Chapman’s police photo December 1942
|Born||Edward Arnold Chapman
16 November 1914
Burnopfield, County Durham, England
|Died||11 December 1997 (aged 83)|
|Known for||World War II British double agent|
(m. 1938-1997, his death)
Edward Arnold “Eddie” Chapman (16 November 1914 – 11 December 1997) was an English pre-war criminal and wartime spy. During the Second World War he offered his services to Nazi Germany as a spy and a traitor whilst intending all along to become a British double agent. His British Secret Service handlers code named him ‘ZIGZAG’ in acknowledgement of his rather erratic personal history. He had a number of criminal aliases known by the British police, amongst them Edward Edwards, Arnold Thompson and Edward Simpson. His German codename was Fritz Graumann or, later, after endearing himself to his German cronies, its diminutive form of Fritzchen.
Chapman was born in Burnopfield, County Durham, England. After serving with the Coldstream Guards in the 1930s, Chapman deserted and became a safecracker with London West End gangs, spending several stretches in jail for these crimes. He had affairs with a number of women on the fringes of London high society and then allegedly blackmailed them with photographs taken by an accomplice.
Well along into his criminal career he was arrested in Scotland and charged with blowing up the safe of the headquarters of the Edinburgh Co-operative Society. Let out on bail, he fled to Jersey in the Channel Islands where he attempted unsuccessfully to continue his crooked ways.
Chapman had been dining with his lover and future fiancée Betty Farmer at the Hotel de la Plage immediately before his arrest 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. It was later that same night, unbelievably, that he committed the slapdash burglary for which he had to immediately begin serving two years in a Jersey prison. This proved to be an ironic twist of fate which ultimately spared him at least 14 more years’ imprisonment in a mainland prison afterwards.
Second World War
Chapman was still in prison when the Channel Islands were invaded by the Germans who soon transferred him and Anthony Faramus to Fort de Romainville in Paris. Chapman, ever the consummate opportunist, offered his services to them as a turncoat agent. Under the direction of Captain Stephan von Gröning, head of the Abwehr in Paris, he was trained in explosives, radio communications, parachute jumping and other subjects in France at La Bretonnière, near Nantes and dispatched to England to commit acts of sabotage.
He was dropped near Littleport Cambridgeshire on 16 December 1942 equipped with wireless, pistol, cyanide capsule and 1,000 pounds. His mission was to sabotage the de Havilland aircraft factory at Hatfield. However he immediately surrendered himself to the local police and offered his services to MI5. Thanks to Ultra, MI5 had prior knowledge of his mission. He was interrogated at Latchmere House in West London, better known as Camp 020. MI5 decided to use him against the Germans and assigned Ronnie Reed as his case officer. (Reed had been invited to join MI5 in 1940 and remained until his retirement in 1976).
During the night 29-30 January 1943, Chapman with MI5 officers faked a sabotage attack on his target, the de Havilland aircraft factory in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, where the Mosquito was being manufactured. German reconnaissance aircraft photographed the site and the faked damage by Jasper Maskelyne convinced Chapman’s controllers that the attack had been successful. In May 1943 he made his way back in the guise of Hugh Anson, an obnoxiously unruly steward, sailing on a merchant ship, the ‘The City of Lancaster’, from Liverpool to Lisbon in neutral Portugal where he then jumped ship. On making contact with Germans at the Lisbon embassy, for a fee of £20,000 he was given a bomb disguised as a lump of coal to be placed in the coal bunker. However he handed the bomb to the ship’s captain. The Germans did not notice the ship was not damaged on the voyage home.
Chapman was sent to Norway to teach at a German spy school in Oslo, Norway. After a de-briefing by von Grunen, Chapman was awarded the Iron Cross for his work in apparently damaging the de Havilland works and the ‘City of Lancaster’, making him the first Englishman to receive such an award since the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. Chapman was inducted into the German Army as an Oberleutnant or First Lieutenant. (See Macintyre, 2007, pp 231 with photo and 286.) Chapman was also rewarded with 110,000 Reichmark and his own yacht. An MI5 officer wrote in an assessment ‘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’. While in Oslo he also secretly photographed the German agents who stayed at his safe house.
After Operation Overlord he was sent back to Britain to report on the accuracy of the V-1 weapon. Here he consistently reported to the Germans that the bombs were hitting their central London target when in fact they were undershooting. Perhaps as a result of this disinformation, the Germans never corrected their aim, with the end result that most bombs landed in the South London suburbs or the Kent countryside, doing far less damage than they otherwise would have done. During this period he was also involved in doping of dogs in greyhound racing and was associating with criminal elements in the London’s West End night clubs. He was also indiscreet about the sources of his income and so MI5, being unable to control him, dismissed him on 2 November 1944.  Chapman was given a £6,000 payment from MI5 and was allowed to keep £1,000 of the money the Germans had given 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’.
