Operation Willi carried out


Operation Willi was the German code name for the unsuccessful attempt by the SS to kidnap Edward, Duke of Windsor in July 1940 and induce him to work with German dictator Adolf Hitler for either a peace settlement with Britain, or a restoration to the throne after the German conquest of the United Kingdom.

OK, so what if in desperation to prevent the DoW from leaving Spain for the Bahamas, Hilter's order to kidnap him had been carried out?

Edit: As I understand it, it didn't start out as a kidnap plot, more and attempt to get the DoW to Spain where he could be influenced easier but Hitler in desperation to stop the move to the Bahamas is said to have ordered an abduction to be organised at once.
 
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It could go either way, a puppet in the hands of the Nazi's or A former monarch, dying for the empire he could have ruled over.
 

Opo

Monthly Donor
As discussed before in this forum, Operation Willi seems more of a fantasy proposal with no real chances of success than a serious military operation. To accept that the Duke of Windsor would willingly "work with Hitler" in any way supposes that the claims that he had pro-Nazi views are accurate. Which will possibly be debated for as long as the Windsors hold a fascination for historians but which I tend to believe were exaggerated to suit the establishment post-war narrative where the couple were concerned.

Whilst post-war commentary would have it that the Windsors had a cushy war in the Bahamas, that isn't really the case. In Michael Bloch's book The Duke of Windsor's War, you see how the Duke was actually meeting regularly with key US military figures and politicians and was lending his support to war relief efforts that benefitted the UK and the occupied territories. The Duchess actually proved herself well beyond what had been expected, serving as President of the Red Cross in the Bahamas and establishing military canteens and hospitals at which she personally worked each day. These photographs and stories were printed widely in England to show that the entire Royal Family was working to better the war effort and that the Windsors were no different from the Kents or the Gloucesters in their day to day activities.

Yet the problem with that was that the moment the war was over, the Royal Family couldn't find a reasonable excuse to keep the Windsors away from England. Why should the Duke and Duchess be refused a chance to carry out public duties for the Crown when they'd been doing just that for 5 years in the Bahamas? Remember, the majority of the British public had never understood why they were treated so harshly in the first place. And so the nonsense stories began. The Duchess had spent the war in Miami shopping, the Duke had played a part in covering up a grisly murder during his time as Governor, etc etc. These stories were mostly put about by Tommy Lascelles working on behalf of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother who could never countenance the idea of the Windsors coming back to Britain, even more so after George VI died.

This applies to the Duke's political views too. He was a proponent of appeasement, as were many key figures of the British political establishment. His trip to Berlin was particularly ill-advised, though he was not the only one making jaunts to take tea with Hitler. His motivation was a selfish one but in no way a political one. He soon changed his views when war came and there is no suggestion that he ever issued a statement or wrote a letter which indicated he wanted Britain to lose the war. There's one example floating around which suggests the Duke praised the Nazis for the use of Blitzkrieg because it would end the war sooner. This is a fabrication which has since been debunked and seems to have come from Lord Dacre - the same Lord Dacre who offered legitimacy to the Hitler diaries which were widely accepted even when they first appeared to be fakes. Equally Peter Morgan's take on the Duke's relationship with Nazi Germany as portrayed in The Crown seems heavily influenced by the Charles Higham biography of the Duchess of Windsor which also inspired the Andrew Morton biography, both of which have been discredited and contain many inaccuracies. Let's not even start on the Lady Colin Campbell take on things...

What you have to ask yourself is this; did the Duke of Windsor really hate his family and his country that much that he would collaborate, willingly or unwillingly, with the Nazi regime? I would argue he did not. You also have to ask if his views made him a genuine target for Operation Willi. I would argue they did not. After all, he was unlikely to be invited to lunch with the Roosevelts during war time if there was any suspicion that he was in any way pro-Hitler. And the same goes for his wife who accompanied him. Operation Willi makes for an interesting plot of a movie but in reality? It was just fantasy and had it ever been put into action? You most likely have an imprisoned Duke and Duchess with even less reason to warm to Hitler and his thugs.
 
So it was the queen mum who put the kybosh on the Duke playing the larger role post war he wanted to? That seems understandable.
 

Opo

Monthly Donor
So it was the queen mum who put the kybosh on the Duke playing the larger role post war he wanted to? That seems understandable.
If you look behind the frothy exterior and those awful hats, it doesn't take long to see Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother as a particularly nasty woman. People have long said that she barred the Windsors from England forevermore because she blamed the Duke for her husband's death. I don't believe a word of that. She wasn't a fool, she knew it was George's smoking habit which killed him. What she really resented was that she wanted the Windsors to live in a kind of purgatory and they didn't.

It's well documented that Queen Elizabeth II was well-minded towards the Windsors. She liked her uncle and though she didn't meet Wallis until the 1960s, she found her perfectly pleasant - much to the ire of her mother. But when the Queen began her reign, she had her mother to contend with. For most of George VI's reign, Elizabeth (QM) had enjoyed an awful lot of power, something never usually shared with a consort. She'd got used to having everything her way and she became this matriarchal figure who could boss everybody about. She shifted the focus of the family too, never wanting to mix with the extended family. Her reason was supposedly that they were all foreigners and the British wouldn't like being reminded of the Royal Family's European heritage. In fact, she had a huge chip on her shoulder that she wasn't really "one of them". She was only the daughter of an Earl when all was said and done. For a while, Elizabeth managed to order things as she had before. That was until she began to clash with the Duke of Edinburgh who thought the way the Queen Mother ran things was ridiculous and was actually doing more harm than good.

