I sent three messages to the Germans from inside Portugal (purporting to come from England), all of which were worded with the care and attention worthy of the most adroit German field agent. I tried hard to introduce new information gradually and to be cautious when I mentioned the new contacts I had recruited to help me.
In my first message I told them that I had found three people who would continue to supply me with further information and whom I had made my sub-agents: one in Glasgow, one in Liverpool and one of the west country.
The naïvety with which I told them the facts I said I had discovered probably contributed to the conviction that I really was in London.
In the second message I said that I had been offered a job at the BBC and was about to accept. I also said that I had heard that the navy was carrying out landing-craft manoeuvres on Lake Windermere and described in detail how I grappled with a whole string of obstacles.
A lucky break
The third message, which as always was a complete invention, had a unique impact, although it was not until much later that I learnt of the stir it caused in the British Secret Service.
In this third message, I said that a convoy of five ships had left Liverpool for Malta, information which I said I had gained from a sailor.
The extraordinary fact was that a British convoy was genuinely leaving Liverpool for Malta, although neither the date nor the number of ships tallied exactly with my message. But the coincidence was sufficiently close for the British to think that a German agent was loose in England.
This worried the British enormously, especially when they were able to confirm that the Germans carried out an aerial reconnaissance of the projected route and of Malta’s Valleta Harbour.
Who was this agent? Where was he getting all this information from which endangered British security?
The British were going crazy looking for me as they had no idea where I was and, indeed, whether I existed at all.
So much of this reads like a fairy story but it was this third message which led to the British accepting me and which eventually enabled me to become both the German’s top spy ARABEL and MI5 counter-spy GARBO.