Richard Meinertzhagen bigraphy, stories - British soldier, intelligence officer and ornithologist

Richard Meinertzhagen : biography

3 March 1878 - 17 June 1967

Colonel Richard Henry Meinertzhagen, CBE, DSO (3 March 1878 – 17 June 1967) was a British soldier, intelligence officer and ornithologist.

The Meinertzhagen Mystery

Richard Meinertzhagen has inspired three biographies since his death in 1967 and was lauded as one of the grand elder statesman of espionage and ornithology.Garfield, p. vii His diaries provided source material for historians and books, for countless exploits of arms and wit against the enemies of the British Empire. He was trusted by Churchill, David Lloyd George, Chaim Weizmann, David Ben Gurion, T.E. Lawrence and many more.

Brian Garfield's 2007 book The Meinertzhagen Mystery attempts to show that he bamboozled them all, that Meinertzhagen lived (as the subtitle of the book states) "[t]he Life and Legend of a Colossal Fraud." Detailed in 352 pages are the many ways in which he was a liar and a charlatan. It debunks many myths and proves that previously accepted "facts" about his life and feats are untrue, including the famous haversack incident, which Meinertzhagen neither came up with nor carried out.Garfield, p. 14-36 Meinertzhagen recorded in his published diaries three meetings on separate dates with Adolf Hitler. Although Meinertzhagen was in Berlin on these dates in 1934, 1935 and 1939, author Garfield found no record of any of these alleged meetings in surviving German chancellory records, British embassy files, British intelligence reports or newspapers of the day.Garfield, p. 188-192 Some of the research by Garfield has, however, been questioned.

"People’s views of [Meinertzhagen] seldom coincide, but one mystery that connects the dots even while it obscures them is this: How and why did such a large number of diverse people of prominence share knowledge of his fakery — or at least suspect it — and choose not to disclose it?"Garfield, p. 10

Published works

Meinertzhagen wrote numerous papers for scientific journals such as the Ibis, as well as reports on intelligence work while in the army. Books authored or edited by him include:

  • 1930 – Nicoll’s Birds of Egypt. (Ed), (2 vols). London: Hugh Rees
  • 1947 – The Life of a Boy: Daniel Meinertzhagen, 1925–1944. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd
  • 1954 – Birds of Arabia. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd
  • 1957 – Kenya Diary 1902–1906. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd.
  • 1959 – Middle East Diary, 1917–1956. London: Cresset Press
  • 1959 – Pirates and Predators. The piratical and predatory habits of birds. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd
  • 1960 – Army Diary 1899–1926. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd
  • 1964 – Diary of a Black Sheep. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd

Background and youth

Meinertzhagen was born into a socially connected, wealthy British family. Richard's father, Daniel Meinertzhagen VI, was head of the Frederick Huth & Co merchant-bank dynasty with an international reputation, second in importance to the Rothschilds.Garfield, The Meinertzhagen Mystery, p. viii His mother was Georgina Potter, sister of Beatrice Webb, a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Meinertzhagen's surname derives from the town Meinerzhagen in Germany, the home of an ancestor.During World War I, in an apparent effort to overcome rampant Germanophobia, Meinertzhagen invented the fiction of Danish ancestry [Garfield, p. 7] On his mother's side (the wealthy Potters), he was of English descent. Among his relations, in large numbers, were "many of Britain’s titled, rich and influential personages." Although he had his doubts, he was a distant descendant of Philip III of Spain.Garfield, p. 70

Young Richard was sent as a boarding student to Aysgarth School in the north of England, then was enrolled at Fonthill in Sussex and finally at Harrow School where his time overlapped with Winston Churchill.Garfield, p. 46 In 1895 at age eighteen, with reluctance, he obeyed his father and joined the family bank as a clerk. He was assigned to offices in Cologne and Bremen. He picked up the German language but remained uninterested in banking. After he returned to England in 1897 to the bank’s home office he received his father’s approval to join a territorial militia of weekend soldiers called the Hampshire Yeomanry. He would marry the colonel’s daughter Armorel Le Roy-Lewis in 1911; she would later divorce him in 1919.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine