This is the Introduction written by ANTHONY BLUNT in the catalogue for the Tomas Harris Art Exhibition held in 1975 at the Courtauld Institute in London in memory of Tomas Harris

———————————————————-

The first thing that struck one about Tomas Harris was the total enthusiasm  with which he threw himself into any enterprise on which he embarked. Whether it was discovering an unknown painting by El Greco in an obscure Spanish collection, mastering a new painting technique, scrutinizing Goya’s etchings or exploiting the possibilities of an intelligence scheme against the Nazis. At that particular moment all his energies and all his imaginative force went into that one objective, which did not prevent him, a day – or an hour – later, when that particular problem had been solved, from turning with equal enthusiasm to one of his other interests, or simply to an activity in which he was an expert, entertaining his friends.

Tomas was one of the most complete human beings I have ever known. He will be mainly remembered as someone who was an expert on Spanish art, particularly on the art of El Greco and Goya, but his range of interests was much wider than that. In the arts his natural gifts were almost frightening. In 1923 he was awarded the Trevelyn-Goodall scholarship at the Slade School in London, only to find that, as he was only 15, he was theoretically too young to be eligible. In later life he had only to take up some technique – in painting, engraving, sculpture, or ceramics, to find that in a very short time he had mastered the problems involved and could use the technique with as much skill as the accepted experts. Indeed it may have been this virtuosity which prevented him from attaining in his art that concentration which was essential if his ideas were to receive complete expression. Variety of invention, range and brilliance of technique, vigour of expression – these are the qualities which stand out from the works here listed, whether in painting, engravings, sculpture, glass or ceramics.

But his art was only a part of his life.  His activities as a picture-dealer were brilliantly successful and were combined with a reputation for absolute probity which sometimes aroused jealousy among his competitors. His warmth and generosity brought him a wide circle of friends in varied fields – the art world, business, and government departments.  He was not in the strict sense of the word an intellectual, but his intuition was uncanny and having made a discovery by instinct he knew how to follow it up and consolidate it by reasoning and accumulation of evidence. It is characteristic that one of his most important acquisitions during his life as an art-dealer – a series of fifteenth-century German panels, which had incidentally once been in the National Gallery – was bought among the contents of an out-house at a country sale. Another instance was in the magnificent pair of ???????, now in the Courtauld Institute Galleries, which he saw, totally repainted, in a sale, and bought because when he opened them they smelled old.

Tomas was born in 1908, the son of an English father and a Spanish mother. His father, Lionel Harris, founded the Spanish Art Gallery, and it is no exaggeration to say that for half a century all the most important works of art which were brought to the UK from Spain came through him or, after his retirement, through Tomas. He was among the first English dealers to realise the importance of El Greco, and he also owned masterpieces by artists such as Velazquez and Goya. His interests, however, were not limited to the painting, and in his gallery one would be certain of seeing magnificent medieval tapestries, Oriental carpets and Renaissance gold and silver work.

Tomas was, therefore, brought up in an atmosphere which made him appreciate beautiful things, but his own inclination was to become a practising artist rather than a dealer. His early acceptance into the Slade School in London looked like the beginning of a brilliant career and was followed by a year studying painting and sculpture at the British Academy in Rome, where he learnt nothing from the teaching but had the opportunity to absorb all that Rome had to offer to a young art student. In 1930, however, he decided to go into art-dealing, first running a firm on his own and later joining his father as a director of the Spanish Art Gallery.

At the outbreak of war Tomas joined the War office, where his intimate knowledge of Spain was of great value. His greatest achievement, however, was as one of the principle organisers of what has been described as the greatest double-cross operation of the war – ‘Operation Garbo’ – which seriously misled the Germans about the Allied plans for the invasion of France. The story has been told,  in the semi-official account of the double-cross network, but in fact the success of the operation was mainly due to the extraordinary imaginative power with which Tomas directed it. In fact, he ‘lived’ the deception, to the extent that, when he was talking in the small circle of people concerned, it was difficult to tell whether he was talking about real events or one of the fantastic stories which he had just put across to the Nazi-Intelligence Service. After the invasion of France one of the highest commanders said that the Garbo operation was worth an armoured division. Tomas’s imagination could be turned to practical as well as artistic ends.

