The useless spy who lived in Camden Town

AN INCOMPETENT Nazi spy who lived in Camden Town and Paddington and had a weakness for women and fine food has been named in a government list. Throughout the Second World War, Werner Strebel pretended he was a Swiss journalist – while in fact

Tan Parsons

AN INCOMPETENT Nazi spy who lived in Camden Town and Paddington and had a weakness for women and fine food has been named in a government list.

Throughout the Second World War, Werner Strebel pretended he was a Swiss journalist - while in fact he was being paid by the German Intelligence Service.

But when British intelligence bosses investigated, they discovered that he was "none too bright" and so "feeble" he was barely worth interrogating.


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Strebel is known to have lived in Harrington Street in Camden Town during the 1940s and also lived in Devonshire Terrace, Paddington, at some point. In a signed confession, Strebel revealed his duties included obtaining information about the RAF station in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, and the RAF instruction book.

He said: "If I could not get the book, I was to contact pilots and obtain the information from them.

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"I was told to communicate the information when I had obtained it by means of secret writing and I was given a white powder which I was instructed to dissolve in water and write with a tooth pick."

But an intelligence report concluded that Strebel's services to Germany were entirely worthless.

"Strebel was chiefly concerned about an easy and pleasant life and his sole ambition appears to have been to get as much money as he could without rendering any services at all," it said. "During the months of September, October, and November 1939, he only sent three letters, which were considered useless."

An intelligence report on his activities, dated June 11 1946, revealed that he first arrived in 1939 and sent three messages to his spymaster, Major Heinrich Von Wenzlau.

One message written in September said that there would be a "great air attack" on the Leuna arms factories, near Leipzig, in Germany, in the next few days. But the letter only reached Germany two months later.

The report added: "When later interrogated in Milan about the aerodromes in the vicinity of London, he said he had tried everything but without results.

"He had been in the Luton area, had seen the aerodrome in the distance but found it impossible to reconnoitre it on account of the strict guard."

While security services bosses decided what to do with Strebel, he left the country of his own accord on February 17 1947.

Von Wenzlau's assessment, which was passed to British spies, said: "Strebel was a so-called Frauenkenner (ladies' man). He was constantly in financial difficulties but tried to live according to his motto: 'Good food, good drink and easy living.'

Strebel's incompetence may have shielded him from suspicion when investigated in 1940.

One subsequent report stated: "He was a journalist only in name, being, in fact a waster and a self- indulgent individual with a weak will.

"An inclination to be evasive was noted, which the officer ascribed partly to a lack of good English, partly to a brain which seems none too bright."

But it added: "We have no evidence, however, that Strebel is engaged in mischievous activities."

Due to his laziness, this was largely true.

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