My first recollection of England on that calm clear day in April 1942, as I walked down the steps of the plane, was of the terrible cold – cold outside and icy fear inside.
At the bottom of the steps stood two officers from MI5, who would shape my destiny. The one who introduced himself as Mr Grey didn’t speak a word of Spanish; I didn’t say anything to him in my faltering English. The other, Tomas Harris, spoke Spanish like a native.
The day after my arrival I asked Tommy Harris if he would come with me to help me buy some warm clothes, but that had to wait. First I had to undergo a long and detailed interrogation. Mr Grey led the cross-examination, with Harris interpreting.
My English was not just poor, it was almost non-existent, so they suggested that I should, as a matter of priority, have some lessons so that I could learn the basics of the language of Shakespeare. However, I thought it much more important to make immediate contact with the Germans, sending them some really useful information, for I had been silent for some weeks.
Thee days later, after consulting various sections of MI5, we sent the Abwehr a juicy letter which, for the first time, included true information about England.
As soon as Colonel T.A. Robertson, who was responsible for the MI5’s B1(a) section dealing with counter-espionage and double agents, and his fellow officers had given me their full backing, Tommy Harris and I concentrated hard on drawing up a short-term and long-term programme of action.
Tommy Harris had endeared himself to me right from the start, not just from the firm way he had shaken my hand but because he had also put his arm round my shoulders in a gesture of protection and friendship. We soon began to confide in each other and I always trusted him completely; my trust was never misplaced.
Together we invented the role of GARBO, a creation that afforded us both great pleasure.
Someone has said that GARBO without Harris or Harris without GARBO would have been unthinkable, for both were crucial to the other in carrying out the work that had to be done!