The decorous world of Welsh hotels has acquired a new mystique with the revelation that MI5 chose them, against countrywide competition, as a bolthole for its most valuable wartime spies.
Secret double agents, whose deception of the Nazis was so effective that several were decorated by the Abwehr secret service, were scheduled to join hikers and retired couples at such nooks as the Swallow Falls hotel in Betws-y-coed if a German invasion force landed on the Channel coast.
Masterminded by MI5’s “Twenty committee”, named because the Roman numerals for 20 form a double-cross, the plan directed agents to the Snowdonia spa, and similarly quiet hotels, in Llandudno and Llanrwst. The operation was codenamed hegira after the Arabic term for the prophet Muhammad’s enforced departure in 622 from Mecca.
“Seven agents were scheduled to check in to these unlikely hiding places,” said Phil Chamberlain, whose study of newly released papers on the episode will be published in next month’s History Today magazine. “They were codenamed Gelatine, Dragonfly, Tate, GW, Mutt, Stork and Snow. For Snow, who was the first important German agent to be turned, it would have been a homecoming – his real name was Arthur Continue reading