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 about.
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 grueling 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 realized that there would be little
chance of us all returning, especially if the suspicions proved
We were informed that we were to investigate "anomalous" activities
around the Mühlig-Hoffmann Mountains
(click image left) 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
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
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
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
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.
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
We were flown to the pre-designated drop-off point which was 20
miles from the Maudheim base; snow tractors had already been
dispatched 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 judgment.
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
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
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 divulged.
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
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
The survivor reported that "hangars for strange planes
and excavations galore" had been documented.
Camp at Maudheim
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
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 utilizing 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
"He will wait, watch and wonder just how different
On hearing that, the Major issued the battle cry, and guard duty was
set up whilst the Major and the scientist discussed, in private,
just what we were to do next, even though it was obvious to the rest
The next morning we were ordered to "investigate the tunnel", and
for the next 48 hours we made our way steadily to the dry valley and
the supposed "ancient tunnel". Upon arriving in the dry valley we
were all amazed, for we had been told that Antarctica was completely
ice-bound and yet here we were in a valley that reminded me of being
back in the North African Sahara. We were forbidden from even
approaching the tunnel until the temporary base camp had been
erected; and whilst the men constructed the base, the scientist and
Major investigated the tunnel.
After a few hours, they returned to the now complete camp to
chronicle what they had seen and what our next plan of action was to
be. The tunnel was not an ancient passageway at all, claimed the
scientist, although the Major added that the walls were made of
smooth granite and looked infinite. We were informed that we would
be able to make our own minds up after we had rested for the night.
Sleeping in Antarctica during the summer months was difficult with
perpetual daylight covering the continent; but that night, sleep was
even more difficult to come by with all the thoughts running through
each of our minds about what we would find and just when, or where,
we would encounter the Polar Man again.
Just before we were assigned our times for guard duty, we were
informed that we would be following the tunnel all the way - "...to
the Führer, if needs be".
That night our fears were confirmed, as
the Polar Man did indeed
return. However, this time no more casualties occurred [on our
side], but the Polar Man was slain as he was lured to the camp. The
scientist decided that the Polar Man was "human" but, it seemed, had
been able to produce more hair and withstand the cold far more
effectively. The corpse, after a brief post-mortem, was stored in a
body bag, and with the cold could be preserved until a more
meticulous dissection could occur.
The next morning it was decided that two would remain at the
tunnel’s entrance with the corpse, the tractors, the equipment but,
more fundamentally, the radio. The Major, leading the expedition,
needed the Norwegian for his expertise and also the scientist; the
survivor, too, was critical for the mission’s success. The rest of
us wanted to join them. I was selected with the other jubilant four
who would be undertaking one of the most exciting and possibly one
of the most important expeditions in human history.
The two who were kept behind were disappointed, but their roles were
just as vital to the mission’s success as the nine who would be
traversing into the unknown.
As the nine of us prepared to enter
the tunnel, we made sure that we
took enough ammunition and explosives to wage a small war and
hopefully destroy the base in its entirety, for that was our
mission: not to salvage, but to destroy.
We walked into the darkness, and thankfully after four hours of
walking we began to see some light in the far distance. However, the
light was still another hour away; and as each of us battled with
our mind’s questions of what we would uncover, we inched forward.
Eventually we reached the vast cavern that was artificially lit. We
were then led to where the survivors had witnessed the executions.
The survivor stated it was as covert as one could possibly have
As we looked over the entire cavern network, we were overwhelmed by
the numbers of personnel scurrying about like ants, but what was
impressive was the huge constructions that were being built. From
what we were witnessing, the Nazis, it appeared, had been on
Antarctica a long time. The scientist jotted down everything he
could, drew diagrams and took rock samples as well as the odd
photograph. The Major, on the other hand, was more interested in how
the base was to be destroyed without being caught by the Nazis
After two days of vigilant reconnaissance, the scientist and Major
decided on the targets for the mines. The mines were to be placed
all around the roof of the cavern, with other targets on the to-do
list such as the generator and the petrol dumps and, if possible and
attainable, the ammunition dumps.
Throughout the day, mines were laid and more photos were taken; and
with the odds of not being detected looking good, a hostage was
taken, as well as proof of the Nazi base, the "Polar Man" and
photographs of new, and quite advanced, Nazi technology.
When the mission to place the mines that would destroy the base had
been accomplished, as well as substantial proof of the base
gathered, we headed towards the tunnel - but, alas, we were spotted,
and more of the Polar Men and a troop of Nazis gave chase. Upon
reaching the tunnel, we needed to put an obstacle in the way to slow
down our enemy long enough for the mines to detonate. Some mines
were placed at the entrance to the tunnel, and when the explosions
were heard we were hopeful that not just the base had been
comprehensively destroyed but so, too, the enemy forces giving
chase. We were wrong.
The mines did indeed close the tunnel, but, for those Nazis and
Polar Men behind, the chase was still on. In a fighting retreat,
only three of the 10 escaped the tunnel: the Norwegian, the
scientist and myself. The rest had fallen gallantly in making sure
that some of the party survived.
Upon reaching the safety of the dry valley, enough mines were laid
to close the tunnel permanently. After the mines were detonated,
there was no evidence of any tunnel ever existing.
Suspiciously, very little of the evidence unearthed remained.
Whether it had been lost accidentally or purposely, it mattered
little because the scientist had already made his and, ultimately,
the mission’s own conclusions.
The camp was disbanded and we returned to the
Maudheim base where we
were evacuated and flown back to the safety of the Falkland Islands
Dependencies. Upon reaching South Georgia, we were issued with a
directive that we were forbidden to reveal what we had seen, heard
or even encountered.
The tunnel was explained away as nothing more than a freak of
nature; "glacial erosion" was the scientist’s specific term. The
"Polar Men" were nothing more than "unkempt soldiers that had gone
crazy"; the fact that they were German was never submitted into the
report, and any notion of the mission going public was firmly
rebutted. The mission would never be made official, though certain
elements of the mission were to be leaked to the Russians and the
So my last Christmas of World War II was spent on the
continent in 1945, fighting the same Nazis that I had fought against
every Christmas since 1940. What was worse was the fact that the
expedition was never given any recognition, nor the survivors any
credit. Instead, the British survivors were de-mobbed from the
forces, whilst the scientist and his report would soon disappear,
the mission never to be known about except by the select few.
That mission never made the history books, but the return mission in
February 1950, conducted by a joint British–Swedish–Norwegian
expedition that lasted till January 1952, did. The main purpose of
the expedition was to verify and investigate some of the findings of
the 1938–39 Nazi expeditions to Neuschwabenland.
Five years after our mission, Maudheim and
revisited, and that expedition had everything to do with the
Neuschwabenland campaign, but, more importantly, with what we had
destroyed. For the intermediate years between the missions, the
Royal Air Force continuously flew flights over Neuschwabenland. The
RAF’s official reason for their extensive flights was that they were
searching for suitable places to set up base camps. However, one
can’t help but wonder.3