tried. They used the old Russian 'Conveyor' system, teams of interrogators working the prisoner over in relays. There was one important difference, however. Although the prisoners were deprived of sleep as a result of the lengthy interrogations unlike the NKVD, and to the prisoners' surprise, they were not physically beaten or maltreated, nor were threats used.[39] In the event it seems that this twist in the interrogation process produced little information and it hasn't been used since. It was back to the drawing-board for the Army psychologists, and Northern Ireland was to be the testing-ground.

17 February 1965 had seen the issue of a joint directive to British troops entitled 'Military Interrogation and Internal Security Operations Overseas' (amended on 10 February 1967). Interrogators were piously reminded that 'apart from legal and moral considerations torture and physical cruelty of all kinds are professionally unrewarding'. The following acts were specifically prohibited – '(i) Violence to life and person, in particular mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; (ii) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.'
     Clearly in Aden this directive had been cynically ignored. Consequently Bowen in his few recommendations suggested some changes, claimed by The Times as 'far-reaching'.[40] These were: daily inspection of the detainees by a civilian doctor, and replacement of military interrogators by civilians. Few would call these particularly 'far-reaching' but, anyway, both recommendations were ignored on the grounds that they were 'impractical', as were the original provisions of the directive that Denis Healey seemed so proud of. In Northern Ireland people were tortured, and then examined by Army doctors, who, having declared that they were fit to receive more interrogation', certified them as fit and well, despite the obvious and in some cases grotesque injuries they had received. Civilian doctors were not allowed near most detainees and only occasionally could see them on a personal visit basis when they had been removed from the interrogation centres to prison.[41] Army interrogators still carried out their experiments, 'instructing' the RUC in what exactly to do.

This leaves one interesting question to be answered. In the Parker Report it is claimed that the SD methods used on the Irish guineapigs were

techniques developed since the war to deal with a number of situations involving internal security. Some or all have played an important part in counter insurgency operations in Palestine, Malaya, Kenya and Cyprus and more recently in the British Cameroons (1960-61), Brunei (1963), British Guiana (1964), Aden (1964-7), Borneo/ Malaysia (1965-6), and the Persian Gulf (1970-71).[42]

This appears to be totally inaccurate. Inquiries amongst detainees and those interrogated during these 'emergencies' reveal plenty of allegations of brutality and possibly torture, but very little evidence of specifically SD technique such as hooding, wall-standing, noise, starvation, and no sleep for days on end. Noise and sleep deprivation were used in Aden and in most cases food was certainly in short supply and of poor quality, but SD techniques per se were not generally used, as far as can be ascertained. Cyril Cunningham, senior psychologist for British POW Intelligence from 1951 to 1961 categorically denied that SD techniques had been used and described them as 'singularly stupid and unimaginative'. He added that interrogation backed by fear is a blunt, medieval and extremely inefficient technique, never used in my days'.[43] While it is unlikely that Mr. Cunningham would admit that his interrogation squads had broken all the rules – and certainly they were guilty of brutality in his day – all the evidence points to the Parker Committee being deliberately misinformed by the 'Army experts' who briefed them and attempted to minimize the insidiousness and illegality of what they were actually doing. Even Lord Gardiner, in his Minority Report, was forced to admit that the tortures carried out were completely illegal but as we shall see this illegality worried neither the Army 'experimenters', the RUC nor Brian Arthur Deane Faulkner, whose signature authorized each special arrest. As for British Army strategists, as we will see, torture, assassinations and bombings were only to be regarded as part and parcel of the Army's weaponry in their daily struggle to subdue and control the civilian population.

Footnotes Chapter 1:

