Spy who broke ‘Nazi’ spy ring revealed at last!

Eric Roberts, an unassuming father of three, has been revealed as the genius German agent who infiltrated the ranks of British Nazi sympathisers. A bank clerk for Westminster Bank in London, he came to the attention of spymaster Maxwell Knight, for unknown reasons, and was involved with pro-Nazi groups in Britain as early as May 1940.

Fluent in Spanish, he spoke only limited German, presumably picked up from holidaying in Germany in ’32 and ’34. Listing jiu-jitsu as a hobby, or “recreation”, he was a member of the Anglo-Japanese Club. With nothing else remarkable about him, it is little wonder that his employer is reputed to have written a letter questioning Roberts suitability with, “what are the particular and especial qualifications of Mr Roberts – which we have not been able to perceive – for some particular work of national military importance which would take him away from his normal military call-up in October?”.

Operating as Jack King, Roberts became known as the “genius spy”, obtaining critical information about the activities of Nazi sympathisers working in the UK. Apparently posing as a Gestapo agent, Robots (Jack King) uncovered and reported on “scores and probably hundreds” of people working against British interests. Experienced spies were surprised at the level of treason he found, The Telegraph reports.

It seems that the original plan called for infiltrating Siemens British division of the German company of that name. However, Roberts met a Marita Perigoe, a malicious woman of German and Swedish ancestry, the wife of a British Union of Fascists member, run by Oswald Mosley. “She was found to be so violently anti-British and so anxious to do anything in her power to help the enemy that it was felt that special attention should be paid to her”, according to an MI5 report. This introduction appears to have helped the erstwhile Jack King infiltrate into the inner rankings of the Nazi spy ring in England, rather than just rattling around with those on the outside.

Several noteworthy intercepts include the Austrian Hans Kohout who handed over information concerning tactics used by the British air defence system, Hilda Leech who passed on reports about jet aircraft development, and an Edgar Whitehead who gave details about the new amphibious tank, which was undergoing secret testing.

Roberts dealt with people who were intensely driven by anti-Semitism and German propaganda, to the point of treachery. Remaining an unsung hero after the war, he eventually retired to Salt Spring Island in British Columbia. He was survived by his wife, Audrey, two sons, Maxwell and Peter, and daughter Christa.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE