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A spy who loved himself: the story of Eddie Chapman – a double agent, a smuggler, a swindler and a womanizer

He managed to work for the Abwehr and M15, so much so that both security services were delighted. He was a lover of a beautiful life, beautiful cars and beautiful women. It could not end well. But it ended well! Meet Eddie Chapman, or agent Zigzag.

Eddie Chapman, former British safe breaker and World War II, double spy, spies through a gap in a newspaper, as he sits in the lobby of a Munich hotel on Feb. 8, 1967 in Germany. (AP Photo/Frings)

The Fall of Edward

It was in 1931. Eddie Chapman was 17 years old, he was sitting on a bunk in an army barrack and thought that his cherished dream came true: he became a royal guard, he left for London from his backwoods. But … somehow does not feel happy. With an increase of 183 cm, he was high for his generation, a handsome, adroit, white-toothed guy – it was not difficult to enter the service of her Majesty’s elite troops.

Eddie happily left his shameful father’s house, where without a mother who died many years ago, there was always a mess, drunkenness and desolation. However, marching in a bear’s hat was not so fun as it was seen from the coastal town of Roker. In addition, Eddie is not used to discipline.

The drunkard-father, who worked as a bartender, was never interested in the lives of his sons, so Eddie stopped going to school when he was ten years old. He loitered along the beach, collected bottles, handed them over and bought a movie ticket for that money, or just sat on a bench on the embankment and whistled after the girls passing by. Day of the Guardsman was built on a completely different principle.

1930: Pedestrians crossing Great Windmill Street, Soho, London. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

However, as the old-timers said, all this can be tolerated for the sake of the dismissal, when young soldiers in branded uniforms went to Sochi to smash – and the devil himself is not their brother! Soho 30’s is a special bohemian world where people from different backgrounds of society mixed in bars, cafes and dancefloors: ladies of half-light, actresses and dancers, noble and rich, writers, directors, journalists, and bandits of all stripes.

Here, in one evening, novels and downs were tied up, it was a real metropolitan life, like her boys on the bench of a seaside city, when, during the holiday season, a noisy company of London majors passes through them in a fragrant train of spirits.

It’s been nine months since joining the service, and now Eddie, in a dress uniform, has finally stepped onto the streets of Soho. It was a summer evening, gorgeous ladies were walking around the handle with fashionable gentlemen, music and drunken laughter came from everywhere. On Eddie noble ladies, of course, did not look.

But in one of the cafes with the dance floor, the black-haired girl looked at him with such a glance that the young guard, without a second’s thought, sat down at a nearby table and soon danced with her in an embrace. And the warmth of this embrace lasted until the morning when, in the cheap room of a small hotel, Eddie parted with innocence and lost track of time.

He woke up two months later when the money ran out. The girl threw it, and the Royal Guard, on the contrary, found it and, to the fullest extent of the law, sent it to the guardhouse for desertion. After serving 84 days in an army prison, Chapman was demoted and dismissed on all four sides in disgrace. You, of course, can guess which way he went without delay.


There, in Soho, Eddie again plunged into a familiar crazy whirlpool. He was remembered, given him a job in a bar, then he got an extras on the set, then – a cabaret dancer, an amateur boxer, a masseuse in the salon … And again in a circle, all the time in front of him with his charming smile. Irresistible, a gallant chevalier, a player and a drunkard who always spent more than he earned on his ten casual jobs.

Everyone knew him, from bandits to celebrities. Terence Young, the future director of the first James Bond film, in particular, talked about Edward Chapman: “It was the guy who could support the conversation on any topic, he had pleasant manners and undeniable charisma. We all knew he was a crook and could cheat you on the way to the bar when you gave him money so he ordered drinks for you, but it was all a trifle. He never gave any friends. ”

Jelly Gang

Chapman had no respect for either God, or morality, or the law. Especially to the law. Already after the first year in Soho, he began to drive to the police: for forgery of checks, for petty thefts in stores, and once even for public insult to public morality in Hyde Park, which our hero in broad daylight carried out with a prostitute.

War and Conflict, World War Two, Personalities, pic: 1961, Eddie Chapman pictured in Germany uniform, A former safe-breaker in the 1930’s, Eddie Chapman was made a German secret agent during the war but defected to the British and became famous as a British double agent (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)


However, really great things awaited him. In 1934 Eddie became a member of the so-called “Jelly Gang”. His appearance was due to the great chemist Alfred Nobel. In addition to dynamite, which can be used for the purposes of mass destruction of mankind, this scientist invented helyngite, a simple jelly-like explosive, which is especially useful for opening safes.