After the war he decided to give up art-dealing and devote himself to his two real passions: painting and collecting. Even during the war he had not entirely abandoned painting and in 1943, in spite of his other activities, he held a one-man show. This exhibition, in the constricted galleries of Reid and Lefevre, then in King Street, St James’s, was impressive and even somewhat frightening through the sheer nervous intensity of the paintings, which reflected the strain under which Tomas was living and working.

Once he had freed himself from his commitments as a dealer he spent more and more time in Spain, first in Malaga and Madrid and later in Mallorca where he built himself a house at Camp de Mar. He drew a great deal of inspiration from the landscape of Mallorca and many of the landscapes in the present exhibition are of scenes near Camp de Mar. To most observers the technique of these paintings – and of much of his earlier work – is strongly reminiscent of Van Gogh, but, if one suggested this to him, he absolutely denied ever having intended to imitate this artist.

In the years before the war Tomas’s interests had been mainly directed towards painting, but he now began to experiment in a much wider range of media, including etching, ceramics, stained glass, and tapestry. In the field he had the extraordinary privalege of being the first independent artist since Goya to have his cartoons woven at the Royal Tapestry Factory in Madrid. It is in these weeks that his astonishing versatility is most brilliantly displayed.

While devoting a great deal of his time to his activities as a creative artist, Tomas was also able to develop his interest in collecting. During his years of art-dealing he had brought together certain groups of works of art, particularly drawings, textiles and jewellery, and he now began to study these in a much more systematic way. The textiles consisted of pieces – large or small – of embroideries, brocades, figured silk dresses and waistcoats, or panels from ecclesiastical vestments, dating from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, mainly Spanish, Italian, or French in origin. Tomas framed these fragments in cardboard mounts, like huge drawings, and organised them into a series which illustrated some of the most important aspects of silk-weaving and embroidery over three centuries. A selection of these was shown at the Courtauld Institute Galleries in 1968, and later, his family presented the whole of this magnificent collection to the Courtauld Institute in his memory.

His first collection made from scratch, so to speak, was of drawings and etchings by  Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo,  and the discriminating taste with which he selected these came out very clearly when the collection was shown at the Arts Council Gallery in St James’s Square in 1955. Next he turned his attention to Durer and rapidly formed an outstanding collection of his woodcuts and engravings. He also began to interest himself in Rembrandt etchings, but his death prevented him from carrying this collection very far.

By far his greatest achievement as a collector and as a scholar was however connected with Goya. He began with a plan to make as complete a collection as possible of the artists etchings and lithographs, but gradually he became involved in a project of quite a different kind. Looking for information to the accepted authority on the subject, he discovered that the more he read the more mistakes he detected: and so he found himself gradually forced into the position of having to do Delteil’swork over again and prepare his own catalogue. The result was the two-volume work which appeared a year after his death. In this book he showed that Delteil’s account was not merely inaccurate, but basically wrong, and that in addition to confusing different impressions and issues he had invented a number which in fact never existed. Tomas’s practical knowledge of etching, in which he had taken a course at the Slade School after the war, was of the greatest value to him, and he was helped by the lynx-eye of his collaborator, Juliet Wilson, who could spot a touch of dry-point so small that no one else could detect it without a glass. In many ways this book was his greatest achievement:  it contained an analysis of the various states of the etchings, of a kind that could only be made by someone who knew the techniques involved and who could study the originals at leisure in his own collection: and this analysis led to a completely new estimate of Goya’s method of working. The brilliant photographs of details from the etchings, which Tomas made himself,  illustrate in the most cogent manner points which he made in the text.

In 1954 part of Tomas’s collection of Goya etchings was shown at the Arts Council Gallery, but far more important was the great exhibition held at the British Museum in 1963-1964 which was almost entirely drawn from Tomas’s collection. This collection, which was described by Mr Edward Croft-Murray, then Keeper of Prints and Drawings, as ‘the richest and most complete of its kind ever to be assembled’ was placed on indefinite loan at the British Museum Print Room, and recently Tomas’s family have offered it to the museum as a permanent memorial to him. To celebrate this magnificent gift a selection of the etchings will be shown in the Courtauld Institute Galleries immediately after the closing of the present exhibition.

Tomas Harris was killed in a motor accident in Mallorca on the 27th January 1964. To say that his death was a shock to his friends is a feeble statement of what they felt; and the loss to the art world was equally great. At 56 he seemed to be just starting on a new career as a scholar and art-historian. Might he have done for others – Durer and Rembrandt – what he did for Goya? Alas! we shall never know.

