Agent Fifi And The Wartime Honeytrap Spies

Title:                      Agent Fifi And The Wartime Honeytrap Spies

Author:                Bernard O’Connor

O’Connor, Bernard (2015). Agent Fifi And The Wartime Honeytrap Spies. Stroud, Gloucestershire : Amberley Publishing

LCCN:    2015510187


Date Posted:      March 31, 2017

Reviewed in The Intelligencer[1]

Espionage novels by Ian Fleming, Len Deighton, and Jason Matthews, among others, have contributed to the conventional wisdom that intelligence officers routinely seduce their agents for the nation’s greater good. But is this “tradecraft” technique a formal part of the real world intelligence profession? Beyond the use of Romeo agents by Markus Wolf’s East German intelligence service, firm evidence of its use is rare among Western services. Several historians have reported use of a variation on the theme during WWII. In each case, however, British SOE officers were being tested to see if they could keep their mouths shut under seductive pressure. M.R.D. Foot mentioned that a “devastating blonde, codenamed FIFI made it her business to find out” whether officers about to go overseas were likely to talk in their sleep and, if so, in which language.”[2] David Stafford noted that one Noreen Riols also tested agents to see if they would reveal secrets, adding that one did only after she “let him hold [her] hand.” Stafford also mentioned FIFI, adding that “she was the ultimate Agent…who went all the way,” but doubting that SOE would ever reveal the truth.”[3] Neither Foot nor Stafford cited sources.

Well, Bernard O’Connor has now put any doubts to rest. Recently released British National archives included the file on “Our Special Agent: ‘Fifi’. . . .”     (Foreword) Fifi’s real name was Marie Christine Chilver, a native of Paris who was brought up in Riga. When the war started, she returned to Paris and then made her way to London, where she was hired by SOE as an agent provocateur. (p. 7) Three chapters of Agent Fifi deal with Fifi’s background, recruitment, and exploits with SOE officers about to depart for France. O’Connor includes several of her lengthy reports that, with careful reading, leave no doubt as to modus operandi. There are also photos of her and some of her victims, all in nonoperational circumstances.

The final four chapters of Agent Fifi are filler. They deal with other women employed by MI5, three of whom were part of the Double Cross operation whose stories have been told elsewhere. O’Connor has solved a mystery, but the question of clandestine calisthenics tradecraft in conventional intelligence operations is still left to the imagination of the novelists.

[1] Reviewed in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (22, 3, Winter 2016-17, pp.127-128).

[2] Foot, M. R. D. (1985). SOE: An Outline History of the Special Operations Executive, 1940-46. Frederick, MD: University Publications of America

[3] Stafford, David (2000). Secret Agent: The True Story of The Special Operations Executive. London: BBC

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