Where the Windsors were concerned, when the Queen Mother heard that the Queen was proposing a limited public role for the Duke abroad, she fell back on Tommy Lascelles who was one of the most poisonous courtiers ever to have served the Crown. He saw to it that fabricated stories made their way into the newspapers (there was some ridiculous claim that the Duchess had stolen jewels belonging to Queen Alexandra, etc etc) which the public didn't really take an interest in. Then they stepped up the offensive and began this pro-Nazi tittle-tattle which gained traction with certain wings of the establishment who had never liked the Duke but in all seriousness...if the Queen Mother ever really believed that, why on earth would she have happily stood beside the Windsors at the plaque unveiling for Queen Mary at Marlborough House? They'd never have got a foot on the plane.

A common rule of thumb when studying the British Royal Family is "Where there's trouble, there's the Queen Mother". It usually bears out.
 
And QM got all this power, by protecting George VI? He had obviously been bullied by George V and Edward, so he needed a nurturing figure.
 

Opo

Monthly Donor
And QM got all this power, by protecting George VI? He had obviously been bullied by George V and Edward, so he needed a nurturing figure.
I think it began as simply supporting him when he found things difficult. But then she developed a taste for it and it became a co-monarchy in all but name. She was the first royal consort since Prince Albert who saw the contents of the infamous red boxes, even replying to some of the documents because "the King wasn't well". And it's fair to say he wasn't a healthy man, he never really had been. But arguably the constitutional lines became very blurred at times, so much so that even Churchill asked why he was having a weekly audience with the King's wife and not the man himself...
 
Churchil had supported the Duke during the crisis. I know he encouraged Eden to allow for an informal role, similar to what Mountbatten did after Indian independence.
 

Operation Willi was the German code name for the unsuccessful attempt by the SS to kidnap Edward, Duke of Windsor in July 1940 and induce him to work with German dictator Adolf Hitler for either a peace settlement with Britain, or a restoration to the throne after the German conquest of the United Kingdom.

OK, so what if in desperation to prevent the DoW from leaving Spain for the Bahamas, Hilter's order to kidnap him had been carried out?

Edit: As I understand it, it didn't start out as a kidnap plot, more and attempt to get the DoW to Spain where he could be influenced easier but Hitler in desperation to stop the move to the Bahamas is said to have ordered an abduction to be organised at once.
Hard to imagine really, but what exactly is he going to do in Germany? Just be a very well regarded POW, I guess? I don't see what Germany gets out of it. I mean there will be the propaganda coup of a successful operation (like the kidnap/breakout of Mussolini) and it'll make the UK look like idiots but after that....then what? It isn't like Edward is going to be forced to make pro-German radio speeches.
 

Opo

Monthly Donor
Churchil had supported the Duke during the crisis. I know he encouraged Eden to allow for an informal role, similar to what Mountbatten did after Indian independence.
Absolutely. Though I believe Churchill felt the role should be a diplomatic one based abroad and not a UK based position - I would need to double check but I think the post Churchill favoured (and recommended to the Duke) was Ambassador to France so that he could still live in Paris.
 
Remember also that if push came to shove the UK troops guarding the use the same 9mm rounds the Germans did. I imagine that someone of appropriate rank had an informal talk with Churchill that explained it would be ever so terrible if they fell into the hands of the Nazi's and some things might need to happen. Afterwords they would have an after action report that would say it was ever so bad that the Germans shot the Duke and Duchess while trying to kidnap them.
 
Hard to imagine really, but what exactly is he going to do in Germany? Just be a very well regarded POW, I guess? I don't see what Germany gets out of it. I mean there will be the propaganda coup of a successful operation (like the kidnap/breakout of Mussolini) and it'll make the UK look like idiots but after that....then what? It isn't like Edward is going to be forced to make pro-German radio speeches.
Probably gunned down in 1945, assuming they didn't purge him after 20 July 1944.
 
Would he be in a concentration camp? I mean, it's possible that as the war goes, he becomes useless or whatever and is consigned to such a fate. It happens, but I have a heard time imagining after all that effort, they just dump him in Dacha.
I don't think Hitler at the time of the Nero Decree would have allowed Edward to have the last laugh and survive the war.
 
I don't think Hitler at the time of the Nero Decree would have allowed Edward to have the last laugh and survive the war.
Was Hitler still calling all the shots at that time? But yeah. I'd buy it, assuming he hadn't been rescued or traded or whatever by that time.
 
Was Hitler still calling all the shots at that time? But yeah. I'd buy it, assuming he hadn't been rescued or traded or whatever by that time.
A rescue would have been improbable.

OTOH, it is a distinct possibility that Edward would have been traded for Hess in 1941 so that Hitler could publicly execute Hess.
 

Opo

Monthly Donor
I think it’s far more likely if the Windsors were captured by the Nazis that they would end up as “permanent guests” of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha at Schloss Callenberg until the end of the war, possibly with propaganda statements released in their name which they know nothing about.
 
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