Captain Michael Howard

Intelligence officer who hunted Nazi scientists and documents.

Born. 26 May, 1926. Died 16 August, 2018,

Captain Michael Howard, who has died aged 92, was the youngest captain in the British army when he was despatched in 1946 on a very secret mission. He was attached to T-Force, with orders to search for anything of industrial or commercial value in Germany. Howard was T-Force’s Intelligence Officer and he had to locate documents and instruments of use to the UK’s post war effort. He also had to try to entice scientists to flee Germany immediately as the Soviets were making attractive offers to the high-powered boffins to flee to the Soviet Union.

Howard claimed, in a secret 1949 report, that T-Force removed goods and material to the value of £200m in the years after the war. That is now considered a considerable understatement. However the advanced technology that the Nazis had carried out on the likes of nuclear power, V2 rockets, jet engines and high speed submarines were discovered by T-Force and sent to London. As were commercial secrets - Courtauld’s, for example, received the latest information on manmade fibres and Dorman Long benefited from information originating from the Hermann Goering Steel Works.

Michael Henry Samuel Howard was born in Fiji, where his father was a Colonial Service officer. Howard attended Rugby School and in 1944, joined the Green Jackets Rifle Depot at Fulford Barracks, York. After Officer Training School Howard was commissioned into the Rifle Brigade and in 1946 was posted to T-Force.

In 1944 General Eisenhower issued an order to raise a Target Force which developed an intelligence commandos unit that had been the brainchild of Ian Fleming. T-Force’s task, as Howard wrote in his book was, “to ransack the entire Nazi military-industrial complex, removing all technology and intellectual property -- and sometimes people -- of value to the occupying power.”

He was centred at Kamen in the heart of the Ruhr near Dortmund. Howard later wrote: “We worked like bastards, it was months before we had a Saturday or Sunday off.” Howard was billeted in the house of the local doctor with whom he struck up a sincere friendship.

As the Cold War became a reality Germany was less viewed as the enemy and more in need of help. Collaboration with the Soviets was reduced as the Cold War got underway. Howard entertained a Soviet squad which arrived to inspect a factory for weapons. To ensure their inspection was cursory Howard had a party with copious supplies of vodka. When the papers were signed certain items in the factory were not listed.

Howard’s most delicate mission was to find and pack up in heavily protected containers 11,000kg of refined uranium ore that was in a Krupp factory in Essen – which was needed for UK nuclear research. As the crates were transported to an airfield Howard instructed the guards, “Arm yourself with a Sten gun, sit on the boxes, and if any bastard tries to take them away from you, shoot him!”

Howard was responsible for the evacuation of targeted material and highly sensitive documents. He ensured the smooth running of a very hazardous mission and fostered a dialogue with the defeated locals. This Howard did with great tact and despatched information and documents which proved of immense importance. Significantly, like Bletchley Park, T-Force remained secret until the government papers were declassified in 2oo6.

After the war Howard read Modern and Medieval Languages at Peterhouse College, Cambridge. He spent 13 years with the US-based international conglomerate WR Grace in Central America and then with the Lloyds Bank Group. He retired in 1986.

He published Otherwise Occupied: Letters Home from the Ruins of Nazi Germany (2010), a memoir of his service in T-Force.

In 1954 Howard married Ann Gunter who predeceased him and he is survived by their two sons and a daughter.

Alasdair Steven