More on British wartime honey-trap operative ‘FIFI’

Christine Marie ChilverBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
New material, including photographs, has emerged on ‘agent FIFI’, a World War II-era female British intelligence operative tasked with using her good looks to test the ability of male spy trainees to withhold sensitive information. As IntelNews reported last week, FIFI was the operational codename of Christine Marie Chilver, a British subject born in London of a British father and a Latvian mother, who was educated at a German-language school in Latvian capital Riga before attending Sorbonne University in Paris. In 1941, the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) hired Chilver as a counterintelligence operative and tasked her with 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”. One declassified SOE document said FIFI was selected for the task due to her “unusual gifts of courage and intelligence”. According to British National Archives historian Jonathan Cole, FIFI became “a legend of SOE” and “a symbol of seduction”, and was rumored to have slept with a number of trainees in order to “find out whether they talked in their sleep”. Another SOE report noted that Chilver’s looks were “too striking and foreign for English tastes”, but added that most of the SOE trainees targeted by Chilver were foreign-born, so her cover as a French journalist was both adequate and suitable for her continental image. This past weekend, London-based newspaper The Sunday Telegraph published several photographs of Chilver, which were given to the paper by one of the wartime operative’s few friends, Janice Cutmore. Initially employed by Chilver as a house cleaner, Cutmore eventually cared for the retired SOE agent until the end of her life. When Chilver died, she left part of her estate to Cutmore, along with a single album of photographs of herself, many of them from the 1940s and 1950s. Cutmore told The Telegraph that, after leaving the SOE, Chilver cohabitated with her fellow-SOE operative and lifelong companion Jean ‘Alex’ Felgate, whom she never married. Read more of this post

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WWII files reveal ‘glamorous’ female spy used to test trainees

Special Operations Executive plaqueBy 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. Read more of this post