Chapman had two fiancées at the same time on opposite sides of the war, Freda Stevenson in England and Dagmar Lahlum in Norway, each under the protection of and financially assisted by their respective governments. He abandoned both women after the war and instead married his former pre-war lover Betty Farmer whom he had left in a hurry at the Hotel de la Plage in 1938. He and Farmer later had a daughter Suzanne in 1954. He had told Dagmar at the time he was a British agent. However Dagmar served a six month prison sentence for consorting with an apparently German officer, and thinking that Chapman was dead, she was unable to prove that he was a British agent. They met again briefly in 1994.
After the war
Chapman had his wartime memoirs serialised in France to earn money, but he was charged under the Official Secrets Act and fined 50 pounds. A few years later, when they were due to be published in the News of the World the whole issue was pulped. However his book The Eddie Chapman Story was eventually published in 1953.
MI5 expressed some apprehension that Chapman might take up crime again when his money ran out and if caught would plead for leniency because of his highly secret wartime service. He did get into trouble with the police for various crimes including smuggling in North Africa and more than once had a character reference from former intelligence officers who confirmed his great contribution to the war effort.
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 Baron Stefan von Grunen, his Abwehr handler (also known as von Gröning, wartime alias Doctor Graumann), who by then had fallen on hard times. Von Grunen later attended the wedding of Eddie Chapman’s daughter.
Chapman died on 11 December 1997 from undisclosed causes.
In popular culture
The 1966 film Triple Cross was based on the biography of the same name co-written by Chapman and Frank Owen. The film was directed by Terence Young who had known Chapman before the war. Chapman’s character was played by Christopher Plummer. The film was only loosely based on reality and Chapman was disappointed with it. In his autobiography, Plummer said that Chapman was to have been a technical adviser on the film but the French authorities would not allow him in the country because he was still wanted over an alleged plot to kidnap the Sultan of Morocco. The film gave him a celebrity status for a while and this allowed him to be an occasional crime writer for the Sunday Telegraph.
- Edward Chapman and Frank Owen The Eddie Chapman Story, Pub: Messner, New York City, 1953 (ASIN B0000CIO9B)
- Nicholas Booth, Zigzag – The Incredible Wartime Exploits of Double Agent Eddie Chapman, 2007, Portrait, London (ISBN 0749951567)
- Ben Macintyre (2007). Agent Zigzag: The True Wartime Story of Eddie Chapman, Lover, Betrayer, Hero, Spy. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 0747587949.
- Nicholas Reed (2011). My Father, the Man Who Never Was: Ronnie Reed, The Life and Times of an MI5 Officer, pp. 60-92. Folkestone: Lilburne Press. ISBN 978-1-901167-21-4.
- ^ a b c d e History: Cases from The National Archives – Eddie Chapman (Agent ZIGZAG) – Security Service MI5
- ^ a b c d e Max Arthur, Obituary: Eddie Chapman , The Independent, 6 January 1998
- ^ Doubleagent ZIG ZAG (KV 2/455-463)
- ^ Eddie Chapman – The Telegraph 1997
- ^ Ben Macintyre on a BBC TV programme 15 November 2011
- ^ How double agents duped the Nazis BBC 5 July 2001
- ^ a b ZigZag, a womaniser and thief who double-crossed the Nazis by Michael Smith, The Daily Telegraph, 5 July 2001
- ^ a b “Edward Arnold Chapman – Agent 0747587949 / ZIGZAG”. Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
- ^ Triple Cross at the Internet Movie Database
- ^ Plummer, Christopher In Spite of Myself: A Memoir 2008 Knopf
- ^ http://walkergeorgefilms.co.uk/filmography/documentaries/double-agent/ DOUBLE AGENT: The Eddie Chapman Story
- ^ “24 Frames”. The Los Angeles Times. 28 May 2010.
- US Defence Intelligence Agency uses Eddie Chapman case as an example by A Denis Clift, President Joint Military Intelligence College Harvard University 20 February 2003
- Eddie Chapman – The Telegraph 1997
- History: Cases from The National Archives – Eddie Chapman (Agent ZIGZAG) – Security Servi
TV : Documentary : HD 720p : English
Double Agent: The Eddie Chapman Story
History Documentary hosted by Ben Macintyre, published by BBC broadcasted as part of BBC Timewatch series in 2011 – English narration
Ben Macintyre reveals the gripping true story of Britain’s most extraordinary wartime double agent, Eddie Chapman. A notorious safe-breaker before the war, Chapman duped the Germans so successfully that he was awarded their highest decoration, the Iron Cross. He remains the only British citizen ever to win one. Including remarkable and newly discovered footage from an interview Chapman gave three years before his death in 1997, the programme goes on the trail of one of Britain’s most unlikely heroes – a story of adventure, love, intrigue and astonishing courage.
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