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Authors: Madoc Roberts

Snow

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S
NOW

The Double Life of a World War II Spy

Nigel West and Madoc Roberts

For Susan

The authors are indebted to the following people who have helped in the production of this work: Susan Roberts, who has been supportive during every stage of both the research and writing. Graham and Norma White for their unfailing generosity and willingness to make Arthur Owens’ story public. Without them the later stages of S
NOW
’s life would still remain a mystery. We would also like to express our gratitude to Jenny Owens, for sharing her husband’s part in the story, and to Adam Nathanson, for being prepared to reveal his mother Patricia Owens’ role, adding an extra
unexpected
element to her glittering career. Thanks are due to Jean Pascoe née Owens for information about her mother Lily. We also thank Rhys Lloyd and Gareth Evans, for their help with the German language documents; Ceri Price, for contributing his knowledge and research of Gwilym Williams; and Diane Kachmar for sharing her knowledge of Patricia Owens. We are also grateful for the assistance of the National Archives staff at Kew.

BUF
British Union of Fascists
DMI
Director of Military Intelligence
GPO
General Post Office
IRA
Irish Republican Army
MI5
British Security Service
MI6
British Secret Intelligence Service
NID
Naval Intelligence Division
PVDE
Portuguese secret police
RAE
Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough
RSLO
Regional Security Liaison Officer
RSS
Radio Security Service
SOCONAF
Societé de Consignation et Affrètement
VCIGS
Vice Chief of the Imperial General Staff
Bade, Lily
Arthur Owens’ 27-year-old mistress
B
ISCUIT
MI5 codename for Sam McCarthy
Borreson, Jurgen
Abwehr detainee in Dartmoor prison
Boyle, Archie
Director of Air Intelligence
Brooman-White, Dick
MI5 officer
Brown, Jack
Alias of Walter Dicketts
Burton, Maurice
Prison officer and amateur radio
licence-holder
who acted as operator for S
NOW
Buss, Air Commodore
Director of Air Intelligence
Canaris, Wilhelm
Chief of the Abwehr
Caroli, Gösta
Abwehr agent codenamed S
UMMER
by MI5
C
ELERY
MI5 double agent named Walter Dicketts
C
HARLIE
MI5 double agent named Eschborn
Davidson, Gen.
Director of Military Intelligence
Del Pozo, Miguel
Spanish journalist and Abwehr spy, codenamed Pogo by MI5
Dicketts, Kaye
Walter Dicketts’ wife
Dicketts, Walter
Ex-RAF officer and convicted criminal, codenamed C
ELERY
by MI5 and known to the Abwehr as Captain Jack Brown
Dierks, Hans
Abwehr officer
Eschborn
A Manchester photographer codenamed C
HARLIE
by MI5
Ford, Major
MI5’s RSLO in Cardiff
Foster, Albert
Special Branch superintendent
G
IRAFFE
MI5 codename for Georges Graf, a French double agent
Graham, Thomas
Alias adopted by Arthur Owens 
G.W.
MI5 double agent named Gwilym Williams
Gwyer, John
MI5 officer
Hamilton, Hans
Director of the Owens Battery Company and the Expanded Metal Company
Hansen, Georg
Abwehr sabotage expert
Hill, Dr
Scientific Adviser to the Air Ministry
Hinchley-Cooke, Edward
MI5 officer
Hussein, Obed
Abwehr courier, later arrested in Eire
J
OHNNY
Abwehr codename for Arthur Owens, also known as 3504
Krafft, Mathilde
Abwehr paymaster in England
Kryger, Lisa
Abwehr agent who had been active in England before the war
Lahousen, Erwin
Senior Abwehr officer
Langbein, Alfred
An Abwehr spy in Canada thought by MI5 to be a candidate for L
LANLOCH
L
EOHARDT
Abwehr codename for T
ATE
Liddell, Guy
MI5 officer
L
LANLOCH
Abwehr codename for a spy intended to operate in London
McCarthy, Sam
A petty criminal codenamed B
ISCUIT
by MI5
Marriott, John
MI5 officer
Masterman, John
MI5 officer
Owens, Arthur
Welsh chemist, codenamed S
NOW
by MI5 and J
OHNNY
by the Abwehr
Owens, Jean Louise
Daughter of Arthur Owens and Lily Bade
Owens, Jessie
Wife of Arthur Owens
Owens, Patricia
Daughter of Arthur and Jessie Owens
Owens, Robert
Son of Arthur and Jessie Owens
Pogo
MI5 codename for Miguel del Pozo
Rantzau, Dr
Alias for Nikolaus Ritter
Reisen, Hans
Abwehr agent
Richardson, Lt
Assistant to the VCIGS
Ritter, Nikolaus
Head of the Hamburg Abwehr
Robertson, Tommy (‘Tar’)
MI5 officer
Rolph, William
Former MI5 officer and S
NOW
’s business partner. Committed suicide
Schmidt, Wulf
Abwehr parachutist, codenamed T
ATE
by MI5
Stewart, Samuel
Shipowner considered suspect by MI5
Stopford, Richman
MI5 officer
S
UMMER
MI5 codename for Gösta Caroli
T
ATE
MI5 double agent named Wulf Schmidt
Theakston
MI5 handler for S
UMMER
T
RICYCLE
MI5 codename for Dusko Popov, a Yugoslav double agent
Vesey, John
MI5 interrogator
White, Dick
MI6 officer
White, Graham
Son of Arthur Owens and Hilda White
Whyte, Jock
MI5 officer
Williams, Gwilym
Retired Swansea police inspector codenamed G.W. by MI5
Wilson, Thomas
An alias occasionally adopted by S
NOW
W.W.
Welsh-speaking MI5 nominee replaced by G.W.
Yule, Col J. F.
MI5 radio expert

‘H
EIL
H
ITLER
… you bastard!’