ANTHONY BLUNT  

Share
My research has led me to many articles written by Anthony Blunt about his good friend and colleague – the Late Tomas Harris (my grandfathers brother). Anthony Blunt wrote many tributes to Tomas for newspapers and Exhibition catalogues. Anthony Blunt was also good friends with Tomas’s sister Enriqueta Harris.

<— View details of article written by Anthony Blunt the week after Tomas’s death in the car accident in Mallorca

View Blunts introduction about Tomas Harris in the catalogue produced for the Tomas Harris 1975 Art Exhibition at the Courtauld Institute   —>

View Another Anthony Blunt article about Tomas Harris <— (Please note that article tells that Tomas designed and built his house in Camp de Mar in Mallorca, this is not correct – He purchased the house and renovated it – see photos of house before and after renovation in the Camp de Mar Gallery)

Anthony Blunt was  Knighted in 1956  and awarded an honorary fellowship at Trinity College. In 1978, while a distinguished Art historian at the Courtauld institute,  he was stripped of his knighthood and removed as an Honary member of Trinity college because his role as a Soviet Spy during the war had become exposed.

Blunt <– Wiki link was a Warburg Institute professor; director of the Courtauld Institute and professor at the University of London, before and after the war. He specialised in French and Italian Art. Enriqueta Harris, Tomas’s sister, specialised in Spanish Art, and had also worked at the Courtauld Institute. Henri Frankfort had become  director of the Warburg Institute in London in 1948,  and married Enriqueta Harris who worked at the Courtauld Institute just two years before he died in 1954.

Blunt had spent five years serving in MI5 during the war and was lavishly entertained (along with Guy Burgess, David Liddell and  Kim Philby) at the Mayfair and Logan Place residences of Tomas and his wife Hilda. Blunt was interviewed by Nigel West, author of GARBO, in May 1981, during which he informed Nigel West that in 1944 he had been introduced to GARBO (MI5’s double spy) by Tomas Harris (Garbos MI5 controller) over dinner at a restaurant in Jermyn Street in London.

Blunt was a member of the group known as the Cambridge Five <– Wiki Link . Wikipedia states that the five names refer to the fact that all members became committed Communists while attending Cambridge University in the 1930s..

Share

I recently discovered my family tree. All I knew until last year was the name of my grandfather. Now I know so much more. Check out the Harris family tree  on Tribalpages website, and see my family connections  to Artists, Art Dealers, MI5, Garbo, Double Spies in World War II. OBE’s and books and Art Historians, and Antique Dealers, Diamond Dealers ..and the list goes on….

I have just been reading two books “Garb0” and the “Spy who Saved D-day”.   The first written by MI5’s double agent spy, Garbo himself, and the second written by my fathers Uncle, Tomas Harris who was Garbo’s MI5 Case officer/Controller during World War II.  Together these books tell the true story of how they came to work together for Britain and began the beginning of the end of the War.

The first Book, the one called ‘GARBO’– was written mostly MI5’s double Agent called Juan Pujol (codenamed GARBO) along with an author called Nigel West, who found him in hiding in Venezuela, and encouraged him to come back safely back to Britain for the 40th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings, to meet old colleagues from MI5 and be introduced to the Duke of Edinburgh . The book tells the personal story of the most successful double agent EVER and his MI5 controller/case officer who directed, channelled, encouraged and sustained the agents remarkable talents.

This case officer was Tomas Harris – my Great Uncle.

The second book I am reading is called ‘ The Spy who saved D-Day – (view large chunks of this book online here) ’ and was mostly written by Tomas Harris.

Both books describe  how GARBO and Tomas came to work together at MI5, and their three years of scheming and planning together during World War II. They tell a detailed story of their efforts which were supported by various agencies of British intelligence and of how they contributed to a huge reduction of casualties among tens of thousands of allied servicemen who landed in Normandy in France on D-Day to fight to hold the Normandy Beachheads. Many, many more would have perished had their plan failed. They devised a plan to build a network (The GARBO Network) which was eventually composed of 27 imaginary characters, to mislead the Germans into expecting the landings to occur in Calais and maintain all their forces there, instead of moving them to Normandy. Their other activities in MI5 also embraced campaigns in North Africa and the V-weapon offensives.

