Mastodon The Writing Desk: Special Guest post by Deborah Swift, Author of The Silk code

17 May 2023

Special Guest post by Deborah Swift, Author of The Silk code

New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

England, 1943: Deciding to throw herself into war work, Nancy Callaghan joins the Special Operations Executive in Baker Street. There, she begins solving ‘indecipherables’ – scrambled messages from agents in the field. Then Nancy meets Tom Lockwood, a quiet genius when it comes to coding. Together they come up with the idea of printing codes on silk, so agents can hide them in their clothing to avoid detection by the enemy. Nancy and Tom grow close, and soon she is 
hopelessly in love.

Jack King and the Fake Gestapo Cell of WW2

During WW2 the government did its best to suppress the British Union of Fascists (BUF), but MI5’s effort to prevent fascist activities was hampered by the government’s advisory committee on internment. This advisory committee consisted of members who were influential in society, friends of aristocrats and the upper classes. They were there to make decisions about who should be removed from society as a threat to the war effort. But members of the BUF had friends on the committee who frequently recommended the release of their upper-class colleagues despite their fascist sympathies.

Oswald Moseley and the British Union of Fascists (British Library) 

Determined to stop this, MI5 set about forming a fake Gestapo cell. It was led by Eric Roberts, an unassuming-looking bank clerk who worked for the Westminster Bank. Roberts was a former fascist sympathiser, but he had changed allegiance and now became an undercover agent in the BUF.

Roberts was supplied with a fake Gestapo identify card and then assumed the alias of ‘Jack King’, supposedly a German agent who’d been recruited in Britain in early 1939 to compile information on those who would be ‘loyal to the Fatherland’ in the event of Nazi domination.
Pic identity Card (National Archive)

Over the next three years, ‘Jack King’ put together a network of hundreds of Nazi supporters. His aim was to channel all the information given to him back to MI5 whilst pretending that this intelligence was being fed back to the Gestapo in Berlin. Jack King maintained his nerve and was able to successfully defuse many of the plans made by Hitler’s supporters in Britain.

Jack King (Eric Roberts) Wikipedia

Central to the BUF network were two ardent fascists, Marita Perigoe and Hans Kohout, who also feature in The Silk Code. Marita Perigoe had a grudge against the British because her husband Bernard, a committed fascist, had been imprisoned by the internment committee. Marita made herself King’s second-in-command, and unbeknownst to her, MI5 housed her in a specially bugged flat in central London so they could track her conversations and contacts.

Spies like Marita provided ‘Jack King’ with maps showing the location of Britain’s petrol and aviation stocks, top secret research on new types of engines for fighter planes, and reports on experimental tanks. Some recruits spied in their home towns for information on possible targets for German bombers, or for sites of military bases and civil defence.

Some were even happy to gloat over the death and injuries caused by air raids, incorrectly putting their success down to intelligence they had provided, when in fact none of the information ever got to Germany.
When Oswald Moseley was released from prison he tried to revive his plans for a fascist Britain, but this failed. So in 1949 Marita Perigoe left England and headed for Australia where she had several further marriages and became a costume designer for theatre.

She died in 1984, never learning that she had been fooled by ‘Jack King’ in WW2. Read more about it on the BBC website.

Deborah Swift

# # #

About the Author

Deborah Swift lives in North Lancashire on the edge of the Lake District and worked as a set and costume designer for theatre and TV. After gaining an MA in Creative Writing in 2007 Deborah now teach classes and courses in writing and provides editorial advice to writers and authors. Find out more at and follow Deborah on Facebook and Twitter @swiftstory

1 comment:

Thank you for commenting