Vital information on Hitler's Berghof routine was provided by the guard on Hitler's immediate left. He stands with his back to the camera.
While indecision, dissent, argument and prevarication prevailed as this question was discussed, a rather more pragmatic attitude was taken when considering the second. An unnamed (perhaps fortuitously) SOE staff officer of the German Section was asked to prepare an operational plan for an assassination of Hitler, and this plan was given the codename Foxley. The original document is amongst the files of SOE, now available in the Public Record Office at Kew.
The product of the officer's deliberations is an impressively bulky file. Copious detail is provided on Hitler's alpine retreat at Berchtesgaden in Bavaria, extensive documentary and photographic evidence is provided concerning his limousines and trains, and there are even colour sketches of the uniforms worn by his bodyguard.
In addition to the background, the author outlines the recommended methods for an assassination attempt in Bavaria - these consisted of a shooting, by one or more snipers, a bazooka attack, and the poisoning of the water supply on the Führer's train. The author contemplates several even more speculative options, such as flinging a suitcase full of explosives under Hitler's train as it passed through a railway station.
The process of identifying and recruiting the would-be perpetrators of what would surely have been the most notorious assassination of modern times is rather glossed over. Various groups are mentioned; perhaps they might be anti-Nazi Germans, perhaps Czechoslovaks, perhaps French forced labour workers and perhaps even a party of SAS.
How the agents/soldiers were to arrive in Bavaria and, just as importantly (at least for the assassins), how they were to make their escape are not discussed. Undismayed by the vagueness of the Foxley plan, SOE went on ambitiously to ponder additional schemes - known as little Foxleys - plans to liquidate other leading members of the Nazi hierarchy.
Whatever the inadequacies of the main Foxley plan - there is no room in a brief article to enumerate them all - there is one flaw that clamours for attention amongst a plethora of redundant data about things like the intricacies of collar insignia, or the design of railway carriages (a decade out of date). The bottom line in any assassination plot is that you cannot kill someone if you do not know the whereabouts of your intended victim.
Chances of success?
Such an operation had been attempted before, without success, by the Soviet air force in November 1941 using intelligence supplied by the British. By 1944, however, the RAF had managed to achieve remarkable accuracy with their low-level pinpoint raids against targets in occupied Europe. Similarly, with pre-knowledge of Hitler's itinerary, arrangements might have been made to attack his train through the use of aircraft, sabotage the railway line, or even put poison in the water system of his train. Finally with good information about the victim's whereabouts, assassins might have been recruited, trained, infiltrated and put in place to await the right opportunity.
The attempt on Hitler's life in July 1944 (see above) had shown that even close access to the Führer's headquarters did not ensure success. So there was no hope of an outsider bluffing their way into Hitler's entourage to carry out the deed. On the other hand, if Hitler had decided to return to his Bavarian retreat (in fact he left it on 14 July 1944, never to return), a dedicated assassin or team of assassins might well have stood some chance of success.
After this flight of fantasy, one might do well to consider the course of events that resulted in the assassination of the leading Nazi official SS-Obergrüppenführer Reinhard Heydrich. In December 1941 Czechoslovak agents trained by SOE were parachuted into their own homeland on Operation Anthropoid. It was not until six months later, on 27 May 1942, that they were able to mount the attack - with the result that their quarry died of his wounds a week later.
One wonders how closely the Foxley author had studied SOE's Anthropoid files. If he had, the evidence of the Czechoslovak agents' patience, dedication, commitment, training, professionalism and, crucially, local support, might have revealed the immense contribution made by these attributes to the success of the operation. By learning these lessons Foxley might have developed into a sensible operational schema, rather than resembling the first draft of a thriller by Geoffrey Household.