An intriguing book by Historian Helen Fry that reveals secrets behind the story of Kendrick, the WW2 M16 spymaster based at Latimer House
Helen Fry spent five years researching Spymaster, The Secret Life of Kendrick, As well as painstakingly working through files at The National Archives and speaking to descendants of intelligence officers she spent time with refugees from Germany who had been secret listeners at Latimer.
Helen had no idea just how crucial Latimer’s role in WW2 had been.
Colonel Thomas Kendrick was working for the British Secret Service in Vienna in the 30s, saving thousands of Jews from the Holocaust and eluded the Nazis until betrayed by a double agent. After interrogation Kendrick was sent back to London. He disappeared from the public eye and re-emerged during WW2 as MI6’s spymaster-in-chief operating from 1942 at Latimer House. Several thousand German prisoners-of-war (allegedly including Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess) passed through its specially constructed block and their conversations bugged.
“ Latimer House, along with Bletchley and Wilton Park near Beaconsfield, gathered vital information that shortened the course of war.” says Helen, “Bletchley was about codes but Latimer was the human side. Latimer would act out phony interrogations then get the real useful material when the prisoners were talking to their cell mates . Interrogators would take a German General for a walk in the grounds and chat about politics, literature or family, then once relaxed they would let secrets slip. It was at Latimer conversations about V1 and V2 were first overheard.”
Helen uncovered lots of gems. By piecing information from different sources she was convinced that Rudolph Hess spent time at Latimer.
“ A staff member at Latimer House showed me ‘Hess’ room’ which was next to Kendrick’s. I also identified a time when he could have been there. We located the secret tunnel behind a wall which supposedly leads to the church. When De Vere bought the property the Deeds specified that the wall blocking the tunnel wasn’t to be touched for 50 years. My inkling is to get a hammer and chisel and start now. Latimer House holds many secrets. Lots are in the book, some are still to be uncovered.”
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Spymaster, The Secret Life of Kendrick, Helen Fry, £15
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