On this site are other posts that I have written, in Note form, which are facts from the two books and contain details about some individuals mentioned in the two book, Mostly Garbo and Thomas Harris. These posts contain notes which I want to share with the rest of my immediate family and are relevant to expanding their knowledge about our Harris family which we knew absolutely nothing about until about a year ago.

—————— LINKS —————–

(D-Day 6/6/1944)  – (view Link)

Marks the start of Europe invasion in Normandy, France – during World War II

MI5 (view Link)

was responsible for counter-espionage intelligence within the UK

MI6/SIS (view Link)

Secret Intelligence service for counter-espionage intelligence in foreign countries.

Garbo (view Post)

Spanish Agent Worked as a Double Spy for MI5 in Britain, when the Germans were so convinced he was a German spy, that they awarded him the Iron Cross

Tomas Harris (view Post)

MI5 Case Officer/Controller who worked with GARBO to create the GARBO network of 27 imaginary spies who mislead the Germans into thinking the invasion would occur in Calais instead of on the Normandy beachheads.

Anthony Blunt (view Post)

 at MI5 B1(b)- An Art historian workedduring the war, who was knighted then suspected of being a Soviet spy Agent which resulted in his knighthood being annulled.

Share

GARBO – Juan Pujol Garcia (1912-1988)

GARBO

Juan Pujol was born in Spain and spoke no English when the war began. He was code named ARABEL by the Germans in 1941 and was code named GARBO by MI5 in 1942. The Head of MI5’s double agents division was Tomas Harris who was educated in Spain and spoke Spanish like a native. They worked very closely together in MI5 (B1(g) from 1942 until the end of the war.

1912 – GARBO (Juan Pujol Garcia) was born in Barcelona, on the 14th February 1912. His mother, a Garcia, was from Granada. His father (a Pujol) was from Gerona and a true Catalan through and through. Juan Pujol had one brother and two sisters. His brothers hobbies included photography and stamp collecting.

1940 – MI5 had recruited 8 double agents, who had all originally come to the UK as German spies and been caught, interrogated threatened with a choice between the death penalty and clemency if they co-operated with MI5, and were ‘turned’ into British double spies to spy on the Germans, and all the while the Germans continued to think that nothing had changed. This process became known as the Double Cross System, an elaborate secret campaign that resulted in the arrest of every German agent sent to the UK.

1940/Apr – Juan Pujol(Garbo) married Araceli Gonzalez in Madrid

1941 – MI5 moved to a new base, Latchmore House – that was a nursing Home, and became known as Camp 20. (Twenty is XX in roman numerals, which was an abbreviation for double cross). All agents were now supplied case officers.

1941/Jan – Juan Pujol(Garbo’s) wife approached the British consulate, offered her husbands services as a spy in either Italy or Germany, and because it was not taken seriously the rebuff Juan was determined to initiate contact on his own, which would not be difficult as Spain under Franco was firmly in the Nazi camp. It took 3 attempts with the German Embassy until he was taken seriously and informed that if he could get himself to Britain they might be interested in using him as spy for Germany.

1941/Apr – Juan left Madrid for Portugal where he created a forged a diplomatic passport and tried to get an entry visa for the UK without success. So he returned to Madrid

1941 – Juan Pujol madecontact witha German, Frederico, and managed to convince him, with lies and half truths about connections with the Spanish security Police and Foreign office, along with misleading telegrams from his ‘contacts’ in Lisbon, of his bona fides. So Pujolwas given a crash course in secret writing and with money and invisible ink from the Germans, went back to Lisbon with his wife, now as an official spy with plans to get to London. Again though he was rebuffed by the British Embassy in Lisbon, so he elected to develop his work further as a German agent and secure more proof of his position within the intelligence apparatus.

1941/July – Juan wrote letters to Frederico with the invisible ink, pretending to be in England, and pretending to send the letters via a non-existent KLM pilot from Britain to Portugal. MI5 then intercepted these letters when they were transmitted between Madrid and Berlin by the Abwehr (German military intelligence and counter-intelligence service) and were cause for concern to MI5 as they seemed authentic, substantial and plausible.

1941/Aug – Pujol began reporting to the Germans, that he had begun to develop connections, and recruited two sub-agents. Thinking this produced enough evidence to be accepted by the British authorities in Madrid, but was again rebuffed. Now beginning to worry about blowing his cover he thought the United States (although at this time still neutral), might find him of some use.

