Back to News
05 Oct 2016
'The Spy with 29 Names': Bletchley Park Study Day

'The Spy with 29 Names': Bletchley Park Study Day

Share this page:

On Friday, we had a very successful Study Day, led by Historical Trips’ Guide Lecturer, Jason Webster. In the morning, Jason gave two lectures on Juan Pujol (Agent Garbo), perhaps the most successful double agent in history and the subject of Jason’s book, ‘The Spy with 29 Names’. In the afternoon, we went to Bletchley Park where we had a guided tour of the grounds in glorious sunny weather.

The Garbo story is fascinating. Believing him to be working for them, the Germans paid meticulous attention to all the information he sent them. In reality, he was working for British Intelligence and played his part in the greatest deception operation of the war, ‘Operation Fortitude’.

The reconstructed 'bombe' at Bletchley ParkIn 1944, the Germans knew that there was going to be an invasion of France; they just didn’t know where. Large Panzer reserves were established to be thrown into battle the moment the invasion came and so, when the Allies landed in Normandy, Hitler ordered tanks to move from Calais to Normandy. At this point, Garbo intervened. He sent a message to the Germans stating that the Normandy attack was a diversion and that there was a massive army in Kent waiting to cross the channel in the area of the Pas de Calais. Hitler saw this message, countermanded his own order and the Panzers returned to Calais to meet the threat of an invasion that never came. Had those tanks gone to Normandy, the outcome of D-Day might have been very different.

The keen-eyed will have seen that Garbo was in the news last week. Files released in the National Archives reveal that Garbo’s wife, Araceli, unhappy with life in Britain and homesick for her native Spain, threatened to unmask her husband as a double agent. She had to be talked out of it by both Garbo and MI5. The revelation that Garbo was a double agent would have put D-Day itself in jeopardy.

At Bletchley Park, we went to the cottages where code breakers Alan Turing and Dilly Knox worked at one time, and saw a demonstration of a reconstructed ‘bombe’, a forerunner of the modern computer. These huge calculating machines were used to work out the daily settings of the German Enigma machines. Once done, German codes for a particular day could be broken and all their communication traffic read. Amongst these decrypted messages were the reports that Garbo was sending to the German High Command, so the British knew they were having the desired effect!

We are running the Garbo Study Day again next year on Friday September 29, 2017. The Study Day includes: Two lectures, morning coffee, buffet lunch, entry to Bletchley Park, a guided tour of the Bletchley grounds and a free copy of Jason Webster’s book, ‘The Spy with 29 Names’.

by Michael Ivey