Hunt for information on Shenley’s double agent
- Credit: Photo supplied
A university student hopes to unearth new information about a wartime spy – a British double agent who lived in Shenley and was once a guard at the Tower of London.
Sarah-Jane Broad, 21, has appealed to residents in St Albans for insights into Eddie Chapman, for her dissertation on the man who began life as a petty criminal.
She has posted information on the University of Hertfordshire’s heritage hub about her project.
Sarah-Jane, who is completing a Bachelor of Arts in history, said that in 2001, following a new policy of openness, MI5 began declassifying information, releasing details on Eddie.
She explained that today there were more than 1,700 declassified archives relating to Agent ZigZag – the code name used by his British Secret Service handlers.
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Sarah-Jane said that Eddie was employed by the German authorities to spy on the British, and his first mission was to destroy the de Havilland airfield, home of the Mosquito.
However, under the cover of night in 1943, together with MI5 officers, Chapman faked a sabotage attack on the aircraft factory in Hatfield, with the help of well-placed props and a magician.
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The deception plan worked as the next day the Daily Express reported on an explosion at a factory on the outskirts of London, and Eddie sent a message to the Germans saying that “Walter”, his code name for the factory, was blown in two places.
The university sits on the site of the aerodrome.
Sarah-Jane said that following her research she would like to organise an exhibition on Eddie and his many exploits.
She is collating information from local people, archives, books and photos to also produce an information booklet “to celebrate such a wonderful, significant and important piece of local history.
“I would like to have some first-hand accounts about him. He was a wild character.”
Eddie, who died in 1997, lived at Shenley, where he and his wife set up a health farm.
If you can help Sarah-Jane with her dissertation, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org