1941/Oct – MI5 were now all ready to search for a new ‘special’ double agent and heard rumours that a German agent had slipped through the net and was in Britain. MI5 (Anthony Blunt) analysed ISOS messages received by the Germans from what seemed to be a German Spy in England and tried to locate him. Tomas Harris now head of B1(g) determined that he was a Spaniard, actually still in Portugal, pretending to be in England.

1941/Nov – Pujol was reaching the point of despair. He applied for visas to emigrate to brazil with his wife and child. His wife (without Pujol’sknowledge) contacted the US Embassy, with information about a Spaniard working as a German agent and asked for $200,000 for them to take her seriously. Her information included invisible ink, letters, espionage paraphernalia, and a micro photo of one of the German questionnaires.

1942/Jan – Britain and the US were now firm allies so the US Embassy decided to represent the Spaniard with the British Authorities as a result of Pujol’swife contacts with them.

1942/Feb – So when Juan made a third attempt in Portugal to make contact with the British S.I.S. via the American Embassy in Lisbon, to try to get them notice him as a potential double cross agent, it was finally successful. He now had German contacts who believed he had real British contacts that were giving him valuable confidential information, and contacts in KLM who were transporting letters from Britain to Portugal when in fact his letters were originating in Portugal.

1942-March MI5 and MI6(SIS) both wanted control of Pujol. MI6 wanted to control him in Lisbon, and MI5 sought to exploit him from the UK. This highlighted the need to amalgamate SIS’s counter-espionage section with MI5’s B Division. Tomas Harris from MI5 realised the urgent need to infiltrate Pujol from Lisbon, secretly to avoid discovery. This urgency resulted in Gene Risso-Gill a very well connected Portuguese working for MI6 in Lisbon, finally smuggling Juan, via Gibraltar to London by air (in top secret so the Germans would not discover that he was not already in England) . He arrived in the UK 24th April 1942

1942/April – On cold Spring day, one Juan never forgot, he arrived in London and was welcomed by Tomas, as he was head of B1(g) in MI5 and the only Spanish speaking controller. He was assigned to Juan Paulo (then known to the Germans as ARABEL). Juan knew then that they would be colleagues and good friends (Tomas was later known to Garbo as Tommy) . He was taken to a processing center for new arrivals and then on to a safe house at 35 Crespigny Road in Hendon. After a debriefing lasting several days by SIS Section V, Pujol stated his willingness to engage in deception stratagems providing his family be brought to the UK to join him.

GARBO totally trusted Tomas (later to be known to him as Tommy) from the day he first arrived in the UK and in his book he described him as a ‘great friend’ and a ‘hard working colleague’ .

THE INVASION of EUROPE – began on D-Day – (D-Day 6/6/1944)  – This date marks the start of invasion of Europe in Normandy, France

1942-1944  During the war Garbo and Tomas schemed and planned together to confuse the Germans over the time, the place and the magnitude of the attack which would inevitably be the start of the end of World War II. Together they invented more than 27 fictional German agents (The GARBO Network) , and wrote about 315 letters containing hidden paragraphs written in invisible ink and from the start of 1944 over 500 coded wireless messages were exchanged between London and Madrid (and forwarded to Berlin), all  1) To deceive the Germans into believing that the Allies were gathering in Scotland and N, Ireland to land in Norway, AND 2) To mislead the Germans into drawing a wrong conclusion from the false information received, that the cross channel assault was to occur in Pas de Calais, Northern France instead of in Normandy. As a result of their confusion they built an Atlantic wall of coastal defenses and had all their armed forces in the wrong locations. Even when the Germans were informed (intentionally late, by Garbo) that the Normandy landings had begun, the Germans were successfully led to believe (by Garbo)  that the Normandy landings were just a diversionary tactic by the Allies, and the Calais attack was still to come. It never did!

 

The Invasion of Europe was on a massive scale. The build up of British and American resources in the United Kingdom rose to more than 3,000,000 men, a huge fleet of warships, merchantmen and landing craft and 13,000 aircraft. 

1944- Britain awarded Garbo an MBE

1944/June – MI5 also embraced campaigns in North Africa and the V-weaon offensives.

