SECRET EXERCISE KNOWN AS
'OPERATION HIGHLAND CLEARANCE'
five OF A SIX
PART SPECIAL ARTICLE by
- - One
of these 'names' was alive and well and living in Ireland.
In 1941 Gouldbourn had
acted as this officer's escort, during his court martial in Nairobi.
Because he had been the
youngest officer in uniform, clemency had been exercised.
Had he been older he
would have been shot for colluding with the enemy; I was told, that
this anonymous fellow, was vital to further research.
Faced with this needle
in a haystack situation, I did not know where to turn next.
Luckily, I happened to
be lunching with the Peter Lydon the film director that week, whose
documentary about Peter Sellers, was acclaimed.
We hoped he would direct
a documentary on the Erroll mystery too.
Peter consulted his
Irish telephone directory and produced two alternative numbers.
I have to confess that
when I dialled those numbers it was with a thumping heart.
Even if this 'contact'
turned out to be the right person, I feared that I might easily scare
His wife answered,
calling out the man's Christian name (-Ah - correct): Her Irish brogue
was pure McCourt, instructing, "Hold On."
As if nurturing second
thoughts she demanded:
"Why, do you
want to talk to him ?"
I was researching for a
book set during the Second World War in Kenya where I also lived, I
explained and since her husband had been stationed in Nairobi I knew
that he might be able to help me, according to one of his brother
The result of this brief
exchange produced a corres-pondence which continues today.
At first, my contact had
tried to fob me off with the same old 'Happy Valley' theme;
when I stood my ground, he admitted eventually that he had been in
Generously allowing me
to use his cover name, in the narrative S.P.J. O'Mara agreed, 'so that
those who are still alive and sufficiently interested, would recognise
me as bonafide.'
Even so, the most
astonishing contact of all was yet to come and was also another total
A Kenya born woman,
Anthea Venning, had responded to an advertisement which the editor of
a magazine, 'The Overseas Pensioner' had kindly placed for me,
inviting readers to come forward with photographs or anecdotes about
Lord Erroll, for my biography.
Only after corresponding
for months, upon meeting her face to face, did I discover that she was
sister of Eleanor Fazan, the choreographer.
It so happened that
Eleanor had been a dear friend of mine for some twenty years and yet
our friendship had focused on dance and theatre even though I knew
that Eleanor Fazan had been born in Kenya, I had no idea that she had
It was through Anthea
Venning, that I was to meet Tony Trafford, the man who provided me
with an astonishingly detailed information of a highly secret exercise
to eradicate the Earl of Erroll, known as 'Operation Highland
Tony Trafford told me
about the 'hit' but as the exercise was highly complex and impossible
to follow verbally, he put in writing all that he knew about the
We had spent a day
discussing the murder in Old Portsmouth and afterwards, I had imagined
that he would post to me a dozen pages of sketchy detail.
Instead he provided me
with some 25, 000 words, revealing also that an entirely separate team
of people, retired government servants in some cases, had been brought
out of mothballs so as to work on a separate agenda, under cover and
behind the conventional police investigation of the murder in 1941.