Already in the first year of the “work”, the heli-gen explosives technicians managed to rob so much good that they decided to rent a house on the Dorset coast and retire to rest, living at their pleasure. However, after six weeks they became bored, and they again returned to “work.”

Until 1938 things were going well. Chapman finally had enough money to live as he liked. And this meant: to dress with the best tailors, drink only expensive alcohol, play on the run, love the best women in the city. On one of them, the beauty Vera Friedberg, who had a Russian mother and a rich German father, Eddie almost even got married.

But a couple of months after the engagement, it turned out that the bandit lives with the dancer Freda Stevenson, the rising star of the London cabaret. Engagement was terminated, Vera got off with a slight fright, and Eddie – a good knowledge of “bed” German, which is very useful to him in the future.

However, in 1939, the police announced a special operation against the “jelly gangsters,” and the gang was arrested in Edinburgh, where friends moved from too dangerous London. Ahead of me was a ten-year sentence for banditry. But in some incomprehensible way Eddie was still released on bail of 150 pounds.

Naturally, he immediately took advantage of this chance and fled to the Channel Islands. In the stash, Chapman had a decent amount, so he returned to his favorite lifestyle: he rented a room at Hotel de la Plage, the most expensive local hotel, and immediately twisted the affair with the charming blonde Betty Farmer.

Alas, Eddie underestimated the possibilities of the British police. He was tracked after the first week of staying at the hotel, and one evening an armed detachment of policemen broke into a restaurant where the famous heliantite bandit had a romantic dinner with his lover. Eddie did not hit his face in the mud: when he saw the police, he jumped out of the window, broke the glass, and disappeared into the dark distance on the beach.

All the wharves of the island of Jersey were closed. A couple of days and one hacked safe after Chapman again tracked down and this time arrested. Here justice has already taken hold of him with all the severity of the law. Edward Chapman was sentenced to one year in prison on the island of Jersey for violating local laws and for subsequent extradition to London for serving time already for capital crimes.

The Abwehr agent

False identification papers issued to Chapman by MI5, left, and by his Nazi handlers. Credit Photographs From British National Archives


Life in prison was definitely not part of Eddie’s plans. It was the most ignominious, the darkest time of his life. However, a born adventurer did not waste time here either. To begin with, he started self-education.

Communicating with Bohemia and aristocrats in Soho, Chapman understood very well that no sense of humor or dexterity of conversion would replace the basic knowledge of history and literature that his interlocutors sometimes so freely referred to, and he was forced to smile only meaningfully, unable to beat off feed.

The entire library in Jersey prison was re-read twice. Eddie also tried to pull up his German and learn French. Sitting on the wooden floor in the cell, he prepared himself for another, beautiful life and carefully looked out for a chance to come back to her as soon as possible.

This chance came from a completely unexpected side. In Europe, the Second World War began, and the island was captured by the Germans. Conditions in prison have become even worse. Then Eddie, whose brain worked in a critical situation at a feverish pace, came up with some plan. He decided to offer his services to the fascists as a spy and subversive agent.

First, he was able to handle explosives. Secondly, he could easily prove his uneasy relations with the British government, which wanted to deprive him of ten years of free life. Thirdly, he knew many in London and could easily get lost in Soho, especially in military vanity. Eddie expounded these considerations in a letter and sent it to the German general who commanded the occupied Normandy islands.

The answer was not many weeks. When Eddie was already desperate, it suddenly became clear that he was being transferred to another prison – in France. It was at least some kind of change (at least, access to the new library was opened, and even in French). However, he was happy early.

The French prison of Fort-de-Romainville was an unusually harsh place, known for one curious tradition. As soon as the fascists learned about any sabotage from the side of the Resistance, some of the prisoners (depending on the severity of the sabotage) they were sent to execution. Sometimes people simply disappeared, and no one knew about their future fate.

Prisoners lived in an atmosphere of constant fear and despair, which gave birth to another phenomenon: since women and men in Fort-de-Romainville were kept together, disorderly, feverish, bestial sex flourished in all corners and back streets. People from the last strength sought to enjoy the passing life. Of course, Eddie reacted with curiosity and approval to these orders.

However, Chapman was not destined to properly immerse himself in prison life – he was soon summoned for interrogation. Two German officers gave him to understand that the letter reached the address, was considered in the highest spheres and a positive response was received to the inquiry.