1944/June 30th-  Garbo received instructions from the Germans to investigate and give the co-ordinates of precisely  where the V1 flying bombs were landing in London, so that the Germans could make adjustments and improve their aim. While bureaucrats and politiciansfumbled with the moral issues of lying or telling the truth about the bomb site locations which would/would not redirect the flying bombs from one part of London to another, Tomas came up with a solution. The plan was for Garbo to undertake the instructions from the enemy and then vanish for a few days and then report to the Germans that he had been arrested and held in custody, while suspiciously investigating the scene of a bomb site. Predictably the Germans instructed Garbo to curtail his activities and so Tomas and Garbo took a two week holiday! and moved from Hendon to a small hotel in Bray, in Berkshire. It was owned by a Spanish couple from Valencia named Terrades and he then commuted to London from Taplow to work at MI5’s little front office in Jermyn Street

1944/July 29th – Garbo received congratulations from Germany, because he was advised that the Fuerher has conceded the Iron Cross to him, for his extraordinary merits. But it wasn’t before many bureaucratic obstacles were overcome, that in December the Iron Cross could actually be awarded to someone who was not a regular member of the armed forces. No such problems arose when questions arose about awarding Garbo withan MBE (an honorary award of membership of the order of the British Empire), by Tomas Harris, who was himself decorated with the CBE for his role in the GARBO case).

1944/September 8th – The deadly V2’s began to fall, and once again Garbo was asked to give the locations of where they landed. After giving false information Garbo odds at getting exposed increased greatly, and after a scare of being exposed by an Abwehr defector, MI5 decided he should go to ground.  His last message to the Germans  was to inform them that he would try to go to South America by boat as soon as possible.

1945/May 7th- London exploded with Joy, people invaded Piccadilly and Regent Street and traffic came to a standstill. Everyone was drinking, singing and dancing to celebrate the arrival of peace. The MI5 office was disbanded, and the team broke up.

1945/June – Garbo and Tommy left the UK for the US. MI5 were determined to look after GARBO right to the end. MI5 gave Garbo £15,000 as reward for his work. Garbo had an interview with J Edgar Hoover, the boss of the FBI, but didn’t get the job. Garbo went to Cuba, Mexico and other countries in South America to find a safe and comfortable place to settle down. He finally chose Venezuela, Caracas. Then he went to visit his family in Barcelona, and then to Madrid to meet up with Tommy and MI6. Garbo then arranged to meet with his German contacts in Spain for a final time, and then returned to Lisbon to meet Tommy again. Meeting his German contacts had been Garbo’s final proof that his double identity as GARBO-ARABEL had been an impeccably kept secret right to the very end.

1945/ Garbo retired to Caracas, Venezuela, Garbo and Tomas kept in touch after the war.

1948 – Garbo visited Tommy in Mallorca at his villa, in Camp de Mar, where he was living with his wife Hilda until he died in 1964. Tommy informed him he had written a book about all their MI5 activities, and that he had kept a copy for Garbo for his own memoirs. Garbo needed the memoirs kept secret as he still needed protection from the Nazis, he also asked Tommy to tell anyone asking after him that Garbo had ‘died’.

1955 – Oliver Campell (Shell Fiancial controller) met Juan Pujo in Lagunillas, on the east coast of lake Maracaibo, Venezuela. Garbo was teaching Spanish at Shell to expatriots and their spouses.

1959 – Tomas Harris had spread a rumour to protect Garbo living in Venezuela, that he had died of Malaria in Angola in 1959.

1971 – Oliver Campell paid Juan Pujol for a gift in a shop where Juan was working in a commercial center in Caracass.

1985 – Garbo was persuaded to make a sentimental return to London and come out of hiding from Venezuela. It was time for his family to learn about his past..

All his German contacts from during the war were now dead so it was safe to travel again.  He met his former colleagues from MI5 and MI6 and received formal recognition for the nations debt to him in the form of an audience at Buckingham Palace and was introduced to HRH royal Duke of Edinburgh.

1988 – Garbo died in Caracas.

 

—————— LINKS —————–

Tomas Harris (view Post)

MI5 Case Officer/Controller who worked with GARBO to create the GARBO network of 27 imaginary spies who mislead the Germans into thinking the invasion would occur in Calais instead of on the Normandy beachheads.

Anthony Blunt (view Post)

 at MI5 B1(b)- An Art historian workedduring the war, who was knighted then suspected of being a Soviet spy Agent which resulted in his knighthood being annulled.

