Nazi Youth was accused of using cycling tours to gather intelligence
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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Nazi Youth was accused of using cycling tours to gather intelligence

by VeloNation Press at 9:54 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling

Referring to sporting clashes as warfare is not unheard of, especially amongst writers in an over-dramatic mood, but at times there can be an element of truth in the description. It has emerged that just over 70 years ago, the MI5 suspected that the Nazi Youth were using cycling tours of Britain to gather intelligence prior to the start of World War II two years later.

According to the Telegraph newspaper, a 1937 article in the Daily Herald detailed instructions given to sportsmen who were going overseas. Printed in the German Cyclist, a publication connected to the German National Union for Physical Culture, it urged those going abroad to use that time to take very careful and detailed note of their surroundings.

“Impress on your memory the roads and paths, villages and towns, outstanding church towers and other landmarks so that your will not forget them,” the Telegraph quotes. “Make a note of the names of places, rivers, seas and mountains. Perhaps you may be able to utilise these sometime for the benefit of the Fatherland .

“Should you come to a bridge which interests you, examine the construction and the materials used. Learn to measure and estimate the width of streams. Wade through fords so that you will be able to find them in the dark.”

It also states that the former MI5 chief Vernon Kell had been tipped off that five members of the Hitler Youth plus seven boy scouts were travelling to the South of England to do an eight day tour.

He informed police nationwide that the Hitler Youth was in Britain and the individuals concerned were tracked.

A 1944 report underlined that the Hitler Youth was “not a boy scout or girl guide organisation. It is a compulsory Nazi formation, which has consciously sought to breed hate, treachery and cruelty into the mind and soul of every German child,” it stated.

Many cyclists fought during the world wars, with Fausto Coppi one of those who was imprisoned. Gino Bartali was a member of the Italian resistance and used his bike to smuggle documents and pass messages. He is credited with saving the lives of countless Jews. 

Earlier, the 1909 and 1910 Tour de France winners François Faber and Octave Lapize were killed during World War I. The 1907/1908 champion Lucien Petit-Breton also met his end there, although his death was caused by a traffic accident while at the battlefront.

Sometimes, unfortunately, the link between cyclists and war is more than just hyperbole.


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