A Man Called Lucy

Title:                  A Man Called Lucy

Author:                Pierre Accoce

Accoce, Pierre (1966) and Pierre Quet. A Man Called Lucy: 1939-1945. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, Inc.

LCCN:    67010567

D810.S8 R613 1967a


Date Updated:  November 14, 2016

This book was on a list of recent books on the CIA given out by Nigel West during a series of his lectures on The Spying Game, aboard the QM II in 2010.

In the period from September 1, 1939, to June 22, 1941, Germany and the Soviet Union were not at war. The two countries signed a nonaggression pact in August 1939, and together they invaded and divided Poland. While Britain and France declared war on Germany for the invasion of Poland, they did not go to war against the Soviet Union. Long before Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, British codebreakers learned of the German plans to break their nonaggression pact.

Getting the word to Russia presented a problem, however. The Russians were not allies of the British. Churchill believed that if the Ultra secret were revealed to the Russians, they could not be trusted to conceal it from the Germans. On the other hand, if the Russians understood the German intentions and prepared for the coming invasion, their war effort against the Germans would be more effective and in the long run would serve British interests. So the dilemma for the British was how to get Ultra information to the Russians without letting them know about Ultra. The solution was a man called Lucy.

The Lucy spy ring was an anti-German operation that was headquartered in Switzerland. It was run by Rudolf Roessler, a German refugee and ostensibly the proprietor of a small publishing firm, Vita Nova. Very little is clear about the Lucy ring, about Roessler or about Lucy’s sources or motives.

Roessler’s story was first published in 1967 by the journalists Accoce and Quet. In 1981 it was alleged by Read and Fisher (Operation Lucy: Most Secret Spy ring of the Second World War, 1981) that Lucy was, at its heart, a British Secret Service operation intended to get Ultra information to the Soviets in a convincing way untraceable to British codebreaking operations against the Germans. Stalin had shown considerable suspicion of any information from the Americans or British about German plans to invade Russia in 1941, so an Allied effort to find a way to get helpful information to the Soviets in a form that would not be dismissed is, at least, not implausible.

That the Soviets had, via their own espionage operations, learned of the British break into important German message traffic was not, at the time, known to the British. Various observations have suggested that Alexander Foote was more than a mere radio operator: he was in a position to act as a radio interface between SIS and Roessler, and also between Roessler and Moscow; his return to the West in the 1950s was unusual in several ways; and his book was similarly troublesome. They also point out that not one of Roessler’s claimed sources in Germany has been identified or has come forward. Hence their suspicion that, even more so than for most espionage operations, the Lucy ring was not what it seemed.

However this is flatly denied by F. H. Hinsley (British Intelligence in the Second World War), the official historian for the British Secret Services in WWII, who stated that “There is no truth in the much-publicized claim that the British authorities made use of the ‘Lucy’ ring…to forward intelligence to Moscow.”

Phillip Knightley (The Second Oldest Profession) also dismisses the thesis that Ultra was the source of Lucy. He indicates that the information was delivered too quickly (often within 24 hours) to Moscow, too fast if it would have to go through Bletchley. Further, Ultra intelligence on the Eastern front was less than complete; many of the German messages were transmitted by landlines, wireless messages were often too garbled for timely decoding, and the Enigma code of the Eastern Front was only broken intermittently. Knightley also suggests that the source was Karel Sedlacek, a Czech military intelligence officer. Sedlacek died in London in 1967 and indicated that he received the information from one or more unidentified dissidents within the German High Command. Another but less likely possibility Knightley suggests is that the information came from the Swiss secret service.

Now V. E. Tarrant (The Red Orchestra) echoes Knightly’s objections, and in addition points out that Read and Fisher’s scenario was unnecessary, as Britain was already passing Ultra information to the Soviet Union following the German invasion in June 1941. While not wishing to reveal Britain’s penetration of Enigma, Churchill ordered selected Ultra information to be passed via the British Military Mission in Moscow, reported as coming from “a well-placed source in Berlin”, or “a reliable source”. However as the Soviets showed little interest in cooperation on Intelligence matters, refusing to share Soviet intelligence that would be useful to Britain (such as information on German air forces in the Eastern Front) or agreeing to use the Soviet mission in London as a transmission route, the British cut back the flow of information in the spring of 1942, and by the summer it had dwindled to a trickle. This suggestion, that Britain lost the motivation to share intelligence with Stalin after this time, is also at variance with Read and Fisher’s theory.

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

The two French journalists who authored this volume said that they came upon the story of the Lucy ring in Switzerland in World War II during their investigation of Switzerland’s history in that war. After they discovered the intriguing story of the Lucy operation, they wrote this book, claiming to adhere always to the facts. However, questions subsequently were raised about certain important claims they had made and aspects of the case that they had described that they could not substantiate to the critics’ satisfaction. Consequently, experts have concluded that their work is not a reliable source on the subject. Soviet agent Sandor Rado, a principal in the Lucy operation, strongly denounced the book and was particularly critical of what he interpreted to be the book’s thesis-that the Swiss group rather than the Red Army won the war.

Originally published in French (Guerre a été gagnée en Suisse.) In London, published as The Lucy Ring. London: W. H. Allen.

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[2]

The story of Rudolf Roessler, considered one of the more significant Soviet intelligence agents of WWII. Gaining information from his well-placed sources, Roessler operated out of Switzerland and provided the Soviets with a mass of detailed intelligence on the German war effort. His net is known as “Rote Drei.”[3]

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[4]

Two French journalists have combined to produce this controversial best seller In France, and a book which caused serious debate in England. It is the story of Rudolf Rossler, code name LUCY, whose sources of information in Germany the authors attempt to identify. However, the authors admit that their identification of members of the LUCY ring in Germany by first names and initial letter of the surname was their own invention. Rossler, a German emigre posing as a Swiss publisher, kept in contact by clandestine radio with ten of his peacetime friends who passed an information direct from the decision level of the German High Command. Unreliable, possibly containing some propaganda messages.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 53

[2] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature (7th ed Rev.). Washington, DD: Defense Intelligence School, pp. 1

[3] See also Foote, Alexander (1964). Handbook for Spies. London: Museum Press

[4] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., pp. 169-170


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2 Responses to A Man Called Lucy

  1. Pingback: The Rote Kapelle | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  2. Pingback: Espionage and Counterespionage, Chapter 14 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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