School of Spyware

Mandatory Credit: Photo by George Elam/Daily Mail/REX/Shutterstock (1054000a)
Eddie Chapman (died December 1997 British Secret Agent In World War Ii Who Was Awarded The Iron Cross By The Germans. Pictured Arriving At London Airport Onboard A B. E. A. Flight.
Eddie Chapman (died December 1997 British Secret Agent In World War Ii Who Was Awarded The Iron Cross By The Germans. Pictured Arriving At London Airport Onboard A B. E. A. Flight.


For the first time in two years, Edward woke up in a soft bed. The window of his bedroom looked out onto the garden. Oak panels on the walls, white linen, a dining room with tapestries … Eddie positively liked this place – the base on which the Abwehr trained his spies. Here, within three months, a new agent under the guidance of his superior, Dr. Groning, studied the wisdom of radio communication, work with explosives and hand-to-hand combat. In the evenings, Eddie, in the company of other agents, enjoyed sumptuous dinners and French wines.

I must say that Chapman, of course, pulled out a lucky ticket. When it became clear that Britain intends to enter the war, the Abwehr began feverishly searching for people who could be recruited as British agents. With this resource, the Germans were very bad, they were completely unprepared to work against the British, and in this sense Eddie’s initiative came at an opportune time.

His letter really reached the highest authorities in Berlin, and every officer who worked with him could not believe his eyes – such an ideal candidate was seen by him. The jelly gangster was checked for a long time in all instances, so that when Chapman entered Dr. Groning’s disposal, he was already a kind of pet in the Abwehr, a candidate with high expectations.

During the training, Eddie demonstrated all his talents. He thought quickly, possessed an incredibly deft and trained body and an absolutely amazing ability to establish contacts with strangers. The new German “super-agent” was given the nickname Fritz, which was soon transformed into a gentle Fritzhen.

In December 1942, Fritzhen received his first task – to land in the vicinity of Cambridge and blow up the factory “De Havilland”, which produced one of the most effective British bombers – Mosquito. This twin-engine high-wing was almost entirely made of wood, so German radars could not detect it.

“Komarik” regularly struck tangible blows at German bases. On December 16, with a parachute behind his back, a mini radio station in his backpack and a cyanide tablet in a secret pocket, Eddie jumped out of the plane into a dark night …


Eddie did not know that he was already waiting on the ground. British intelligence worked particularly well with the decipherment of German communications, so that the landing in the area of ​​Cambridge was known in advance. However, when the brave paratrooper was detained, he behaved in the most ingenious way: Eddie said that the cooperation with the Germans and the landing itself were planned by him solely to get home and offer his services to the queen.

For surely her Majesty will not abandon her man in the very heart of fascist intelligence? Of course her Majesty did not mind. Moreover, the British security service M15 even organized a special operation to catch and re-assemble German agents, so Edward again got into the jet.

With Chapman immediately signed a cooperation agreement and hinted that he would not only forgive past crimes, but also generously pay all possible risks. In addition, German royalties to the newborn agent Zigzag were also allowed to be retained. Who would object to such a proposal? Of course, not Edward Chapman!

To build Abwehr’s trust in his agent, a wonderful plan was developed. Its author was a real wizard of industrial disguise, Jasper Machelen. At the factory, “De Havilland” simulated a sabotage: German reconnaissance planes from above recorded several explosions, after which the plant was covered with a special camouflage mesh depicting the destruction. In the London newspapers printed about the sad consequences of the subversive activities of fascist agents.

Dr. Groning rejoiced: his plan worked out brilliantly. Fritzhen carried out the assignment, which he sent the encoded message with his radio station.

Valiant agent was immediately decided to submit to a high military award. Edward received from the Wehrmacht 110,000 Reichsmarks and the Iron Cross for this operation. Agent Zigzag successfully completed the assignment to continue cooperation with German intelligence, got out of the UK via neutral Lisbon and followed straight to Norway, where he was waiting for a refresher course at another Abwehr training base.

End of the Zigzag agent

It was 1943. On the fronts throughout Europe people were dying, in the concentration camps the diabolical furnaces worked continuously, the blockade workers were starving … Meanwhile, the darling of fate Eddie Chapman wasted no time. The Norwegian spy training base was just as good as the French one.

Fritzhen learned to manage the yacht, and in walks through the fjords he was accompanied by another luxurious lover – Norwegian Dagmar Lalum, also an agent of the Abwehr. Eddie quickly reached full mutual understanding with his colleague, and they often retired to discuss the latest spy techniques.

However, this idyll could not last long. Soon Fritchen was waiting for a new assignment. He was to again land in the UK and this time to try to get important military information about what kind of weapons the British are going to use against German submarines, about new night airplanes, and to clarify how destructive the bombing of London is and to send precise geographic coordinates of targets inside the city.

