Operation Jurisdiction

This was an Allied unrealised deception operation, by the Ops (B) deception branch of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, designed to confuse the German high command about the axis along which the Allies intended to make their deeper thrust into western German in the area to the north of the Rhine river (March 1945).

To have been implemented by 'special means' channels, 'Jurisdiction' was to have indicated a two-prong assault toward Frankfurt-am-Main, General Omar N. Bradley’s US 12th Army Group striking to the east from the Remagen bridgehead to encircle Frankfurt-am-Main from the north, and Lieutenant General Jacob L. Devers’s US 6th Army Group advancing to the north-east to take the Saar area before pushing forward to take Karlsruhe and Mainz on its way to Frankfurt-am-Main.

Ops (B) was an Allied military deception planning department based in the UK and established under Colonel J. A. Jervis-Read in April 1943 as a department of Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander (COSSAC), the current Allied operational planning department with a focus on western Europe. In 1943 the Allied high command had decided that the main Allied thrust would be in southern Europe, and the task allocated to Ops (B) was that of pinning German forces on the west coast in general, and drawing out the Luftwaffe in particular.

The department’s first operation was the three-pronged 'Cockade', which was an over-an elaborate ploy to threaten invasions in France and Norway, and not much of a success. The main portion of the operation, the deceptive 'Starkey' thrust against the area of Boulogne on the north-east coast of France, was intended to draw out the German air arm, but failed to elicit any response, almost certainly because the Germans appreciated that any Allied commitment into France during 1943 was clearly improbable.

In January 1944, COSSAC was absorbed into SHAEF and Ops (B) both survived the transition and was expanded. Noel Colonel Wild took over from Jervis-Read, who became his deputy, and reorganised Ops (B) into two sections, namely Operations and Intelligence. The enlarged Ops (B) was given control over double agents and other avenues of disinformation, and was also given responsibility with the operational planning of the main portion of 'Bodyguard', the overall deception plan for the European and Mediterranean theatres in 1944, and within this for the 'Fortitude' cover for the 1944 Normandy landings. Early in 1944 Colonel David Strangeways joined General Sir Bernard Montgomery’s 21st Army Group, which was the invasion formation, clashed with Wild, and eventually recast major parts of 'Fortitude'. Ops (B) was eventually relegated to the role of managing the information emitted via disinformation channels.

Major General (from May 1943 Lieutenant General) Frederick E. Morgan, the Chief-of-Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander (Designate), established Ops (B) in April 1943 following pressure from Colonel John H. Bevan, chief of the London Controlling Section, and a month earlier had been given the major task of planning the assault on North-Western Europe by the Allied forces. Morgan’s instructions from Allied high command in that same moth made reference to the need for 'an elaborate camouflage and deception' campaign with the twin objects of pinning German forces in the west, and drawing the Luftwaffe into an air battle. The invasion across the English Channel had already been postponed from 1943 into 1944, and the main Allied effort for 1943 was to be made in southern Europe, and within this overall scheme Morgan was to help keep as much of the German forces as possible away from southern Europe.

In theory, deception strategy across all theatres of war fell to the London Controlling Section, a British department established in London during 1941 and currently led by Colonel John Bevan. Bevan convinced Morgan to establish a specialist deception section on his staff to conduct operational planning for the Western Front. Morgan’s organisation was not structured in any fashion capable of accommodating such a department, so Ops (B) was established within the operations division in April 1943 with Colonel John Jervis-Read as its head. The concept for Ops (B) was inspired by early deception successes of Colonel Dudley W. Clarke and his 'A' Force apparatus in the Mediterranean theatre. Morgan disliked Clarke’s department, however, on the grounds that it was something of a 'private army', and Jervis-Read was allocated strictly limited resources.

It was Bevan intent that Ops (B) should to focus on physical deception, with existing groups handling double agents, so only one intelligence officer was assigned. Major Roger Fleetwood-Hesketh was seconded from another part of COSSAC as the intermediary between Ops (B) and the committee handling double agents. The department was also assigned two US officers from the Ops (A) planning department, namely Lieutenant Colonel Percy Lash and Major Melvin Brown.

Ops (B)'s first task was the 'Cockade' deception intended to draw German attention from the Balkans by threatening landings in France and Norway, and was unsuccessful. The operation was originally the brainchild of the London Controlling Section and, under the new departmental structure, Ops (B) was tasked with the operational planning.

'Cockade' comprised three operations throughout 1943, variously threatening invasions in Norway and in France at Boulogne and Brest. Its heart was 'Starkey', which included a major bombing campaign before a cross-Channel amphibious 'invasion'. The feint failed to elicit any response from the Germans, who had rightly concluded that Allied action in this year would be concentrated on the Mediterranean theatre.

