25. The Alarming Reports of a Vast Subversive Network Throughout New Zealand
For three months, Sydney Ross reported back to Major Folkes about the results of his undercover work. It was alarming information, which Folkes passed in turn on to the New Zealand government’s bigwigs. Apparently, enemy subversives were more widespread and dangerous than anybody had imagined. They planned to blow up key targets, kidnap or assassinate Prime Minister Fraser, Minister of National Service Semple, and other cabinet members, all as a prelude to a Japanese invasion. Ross claimed that the network was headed by his prison pal Alfred Remmers, now dying of leukemia and living in the countryside, and that Remmers’ house in Wellington was the conspirators’ base of operations.
In July, 1942, Folkes demanded that the government supply him with troops, declare martial law, and grant his SIB emergency powers to arrest and detain suspects without trial. Before he suspended civil rights throughout New Zealand, Fraser asked the police to investigate. In no time flat, they discovered that the supposed “Nazi headquarters” was occupied by an elderly government clerk, a dry cleaners, and three nurses, all innocent of any foreign contacts, let alone subversion and espionage. To Folkes’ horror, it began to dawn on him that the SIB might have committed yet another blunder, this one the worst yet.