Dec. 16, 1942
Portrait Of A Lover - Traitor - Spy - Hero
After serving with the Coldstream Guards in the 1930s, he deserted and became a safecracker with West End London gangs, and spent a number of stretches in jail for the crime. He had affairs with a number of women on the fringe of London high society and then blackmailed them with photographs taken by an accomplice.
He was arrested in Scotland and charged with blowing the safe of the headquarters of the Edinburgh Co-operative Society. But let out on bail, he fled to the Channel Island of Jersey where he continued his double career and was eventually imprisoned for fifteen years for cracking the safe of a large dance hall.
Immediately before his arrest, he had been dining with his lover, Betty Farmer at the Hotel du Plage and made a spectacular exit through the dining room window (which was shut at the time), when he saw undercover Police coming to arrest him for crimes on the mainland.
He was in prison for safe blowing when the Channel Islands were occupied by the Germans, who recruited him as an agent. He was trained in France (at La Bretonnière, near Nantes) and dispatched to England to commit acts of sabotage.
He was parachuted into Cambridgeshire on December 16, 1942 and handed himself in to the police before offering his services to MI5. Thanks to ULTRA, MI5 had prior knowledge of his mission. He was interrogated, first at Ham Common and again at Latchmere House (both in west London) better known as Camp 020. MI5 decided to use him against the Germans.
They faked a sabotage attack on his target, the de Havilland aircraft factory in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, where the Mosquito was built. He made his way back to Germany via Lisbon in Portugal. He made an offer to MI5 to perform a suicide attack on Adolf Hitler on his return to Germany. Stephan von Gröning (known to Chapman as "Dr. Graumann"), Chapman's German handler, had previously told him that after a successful sabotage attack that he would be put "in the first or second row" near Hitler's podium during a Nazi rally. Due to reasons undisclosed in official documents the assassination attempt didn't go through, and Chapman was asked "not to undertake any wild enterprises"
Chapman's claimed to have received the Iron Cross, making him the first Englishman to receive such an award since the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, though there is also some doubt about this. It has been suggested that he actually received the War Merit Cross 2nd Class (Kriegsverdienstkreuz) as the Iron Cross was reserved for military personnel during the Third Reich period) and rewarded him with 110,000 Reichmarks and his own yacht. In an assessment an MI5 officer wrote "The Germans came to love Chapman, ... But although he went cynically through all the forms he did not reciprocate. Chapman loved himself, loved adventure and loved his country, probably in that order."
Chapman was sent to Norway to teach at a German spy school in Oslo. But after Operation Overlord he was sent back to Britain to report back to Germany on the accuracy of the V-1 and V-2 weapons. Here he consistently reported to the Germans that the bombs were overshooting their central London target, and consequently the Germans adjusted their aim, with the end result that the bombs landed south of London, doing far less damage than they otherwise would have done. After this he returned to Oslo with more false information.
As well as a prediliction for women of easy virtue, Chapman achieved a unique record during the war, having at the same time, on opposite sides of the war, two fiancées, one in England (Freda Stevenson) and one in Norway (Dagmar Lahlum), each under the protection of and financially assisted by their respective governments.
True to form, after the war he abandoned both women and instead married his former pre-war lover Betty Farmer - whom he had left in a hurry at the Hotel de la Plage, Jersey, in 1938. Chapman and his wife later had a daughter, Suzanne, in 1954.
Eventually he was allowed to retire with a £6,000 payment from MI5, plus he was allowed to keep £1,000 of the money the Germans had given to him. He was granted a pardon for his pre-war activities and was reported by MI5 to have been living "in fashionable places in London always in the company of beautiful women of apparent culture"
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. He did get into trouble with the Police for various crimes and more than once had a character reference from former intelligence officers, confirming his great war effort.
He also received a payment from the film of his war time exploits called Triple Cross (1966) in which he was played by Christopher Plummer; Chapman was very disappointed with the film.
Chapman and his wife later set up a health farm (Shenley Lodge, Shenley, Herts) and owned a castle in Ireland. After the war Chapman remained friends with Von Gröning, who by then had fallen on hard times.
He died on 20 December 1997, aged 83, from undisclosed causes.
Source:Stroy from Time Magazine, Monday, Jan. 18, 1954Eddie Chapman is a gay dog. International society intellectuals like Director John Huston admire his mind, and blondes his wire-and-whipcord body. He can keep a pub in fits of laughter or a softly lit drawing room at hushed attention. He is Mayfair's favorite criminal ("I'd like you to meet Eddie Chapman, my smuggler friend. Tell us about the jobs you've pulled lately, Eddie"). And low society in Britain pays him homage, for in his time, Eddie was the prince of safecrackers. After the war, it became apparent to all his acquaintances that Eddie had also been one of the coolest of World War II's coolheaded spies. Big question was: For which side?
A poor man's son, born in England's industrial north, Eddie Chapman enlisted in the Coldstream Guards and was discharged (for overstaying his leave in a brunette's apartment) before he was 19. Two years later he was famous as the leader of the Gelignite Gang, which specialized in blowing safes. "Eddie gets nervous at the thought of anything locked up," said friends proudly. He drove a low-slung car, had a West End flat stocked with a succession of girls, and was well known in Soho's nightclubs. Caught on a routine job one night in Edinburgh, Eddie was released on bail, promptly went to London and scooped up enough cash to bail out his two friends. With Eddie's girl, they lit out for the Isle of Jersey. There the police caught up with him. Eddie spent the next three years in Jersey's jail.