Sam McCarthy spat the words out at the pathetic little Nazi spy lying tied up below deck on the trawler
Barbados
. McCarthy’s previous career had been as a small-time crook and conman who dabbled in drugs smuggling, and he was used to meeting some pretty desperate characters, but it seemed to him that he had never met anyone quite so despicable as Arthur Graham Owens, the 41-year-old Welsh battery salesman known to his MI5 handlers as S
NOW
.

It was May 1940 and McCarthy had put his criminal career on hold for the duration of the war, using his skill at hustle and subterfuge on behalf of British intelligence. But the MI5 officers who’d briefed him on ‘Operation LAMP’ and S
NOW
’s treachery had not known the half of it. There wasn’t much McCarthy – codename B
ISCUIT
- hadn’t been prepared to do in his pre-war existence, but befriending this wretched little man had turned his stomach even more than the supposed fishing trip out onto a grey and choppy North Sea.

From the first supposedly chance meeting with S
NOW
in the Marlborough pub in Richmond where, under orders from his masters at MI5, McCarthy had drunkenly allowed himself to be recruited as ‘a German spy’, the
Welshman
had been a constant irritant. During the rail journey up to Grimsby from King’s Cross, S
NOW
spent most of his time making notes of any
airfields
, power stations and military installations they passed. And when he wasn’t doing that, he was showing McCarthy a list of MI5 officers he was planning to hand over to ‘the Doctor’. Among those named was Tommy ‘Tar’ Robertson, the MI5 officer who was running the operation they were taking part in. ‘The Doctor’ would be very pleased to have the photographs, S
NOW
confided to McCarthy, because ‘when our advance guard get here they will know who to get and where to get them.’

The mysterious ‘Doctor’ was in fact a Dr Rantzau, the pseudonym of Major Nikolaus Ritter, the German spymaster running agents into Britain. S
NOW
naively believed that the trip on the
Barbados
was taking him to a mid-sea rendezvous with ‘the Doctor’ during which he would be able to hand over intelligence in return for large sums of cash. In fact, S
NOW
was just there as the bait to lure Rantzau into a trap. Another fishing-boat, painted to look exactly like the
Barbados
, manned by armed Royal Navy ratings and equipped with depth-charges, hand grenades and an anti-aircraft gun, was waiting at the real rendezvous with the German spymaster. It was accompanied by a British submarine, HMS
Salmon
, ready to snatch Rantzau and take him back to England for interrogation, where he would be forced to reveal every detail of the German spy networks in Britain. That was the MI5 plan and if the British sailors were unable to capture Rantzau, their orders were simple – ‘kill him’.

But it was very soon clear to McCarthy that the MI5 plan – codenamed ‘Operation LAMP’ – wasn’t going to work. The trawler carrying ‘the bait’ was soon being followed by a German seaplane, presumably with ‘the Doctor’ on board. The aircraft had RAF markings, but in the wrong place. It was clearly German. The seaplane circled lazily above them, following their nets like a giant seagull, watching their every move. If Rantzau was on board the aircraft, then the navy snatch team must be waiting at the rendezvous for a man who was never going to turn up. What’s more S
NOW
seemed to be expecting the German seaplane, although he had claimed in his conversations with MI5 that he did not know how Rantzau would get to the rendezvous. McCarthy had little choice but to abort ‘Operation LAMP’ and return to port. He tied S
NOW
up and locked him in the captain’s cabin as a precaution, to stop him signalling to the German seaplane, and they headed for Grimsby. Once they got back to England, S
NOW
would be arrested and every other German agent he was associated with rounded up. Not before time, in McCarthy’s view. His own preference would have been for something much more violent. S
NOW
had even had the nerve to accuse him of being a German agent. The man was clearly a lunatic, and a dangerous one at that.

In fact, S
NOW
was a truly complex character. The MI5 officers who were running him could never be entirely sure whether he was working for them or against them. Even his claims to McCarthy that he was working for the Germans rather than MI5 would seem with hindsight to have been more braggadocio than reality and, whatever the truth of his loyalties, it was
ultimately
the British who got what they wanted from him, not the Germans.

What McCarthy did not know when he tied up S
NOW
and dumped him in the captain’s cabin – what he could not know, because even the MI5
officers
running the operation didn’t then know – was that for all his failings as a secret agent, the recklessly unreliable S
NOW
was to go on to become one of the most important British spies of the Second World War. Arthur Graham Owens, aka S
NOW
, was the first member of what would become one of the most successful British intelligence networks of all time, one that would ultimately play a major part in ensuring the Allied victory over the Germans.

BOOK: Snow
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