Juan Pujol was, like Eddie Chapman, a British double agent during the Second World War but was his antithesis in almost every other respect. Unlike the flamboyant, womanising former criminal Chapman, Pujol was an unassuming, bespectacled businessman and a loyal husband and father.
Pujol was born in Barcelona and, during the Spanish Civil War, managed to irritate both sides of the conflict. He was imprisoned by both the Republican and Nationalist forces, largely for refusing to tow the fascist and communist lines, respectively. Despite serving in both armies, he avoided firing a single shot during the war.
When the Second World War erupted, Pujol felt compelled to do something to oppose the fascist forces. He offered his services to British intelligence numerous times but was ignored.
Undaunted by the rejections or by his complete lack of intelligence experience, Pujol began spying on the Nazis independently. He convinced the Abwehr that he was a pro-Nazi Spanish government official. The Germans provided him with money and training and ordered him to establish a spy ring in Britain.
For over a year, Pujol single-handedly maintained the deception that he was successfully recruiting and running a large network of spies. In reality, all of his recruits were fictitious. In fact, Pujol had never visited Britain, spoke no English and didn’t understand Britain’s pre-decimal currency system. His information came from tourist guides, train timetables and the library.
His reports were so convincing that, when intercepted by MI6, they precipitated a hunt for the non-existent spies.
In 1942, Pujol was recruited by MI5 and relocated to Britain. The quantity of information Pujol’s spy network, now numbering 27 agents, supplied to the Abwehr convinced the Germans that there was no need to recruit further spies there. Some of the information was legitimate but was timed to arrive when it would be of no use to Germany. When one of his agents died, Pujol convinced the Germans to pay a pension to his ‘widow’.
(If, at this stage, the Abwehr come across as a little on the dim side for an intelligence organisation, it’s worth remembering that the head of the Abwehr, Wilhelm Canaris, was actively working against the Nazis and was most likely in cohoots with MI6).
Pujol’s most valuable work was done as part of Operation Fortitude, the misinformation campaign intended to decieve Germany as to the whereabouts of the D-Day landings. He was instrumental in convincing the Germans that the landings would occur at Pas de Calais rather than Normandy. Pujol was so highly regarded that even after this deception, he maintained their trust and was awarded the Iron Cross.
In 1949, Pujol reportedly contracted malaria in Angola and died. After his MI5-assisted fake death, he moved to Venezuela where he remained until his real death in 1988.