WW2 espionage: The spies who surprised me

Sir Max Hastings' new book tells the story of espionage in the Second World War. Here he introduces some of the remarkable agents who captured his imagination, and reveals the momentous impact of their operations...

Bletchley Park

This article was first published in the November 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine

People who killed each other – soldiers, sailors, airmen – were the most conspicuous, yet in some ways least interesting, participants in the Second World War. Outcomes were also profoundly influenced by a host of men and women who never fired a shot. All of the belligerents waged an unceasing secret war – a struggle for knowledge of the enemy – to empower their armies, navies and air forces through espionage and codebreaking. General Albert Praun, the Wehrmacht’s last signals chief, wrote afterwards: “All aspects of this modern ‘cold war of the air waves’ were carried on constantly even when the guns were silent.”

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