Hoots from the Archive - Ian Bailey's War: Operation Anthropoid

Posted by Rachel Kneale on 16 May 2024

Modified by Rachel Kneale on 16 May 2024

Ian Bailey

The story of Ian Bailey’s night guarding Deputy Nazi Fuhrer Rudolf Hess in a cell at Maryhill Barracks, Glasgow is well known. Hess was probably certifiably insane and was no loss to the Nazi cause. Perhaps surprisingly, however, only one leading Nazi left the German power structure due to assassination and Ian Bailey had a hand in that too! SS Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich was a key member of Hitler’s entourage and a special favourite of the Fuhrer perhaps because of his typically Aryan looks and also because of his ruthless efficiency. It was he who chaired the fateful Wannsee Conference in January 1942 that decided on the implementation of “The Final Solution”. In September 1941 he had taken over as the “Protector” of Czechoslovakia which had been invaded by Germany in March 1939. His cruel leadership led the Czech government in exile headed by Prime Minister Eduard Benes to decide on a daring plan to assassinate Heydrich. Two agents (one Czech, one Slovak) were selected for “Operation Anthropoid” and sent to SOE for training. The Special Operations Executive was one of the most secret organizations of the war sending agents to all the Nazi and Italian occupied countries of Europe to commit acts of sabotage, to encourage local resistance and to gain intelligence. Training was rigorous and nearly always  included a stint in a remote estate at Arisaig in the far NW Highlands of Scotland. Here the “students” were taught the dark arts of sabotage, self-defence and if necessary silent killing or assassination.

After his heroics with Hess I suspect Ian Bailey came to the notice of SOE and was recruited. He may have seen active service before becoming an instructor at Arisaig. While he was always happy to talk about the Hess incident he remained tight lipped about his years with SOE with one exception. Of his time at Arisaig he told me with quite some emphasis that he had trained Czech agents – he did not specify any other nationality although there were many there. The two agents who were sent to kill Heydrich were at Arisaig in the autumn of 1941 at exactly the time Ian Bailey was there. I am sure that Ian wanted me to know that he had helped to train the two incredibly brave men who carried out the only successful assassination of a Nazi leader in Prague on 27 May 1942.

The consequences of Heydrich’s demise were dire – over 5000 Czechs were killed in reprisals and the village of Lidice liquidated – Hitler’s fury knew no bounds and Albert Speer had to restrain him by pointing out that Czechs were valuable workers for the German war effort.

So famous is Operation Anthropoid that it has spawned no less than 11 films the best known being Operation Daybreak (1974) and Anthropoid (2016) – the latter  starring Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan. The Arisaig scenes feature the men who trained the agents but Ian Bailey remained uncredited!

Jeremy Ward


keith smith

1 Like Posted 2 months ago

I loved Ian Bailey (known from Scottish Treks) and I found the article fascinating. Yes Lidice was ravished to the ground and my wife's grandfather as a miners' leader in the midlands and Mayor of Tamworth helped raise money to rebuild it, for which he was recognised by the Czech government. I contacted the director of the museum in Lidice to see if they would be interested in any of our material. However she was very cagey and said that she was about to be replaced (she did not know why!).

Peter Barnes

1 Like Posted one month ago

Ian Bailey was my form master in my second year at school (1968-9) and I wonder if your opening remarks are as full as they might be?  He told us quite clearly that he was the arresting officer when Rudolf Hess landed in Scotland.

This was following one of the boys in my form asking if he had seen the plane landing in the dark before he captured the Nazi officer.  Mr Bailey was at pains to explain that he didn't personally capture Hess but, as the senior officer on duty, the Deputy Fuhrer was brought to him for the formal arrest.  It seems to me that to be the arresting officer is a little more impressive than just being a guard.  I believe that this was also the information in an article published in the Old Mancunian many years ago.

The last time I saw Granville Ian Shaw Bailey (his full name fascinated us) was at an Old Boys' Dinner in the Freemasons' Hall.  He recognised me in the lobby and made a caustic remark about having been given an evening pass by the warders at the prison in which he now lived.

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