Agent Jack: The True Story of MI5's Secret Nazi Hunter
By Robert Hutton
Read by Roger Davis
The incredible and recently unearthed tale of Operation Fifth Column, the secret Second World War MI5 operation to flush out hundreds of British-based Nazi sympathisers.
June 1940. Britain is Europe's final bastion of freedom - and Hitler's next target. But not everyone fears a Nazi invasion. In factories, offices and suburban homes are men and women determined to do all they can to hasten it.
Throughout the Second World War, Britain's defence against the enemy within was Eric Roberts, a former bank clerk from Epsom. Equipped with an extraordinary ability to make people trust him, he was recruited into the shadowy world of espionage by the great spymaster Maxwell Knight. Roberts penetrated first the Communist Party and then the British Union of Fascists, before playing his greatest role for MI5 - as Hitler's man in London.
Codenamed Jack King, he single-handedly built a network of hundreds of British Nazi sympathisers, with many passing secrets to him in the mistaken belief that he was a Gestapo officer. Operation Fifth Column, run by a brilliant woman scientist and a Jewish aristocrat with a sideline in bomb disposal, was kept so secret it was omitted from the reports MI5 sent to Winston Churchill.
In a narrative that grips like a thriller, Robert Hutton tells the fascinating story of an operation whose existence has only recently come to light. Drawing on newly declassified documents and private family archives, Agent Jack shatters the comfortable notion that Britain could never have succumbed to fascism, and celebrates - at last - the courage of individuals who protected the country they loved at great personal risk.
Read by Roger Davis
(P) Orion Publishing Group 2018
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- Publication date:
06 Sep 2018
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Eye-opening from start to finish. Pacy, original and frequently chilling, Hutton offers a fascinating new take on the story of the Home Front — Henry Hemming, author of M: Maxwell Knight, MI5's Greatest Spymaster
A gripping book by a talented new spy writer which illuminates a shocking episode in our wartime history. Fans of Ben Macintyre's books will love this — Tim Shipman
I have never encountered a stranger or more touching picture of real-life treachery: the exciting and the humdrum, the venality and the idealism, the incompetence and the expertise ... and all the while the cocktail of high-octane subversion and the low-octane muddle of workaday life. Robert Hutton is an ace researcher but, more than that, a keen and kindly student of real people — Matthew Parris
Hutton's brilliant detective work uncovers a fascinating, and hitherto untold, story of spies, eccentrics and fanatics — Josh Ireland, author of The Traitors: A True Story of Blood, Betrayal and Deceit
At a time when antisemitism is once more rearing its ugly head, this fascinating and well-researched book gives us a salutary reminder that Britain is not immune to homegrown fascist treachery — Tony Robinson
We think we know the story of the Second World War, in which Britons were unambiguously on the side of good against evil. But along comes Robert Hutton to show us that that narrative, while comforting, isn't exactly true. We had our own fascists here, eager to do all they could to help the Nazi enemy. In this surprising, even shocking book Hutton tells the extraordinary story of Hitler's British friends - and the unlikely man who did so much to stop them. It's a truly compelling tale — Jonathan Freedland