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The fatal failure of the "Operation Condor"

In anticipation of the German offensive at the end of 1942, Colonel Freddie de Guingand, Chief of Staff of the Eighth Army, studied the maps of the Rigel Depression, located on the road between Rommel's forces and the British line of defense. Even earlier, studying the map seized from the Germans, de Guingand noticed that the enemy knows very little about the patency of the territory. At the same time, in many areas the sands were mobile, deep and unsteady - it was a ground in which German machines could get bogged down. Moreover, de Guingand knew that German aerial reconnaissance could hardly have noticed this, since from the air the sandy plains looked quite passable. That's why the Chief of Staff reported to Montgomery that in order to defeat Rommel, he must be provoked into an attack through the Rigel Depression. But how to force the Desert Fox to attack through an unfavorable territory for him? De Guingand, according to the information of the British, knew the answer.


Operation Condor in El Alamein and Cairo


The plan, according to the secret British archives was as follows: to force two perverted German spies captured in Cairo, to convey to Rommel disinformation. So de Guingand, along with the British Colonel Dudley Clarke - the leader of "A-Force", engaged in disinformation of the enemy unit of British intelligence, have developed an operation to lure Rommel into a trap.


The most important component of the operation was the use of members of the defused Mission Condor. This name was given by the Germans to two of its agents and a whole network of informers who acted in Cairo. Over the course of many months, two agents, 28-year-old Johannes Eppler under the name of Hussain Gaffar and 26-year-old Hans-Gerd Sandstede, named Peter Monkaster, supplied Rommel with detailed high-precision information about the British military plans.


Eppler was born and raised in a German family in Cairo, and Monkaster at one time was looking for oil and spent most of his life in East Africa. Both Germans spoke excellent English. False documents showed that Eppler is an English-Egyptian businessman, and Monkaster is a mechanic on an oil rig. Both agents arrived in Cairo in May 1942. They brought with them two American-made radio transmitters and the book "Rebecca" written by Daphne du Maurier. The code for the agent radiograms was based on this book. No outsider could break this code: the coding system was based on the use of certain pages of the book on the relevant days.


German spies settled in a small floating house on the Nile, on the outskirts of Cairo, and Eppler started recruiting agents among the Egyptians. He was lucky. On occasion, he stumbled upon a source of information that is found only in Hollywood spy detectives. In the center of events was the dazzling Hikmat Fahmi, who in Egypt was considered the best performer of belly dancing and the star of the cabaret "Kit-Kat".


He quickly became friends with the dancer, who entrusted him with her secret - she was the agent of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Free Officers Movement acting against the English. She also said that her source of information is someone coded as "Major Smith" - an officer of the British headquarters in Cairo. Smith was her lover.


When Eppler convinced her that he was a German agent working for the illustrious Field Marshal Rommel, she agreed to participate in the operation developed by him. Major Smith always visited the house where the dancer lived, with a thick portfolio in his hands. So, when once again the British officer and dancer were in the bedroom, Apple and Monkaster shook out the contents from the briefcase, got acquainted with the documents and learned a lot about the construction, problems, plans and deployment of British troops. Using their code, the Condor Mission agents sent the data to a German radio station in Athens. The radio transmitter was hidden in one of the Cairo churches by an Austrian priest.


Somehow in one of the Cairo nights, Eppler, dressed in the uniform of a British captain and visited the popular nightclub of the Metropolitan Hotel. There he met a girl named Yvette and generously treated her with champagne, paying with British bills. She went with him to his house, where a couple spent the night. Yvette was an employee of a Jewish agency that worked for the British counterintelligence. She reported to her management about her suspicions about Eppler, assuming that he was a German spy. She pointed out that he paid with British money, apparently considering that the British money is still in the pipeline, just as it was before the war. Yvette added that Eppler spoke with a Saarish accent.

Hikmat Fahmi

The British Major Sansom, the chief of the field security service in Cairo, was also notified of this. He found out that the "British captain" paid for drinks in the Metropolitan with pound banknotes and confiscated money from the barman. It turned out to be already well-known by that time an excellently manufactured German counterfeit.


In the evening of August 10, 1942, a detachment of soldiers, under the command of Sansome, surrounded the house on the banks of the Nile, where Eppler and Monkaster lived. The soldiers were ordered to take the Germans alive. In a short fight, the spies were seized. Later, the dancer Hikmat was arrested. Her house was also searched, but they found only something from the uniform of Major Smith. The dancer described everything about her relationship with Smith and how Eppler and Monkaster got acquainted with the contents of his portfolio.

By a fluke, Major Sansome discovered one of the radio transmitters. Eppler was thrown into the water as the British soldiers stormed the house, and he opened the stubs in the hold, trying to sink the boat. The boat was lifted from the bottom, and below it was a transmitter that emerged from the silt. Although the transmitter was crushed, it was still set to the frequency of the last communication with Athens. Eppler and Monkaster knew about the possible shooting for espionage, and most likely for this reason told about the book "Rebecca".


Colonel Dudley Clarke began planning an operation to lure the German Field Marshal into a trap. He began to transmit false information on behalf of the "Operation Condor" in Athens. He reported that the southern section of the British defense line is the most vulnerable and suitable place for a breakthrough if the offensive begins immediately. Meanwhile, the bulk of the British armored forces and artillery, which took up defense in the south, was waiting for its time.


Three days later, another message from the "Operation Condor" came to Athens with false information about the deployment of British forces. Now, in order to make Rommel finally fall for the bait, Colonel de Guingand developed another operation. He ordered his cartographers to draw a very accurate map of the area of the Rigel Depression with only one wrong inscription – "hard ground" were shown in the region of the depression.


Major Smith, who was under arrest awaiting trial and the heaviest sentence, was brought to this mission. He was ordered along with the map to drive up to the German line of defense, allegedly for reconnaissance, and present the case so that he lost his way - a frequent occurrence during the war in the desert. Smith set off and it so happened that Smith's car was blown up on a mine, and in its burnt wreckage the Germans discovered the body of Major Smith along with the forged map of the combat area.


The radio intercept data confirmed that Rommel had planned the movement of his mechanized units through "hard ground" sites. On August 24, he informed Berlin that the offensive would begin on the night of August 30. Montgomery received a radio interception of this radiogram and led his troops into full combat readiness. At 2AM the German mechanized units rushed towards the British line of defense and soon began to get bogged where "hard ground" was shown on the map. At a time when the crews of tanks and armored vehicles began to jump out to dig their cars and move on, they were attacked by British and, for the first time during the war in the desert, the US Air Force.

General Fritz Bayerlein


Both Panzer Divisions lost their commanders and Rommel generally wanted to stop the attack, but General Fritz Bayerlein intervened, who later said “The Desert Fox has not lost his sense, his incredibly developed sixth sense always prompted the best way out. As soon as he realized that he could not take the enemy by surprise, he wanted to stop the attack. I am personally responsible for convincing Rommel to allow me to continue the attack on Alam El Haifa”


After overcoming the minefield, at noon began a sandstorm which again stopped Afrika Korps. As a result, Rommel's troops arrived at the ridge only in the evening. Time was lost, and on the attack of the main goal, the headquarters of Montgomery, there were no power, not enough tanks, no fuel.

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