Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Nazi Spy

"It was during the Second World War, and spy mania was raging. The public had been instructed to watch out for mysterious strangers, lights, signalling, and other indications of enemy espionage. The call was most warmly responded to by schoolboys. A popular tale in magazines of the time was of brave boys unmasking a German agent, a spy-catching craze swept the boarding schools of Britain. The authorities, not being readers of boys' comics, had no idea what was going on. Thus many odd incidents passed unexplained.

At Wellesley preparatory school in Broadstairs it became obvious to the pupils that their Latin master was a German spy. He bore a peculiar resemblance to an obnoxious gauleiter depicted in The Hotspur, and a skin aliment had given his face the colour and texture of putty. It was therefore assumed that he was wearing a mask. Little Heathcote Williams, future poet and playwright, took on the task of exposing him. During Latin class, he rose from his desk, ran up to the master and began scrabbling at his face. Even as he did so, the absurdity of the whole thing became suddenly apparent to him, but it was too late to turn back. The rest of the class urged him on with cries of 'Spy!' until the master lost his nerve and bolted for the door. The headmaster was unable to make sense of what had happened so no one was punished."

[Eccentric Lives and Peculiar Notions, John Michell, pg. 62-3]

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