Agent Zigzag by Ben MacIntyre

Reviewed by Stella Benwell

This engrossing book is about Eddie Chapman, a double agent during the Second World War.  Its particular interest for Dulwich readers is that Chapman’s handler was the late Ronnie Read, a resident of Court Lane Gardens and a long-time member of the Trees Committee of the Dulwich Society.

Eddie Chapman was a small time criminal who escaped to Jersey before the war to avoid a prison sentence.  When the Germans occupied Jersey he learnt some German, saw his opportunity, and volunteered to spy for them.  He was taken to Germany, treated royally, rigorously trained as a spy and finally parachuted into England to blow up the de Haviland factory which manufactured Mosquito aircraft.  But his basic loyalty was to England, and on arrival he went straight to the police.  He became a double agent handled by Ronnie, sending back false information to the Germans.  At one stage the British were financing one of his girl friends in England while the Germans were financing another one in Norway!

Chapman was both clever and utterly fearless and both Ronnie and his counterparts in Germany developed affection for him, though never certain of his loyalty.  But Ronnie Read was a modest and retiring man who never revealed anything about the improbable part he played in was, except for his radio expertise.  John Le Carré describes this book as superb and meticulously researched.

Agent ZigZag  is available at Village Books, Dulwich Village £7.99

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