While a remarkable Spaniard, Juan Pujol Garcia (aka GARBO) performed an immeasurable service to the allies during WWII, a Portuguese citizen nearly thwarted an important allied mission
According to the Times an MI5 file just released by the National Archives provides information on Gastao de Freitas Ferraz, a Portuguese wireless operator who was being paid by German intelligence to send coded messages about convoys to U-boat commanders. He was removed from his vessel to prevent him from betraying the position of a huge convoy bound for North Africa.
The convoy in question was the Operation Torch invasion fleet. Operation Torch was an American/British invasion of Vichy-held territory with the ultimate aim of driving Axis forces out of North Africa.
Ferraz had been transmitting encrypted messages from his fishing boat, Gil Eannes, in the Atlantic. But unknown to the Germans, the messages were being intercepted and deciphered at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire. On August 9, 1942, MI5 was sent a “most secret” letter that referred to the “alleged unneutral behaviour” of a certain Portuguese wireless operator. Gil Eannes, a former Portuguese warship, was part of a large fleet authorised to operate in the Atlantic because of Portugal's neutrality.
Sir David Petrie, the director-general of MI5, wrote to the Foreign Office on October 24: “There is no possible room for doubt that de Freitas is a German agent.” MI5 asked for Gil Eannes to be intercepted at sea: “You will, of course, appreciate that if any action is to be taken, it must be taken forthwith.”
The Foreign Office agreed, and the Admiralty sent out a secret signal to all relevant commands: “If the vessel is sighted West of 11 degrees West, she should be ordered not to use W/T, de Freitas [Ferraz] should be removed and in order to ensure that no further use of W/T is made, an armed guard should be put on board.”
The warship HMS Duke of York duly intercepted Gil Eannes and Ferraz was detained and taken to Gibraltar. He was transferred to MI5's interrogation centre at Camp 020 in West London, where he confessed. After the war he was deported to Portugal.
Another fascinating snippet pf history, I am sure that there are still a lot of similar tales in the archives awaiting the light of day.