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.

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