Share

TOMAS HARRIS (1908 – 1964)

1908 – Tomas Born to my great Grand Parents Lionel and Enriqueta (Rodriquez) Harris

1923 – at 15 years old, Tomas won the Trevelyan-Goodall scholarship to the prestigious Slade School of Fine Art at the London University. Then went on to Rome to study painting and sculpture at the British Academy there. Then back in London he owned his own tiny gallery.

1930 – First Tomas owned his own tiny gallery. Lionel Harris, Tomas’s father was the director and owner of the splendid Spanish Art Gallery in Mayfair (and another in Madrid),  founded in the turn of the century to show the finest Spanish, Italian and Flemish classical art. Tomas joined his father just before his retirement and did very well.  Tomas worked with ceramics, stained glass, tapestry, and engraving. Tomas inherited his fathers home, 6 chesterfield Gardens, which became a meeting place for MI5’s and SIS’s (MI6) few Bohemian employees. Tomas Harris  had an impressive art Collection by Velazquez, Goya and Rubens. After his fathers retirement as director,  Tomas was soon recognised as one of the most clever and respected art dealers, known worldwide for his exquisite taste and his infallible eye.

1931 – Tomas Harris and Hilda Webb were married, between July and September, a document shows they were married in 1931, in Marylebone, London, and their marriage certificate reference number is Vol 1 a/ 1648..

1940 – Tomas was posted to the SOE’s (Sabotage Organization created in July following the fall of France to the Germans) first Special Training School, which had been established at Brickendonbury Hall, in a large country house in Hertford. Tomas and his wife Hilde, stayed there for 6 months and he was then ‘snapped up by MI5’ where he was to conceive and guide one of the most creative intelligence operations of all time – it became known as ‘The Garbo Case’.

1941-Late in 1941 – Head of B1(g) Brooman-White was transferred to SIS (MI6) to run Section V’s unit known as V(d). Tomas Harris was appointed to succeed him. Expansion had taken place and workload was escalating daily. Three secretaries were not enough. Sarah Bishop (fluent in Spanish) who worked in MI5’s French section, was recruited by Tomas and after a brief spell of learning about the role of the security service, Sarah joined Tomas in B1(g).

It was at this time that the pieces of the jigsaw were put together. It now seemed likely to MI5 that the man who had visited the British embassy in Madrid and later in Lisbon to offer his services to the Allied cause, was the same man the Germans had code named ARABEL (later to be known as GARBO) . It was obvious to MI5 that ARABEL’s information provided to the Germans was fictitious, as his letters written in invisible ink to the Germans contained many errors – such as litres of wine and beer, moving south because of the hot summers in London!, errors in accounts (pre-decimal) always submitted in shillings instead of £ S . – but not so obvious to the Germans. ARABEL also came uncomfortably close to the truth in many ways too. So the question for MI5 was – ‘Is he genuine or a plant by the Germans, should we leave him well alone?’ After many debates and deliberations between MI5 and SIS, it was eventually agreed that the benefits of taking him on outweighed the risks.

1942/Jan – Britain agree to represent the Juan Pujol.

THE WAR YEARS –  Tomas and Garbo worked together during the war. Books have been written by both about their war efforts.. I have written more/other notes on Garbo and Tomas in the Garbo Post.  Please click this link to jump directly to 1942 in the Garbo Post

1944/September – Tommy and Garbo invented an excuse to avoid having Garbo give co-ordinates of the ‘landings’ of the V2’s, The first V2 bomb, which landed in Chiswick on the 8th September 1944 killing 3 people. As Garbo was expected by the Germans to give co-ordinates of the bomb sites, Garbo ‘got himself arrested by the police’ while supposedly going to the bomb site to determine the co-ordinates. Because of this, the Germans directed Garbo to suspend all operations until instructed otherwise. This was exactly what Garbo and Tomas had hoped for. They both took vacations, the first that either had taken since they started working together over two years before. Tommy and Hilde went to stay at Sarah Bishops parents at Chisbury in Wiltshire, where Tomas picked up his paintbrush and painted farm animals, and Garbo went on a motor tour of the British Isles.

During the 2nd World War Years – Tommy and his wife were lavish entertainers and during the war and moved from Chesterfield Gardens to a larger property, Garden House in Logan Place. He hardly did any painting during the war years.. Garbo described Tommy in his book as “sensible, capable, always impeccably dressed , smoked like a chimney, adored his wife, always cheerful, had an attractive smile, enjoyed good food and wine, had an impressive art collection by Velazquez, Goya and Rubens. He said in Tommy’s early days he was influenced by El Greco school, but later by Goya.