One outcome of 1943, and also of the failure of 'Cockade', was that control of operational deception in the western theatre was vested in Ops (B), whereas a number of groups had previously been involved in the implementation of deception strategy, with very mixed results.

After 'Cockade', Ops (B) was tasked with the planning of deceptions to support 'Overlord', though in reality Ops (B)'s lack of resources meant that most of the work was undertaken by the London Controlling Section. In December 1943, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed to the supreme command of the invasion, however, and in January 1944 it was decided a more experienced head was needed for Ops (B). Colonel Noel Wild, Clarke’s deputy at 'A' Force, replaced Jervis-Head, who now became Wild’s deputy. Wild completely re-organised the department, dividing it into two branches: Operations and Intelligence. Jervis-Head became head of the Operations division, and Lieutenant Colonel Roger Fleetwood-Hesketh took charge of the Intelligence division. Lash and Brown returned to Ops (A), having only been on temporary loan. An MI.5 liaison officer, Major Christopher Harmer, joined Fleetwood-Hesketh’s intelligence section, as did a civilian secretary and Fleetwood-Hesketh’s brother Cuthbert.

Thus revitalised, Ops (B) was able to take over local planning for 'Bodyguard', the 'Overlord'. Wild began also to lay out the strategy for 'Fortitude', which was the part of 'Bodyguard' designed to convince the Germans of a threat to both Norway and the Pas de Calais. In January 1944, Ops (B) became a member of the Twenty (XX, or Double Cross) Committee, the group which controlled all double agents in Britain and Western Europe. From this time onward, therefore, 'information' passed by double agents to their German handlers was created between Ops (B) and the individual agent’s handlers.

On 26 February, Eisenhower issued the 'Fortitude' directive outlining the responsibilities for the northern and southern elements of 'Fortitude' plan. Lieutenant General Sir Andrew Thorne, heading the Scottish Command, was tasked with 'Fortitude North', and the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff and the 21st Army Group supervised 'Fortitude South'. For both elements, the 'special means' were to be controlled by the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force and Ops (B). Montgomery, commanding the 21st Army Group, brought in Colonel David Strangeways, whom he had come to know when the latter was on the strength of the 'A' Force, to command the 'R' Force. It was Strangeways who was allocated the task of implementing the 'Fortitude' deception. Strangeways almost immediately raised objections to Ops (B)'s outline, and then rewrote 'Fortitude South'. The members of Ops (B)'s operations staff were, during this period, relegated to service as couriers between the groups implementing 'Fortitude North' and 'Fortitude South' and thereby ensuring that the 'story' promulgated by each half was consistent with that of the other. The department’s intelligence section was solely responsible for information disseminated via double agents, resulting in a constant stream of communication between SHAEF and 'R' Force.

During May 1944 the Operations Section added four new members in the form of the US Lieutenant Colonel Frederic W. Barnes, Major Al Moody and Captain John B. Corbett, and the British Major S. B. D. Hood. This last was another 'A' Force alumnus who had been working for one of Clarke’s tactical deception groups, Tactical Headquarters, in Italy.

On 20 July, six weeks after the start of 'Overlord', 'R' Force was running deception efforts on the continent, so control of 'Fortitude South' was returned to Ops (B) which, Wild decided, would be better divided into two groups: a forward section based in France and comprising Jervis-Read and two others was responsible for managing plans in the field, while Wild kept the remainder of the team back in London to manage operations and planning in the UK. In September, SHAEF moved its base to Versailles outside Paris and Ops (B)'s US staff moved back home. Wild then moved the bulk of the team to Versailles, leaving Hood to run the rump in London.

In June, Ops (B) had begun work on 'Fortitude South II'. It created a new fictional US 2nd Army Group (SUSAG) to replace the earlier US 1st Army Group (FUSAG) and its supposed threat to the Pas de Calais are. The 'story' which Ops (B) now aimed to promulgate was that the Allies, having met resistance smaller than had been anticipated, had moved FUSAG elements to France and intended to try and defeat Germany in Normandy. As before, Strangeways raised several objection to the plan and once again resorted to rewriting it. Finally, SUSAG was activated but never used, and instead FUSAG continued to maintain the threat to Calais.

Between January and February 1944, and from July 1944 onwards, Wild had significant authority over deception and misinformation on the Western Front. However, Ops (B)'s impact on the success of 'Bodyguard' is moot. Wild himself was criticised as 'useless', and Strangeways deliberately frustrated Wild, whom he disliked, at every turn. Along with others, Strangeways identified key problems with the 'Bodyguard' plan as outlined by Ops (B) and the London Controlling Section, and exerted significant pressure on the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force to have it rewritten along Strangeways' own thinking.