Agent Jack: The True Story of MI5's Secret Nazi Hunter

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781474605137

Price: £10.99

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June 1940. Britain is Europe’s final bastion of freedom – and Hitler’s next target. But not everyone fears a Nazi invasion. In factories, offices and suburban homes are men and women determined to do all they can to hasten it.

Throughout the Second World War, Britain’s defence against the enemy within was Eric Roberts, a former bank clerk from Epsom. Equipped with an extraordinary ability to make people trust him, he was recruited into the shadowy world of espionage by the great spymaster Maxwell Knight. Roberts penetrated first the Communist Party and then the British Union of Fascists, before playing his greatest role for MI5 – as Hitler’s man in London.

Codenamed Jack King, he single-handedly built a network of hundreds of British Nazi sympathisers, with many passing secrets to him in the mistaken belief that he was a Gestapo officer. Operation Fifth Column, run by a brilliant woman scientist and a Jewish aristocrat with a sideline in bomb disposal, was kept so secret it was omitted from the reports MI5 sent to Winston Churchill.

In a narrative that grips like a thriller, Robert Hutton tells the fascinating story of an operation whose existence has only recently come to light. Drawing on newly declassified documents and private family archives, Agent Jack shatters the comfortable notion that Britain could never have succumbed to fascism, and celebrates – at last – the courage of individuals who protected the country they loved at great personal risk.


At a time when antisemitism is once more rearing its ugly head, this fascinating and well-researched book gives us a salutary reminder that Britain is not immune to homegrown fascist treachery
Tony Robinson
A great book
John Crace, Guardian
Robert Hutton's deeply researched, often astounding book describes how a loose network of homegrown fascists plotted to undermine wartime Britain, and explains the ingenious way MI5 attempted to neutralise them ... Hutton includes transcripts of eavesdropped conversations with these fanatics that would make your hair stand on end
Anthony Quinn, Guardian
In his absorbing biography Agent Jack, an unassuming Cornish bank clerk, Roberts was an unlikely hero, who set up a fifth column, posing as Jack King, a Gestapo handler, to control domestic subversives. This is a story of safe houses, drops and taped conversations, which amply illustrates Roberts' extraordinary courage
Terry Philpot, THE TABLET
I have never encountered a stranger or more touching picture of real-life treachery: the exciting and the humdrum, the venality and the idealism, the incompetence and the expertise ... and all the while the cocktail of high-octane subversion and the low-octane muddle of workaday life. Robert Hutton is an ace researcher but, more than that, a keen and kindly student of real people
Matthew Parris
Hutton's brilliant detective work uncovers a fascinating, and hitherto untold, story of spies, eccentrics and fanatics
Josh Ireland, author of <i>The Traitors: A True Story of Blood, Betrayal and Deceit</i>
Robert Hutton has written a well-researched, highly readable account of Roberts's strange undercover life
Ben Macintyre, The Times
A gripping book by a talented new spy-writer which illuminates a shocking episode in our wartime history. Fans of Ben Macintyre's books will love this
Tim Shipman
Eye-opening from start to finish. Pacy, original and frequently chilling, Hutton offers a fascinating new take on the story of the Home Front
Henry Hemming, author of <i>M: Maxwell Knight, MI5's Greatest Spymaster</i>
We think we know the story of the Second World War, in which Britons were unambiguously on the side of good against evil. But along comes Robert Hutton to show us that that narrative, while comforting, isn't exactly true. We had our own fascists here, eager to do all they could to help the Nazi enemy. In this surprising, even shocking book Hutton tells the extraordinary story of Hitler's British friends - and the unlikely man who did so much to stop them. It's a truly compelling tale
Jonathan Freedland