1944/June – When the V2’s fell, Tommy left Chesterfield Gardens and took temporary refuge at the Bull, at Gerrards Cross, NW London.

>1945 : Tomas received an O.B.E for his war efforts as offcer in MI5, for his imagination and work with Garbo.  After years of frenzied activity in MI5,  Harris sold his gallery and designed and built a house and art studio in Camp de Mar, in Andratx, in Mallorca, and settled there, where he devoted himself to his own art, mastering almost all techniques: oil, engraving, lithography, sculpture, stained glass and tapestries. His main inspiration was the island landscape, particularly that of Andratx, which he loved.

1964 – Tomas died (and there was an inquest) in Mallorca, crashed his new car .  His wife Hilde was also in the car and was thrown clear and survived. ( ***1/***2 Tomas and Hilde were on their way from Camp de Mar to purchase plane tickents to fly to Madrid the following week, they had had lunch in Palma with Robert Graves (a famous English Author)  and then drove on towards Felanitx (a little town in Mallorca) to see a man who was going to bake more of  Tomas’s ceramics in his kiln. On their way there, in Leuchmayor,  their new  Citroen DS (5,000 miles on the clock) crashed, it was a fatal car accident. Hilda was thrown clear of the car and survived, but Tomas Harris died (1964).  An inquest was held – see Anthony Blunts newspaper article about this ) Hilda died about four years later. My Grandfather (William Harris, Tomas’s Brother) was specifically named in Tomas’s will, which also mentions Enriqueta (Tomas’s sister) along with his wife’s three sisters. And when Enriqueta’s Obituary was published in the Sunday Times one day in 2006, my father recognised the name and immediately checked it against the copy of Tomas’s Will that he had a copy of. My father then realised that he had made an amazing connection with his own fathers rather large family of MI5 employees, art dealers, artists and antique dealers with whom he had no contact at all since he was a young boy.

2009 Aug –  Andratx segon Harris – Art Exhibition held in August 2009,  in Andratx, Mallorca, the organizer of the exhibition was of Lumen Publishing in Barcelona, He knows an incredible amount about Tomas Harris, and perhaps a book is on the cards. He owns the house of Tomas Harris. in Andratx, Camp de Mar,  and a famous singer Ana Torrojo (lead singer of the trio Mecano, which has probably been the most popular band from Spain) now owns the painters art studio.

*  If anyone has contact details for Andreu please let me know – I would love to get in touch with him.. — LATEST NEWS : Andreu has made contact with me through this website – the wonders of the internet!!

* I have been contacted by David Moore through this website who has several paintings by Tomas Harris, and went to the ‘Adnratx segon Harris’ exhibition in Mallorca this year,  gave me the names of two organisers and informed me one now ownes the house Tomas owned. Also that during the exhibition a nephew of Tomas (from his wife’s side) gave a very moving tribute to Tomas Harris. I would very much appreciate being notified if anyone knows how I can possibly contact any members of the Hild’s family (sisters – Ella Powell, Madge Tribe, Ivy Web)

—————— LINKS —————–

(D-Day 6/6/1944) – (view Link)

This date marks the start of Europe invasion in Normandy, France – during World War II

MI5 (view Link)

was responsible for counter-espionage intelligence within the UK

MI6/SIS (view Link)

Secret Intelligence service for counter-espionage intelligence in foreign countries.

Garbo (view Post)

Spanish Agent, a double Agent for Britain MI5, was awarded the Iron Cross by the Germans

Anthony Blunt (view Post)

MI5 Agent,  was An Art historian before and after the war, he was knighted then when suspected of being a Soviet spy Agent his knighthood was annulled.

 

 

  • ***1  Details about the crash were supplied by Andreu.
  • ***2 Additional details of the crash were supplied Novemeber 2010 by Bill Bristow (son of Desmond Bristow) who says :-

Hilly did not die in the car crash with Tomas. They had a very serious argument that morning. Tomas had dropped off some of his ceramics at the local kiln so they could be fired. Hilly blamed herself for the crash as the argument was quite heated. My father went out to comfort Hilly after the crash.

Share
 Page 1 of 2  1  2 »