What to do, I had to leave the charming Norwegian and again jump with a stupid parachute into the embrace of M15. Eddie was greeted with cordiality, especially pleased with the task of artillery. Through the agent Zigzag managed to completely disorient the fascist aircraft! He sent a message that the targets on the territory of London were inaccurate, and sent out new coordinates, which actually led the bombs into the suburbs, where they did not cause significant destruction.

Agent Zigzag fully justified his existence, and he was guaranteed a lifetime amnesty and 6000 pounds in addition from the government of Great Britain. However, his superiors perfectly understood that they were playing with fire. Everything Eddie did for the M15 was not at all out of love for the queen or homeland. Agent Zigzag was guided solely by vested interests, and here, as you know, who pays, he orders music.

While the cunning adventurer was not bribed in another intelligence service, M15 decides to cease cooperation with him. In November 1944, Edward Chapman was informed that British intelligence no longer needed his services. And then the war came to an end, so that the agent Fritschen ceased to exist by itself.

Female Agent Zigzag

Betty Farmer, Dagmar Lahlum, Freda Stevenson et Diane

Vera Friedberg

The daughter of a Russian aristocrat and a German merchant. Eddie took care of her with the most serious intentions. He rolled it on a sports car, drove to the best restaurants and filled up with gifts. One of Chapman’s biographers argues that it even came to the marriage, which Eddie went to help his beloved to legalize in the UK. However, after Vera learned about the betrayals of her husband, she broke off all relations with him, and Chapman had to divorce her on the fact that the other party failed to appear in court.

Freda Stevenson

The beauty-dancer from Southend was from the same environment as her lover. Fred did not ask unnecessary questions when he left the night without her and went home only in the morning to dive to her bed. Freda gave birth to Eddie’s daughter, Diane, whom he recognized when he was serving time in prison on the island of Jersey. However, the prison administration forbade Chapman to write any letters for freedom, and he could not help his daughter in any way.

Betty Farmer

The stunning blonde, who later wrote an autobiography on behalf of “Mrs. Zigzag,” like Eddie, went to conquer the capital from a provincial town and quite succeeded in this. At the time of the meeting with Chapman, Betty worked as a model and secretary, she had her own clothing store. Their romance was turbulent and beautiful. His unexpected end at La Plage gave history a romantic atmosphere that Betty thought of this time as the happiest in her life.

Dagmar Lalum

Mistress-spy worked not only on the Abwehr, but also on the Norwegian Resistance. Eddie met her at the bar of the Ritz Hotel in Oslo. During the first week of his acquaintance, he was sure that Dagmar was just a night butterfly of a high flight. Gradually, she opened to him, and once on a yacht for a bottle of cognac, he also admitted that he is playing a double game. Going on to another task, Eddie promised his lover that he would return, they would open a nightclub in Paris, he would marry her … Dagmar waited for him and never opened the secret of Zigzag’s agent, although for the connection with him, Norwegian friends called her “fascist whore” “.

How many wolves do not feed …

In 1946, Edward Chapman returned to his favorite pastime: he sat in expensive Soho restaurants, surrounded by starlets, dubious companions and all sorts of bohemians, made some suspicious transactions, attended races. However, something was missing in this carnival, and maybe Akela felt the approaching old age …

In general, in 1947, he decided to find his pre-war beloved Betty Farmer and, what the devil does not joke, marry her. The best private detectives were connected, but Eddie just ran into Betty in London.

It turned out that his instinct was not deceived: she was still unusually good and was exactly the woman who had waited for him all her life, was ready to forgive and take any extravagant deeds of her errant lover. And it was accepted that after the wedding, Eddie did not retire at all.

He renewed his links with the criminal world of London, and M15 had to intercede for him many times before the law and reprimand him for his dark deeds. Eddie was caught then on the smuggling of gold in the Mediterranean, then on fraud on the run, then during a trade on the black market …

Soon after the end of the war, Chapman wrote an autobiography, which also told about the adventures of Zigzag’s agent. For this, the British intelligence services tried to sue him (because of the disclosure of classified information), but then the book was missed. On it, Terence Young shot the film “Triple Cross” *.

Almost to the last days Eddie remained the same dexterous bandit from Soho, and even the M15 is not able to count all the women who have passed through his bed. However, Betty forgave everything, was for him a devoted wife, even gave birth to his daughter. They became heirs to the rather impressive state of Eddie Chapman when he died at the age of 83 from a heart attack.

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