WWII files reveal ‘glamorous’ female spy used to test trainees
September 17, 2014 1 Comment
By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
British records from World War II released this week have revealed for the first time the existence of a “glamorous” female intelligence operative who used her good looks to test the ability of spy trainees to keep sensitive information. The agent’s name was Marie Chilver, and she was the daughter of a Latvian mother and an English father. She appears to have drawn the attention of British intelligence in 1941, shortly after she helped a British airman shot down over France return to Britain. Chilver came in contact with the Special Operations Executive, a top-secret organization established in 1940 by the British government in preparation for the war in Europe. Its mission was to organize espionage and sabotage operations in Axis-occupied Europe and to assist underground resistance groups. The documents show that the SOE initially thought Chilver was a German spy. However, once her identity was verified through several background checks, the highly secret agency employed Chilver as a counterintelligence operative. She was given the operational codename “FIFI”. Her duties apparently involved accosting SOE spy trainees at restaurants and bars and trying to entice them into revealing government secrets, in an effort to evaluate whether spies-in-training could “keep their mouths shut”. Utilizing her “glamorous looks”, blonde hair and elegant dresses, Chilver would pose as a French freelance reporter and would approach selected SOE trainees to see “if they had learned how to keep secrets”, according to the wartime documents. But the files reveal that, more often than not, FIFI was able to extract classified information from the trainees. In one case, Chilver reported that a Belgian SOE trainee had told her nearly “all there was to know about him” by the end of a short evening. The SOE proceeded to promptly dismiss the young Belgian a few days later. The declassified documents include a transcribed interview with FIFI, who claimed that her counterintelligence methods were “absolutely fair” and were “mild and innocent” when compared to what the SOE trainees would have to face in the field. It is worth noting that, although FIFI’s cover and mission were relatively uncommon, it was not rare for women spies to be employed by the SOE. The organization directly employed over 3,000 women as intelligence operatives, along with 10,000 men. The files on agent FIFI are among 3,300 intelligence-related documents from World War II that were released this week by the British National Archives.