files made public today reveal the remarkable role of the Double
Cross spy system in Hitler's defeat. Around 120 spies sent to
Britain were captured and then 'turned' to become double agents
working for the Allies.
Double Cross meant, according
to one spymaster, that MI5 'ran the German espionage system in
this country' during the war.
Here Mattew Hickley unveils
tales of the brave and the bizarre from the files.
THE DOG THAT NEARLY
SCUPPERED D-DAY :
It was the time when the
Allies were preparing for the greatest seabourne invasion in history.
On its success depended the liberation of Europe from the Nazis.
Then, weeks before D-Day,
the titanic operation was put in potentially mortal danger by
the fate of a spy's dog. Frisson was the beloved pet of double
agent Nathalie Sergueiew, codename Treasure. According to MI5's
Double Cross files, Treasure was highly-strung and troublesome.
She was also invaluable in feeding false information to her German
'masters' which helped the invasion of Normandy succeed.
Yet, less than a month
before the landings, Treasure threatened to 'blow' the delicate
deception surrounding the location of the landings. Her motive
was revenge for the death of Frisson, which she blamed on the
British for failing to smuggle him to London from Gibraltar.
Her fit of temper could
have undermined the entire invasion by leading the German High
Command to move its feared Panzer tank regiments from Calais to
Normandy, ready to beat the Allies back into the sea.
A French woman of Russian
extraction, Treasure was recruited after the fall of France by
German intelligence - the Abwehr - through a journalist friend.
She was trained in espionage and sent to Britain via neutral Spain.
But once in Madrid she went straight to the British Consulate
and offered to work for the Allies. Unfortunately when she was
taken to London, Frisson was left behind in Gibraltar.
In Britain she became a
cornerstone of Double Cross, using written codes to send false
intelligence back to Germany. She later travelled to Lisbon in
Portugal to collect a radio transmitter from her spymaster Emile
Kliemann. Treasure played a major part in Operation Fortitude
- the scheme that convinced the Nazis that the invasion would
be near Calais. It was to be the Double Cross system's finest
hour. But in London all was not well.
Treasure's boyfriend in
Gibraltar had reneged on a promise to help smuggle Frisson to
Britain. Her MI5 handler Mary Sherer warned in a December 1943
memo : 'She is very upset about the absence of her dog, and has
seriously threatened that if the dog does not arrive soon she
will not any more. I am afraid her American boyfriend has let
her down and has no intention of smuggling the dog over here.
I am wondering whether we could get the Navy to help.'
With six months to go to
D-day, MI5 learned that during
a trip to Gibraltar Treasure had told boyfriend Kenneth Larson
that she was working for MI5 - posing a huge risk to her cover
and the whole deception.
'She said she had been
very stupid, but she had fallen in love with Larson and he with
her, and for some reason of her own, she had told him to see if
he trusted her,' Sherer noted. Alarmed as it was, MI5 had little
choice but to proceed with its plans. Then disaster. Treasure
learned that Frisson had died in Gibraltar.
On May 17, 1944, less than
a month before the invasion, she told MI5 she intended to blow
the operation by sending messages to her German handlers omitting
the codewords which told the Nazis her transmissions were genuine.
Sherer reported : 'She confessed that her motive was revenge for
the death of her dog for which she considered we were responsible.'
Although she changed her
mind, MI5, unsurprisingly, no longer trusted her. By then, however,
the Germans had been fooled over the Normandy landings. MI5 and
Treasure were to part on bitter terms. She returned to liberated
France where she threatened to publish her memoirs and denounced
her former employers as 'gangsters'.
An exasperated Colonel
TA Robertson noted in her file : 'I don't honestly think there
is anything we can do with this wretched woman. She will always
be a source of trouble to us, no matter what restrictions we impose
on her - short of life imprisonment.'
CRIMINAL WHO REVELLED
IN ADVENTURE :
Of all the Double Cross
agents, Edward Chapman was the most flamboyant and daring. Before
the war, Chapman - codename Zig-Zag - was a deserter, fraudster,
burglar, safe-cracker and sexual blackmailer. But the world of
espionage was to make him a secret hero.
In 1940 he was in a Jersey
jail when the Nazis arrived. He offered his services to the Abwehr
which quickly spotted his talents - particularly his handsome
looks and suave manner. He trained as a saboteur and spy, and
was popular with Nazi officers who toasted him with champagne
when he left in December 1942 to be parachuted into East Anglia.
But Chapman hated Germany,
was desperate for adventure, and for once was ready to be honest.
He gave himself up immediately and was rushed to London and the
Double Cross HQ, which was run by the intelligence services' Twenty
Committee - so called because the Roman numerals for 20, XX, form
a double cross.
MI5 chiefs could not help
but admire him. Camp 020's commandant wrote : 'Of fear he knows
nothing. Adventure to Chapman is the breath of life. Given adventure
he has the courage to achieve the unbelievable.' Chapman's mission
was to sabotage the Mosquito bomber factory in Hatfield, Hertfordshire.
MI5 went into overdrive, and staged an extraordinary mock explosion
at the De Havilland plant.
His German spymasters were
delighted. Back in occupied Europe he was greeted as a hero. The
Abwehr gave him 110,000 marks, his own yacht and granted him freedom
of Oslo. He was put to work training spies in Norway but, after
D-day, he was parachuted into Britain again.
Zig-zag was once more hailed
as a hero - this time by MI5 - and handed over masses of intelligence
on Nazi agents in Britain. His spying career ended when he admitted
telling a girlfriend in Norway about being a double agent. Although
he trusted her, MI5 could not risk sending him back buy did pay
him handsomely and quashed his criminal convictions. By 1945,
the files reveal MI5 watching to see whether Zig-zag would return
to his criminal past. Chapman became a health spa manager in Hertfordshire.
Harold Cole was a double
agent who turned bad - at a huge human cost. A petty crook before
the war, he escaped capture at Dunkirk
and went to work for MI6 in France. But his 'excessive craving
for women' led him to embezzle MI6 funds.
Caught by the Gestapo in
1942, he was 'turned' betraying at least 50 Resistance heroes
most of whom were shot, including his own mistress. Cole was exposed
in 1944 when seen at the Gestapo's Paris HQ in German uniform.
But he later managed to convince the advancing U.S. army he was
on their side and he was made a field intelligence officer, allowing
him to build up a fortune in cash, cars, wine and weapons.
On the run after the war,
Cole met his end in 1946 when he died in a gunfight with police
at a Paris nightclub.
Welsh engineer Arthur Owens
- known as Snow - was the first Double Cross spy, helping MI5
to crack Germany's Enigma military codes. One of his Berlin-ordered
missions was to oversee arms shipments to Welsh nationalists for
an uprising to coincide with a Nazi invasion.
Snow, who was recruited
by the Nazis before the war, was arrested here in 1939. He agreed
to work as a double agent, and contacted his German handlers from
jail. His false intelligence reports, encoded in France using
Enigma and radioed to Berlin, were vital to the Bletchley Park
codebreakers. Snow also helped capture numerous Nazi spies, including
all those dropped by parachute or boat in England in 1940.
Mattew Hickley / The Daily
Mail (UK) : 5th July 2001.