Double Cross Agents

Double Cross Agents

Background to the Double Cross System

The Double Cross System was one of the greatest intelligence coups of the Second World War. J C Masterman, Chairman of the Double Cross Committee, concluded that 'we [MI5] actively ran and controlled the German espionage system in this country [Britain]'. The Double Cross Committee was known as the Twenty Committee because the Roman numerals, XX, formed a double cross. In the Near and Middle East, Double Cross was run by the Special Section of SIME.

Due to a combination of counter-espionage work prior to the War and signals intelligence during it, MI5 were in a position to monitor and pick up German agents as they were 'dropped' into Britain. These agents were then 'turned' and began working for the British authorities. The preferred communication was via wireless telegraphy (W/T), although secret ink, microphotography and, in some cases, direct contact with the enemy was also employed.

Initially the Double Cross System was used for counter-espionage purposes, but its comprehensive success provided an excellent conduit for strategic deception, culminating in the D-Day deception operation, known as FORTITUDE. This plan misled the Germans into believing that the Pas de Calais was the real landing area of the Allied invasion, rather than Normandy. Further successes were achieved in U-boat and V-weapon deception, and during operations HUSKY and TORCH.

A good summary of the most significant Double Cross cases may be found in JC Masterman's book, The Double Cross System.


(KV 2/1133)

The British double agent CHEESE, also known as LAMBERT and Mr ROSE and whose real name is not revealed by this file, was the most significant double agent working for British intelligence in the Middle East. Originally recruited by the Abwehr in Genoa in 1940, he offered his services to the British and was run by SIME. Though his cover seemed to have been blown in 1941, his position was rebuilt and he was able to pass major pieces of deception information to the Germans from 1942 until the end of the War. His contribution was especially significant in the successful prosecution of the Western desert campaign, (particularly at El Alemein), and during operations TORCH and HUSKY (the landings in North-west Africa and Sicily).

This heavily weeded file contains, amongst other material, intercepted Abwehr radio traffic relating to CHEESE, summaries of the CHEESE case including details of the cypher used, and correspondence relating to the resumption of CHEESE's activities after his double agent cover was blown. The file also contains some material on other SIME double agent cases.


(KV 2/1134-1136)

SPRINGBOK, also known as Van HUGHES, was a German national who emigrated to South Africa in 1929. He was returned to Germany by the South African authorities against his will in 1939 on the outbreak of war, and was faced with the choice of joining the armed forces or enlisting as an Abwehr agent. He chose the latter in the hope of being able to rejoin his family in South Africa, and was despatched to Latin America on route for South Africa in late 1941. He volunteered to the British as a double agent in Brazil in November of that year, but the South Africans refused to allow him to return. He was sent instead to Canada, where, after the failure of various attempts to make contact with the Abwehr, his case was dropped in 1943.

These heavily weeded files cover the period 1941-47 and deal with the whole management of SPRINGBOK, whose real name is not revealed by any of these files. There is a full case summary in KV 2/1136, which also includes minuted criticisms of the Secret Intelligence Service for its handling of this Double Cross case (especially the unauthorised attempt to establish SPRINGBOK in Canada, theoretically the Security Service's patch, without proper consultation) and correspondence concerning what to do with SPRINGBOK after his case was abandoned. There are reports of interrogations of SPRINGBOK in KV 2/1134 and 1135, including some assessments of the intelligence provided by him.


(KV 2/1137)

COBWEB was an Icelander recruited by the Abwehr in Copenhagen and trained in espionage with the intention that he return to Iceland and report intelligence material from there back to his controllers. He reported this to the authorities in Iceland as soon as he had been infiltrated there by U-boat, and became a double agent. COBWEB's radio link was used to play false information to the Germans for deception purposes, and there were some successes in diverting the enemy from a number of Russian convoys (though a more ambitious plan to draw out the German fleet at a time where it could be intercepted and destroyed by the British Home Fleet was unsuccessful).

This file covers 1942 only, though misinformation was sent via COBWEB until the end of the War, and deals with his initial arrival in Iceland and his use to assist the passage of the Arctic convoy PQ 17 by deception. The file includes reports of COBWEB's action for this convoy and summaries of his case.


(KV 2/1138)

SNIPER was a Belgian air force pilot who was recruited by German intelligence in Brussels in 1942 and instructed to enter Britain via Spain to gather military information. He handed himself in to the British authorities on his arrival, and passed useful information on various German technical developments before beginning his career as a double agent, passing false information back to the Germans using secret writing as he had no transmitting wireless. After the liberation of Belgium, SNIPER reported to the Germans that he was to be posted back to his home country, and they left a transmitting set hidden in Belgium for him to use. At this point he returned to Belgium and continued passing deception information, under the control of the Twenty-first Army Group.

The file includes summaries of SNIPER's case, and a sample of the Abwehr code he used.