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Double agent Eddie Chapman was one of the most colourful characters of the Second World War. Recruited by the Abwehr (German military intelligence) from a French prison, he swapped sides once he landed in Britain. Chapman, codenamed ‘Zigzag’ by the British and ‘Fritz’ by the Germans, was one of a stable of double agents in MI5’s Double Cross deception scheme, misdirecting his German handlers on a wide variety of topics. One of Zigzag’s deceptions, Operation SQUID, aimed to convince the Abwehr that Britain had a new, miracle anti-submarine weapon. The Codebreakers at Bletchley Park helped the Allies track the progress of their deception scheme, keeping an eye out for messages relating to their operations. This series of radio messages were sent by the Abwehr, and relate to Chapman’s Operation SQUID. Intercepted and sent to Bletchley Park, they were decrypted by the section known as Intelligence Services Knox (ISK), specialists in breaking Abwehr Enigma.

 

This Collections uncovered album was first published on 28 August 2018.

Both Dagmar and Fritz in this communication refer to Eddie Chapman. Dagmar, the name of Chapman’s Norwegian mistress, was his radio call sign, while Fritz was the codename given to him by his Abwehr handlers. In this radio message, decrypted by Bletchley Park, Chapman announces that he’s obtained an example of the new anti-submarine weapon, and a letter about it.

After receiving the text of the captured letter from Chapman, the Abwehr’s Hamburg office, responsible for agents in Britain, forwarded it on to their superiors in Wiesbaden. Security protocols for encrypting messages with an Enigma machine meant that the letter was broken into several parts for transmission. It was also transmitted in English, as Chapman spoke no German.

The entirely fictitious letter touches upon both the speed and accuracy of the imaginary ‘new weapon’. Squid was supposed to be a miniature homing depth charge, capable of chasing after submerged U-boats.

The letter was drawn-up by Lt Cdr Ewen Montagu of the Double Cross Committee, assisted by the Naval Intelligence Division’s scientific adviser, Prof Geoffrey Gollin. Montagu was one half of the team who had devised the successful ‘man who never was’ deception prior to the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943.

These are the file copies of the intercepted messages and were kept at Bletchley Park for reference purposes. It is unclear if the two mistakes in this message, ‘tale’ instead of ‘late’, and ‘mucht’ rather than ‘much’, appeared in the original Abwehr transmission. Once more, the Mark J indicator and Captain Walker are both inventions of a corkscrew mind.

The final message segment demonstrates a common problem of the time: variable radio reception. The annotation “[9 corrupt]” means that nine letters were either misheard by the intercept operator or inaudible. Inaccurate or missing text cannot be decoded, only guessed at.

In this message Chapman/Fritz/Zigzag/Dagmar evokes a sense of great urgency. He claims he has had to dispose of the stolen Squid weapon but wants to send the stolen letter and his photographs to the Germans as quickly as possible.

Two weeks later, Chapman claims to have found a method of getting the photographs to Lisbon, in neutral Portugal. He asks the Germans to parachute money to him in Britain and demands an instant answer to his plea.

There is great irony in Zigzag’s concern for his personal safety. In reality he was transmitting from an MI5 safe house and accompanied by one of their officers at all times.

The Abwehr’s reply demonstrates the value of these double-cross operations. The arrangements they made to ensure Chapman’s security revealed the location of one of their Lisbon message drop-off points to MI5.

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