16th November 1914
Agent ZigZag is born
Eddie Chapman, codenamed Agent Zigzag by the allies and either Fritz or Fritzchen by the Germans, was a triple agent operating during the Second World War. He initially agreed to spy for Nazi Germany before offering his services to Britain.
Chapman had fled to Jersey after being arrested – and released on bail – on a charge of breaking into a safe at the Edinburgh Co-operative Society headquarters. When police tracked him down, he made his escape by jumping through a closed window, then committed a burglary for which he was arrested and sent to prison in Jersey. There, he met Eric Pleasants.
Trapped in Jersey
He was still in prison when German forces invaded and the occupation began. This was to be the start of Chapman’s career as a spy. He initially offered his services to Germany and was air dropped back onto British soil with instructions to sabotage the de Havilland aircraft factory. But, almost immediately after landing on home soil, Chapman turned against his German handlers and offered to work for MI5.
To maintain his cover, MI5 staged the factory sabotage operation so that when German reconnaissance aircraft flew overhead it would look like Chapman had followed their instructions. His route back to Germany was a convoluted one, involving a long boat journey to Lisbon but, upon making it safely back, he was awarded a medal (some sources say the Iron Cross) for his ‘success’ in bombing the de Havilland factory, and sent to Oslo to teach at a German spy school.
Agent ZigZag returns to Britain
In 1944, by which point Germany had developed and deployed the V-1 rocket, Chapman was parachuted back into Britain with instructions to report on the rocket’s accuracy. His reports back to Germany led it to believe that the rockets were hitting their targets, even though they frequently fell short, thus saving London even greater levels of damage and destruction.
After the war, he married Betty Farmer, with whom he’d been having dinner at Jersey’s Hotel de la Plage when he jumped through the closed window in 1938 to avoid being arrested by the police.
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