Authors: James Hayward
ALSO BY JAMES HAYWARD
The Bodies on the Beach
Myths and Legends of the First World War
Myths and Legends of the Second World War
Never Such Innocence Again
First published as ‘Double Agent Snow’ in Great Britain
by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2012
This paperback edition published by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2014
A CBS COMPANY
Copyright © 2012 by James Hayward
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
All rights reserved.
The right of James Hayward to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act,
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Corrections may be made to future printings.
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is available from the British Library
ISBN: 978-1-47113-263-6 (ebook)
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‘History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes . . .
– the troublesome British double agent codenamed SNOW by MI5, and JOHNNY by the German
. Hitler’s chief spy in England
between 1937 and 1941.
Captain Thomas Robertson
– Snow’s long-suffering case officer at MI5, informally known as Tommy or Tar.
– Robertson’s immediate superior at MI5, where he is head of B Division (counter-espionage).
Major Nikolaus Ritter
– Snow’s flamboyant German handler, based at Stelle X in Hamburg, aka Doctor Rantzau.
– Snow’s beguiling mistress, of German descent and thirteen years his junior.
– Snow’s eldest son, referred to as Snow Junior by MI5.
– a former MI5 officer employed to supervise Snow between February and May of 1940.
– a former policeman from Swansea, hired by MI5 to help Snow run his imaginary ‘Welsh ring’ in 1939 (aka Agent G.W.).
– a dope smuggler of Canadian origin, and Snow’s second MI5 sidekick in 1940 (aka Agent Biscuit).
– the veteran confidence trickster employed as sidekick #3 from late 1940 onwards (aka Agent Celery).
– a German parachute agent and close personal friend of Ritter, turned by MI5 as Agent Tate.
– another German parachute agent, dropped into England in 1940 and turned as Agent Summer.
– a colleague of Robertson and Liddell at MI5, later chairman of the so-called Twenty Committee charged with running Allied double
On the night of Saturday, 19 April 1941, in lethal celebration of Adolf Hitler’s fifty-second birthday, corpulent German air force chief Hermann Göring dispatched
700 bombers to London, intent on delivering his Führer a gift to remember. Flying in relays for seven hours, many crews managed to squeeze in two missions, with the keenest of the Luftwaffe
bombardiers even notching up three. For the first time during the Blitz – and the last – the long tail of Heinkels, Junkers and Dorniers were able to drop 1,000 tonnes of high explosive
on the beleaguered capital. Thanks to cloud overcast most of the raiders bombed blind, scattering their payloads wildly, killing 1,200 people and triggering more than a thousand major fires. The
small price paid only added to mordant Nazi delight,
costing the Luftwaffe just four aircraft lost.
Major Thomas ‘Tar’ Robertson of B Division, MI5, drew back a corner of the heavy blackout curtain covering the office window at 54 Broadway. Beyond Green Park parachute mines and
incendiaries rained down on Mayfair, demolishing banks, tailors and gentlemen’s clubs. Searchlights, tracer and phosphorus dazzled; fire consumed. The war news from overseas was no more
encouraging. Having routed the Yugoslavian army, victorious German troops had pushed back Allied forces in Greece and southern Albania, raising the possibility of yet another chaotic British
evacuation by sea. On the other side of the Mediterranean the port of Tobruk was under determined siege by Rommel’s Afrika Korps, while the recent destruction
several U-boats failed to disguise the fact that the tide of the Battle of the Atlantic was still running in Germany’s favour.
That a mysterious female agent with ‘good legs’ had been observed stepping off the Lisbon plane at Whitchurch held a measure of promise for Robertson and Section B1A. All things
considered, however, this trifling development was unlikely to bring about a swift Allied victory.
Besides, everything paled into insignificance beside the crisis of confidence which had lately enveloped Tar’s star double agent. Codenamed SNOW by MI5, and JOHNNY by their opposite
numbers in Germany, for the last five years the diminutive Welshman born Arthur Graham Owens had operated as Hitler’s chief spy in England, masquerading as a nationalist traitor in return for
an astronomic salary and a vanity rank. In truth Agent Snow was planting disinformation on the bungling German
, a bodyguard of lies by which Robertson’s department hoped to
reverse the disastrous flow of events since Dunkirk, making the so-called double-cross system one of the few effective weapons in a British armoury still desperately short of tangible hardware.
