These three people are among the unsung heroes from years at war. Meet the station commander, the librarian and the spy.
In November 2019 as part of its centenary celebrations GCHQ disclosed a number of secrets from its history. One related to its first female station commander – Pamela Pigeon. In 1937 Pamela Pigeon (b1918), from New Zealand, arrived at LSE to study for the BSc (Econ) hoping to specialise in economic history. She obtained her degree in 1948.
In September 1940 Pigeon informed LSE that she was joining the Women’s Air Auxiliary Force (WAAF). She received a commission in 1941 and remained in the service until December 1945. Like many people bound by the Official Secrets Act for their war service Pigeon never revealed her war time work even to her family.
In 1943 at the age of 25 she was appointed station commander at RAF Marston Montgomery. This collection of wooden huts with a staff of 100 people was the centre for radio fingerprinting. Once operators would identify an individual radio, they were able to piece together troop, aircraft and ship movements. Definitely a case of “doing a special job”.
Eduard Rosenbaum (1887-1979) arrived at LSE from Nazi Germany with the support of the Academic Assistance Council. Following a distinguished career, he was removed from the editorship of the influential economics journal Wirtschaftsdienst in 1933 under the Nazi policy of “Aryanisation”, to remove Jews from jobs in the public service. He applied to the newly established Academic Assistance Council, but its founder William Beveridge was not initially supportive, considering him “essentially a librarian” and not an academic. Thanks, however, to Keynes’ persistence, Eduard arrived with his family in the UK in 1934 and was appointed to LSE as Assistant Librarian in charge of acquisitions in 1935, the first holder of this post.
On 1 September 1939 the Ministry of Economic Warfare took over LSE buildings and with the advent of war Eduard became one of many thousands of enemy aliens of German origin, effectively excluding him from what was now a government office. All registered aliens were required to appear before a tribunal and Eduard’s case was heard on 24 October at Lambeth Town Hall. Exempted from all restrictions, he returned to work at LSE on 30 October 1939. In the summer of 1940, however, he was caught up in a new wave of agitation against enemy aliens and was interned on the Isle of Man. Ironically, on the other side of the Channel, his name appeared on a Gestapo wanted list. Amid a general outcry against the treatment of internees Keynes immediately intervened on behalf of Rosenbaum and others.
After nearly three months of internment Rosenbaum was released on 23 September 1940 and returned to the LSE Library. He retired in 1952.
Charles Milne Skepper
LSE Sociology student, teacher and finally posthumous benefactor, Charles Milne Skepper (1905-?) worked as a Special Operations Executive agent during the Second World War. He was a student at LSE 1926-29, earning a First in the BSc (Econ), and in 1939 volunteered for military service. He was later in charge of the propaganda broadcasting station of the British Ministry of Information in Shanghai. When the Japanese invaded, he was captured and imprisoned but repatriated in an exchange of diplomats in December 1941. In 1942 he applied to join the Special Operations Executive (SOE), citing LSE’s Morris Ginsberg as a referee. Skepper was parachuted into France in June 1943 to work with the French Resistance but was arrested in March 1944 after betrayal by a French national working for the Gestapo.
Skepper was one of the few SOE agents whose fate has never been finally resolved. His death was officially recognised by the War Office on 28 October 1946, where it was recorded as “Presumed died while in enemy hands on or shortly after 1 April 1944”. That date may have been too early. One possibility is that Skepper was executed in Buchenwald concentration camp in the autumn of 1944. Skepper’s SOE file ends with a document dated 10 February 1948. He was awarded a posthumous MBE, a Croix de Guerre avec Palme and a L’Ordre de l’Armée.
Skepper’s name is memorialised on the LSE war memorial in the Old Building, Brookwood Memorial in Surrey and in the SOE F Section Memorial at Valençay in France.
This post was originally published to mark LSE’s 125th anniversary in 2020/21. These profiles have been adapted from: Pamela Pigeon by Sue Donnelly, Charles Milne Skepper by Chris Husbands and Eduard Rosenbaum by Graham Camfield. Read about many more of our unsung heroes in LSE and wartime.