Monday, March 2, 2009

Declassified MI5 File Shows Nazi Spy Almost Changed Course of War

Via Times Online UK -

A Nazi spy came within days of uncovering one of the Allies' most important missions and possibly changing the direction of the Second World War.

The story of a Portuguese wireless operator and the dramatic decision to pluck him from his vessel on the high seas to prevent him from betraying the position of a huge convoy bound for North Africa is revealed for the first time in a declassified MI5 file released by the National Archives.

Gastao de Freitas Ferraz was being paid by German intelligence to send coded messages about convoys to U-boat commanders and was on the tail of the Allied warships.

The convoy included the USS Augusta, an American light cruiser that was carrying no less a person than General George S.Patton. General Patton was at that time in command of Operation Torch, the planned invasion of French North Africa, which was aimed at destroying the Axis forces fighting the British there and improving naval control of the Mediterranean.


With the fishing vessel getting closer to the Operation Torch convoy, the Foreign Office agreed, and the Admiralty sent out a secret signal to all relevant commands: “If the vessel is sighted West of 11 degrees West, she should be ordered not to use W/T [wireless transmission], de Freitas [Ferraz] should be removed and in order to ensure that no further use of W/T is made, an armed guard should be put on board.”

The warship HMS Duke of York duly intercepted Gil Eannes and Ferraz was detained and taken to Gibraltar. He was transferred to MI5's interrogation centre at Camp 020 in Ham, West London, where he confessed. After the war he was deported to Portugal.

Christopher Andrew, the official biographer of MI5, said: “Gastao de Freitas Ferraz was on the tail of Patton's troops and would have told the Germans where they were really going and could have affected the outcome of the whole war.”

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