Friday 2 December 2016

Review: The Spy with 29 Names: The story of the Second World War’s most audacious double agent

The Spy with 29 Names: The story of the Second World War’s most audacious double agent The Spy with 29 Names: The story of the Second World War’s most audacious double agent by Jason Webster
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Garbo, Alaric, Rags, Mrs Gerbers and Stanley have two things in common; they were all false, and they were all one man. However, he did have a real name, and a wife and children, and it is claimed that he is the one of the greatest double agents that we know of; but just who was Juan Pujol?

Pujol was a Spanish man, who disliked totalitarianism. He was involved in the Spanish civil war, avoiding serious action, but somehow managing to switch sides. With the rise of Germany in Europe, he slowly worked his way into the trust of the Nazi’s as a spy providing intelligence and information. His intelligent reports were eagerly received by them, and as the transcripts were read at Bletchley Park, they were equally worried by them. Pujol really wanted to work for MI5, and so he engineered a way of getting to the UK. Not long after he arrived, he was using all his powers of persuasion to convince them to take him on.

So began one on the most audacious double crosses yet known. Pujol’s fertile imagination led to the creation a fictional network of agents. These characters supposedly had some grudge against the state, and he placed them at specific ports and area of interest to the Germans. The Abwehr thought that they had a whole network of 29 spies in Britain; the reality was very different. With the assistance of the Double Cross team in MI5 he spoon fed a carefully concocted blend of truth and lies that misled the entire German high command, including Hitler himself.

This is another of those non-fiction books that read like a spy thriller. Truth and lies were blended in such a way that agents lives and movements were fabricated with all manner of details, and the Nazi’s swallowed the whole thing. The whole deception plan had genuine success too, even though it was touch and go at times; Operation Fortitude managed to keep the German Panzer Divisions near Calais where the next invasion was expected and away from Normandy after the D Day invasion, this allowed troops to establish themselves with much less resistance. This is still a fascinating story about an imaginative and audacious spy first revealed in Macintyre’s book, Double Cross. Macintyre has the edge on Webster as a writer, but this is still worth reading.

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