He looked like the very model of a Gestapo interegator: the cigarette holder; the hard, uncompromising manner; the rapid-fire way he'd bark questions to the prisoner; and most of all, the thick, gleaming monocle that gave him his nickname. But Lt. Col. Robin "Tin Eye" Stephens worked for MI5. During World War II he commanded "Camp 020", based in a prison called Latchmere House in south London, and oversaw the interrogations of German spies.
Although he publicly stated that "Figuratively, a spy in war should be at the point of a bayonet," he had a firm policy of never torturing or physically harming his prisoners. "Never strike a man," he said. "It is unintelligent, for the spy will give an answer to please, an answer to escape punishment. And having given a false answer, all else depends upon the false premise."
His methods worked. Not only did he gain useful intelligence from his prisoners, but many of them became double agents working for the British.
After the war, he was assigned to an interrogation center at Bad Nenndorf, a town near Hanover in Germany. Physical conditions at the prison were harsh and the center was badly understaffed. Some of the prisoners died, leading to public outcry and a series of courts martial. Stephens was exonerated of all charges, although one of the staff medical officers was convicted of medical neglect.
By all accounts, Stephens was a hard man, but a professional one. He believed that the quick benefits an interrogator might gain through physical abuse were outweighed by the long-term consequences of those acts. The only way to induce a prisoner to give all the relevant information he knew, was to follow a strict rule of non-violence
After the Bad Nenndorf scandal, Stephens became a Security Service liaison officer, serving at several posts abroad.
Game and Story Use
- In a World War II era campaign, the PC's might meet up with him at Latchmere House. Hopefully delivering spies to his custody and not being accused of espionage themselves!
- GMs who enjoyed playing the video games Hammer & Sickle and Silent Storm might essay a campaign in the ruins of post war Germany in which Bad Nenndorf might play a signficant part.
- Stephens might make a good model for a ruthless, but principled interrogator in an espionage campaign.
- The story of how during World War II, British Intelligence managed to turn the German spy network in Britain against itself makes a good plot in and of itself.
- In an alternate history campaign one of the German Agencies might run a sucessful poison bait operation against MI-5/6 and lead to PCs working for British Intelligence ending up on the guest list at Latchmere.
- The nickname "Tin Eye" referred to the Colonel's steel-rimmed monocle, but in a science fiction or a steampunk campaign that name could be given to a character with a literal metal prosthetic eye.
- Doesn't even have to be high-tech. A non-functional metal "eye" inserted like a glass eye would be a creepy touch for a sinister NPC.
- In a magic campaign, the metallic false eye might be (even more) functional anyway.