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BEHIND ENEMY LINES; How Agent Snow sent shivers up Hitler's war effort.


DESCRIBED as a 'shifty-looking, short, bony-faced Welshman' in his security file, double agent Arthur Owens ended up playing a major role in Britain's victory in World War Two.

A new book explores the Welsh Nationalist's 'wild lifestyle' while he worked as a spy under the codename of Agent Snow.

Deceiving Hitler: Double Cross and Deception in World War II, by Kent author Terry Crowdy, looks at how Owens helped to fool Hitler and the Germans after becoming a double agent for the German Abwehr and Britain's Security Service MI5 in the 1930s.

Codenamed 'Snow' by the British, a poor anagram of his surname, he was instrumental in the capture of numerous Nazi agents sent to Britain in the early part of the war.

He went on to be viewed with great suspicion by MI5 but the chairman of the secret wartime committee responsible for running double agents, described him as the "opening batsman" of the "double cross system".

This referred to the process of capturing and turning German spies and having them pass false messages back to their controllers.

The book looks at how the double cross system went on to have resounding successes particularly during the D-Day Normandy landings in 1944 and in misdirecting the Nazi V1 and V2 rockets.

In Britain's deception around the Normandy landings, which meant Hitler kept thousands of troops at Calais, Terry said: "It was a really critical moment in the war and they pulled this deception off."

Terry argues that without Arthur Owens this system may never have got off the ground and some of the most famous double agents such as Tricycle, Garbo and Zigzag would not have had such a prominent role in the war.

Born in 1899 in Pontardawe in the Swansea Valley, Owens, on paper, lived in Hampstead with a wife and son.

But the truth was that he was a "bit of a rolling stone, with a taste for Scotch and a string of infidelities to his name."

He said that Owens was always on the move, and often left short of cash by his vices, and so his descent into the world of espionage was both "predictable and unnecessary".

Owens worked as an electrical engineer in Canada and supplied batteries to the German Navy before the war when the Brits and the Germans recruited him as a spy at the same time.

Terry said: "He was taking money from both sides and was looking after himself."

He said he played both sides off against each other and had "quiet a wild lifestyle".

The book explains how Snow loved bars in Hamburg in the red light district and how German controller, Doctor Rantzau took him to all the top bars and hotels.

His wife started to become suspicious about what he was up to and reported him to the Special Branch and later told Scotland Yard that he had tried to recruit their son as a German spy.

The German Secret Service paid him PS10,000 and gave him explosives.

Meanwhile he was able to pass on codes given to him by the Germans to the British which helped Bletchley Park break many of the enemy's codes.

By the time of the D-Day Normandy landings, Snow was in Dartmoor after it had become unclear who he was really working for.

Terry said things began going wrong for Snow in 1941 when he was asked to go to Lisbon to meet his German controller.

But Terry said Snow got drunk and was living the high life so didn't notice when fellow British spy Celery, who was there to keep an eye on Snow, was bundled into a car and interrogated by the Germans.

Celery managed to escape and the pair went back to England.

Terry said: "His drinking got a bit too much, very erratic and there was a massive debrief into what he'd got up to. They said they couldn't trust him and he went to Dartmoor and then Canada."

Snow left his wife in 1939 and went on to have a German girlfriend, Lily Funnell, whom he eventually married. He later lived in Ireland under the new name of Brown which is where he died.

Terry said Snow was not an unsung hero but was a "fundamental part" of the war's history.

"It was him who got this system of deception going. He was the first one of these double agents and so the system was based around him.

Lots of other agents then came in.

"But if it hadn't been for Arthur Owens, arguably they wouldn't have had this system in place and they might not have realised the opportunity they had," he said.

| Deceiving Hitler: Double Cross and Deception in World War II' is published by Osprey Publishing at PS8.99.


Double agent Arthur Owens, code-named Snow
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 23, 2013
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