Michael Smith writes:

"It often seems as if espionage is more about turf wars between the various agencies than collecting intelligence. If it isn’t the Americans claiming some great spying success that was actually down to the British, it’s the British claiming one that was down to the Poles, as they did with the breaking of the German Enigma cipher. Biteback’s latest title Codename Rygor: The Spy behind the Allied victory in North Africa is an example of where the Americans claimed an espionage coup that was in fact down to the Poles.

The first major allied landing of the Second World War, Operation Torch, in November 1942 saw US and British troops swiftly defeat the Vichy French forces. One of the key factors was the extensive intelligence they possessed, which was largely credited to the US Consul in Algiers Robert Daniel Murphy. In fact, the vast bulk of the allied intelligence came from the Polish intelligence service representative in the Algerian capital, Major-General Mieczyslaw Zygfryd Slowikowski, codenamed Rygor."<!--more-->

To whet your appetite, here is an excerpt from Codename Rygor..., where Slowikowski's cover is potentially jeopardised:

"The next morning (the 16th), after a sleepless night, my routine was interrupted by Achiary’s unexpected arrival. I had never seen him looking so nervous and tense. The first word I heard was ‘Treason!’

Early that morning his men had stopped a group of two men and two women arriving from France without documents, ostensibly fleeing from Paris and from arrest. They stated that they wanted to meet ‘RYGOR, who is in charge of the Allied secret service in Algiers’. This news put him on guard as it reeked of provocation by the Gestapo, who had somehow uncovered the existence of our network. He had no idea what to do with them. They had no means of support and he did not have any funds at his disposal for such a contingency. Thank God, he had arrested them without the knowledge of the Germans or of Commissioner Begue, who, fortunately, was not on the ship. The situation was extremely serious.

I told him: First of all, I’ll immediately give you some money for their support. We’ll have to keep them in hiding for the time being. The Polish Secret Service is operating within Occupied France with a main outpost in Paris. Many Frenchmen and women are employed in the network. While I was still in Marseilles, I knew some of their cryptonyms, for example ‘La Chatte’ [in London known to Poles and British as VICTOIRE]. I’ve heard nothing from London about betrayal and arrests in Paris. If these people are saying something about the Secret Service there, then they must have cryptonyms if they worked for it. You must speak to them again and find out. In the meantime, I’ll ask Central Office for clarification and we’ll decide what to do after London replies.

Achiary, having calmed down, and with the funds in his pocket, went to obtain the information, which he would immediately report back to me.

There were only two possibilities: first, some form of betrayal leading to arrests, the liquidation of the Paris outpost and the network, and the agents’ escape. I still couldn’t understand how individual agents came to know about my cryptonym and my Algerian work. How could TUDOR, the only person in France who knew my cryptonym, have passed it on to Czerniawski, and how could it have become known to the other agents? That worried me most. Secondly, perhaps the Gestapo really had picked up my trail and, since they knew of our work, had sent agents provocateurs to Algiers. In that case, I resolved to get rid of them – there was no other choice."

Codename Rygor: The spy behind the Allied victory in North Africa is part of our new Dialogue Espionage Classics series and is available from Biteback, priced £9.99