The flaw in this ingenious deception scheme was Snow himself. Even by the standards of the rogues’ gallery of hustlers and shadowplayers run by B1A, Arthur Owens was more trouble than a
barrel of Barbary apes. The little man had endeared himself to no one in the Service, a string of sceptical handlers noting a penchant for expensive motors, cheap women and flights of wild
egotistical fancy that would shame Walter Mitty. ‘In drink he is probably not completely aware on these occasions that what he is saying is a lie,’ rued the latest glum case summary.
‘Similar doubts have pervaded his motives in acting as an agent. At times in his complicated career Agent Snow has seen himself as a patriot doing dangerous and valuable work for his country;
at other times, no less genuinely, as a daring spy, clever enough to outwit British Intelligence.’
Lisbon had been his nadir. Two months earlier, in February 1941, Owens had flown to Portugal to
with his German handler, Herr Doktor Rantzau, only to
return to London bearing a bullish peace proposal drafted by high-ranking Nazis. Worse still, Owens now insisted that he had been unmasked as a British double agent by the other side.
Fox shot, flush busted.
Instinct told Robertson that the vital double-cross secret was probably safe. After all, Snow had returned from Lisbon very much alive, his pockets bulging with sterling and dollars, and a
veritable Woolwich arsenal of exploding pens. However, Owens appeared now to be a burnt-out case, pleading duodenal ulcers while at the same time sinking a bottle of brandy a day, and increasingly
desperate to please Lily Bade, the high-maintenance floozy who had lately given birth to their child. Had the schizophrenic complexities of the disorientating double-cross realm become too much to
bear? Or had Snow simply fabricated his tale of illness and exposure in Iberia in order to engineer a comfortable retirement with a foot in both camps?
The only certainty was that Owens had returned from Lisbon with a sexually transmitted disease. Louche, lazy and libidinous, everything Snow touched became corrupt or contaminated, like King
Midas in reverse. True, since the end of the Phoney War in May 1940 he had achieved outstanding results for MI5, exposing several pre-war sleepers in Britain and luring a dozen hapless invasion
spies who arrived by parachute and boat. Most had been captured with laughable ease, then dropped by the hangman after cursory trials. Better still, Robertson had managed to flip several of these
incoming agents as fresh double-cross assets. Indeed, the Dane codenamed Tate had even been awarded an Iron Cross by his gullible German masters.
With the first stirrings of spring, however, Snow’s credibility had melted clean away. The Lisbon fiasco aside, on April Fools’ Day the body of a previously unknown German agent had
discovered in a shelter in Cambridge. Isolated, penniless and emaciated by hunger, the V-man had hastened his own demise by placing an Abwehr-issue 6.35 mm Mauser
automatic to his temple and squeezing the trigger. Poorly forged papers identified him as Jan Willem Ter Braak, an unremarkable Dutch refugee, yet his pink ration book told a different story, while
his ID card bore telltale sample serial numbers buzzed to Hamburg on Agent Snow’s transmitter.
Ter Braak had been at large for six months, during which time Cambridge had suffered several damaging air raids. How many more Nazi spies might have bypassed Snow’s illusory shadow
Back at his desk, Tar Robertson leafed again through page after page of muddled, contradictory transcripts and flimsies. Rogue Agent Snow was a riddle wrapped up in an enigma. The one glimmer of
hope was that new Ultra decrypts from Bletchley Park confirmed that Germany was poised to invade the Soviet Union, perhaps even as early as May. Codenamed Barbarossa, the assault would commit Adolf
Hitler to a war on two fronts that would eventually destroy his ‘thousand year’ Reich. Though far removed from the frozen steppes of Russia, Agent Snow too had a key role to play. The
intricate lies put across in his name would one day step up from tactical to strategic, their deceptions determining the fate of tens of thousands, whether Bomber Command airmen high above the
steel mills of the Ruhr, merchant navy sailors dodging U-boats in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic, or entire infantry divisions storming the beaches of Italy and France, opening up the
second front, delivering Europe from evil.
Humdinger, as the little man himself was apt to say.
Bombs continued to fall thick and fast as the Führer’s birthday Blitz entered its fourth violent hour, those dropping closest to Broadway causing the very foundations of the building
to shake. Robertson could picture the scene at Homefields, the
comfortable Surrey safehouse provided for Hitler’s chief spy in England, two dozen miles from the mayhem
surrounding SW1. Probably Owens was playing cards with his Intelligence Corps minder, pouring freely from a bottle of black-market brandy, conjuring fresh alibis and ailments, his fate dangling by
the most slender of threads.