Timeslip: Spy Was Parachuted Into Ely

Image: Agent Zig Zag

A British double agent offered to assassinate Adolf Hitler in a suicide mission but his plan was rejected by MI5, archive papers reportedly have revealed.

Edward Chapman, known as Agent Zigzag, was a burglar and expert safe blower before the Second World War.

He was jailed in Jersey and captured by the Germans in 1940 during their occupation of the island. Once imprisoned, he offered to act as a spy for the Nazis.

Chapman was trained by German intelligence and parachuted into Ely, Cambridge, in 1942 where he immediately turned himself into the British authorities.

He was taken on by MI5 as a double agent and it was then that he put forward his plan to kill Hitler.

According to National Archive papers seen by The Times, Chapman, then 27, made the offer to his case officer Ronnie Reed.

He said his German spymaster Stephan von Groning, known as Dr Graumann, had promised to take him to a Nazi rally if he completed a mission successfully in Britain.

Chapman said his reward would be to be placed “in the first or second row” at the rally, close to Hitler’s podium.

“He believes I am pro-Nazi,” the double agent said. “I believe Dr Graumann will keep his promise.

“Then I will assassinate Hitler… with my knowledge of explosives and incendiary material, it should be possible.”

Mr Reed apparently replied: “Whether or not you succeeded, you would be liquidated immediately.” To which Chapman retorted: “Ah, but what a way out.”

His offer was never taken up by MI5, for reasons unknown.

The Nazi “mission” which Chapman was to complete was to target the De Havilland factory in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, where the Mosquito aircraft was being made.

MI5 concocted an attack on the factory – which was reported in the press – and then dispatched Chapman back to Germany in 1943.

The double agent was awarded the German Iron Cross for his apparent efforts and was parachuted back into Britain in 1944.

His task this time was to report on military targets and V-bomb damage, but Chapman actually gave much more valuable information about the Germans to the British.

It transpired that MI5 never quite trusted Chapman – from 1941 they discovered that he had revealed his role as a spy to a number of friends, who were former criminals.

He also revealed his true identity to a Norwegian girlfriend, Dagmar.

His role as a spy was eventually terminated but he went on to write a book which was turned into a film.

MI5 expressed some apprehension that when his money ran out he might take up crime again and if caught plead for leniency on grounds of his highly secret wartime service. In the end this did not happen thanks to his payment from the film of his war time exploits called Triple Cross (1967) in which he is was played by Christopher Plummer, with which Chapman set up a health farm.