After spending a fruitless hour gaining entry into the ships safe, to discover nothing more than….“a few shillings in cash”. A search of the Chart Room, brought far greater rewards:
Our prize was just a long narrow envelope enclosed in a green, bag equipped with brass eyelets to let water in to facilitate its sinking. The bag was marked ‘Highly Confidential…To be destroyed’ and the envelope addressed to The C.in C, Far East…To Be Opened Personally. The documents had been drawn up by no less an authority than the Planning Division of the War Cabinet and contained the latest appreciation of the Military strength of the Empire in the Far East. There were details of Royal Air Force Units; there were details of naval strength; there was an assessment of the role of Australia and New Zealand; and most piquant of all, a long paragraph regarding the possibility of Japan entering the war, a paragraph accompanied by copious notes on the fortifications of Singapore. What the devil were the British about, sending such material by a slow old tub like Automedon, I, puzzled? Surely a warship would have been a worthier repository? We could not understand it”.
Mohr’s skipper, Captain Rogge, (who was fluent in English), soon realised the importance of this intelligence windfall, which also contained….new cipher tables for the fleet, information on minefields and swept channels, maps and charts and British Secret Service reports. Subsequently he quickly transferred the documents onto the recently acquired prize ship ‘Ole Jacob’, wasting little time in ordering Lieutenant Commander Paul Kamenz, and six of his crew to take charge of the vessel. Kamenz supplemented shortfalls in manpower by making use of a large contingent of Norwegians rescued from the Jacob, and another Norwegian merchantman, sank by the Raider a few days earlier and after an uneventful voyage they arrived in Kobe- Japan, on December 4, 1940.
Within an hour of docking the German reporter ‘Herr Kehrmann’ boarded the vessel for the sole purpose of collecting the documents and delivering them to the German Naval Attaché in Tokyo, Admiral Paul Wenneker, who had already been informed of the Raiders haul. Who, on viewing their contents sent a highly detailed four-part cipher telegram to Naval H/Q Berlin. Subsequently on December 6, after making copies of the COS Appreciation, Wenneker entrusted the original documents with a courier, who journeyed by train through Russia (then still neutral) onto Germany. On arrival in Berlin….after scrupulous examination by relevant authorities a copy was sent to Captain Yokai, the Japanese Naval Attaché in Berlin. And on December 12 1940 he completed the Axis circle of distribution, by despatching a summary of contents to the Chief of Third Section, Naval Staff, Tokyo which stated:
From: Naval Attaché in Berlin.
To: Chief, Third Section Naval General Office Tokyo.
I have received from the German Navy the minutes of a meeting of the British Cabinet held on 15 August this year dealing with operations against Japan. The document will be sent by the next courier; meanwhile here are the main points:
1-Although Japan cherished the ambition of Capturing Singapore, the existing situation would not allow Britain to send her fleet to the Far East, and she must defend it by sending Army and Air Force reinforcements.
2. Japan would probably invade French Indo-China of Siam as a first stop, and the Netherlands East Indies and Singapore would follow. However, Britain was not in a position to resort to war in the event of an attack on French Indo-China or Siam.
3-Hong Kong would be abandoned, but would continue resistance as long as possible.
4.-If the operations against the Italians in the Mediterranean should proceed rapidly and successfully, it would be possible to send a fleet to the Far East.
5-Operations must be conducted jointly in the Netherlands East Indies.
6- Since it was probable that the Japanese would occupy Suva in the Fiji (?) Islands as a base, one Brigade must be sent there from New Zealand.
Navy Trans 08-12-45
Top Secret Ultra.
The same evening in Tokyo, Wenneker received permission from Berlin to hand the original report to Japans, Vice Admiral Kondo. An entry in the Attaché’s war diary dated, 1800hrs, December 12, 1940 recalls:
“Kondo repeatedly expressed to me how valuable the information contained in the British War Cabinet memorandum was for his navy. Such a significant weakening of the British Empire could not have been identified from outward appearances”.
Initially, it appears the Japanese were sceptical of the reports contents, believing it to be a German ploy designed to coax them into military action against Britain. However, events from December 27, 1940 up until January 21, 1941 clearly indicate that intelligence material taken from Automedon (in particular the Far Eastern Appreciation) were regarded as authentic and indicative of future British policy regarding the Far East. As on the former date, at a Liaison Conference meeting navy Minister Oikawa Koshiro stated….
According to our intelligence document, it is estimated that Britain would not go to war as long as Japan confines itself into advancing into French Indo-China, but war would become inevitable if Japan should advance into the Dutch East Indies”.
From this meeting onwards the Japanese adopted an expansionist attitude towards southern Indo-China, subsequently we can assume the captured COS Appreciation must have greatly contributed towards this move. Further evidence that the Automedon incident was influential in this policy was evident on January 21, 1941. when Captain Yamaguchi Bunjiro (head of 5th intelligence section - dealing with the USA) and Captain Horiuchi Shigetada (head of 8th intelligence section – dealing with Britain & India). Offered an intelligence report to appropriate parties within the Japanese General Staff. One issue dealt with Indo-China, on which the officers advised their commanders:
“Even if Japan sends forces into Indo-China, Britain will not go to war”