  1. see John Swain, A History of Torture (Tandem Books, 1965).
L.O. Pile, in his History of Crime in England, points out that a license to torture was found in the Pipe Roll of 34 Henry II.
  2. see Rafael Sabatini, Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition (Stanley Paul, 1924).
  3. For an account of this by survivors, see The Memoirs of R.V. Ivanov-Razumnik (Oxford University Press, 1965), pp.291-7.
  4. Z. Stypulkowski, Invitation to Moscow (Thames & Hudson, 1951).
  5. Alex Weissberg, Conspiracy of Silence (Hamish Hamilton, 1952).
  6. Ekart, Vanished without Trace (Parrish, 1954).
  7. Weissberg, op. cit., pp.386-7.
  8. ibid.
  9. F. Beck and W. Godin (pseudonyms), Russian Purges and the Extraction of Confessions (Hurst & Blackett, 1951).
10. In his introduction to Alleg's The Question (Calder, 1958).
11. V. Kravchenko, I Chose Justice (Hale, London, 1951), p.169.
12. Quoted by Peter Deeley in Beyond Breaking Point (Barker, 1971), p.18.
13. Sir Robert Thompson, Defeating Communist Insurgency (Chatto & Windus, 1966), p.87.
14. The Times, 27 November 1971.
15. W. Sargant, Battle for the Mind (Pan, 1959), p.80.
16. ibid., p.159.
17. It is interesting to note that in all the scientific examinations of brainwashing carried out by the Communists on British and American soldiers, none of the investigators seem to have asked themselves whether one of the factors influencing 'conversion' could be that there was a lot of truth in what the Chinese said with regard to the Allied soldiers' role as mercenaries and cannon-fodder for what they would call 'the forces of Imperialism'.
18. Farrar-Hockley, The Edge of the Sword (Muller, London, 1954), p.74.
19. ibid., p.191.
20. see Law (?) and Orders (CCDC, Belfast, 1970),' and Ulster, by the Sunday Times Insight Team (Penguin, 1972).
21. Whether the US did actually use biological weapons in the Korean War is still in question. What is not questioned is that from at least 1961 the US was secretly storing nerve gas on Okinawa and in South Korea (and West Germany). This was only admitted when twenty-four American soldiers were incapacitated in an accident on Okinawa (see the New York Times of 23 July 1969).
What is also certain is that the US was prepared to drop nuclear bombs in Indochina at the time of Dien Bien Phu (1954). Given that the US Secretary of State, Dulles, and President Eisenhower were prepared to unleash the holocaust of nuclear genocide, there seems no reason to suppose that scruples about germ warfare would have hampered them. (See confirmation of this from the French Foreign Secretary, Georges Bidault, in Drummond and Coblentz, Duel at the Brink (Doubleday, New York, 1960).)
22. American Medical Association Archive of Neurological Psychiatry, 76 (1956), pp.115-74, esp. p.169.
23. The Brainwashing Machine (Hale, London, 1954).
24. Thompson, having made his name in Malaya, was later employed as a US presidential adviser. However, his policies in Vietnam met with resounding defeat at the hands of the Vietcong. See, for example, Noam Chomsky, At War in Vietnam (Fontana, 1971).
25. Quoted in Sargant, op. cit., p.142.
26. Gangrene (Calder, 1959), p.96.
27. Lennox-Boyd's sister was of a like mind. The Nottingham Guardian Journal reported her as saying, 'I'm sick hearing about consciences. What we want is a real Conservative who doesn't keep seeing good on the other side.' Lady Huggins, Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Commonwealth Council, was equally firm. Speaking to students at Nottingham University, she said, 'Too much fuss is being made of the death of Mau Mau detainees at Hola Camp. These men were certainly beaten to death, but they were in fact the worst type of criminals.'
28. Hansard, Vol.607, Col. 310.
29. see Gangrene, op. cit., p.95.
30. Hansard, Vol.607, Col. 312 (16 June 1959).
31. An interesting figure who cropped up in Malaya, Kenya and in Ulster was Colonel Arthur (now Sir Arthur) Young who, after serving as a Commissioner of the City of London Police, was sent to Malaya as the new Police Commissioner early in 1952. Later, in his role as head of the Kenya police force, he was vigorously to defend his men against charges, made by magistrates, of extreme brutality used by individual officers upon detainees and suspects. 'Our police are wonderful,' he said (see The Times of 18 August 1954). Sir Arthur also totally failed to clean up the RUC in 1970.
32. see Deeley, op. cit.
33. see The Memoirs of General Grivas, ed. Charles Foley (Longmans, 1964).
34. see The Times, April 1956.
35. Quoted in Deeley, op. cit.
36. see Amnesty International report on Aden.
37. Procedures for the Arrest, Interrogation and Detention of Suspected Terrorists in Aden, Cmnd. 3165 (HMSO, 1966).
38. Bowen Report, p.18, final para.
39. see Louis Heren, The Times, 18 November 1971.
40. The Times, 18 November 1971.
41. see British Army and Special Branch RUC Brutalities, by Fr Faul and Fr Murray (Abbey Printers, Cavan, 1972).
42. Parker Report, Cmnd. 4901 (HMSO), para. 10. My emphasis.
43. Letter to The Times, 25 November 1971.

Back to top of this page

Table of Contents  |  Chapter 2

Irish Resistance Books

Copyright  ©  IRB/McGuffin