T-Force was composed of US Army and British Army units assigned to secure designated targets as well as additional targets of opportunity before they could be destroyed by retreating German forces or looters during the final stages of World War II and the period after the German surrender. Originally focusing on targets that might yield important intelligence, particularly as related to military technology, they were also tasked with seizing and interrogating Nazi German scientists and businessmen in the aftermath of VE Day. Even as Nazi resistance collapsed, it was feared that Nazi technology had been transferred to Japan and might still threaten US troops in the Pacific, but T-Force activities could also be seen as the beginning of the Cold War, which may account for the scarcity of publicly available information on T-Force activities. An important goal, though it could not be acknowledged at the time, was to prevent Nazi technology from falling into Russian hands. One such operation, Operation Eclipse under Tony Hibbert, to seize Kiel, was executed in defiance of the agreement between US and British forces and the forces of the USSR to divide post-war Germany into zones of influence. The operations of the T-Force were among the largest "exploitation operations" carried out by the allies. Another important objective of T-Force was preventing damage to infrastructure such as telephone exchanges that would be useful to occupying forces and in the rebuilding of Germany.
The Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) under General Eisenhower issued a directive to create T-Forces soon after the Normandy Landings. T-Forces were ordered to "identify, secure, guard and exploit valuable and special information, including documents, equipment and persons of value to the Allied armies". T-Force units were attached to the three army groups on the western front; the Sixth United States Army Group, 21st Army Group and 12th US Army Group. The targets of the T-Force were selected and recommended by the Combined Intelligence Objectives Subcommittee (CIOS). T-Force units were lightly armed and highly mobile.
T-Force units accompanied combat units when capturing industrial plants, or arrived soon afterward to take control of them. They had to prevent any looting or sabotaging in the plants, and were responsible for ensuring that key personnel did not escape and no documents were removed. Once the T-Force took control of a plant, CIOS would be informed of it, and investigators were sent there immediately.
A notable achievement of the T-Force was the seizing of Kiel on 4 May 1945. Allied troops had been ordered not to move north past Bad Segeberg by this time. However, a T-Force group led by Major Tony Hibbert was given permission to advance to Kiel and seize the targets there. Not knowing that this permission was given in error, the T-Force moved into Kiel unopposed, and took control of their assigned targets. A strong German force was present in the city, which was reluctant to surrender when asked by the T-Force, until Admiral Karl Dönitz instructed them to do so.
Operations in post-war Germany
In post war Germany, T-Force was tasked with carrying out abductions of German scientists and businessmen. One of the objectives of these abductions was to recover military secrets of Nazi Germany. In addition to this, the abductions of the scientists enabled Britain to use their knowledge in building up the British economy after the war, and also prevented the Soviet Union from obtaining their knowledge. The knowledge obtained from businessmen and technicians was used to improve British industries.
For example, Courtauld’s received the latest information on manmade fibres, Dorman Long benefited from information and equipment originating from the Hermann Goering Steel Works and even the British coal industry had pit props sent to them from the Harz Mountains. On the military side much information was gathered, which could have been vital, had the war in the Far East not ended so soon.
Apart from this, there were wider political and economic implications, including the significance of the early liberation of Kiel, which prevented the Russians from adding Schleswig-Holstein and the Jutland Peninsula to their area of influence, as indeed they temporarily did with the Danish island of Bornholm. The unit's role remained secret until very recently, coming to wider notice only with the publication of Sean Longden’s book T Force, the Race for Nazi War Secrets, 1945 in September 2010.
Old Comrades' Association
An Old Comrades' Association (OCA) was formed on 24 March 1990, approved by the King's Regimental Colonel Major-General Peter Davies. At its height the OCA had a membership of 60, today it is 30—scattered around some 25 locations in the UK and a couple abroad.
A book, T Force Story was published in 2005, with copies presented to HM the Queen of Denmark, HRH the Prince of Wales, HRH Prince Joachim of Denmark and HH Duke Jost of Stolberg. This was followed up with a DVD, supported by a lottery grant, and distributed free of charge to some 60 Army Museums, education authorities in the north-west of England, King's RHQ and branches. Countless interviews have been given to press, radio and TV, in the UK, in Denmark and Germany. Technical help has been given to the Kiel Archives on the production of a book and DVD Kiel May 1945, there has been similar co-operation with the archives in Preetz, and with research on a book about Eckernfoerde immediately after the Second World War, produced by their historical society and interviews with German film production company LOOKS, for their documentary series Damals nach dem Krieg.
The BBC's The One Show showed a short feature on T-Force on 13 July 2010 to mark the publication of Sean Longden's book: T Force, the Race for German War Secrets, 1945, following his earlier book To the Victor the Spoils.
The association produces a quarterly newsletter 'Free Lance' (the same name as the post-war unit magazine published between 7 August 1945 and July 1947), with issue No 80 to appear later this year. The association also enjoys special relations with a number of towns and cities in Denmark and Germany, and has been honoured by official receptions: in Kolding and Aarhus in Denmark, Kiel, Goslar, Bad Nenndorf and Hanover in Germany. The King's were offered the 'Freedom of the City' in Kolding, but unfortunately, due to transport expenses this had to be declined. Operta Aperta, the motto of 5 King’s / 2 T Force, translated: "From darkness comes light", accurately describes the chaos which was Germany in May 1945 and the following rapid development of technology in the western world.
Following representation from the 5th Battalion, Kings (Liverpool) Regiment / 2d T-Force OCA, to recognise his achievements in securing a peaceful transfer of power in Kiel and leading a small British unit of just A and B Companies of 5th Battalion, King's, Major Hibbert MBE MC received the Great Seal of the City of Kiel on 19 June 2010 at his home, Trebah Gardens, from the hands of the Honorary German Consul to Devon/Cornwall, Mrs Angela Spatz.
- Judt, Matthias; Ciesla, Burghard (1996). Technology transfer out of Germany after 1945. Routledge. p. 63. ISBN 3-7186-5822-4. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
- Gimbel, John (1990). Science, technology, and reparations: exploitation and plunder in postwar Germany. Stanford University Press. pp. 3–4. ISBN 0-8047-1761-3. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
- Stewart, Payne (30 August 2007). "How Britain put Nazis' top men to work". The Telegraph. Retrieved 1 September 2009.
- Bellamy, Matthew J. (2005). Profiting the crown: Canada's Polymer Corporation, 1942-1990. McGill-Queen's Press. pp. 109–110. ISBN 0-7735-2815-6. Retrieved 31 August 2009.Profiting the crown: Canada's Polymer Corporation, 1942-1990
- Jones, Gwilym Thomas (2001). Living history chronicles. General Store Publishing House. pp. 102–104. ISBN 1-894263-50-2. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
- Cobain, Ian (29 August 2007). "How T-Force abducted Germany's best brains for Britain". The Guardian.