Spanish wife almost changed World War II plans

World War Two spy's row with wife 'almost ruined D-Day'


A row between a spy and his wife almost compromised World War Two D-Day operations, secret MI5 files show.

Juan Pujol, who was codenamed Agent Garbo, had helped to convince the Nazis the landings would not take place in Normandy but in the Pas-de-Calais.

But after being confined to their London house to protect his identity, his wife threatened to go to the Spanish embassy in a row in June 1943.

She said she would tell all unless she was allowed to visit her mother.

Homesick

The family was based in Harrow, north-west London, where Agent Garbo had a network of sub-agents sending false intelligence reports to his German spymasters.

His feedback of false information to the Nazis diverted them away from the scene of the actual D-Day landings on 6 June 1944.

Mrs Pujol not only struggled to cope with the pressure of the family's double life but also became homesick.

She was missing Spanish food and became upset at her husband being absent so often.

Fears that the Pujol family would be recognised on the streets of London, led to Mrs Pujol being frustrated at the restrictions imposed on her and their two children.

In the secret files, released from the National Archives, the moment Mrs Pujol confronted her husband's case officer is recorded.

"I don't want to live five minutes longer with my husband," she screamed at Pujol's MI5 case officer, Tomas Harris. "Even if they kill me I am going to the Spanish embassy."

 Agent Garbo would not only deceive the Nazis by pretending to be their agent and provide false information but he also tricked his wife into staying quiet.

Despite Garbo's case officer coming up with the idea to tell his wife he had been sacked, the double agent did not think this would be enough.

Because Mrs Pujol was not able to go back to Spain, he suggested a plan to convince her that her outburst had led to him being arrested.

She was even taken to visit him, blindfolded, in a detention camp and, after the reunion, was convinced of the need to support his undercover work.

MI5's legal adviser, Maj Edward Cussen, told her he had decided her husband should be released and allowed to continue the mission.

"He reminded her that he had no time to waste with tiresome people and that if her name was ever mentioned to him again, he would simply direct that she should be locked up," Mr Harris noted.

"She returned home very chastened to await husband's arrival."

Comments

Anonymous said…
This is an interesting story, Graham. In fact, the story reveals the importance of human factor in complicated moments in history. In this case, I can understand the homesick of the Puyol’s wife, but it sounds rather strange because if the situation in London in these moments wasn’t good, in Spain was worse. For that time, the British battle had finished and the bombing on London were occasional. Perhaps, Mrs Puyol couldn’t stand the her husband`s double life and tried to give a reasonable explanation like visit her mother in Spain. I can imagine the hard situation of this woman with her two children living in the periphery of London. It supposes that she didn’t know the more important information of her husband’s work, absolutely vital for the security of allied force in the Second War World. In fact, the Ms5 officers pretended a false detention of Puyol in order to convince to the woman that her behaviour was creating problems to her husband. But it’s clear that the patience of the responsible of British intelligence was reaching the limit when they told the woman that if she continued with her complaints, she would be locked up.
Finally, a brief thought about this people who helped to win the war, like Puyol (Agent Garbo). I think that his sacrifice, as others women or men, almost anonymous, it has not been recognised properly. Many of them risked their lives but when the peace came, they were ignored for the official history of the winners. It would seem that his dark work, by the very nature, made impossible such recognition.
(José Luis professor)
Graham said…
Hi José Luis,

I love all these kinds of war stories. This one caught my eye because of the Spanish connection.


... In this case, I can understand why Puyol’s wife felt homesick, but it sounds rather strange because if the situation in London then wasn’t good, it was worse in Spain. By that time, the British battle had finished and the bombing on London was occasional. Perhaps, Mrs Puyol couldn’t stand her husband`s double life and tried to give a reasonable explanation like /such as visiting her mother in Spain. She supposedly didn’t know the most important information about her husband’s work, absolutely vital for the security of allied forces in the Second War World. In fact, the Ms5 officers faked a false detention of Puyol in order to convince the woman that her behaviour was creating problems for her husband. But it’s clear that the patience of the head of British intelligence was reaching the limit when they told the woman that if she continued with her complaints, she would be locked up.

Finally, a brief thought about those people who helped to win the war, like Puyol (Agent Garbo). I think that his sacrifice, like other men or women, almost anonymous, has not been recognised properly. Many of them risked their lives but when peace came, they were ignored by the official history of the winners. It would seem that his dark work, by its very nature, made it impossible for such recognition.