Cognac & Code. During the war, the Germans took over Jersey. The day Eddie was released, he marched into the office of the German commandant and boldly asked to join the German secret service. He hated England, he explained, and produced clippings of his cases to show that he would be jailed for countless years if the British police ever caught up with him. The Germans whisked Eddie off, first to a prison near Paris (where Eddie beguiled his time by sawing through the doors which led to the women's quarters), then to a chateau on the Loire. Soon Eddie was happily drinking wine and cognac with the bibulous major in charge.
Between drinks he was drilled in secret codes, in how to make explosives out of homemade materials, how to make a time bomb out of a wristwatch, how to blow up ships (drill a hole in a chunk of coal, fill with explosive, drop coal in bunker. When fed to boilers, the explosion bursts the boilers). When Eddie was judged ready, the Germans strapped £2,000 on his back, fitted him out with an English-made suit, shoes, detonators, wireless set, and an identity card salvaged from the dead of Dieppe. His mission: to blow up the De Havilland factory making Mosquito bombers. Von Rundstedt himself wished him godspeed.
Eddie was dropped by parachute, made his way on a commuters' train to London, and holed up in a suburban boardinghouse. With his wireless set he established contact with his German masters. But he also made a call from a pay telephone to a British official. Eddie explained that he had been parachuted in by the Germans, and described his mission, but said he wanted to work for England. Brashly, he named his price—a full pardon for all his safecrackings, and permission to keep the £2,000 the Germans had supplied him with. The British accepted his terms.
In return, Eddie turned over all the messages from his German contacts, transmitted answers (on bomb damage, location of government offices, etc.) composed by British intelligence. For his major mission, the British undertook a gigantic hoax: they camouflaged the De Havilland works to look as if they had been blown up from the inside, took air photographs to check telltale flaws. When all was ready, Eddie radioed that his mission had been completed. A German reconnaissance plane circled the plant. Then Eddie was told by wireless to return to Germany via Lisbon.
Misinformation. Eddie went—without knowing whether the hoax had fooled the Germans. That took courage, and Eddie had it. But the hoax worked. In Germany he was hailed as a hero. His chief decorated him with the Iron Cross itself.
For a year, Eddie drank and roistered with Nazi secret service men on his reward money. Then the Germans asked him to go on another mission. Eddie refused until they met his price: £50,000, payable on his return. In mid-1944 Eddie once again parachuted into England, and set up his wireless in a London suburb. With Eddie's help, British intelligence systematically misreported the location of V-2 hits, gradually moved the Germans' center of fire from the heavily populated heart of London into the sparsely settled suburbs. And again, Eddie kept the money (£6,000 this time) the Nazis furnished him with.
The Persecuted. After the war, Eddie appeared again in his old London haunts, debonair as ever and free as air, despite his record of 47 safecracking jobs. To ' anyone who wondered, he had the full story ready. But he had a grudge. The War Office would let him tell only half the story publicly—that he had spied for the Nazis. Once, when he tried to get into print with the other side, they haled him into court and fined him £50 under the Official Secrets Act.
Eddie began to complain that he was persecuted. He had hired a surplus landing craft to run cargoes into Britain from Ireland and France, added a small steamship, then a small aircraft in which he made frequent "business" trips to that black-marketeer's heaven, Tangier. Wherever he landed, police were waiting to question or search him. Frequently his ships were stopped and searched. Persecution, cried Eddie, because of his disagreements with the government. But when Eddie ran into real trouble on a currency transaction charge, a senior officer from the War Office appeared uninvited to testify that Eddie was "one of the bravest men who served in the last war." Yet when his biography (The Eddie Chapman Story) appeared six weeks ago, and began to be serialized in the papers, the War Office cut out all references to his services to Britain.
Last week Eddie was making his merry rounds of pub and club, brash and bumptious and complaining of his wrongs. Far away on Africa's Gold Coast, a scandal had broken (TIME, Jan. 11), with charges of bribery of government officials. As so often when things happened, it turned out that Eddie had been near by. Eddie, it appeared, had spent much of the past two years wining and dining Gold Coast ministers, while his pretty, blonde wife became so friendly with bachelor Prime Minister Nkrumah that she did his shopping and supervised his menus. And somehow, every firm that hired Eddie had got a fat government contract. Said Eddie cheerfully from London: "These people were my friends. I didn't have to bribe them."
There was also a spot of trouble in London. Eddie was charged with assaulting a man in a pub brawl, and in the process, relieving a drinking companion of £19 without his consent. Police hounding, said Eddie. But the judge fined him £5 and costs for assault. This time no War Office officer came to speak for him. But for the first time, the War Office last week confirmed that Eddie's version of his war services was true.
Eddie took it as no more than his due. The robbery charge still hung over him, but Eddie did not let that bother him.
Jose Ferrer and his new wife Rosemary Clooney were flying in, and Eddie organized a gang of mutual friends to meet them at the airport—all stumping on their knees and dressed in beards and bowlers like so many Toulouse-Lautrecs. Everybody laughed and laughed and agreed Eddie was one in a million.
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