18 JUNE 1948, Page 11



GOOD spies are hard to find. Indeed, the best ones are never found at all. I have often wondered how a really good spy is found even by his own side. In a profession whose ratio essendi is total and absolute secrecy, and one in which a secret is safe only between two if one be away, I do not even see how a good spy starts at all. But then I was not a good spy ; much though I longed to be a good spy I was a hopelessly bad one. Jealousy impels me to suspect that the first step towards being a good spy is to avoid an orthodox English education.

I became a spy—a bad one, but within the accepted rules of war a spy—by accident. I happened to have occasion to pay a visit to some friends in Athens during the residence of the Germans there in 1943. It seemed unlikely that I should be welcomed in the proper spirit if I wore British uniform for the occasion ; though as a matter of fact that is exactly what a New Zealand friend of mine did a few months later, when he entered (rather oddly) a maternity home in Athens wearing battledress to undergo an operation not strictly congruous with that type of institution. But he was a man who always carried his whims to the point of eccentricity. I chose the less spectacular course of disguising myself as a Greek black- marketer.

I do not know whether anyone actually mistook me for a black- marketer. I rather avoided professiorial colleagues, who , might not easily have been deceived. There was comfort in the success with which I once convinced an old woman in a mountain village that I was a native of the neighbouring village, half a mile away, which she had never visited ; but even then she remarked that she had guessed at once I was a "foreigner," for she was as insular as a Dingley- Deller for whom cannibals began at All Muggleton, so that I was no less foreign to her coining from the next village than coming from England. Greeks who accompanied me to Athens were less easily satisfied by my disguise. One of them said he could tell me for an Englishman from a hundred yards behind. People who have examined photographs of me before and after my hair was dyed for the occasion have sometimes asked me which was which.

To all this scepticism I opposed an act of faith At least it appeared that the succession of bus-drivers and lorry-drivers who gave me lifts on the road were sufficiently taken in by my disguise. None of them actually accused me point-blank of being a fraud. But my faith was a little shaken by the last of them, who whispered as I got off his bus in the centre of Athens : " If you have nowhere to stay tonight, there's a spare bed in my house." It was only then that I, being a bad spy, realised the truth. It was because, and only because, every Greek I passed saw through my disguise that I was , safe. They would not have taken half the trouble to help a good Greek black-marketer on his way as they would have taken for a bad English spy. The only danger then was that their enthusiasm for helping me, and for conscripting their fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and second cousins once removed to help me too, would itself give me away to the not entirely purblind enemy. For the Greeks are not good at hiding their emotions, once ,excited in a good cause. I had the oppor- tunity to confirm that weakness unmistakably during my visit to

Athens, which happened to coincide with Hitler's command of three days' mourning throughout Europe for the loss of Field-Marshal von Paulus' Sixth Army at Stalingrad. There never was a stranger kind of mourning than that which broke out in Athens in response ; it may have been hysterical grief, but it looked more like hilarity.

Once my friends in Athens had taken charge, my career as a spy naturally ran a more dramatic course. One of them, who had the dynamic character of Nature's master-spies, had obviously learned the theory of espionage from an exhaustive reading of yellow-backs. He had made himself responsible for the reception of a wireless transmitter that was to be " infiltrated," as the jargon had it, from Cairo for use during my stay in Athens ; and his plans were flawless. On his instructions the instrument, disguised as a suit- case, was to be delivered by a courier from Cairo at a specified address in Athens, with the following code for communication. When the front-door was opened the courier was to lay his right index finger against his nose and say : "How goes it ? " The owner was then to receive the suit-case, which I would use on my arrival to communicate with my headquarters in Cairo.

After a laborious journey of fifteen days via the Levant and the Aegean, the courier arrived panting and sweating under the load of the suit-case at the specified address. He rang the door-bell and waited. The door was opened by an elderly maid. The courier laid his right index finger against his nose and said: "How goes it ? " The maid screamed and slammed the door. The courier returned to Cairo with his suit-case, taking three weeks this time, owing to the unaccommodating attitude of the Germans. So I had to whistle for my wireless.

But I did not have to whistle long, for Athens was stuffed with wireless transmitters communicating with Cairo. One was captured a few days before I reached Athens, and another a few days after ; but the Communists, who rightly prided themselves on their " con- spiratorial experience," had one that was never captured, and at least three more were available to choose from, all in the hands of obscure or distinguished characters from Greek mythology. For what the information is worth, it seemed that the minor demigods were the easier for the Germans to catch. Fortunately my instruc- tions took me to a first-class Olympian. But unfortunately the details of our coming together were organised by the same novelette- inspired master-mind of the secret service whose cunning had sent my own wireless back to Cairo.

His plan was that the man who was to introduce me to the man who was to introduce me to the man who was to introduce me to the ultimate Olympian himself should meet me under a lamp- post at a specified hour at a specified street-corner. The code by which we were to identify each other was simpler in this case. I was to say, " I come from Pericles," and he was to reply, " His sister told me to expect you." The only thing that had been for- gotten was that at the specified hour all street-lamps had been switched off and all Athens lay in total darkness. Consequently it was impossible to see anyone under a lamp-post at a distance greater than two yards. I walked three times round the block before I saw anyone under the lamp-post. At the end of the third circuit I almost bumped into a little fellow wearing a daffodil in his button-hole and carrying a German newspaper under his arm in an uneasy way which suggested that he had been equipped with an entirely different code of identification. He gave me a pained look, and I whispered doubtfully: "I come from Pericles."

" I've been waiting twenty minutes," he replied peevishly. So had I for the matter of that, but his answer was plainly wrong, so I tried again, more emphatically : " I come from Pericles." " Who the devil is Pericles ? " he asked. I replied weakly that I didn't know, and he asked suspiciously: "Are you from the Intelligence Service or aren't you ? It did not seem worth while denying it, because I was fairly sure by then that I had struck a fellow-spy, even if not the right one. After all, it was practically impossible not to strike some sort of spy in Athens at that time. So I went along with him: That was just the beginning. Later on things became more complicated. But my subject is only "How to Become a Spy." "How to Succeed as a Spy " is another lesson, and one I never mastered.