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Charlie Chaplin (Catalogue reference: KV2/3700)

17 February

New records released today by the Security Service (MI5) include files on the silent-era film star Charlie Chaplin, the Dutch double-agent Folkert Van Koutrik and details of a Nazi plan to produce fake British banknotes.

This release contains 86 files and brings the total number of Security Service records held at The National Archives to 4,926.

Many of the files are available to view online and will be free to download for one month.

The official historian of MI5, Professor Christopher Andrew, has recorded a podcast about the new files.

Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin's Security Service file reveals that MI5 mounted an investigation into the mysterious circumstances of his birth (KV2/3700-01). Chaplin, one of the silent era's biggest stars, was viewed with suspicion in the United States because of his alleged links to Communism but MI5 concluded that he was a 'progressive or radical' rather than a Communist.

Folkert van Koutrik

The Dutch agent, Folkert van Koutrik, was employed by both MI5 and MI6 during the Second World War. However the interrogation of German prisoners after the war revealed that he had in fact been a double agent employed by the Nazis using the codename 'Walbach'. His betrayal led to the kidnapping of two MI6 officers at Venlo in 1939 (KV2/3643).

Fraudulent bank notes

Another file in the latest release reveals a Nazi plan to produce fraudulent Bank of England notes during the Second World War and to scatter them over the British Isles (KV4/465). The object was to 'create a loss of confidence and general confusion'. The Germans also used forged British bank notes to pay their secret agents including Snow, Rainbow, Cheese and Pogo. By the end of the war, the file notes, the German strategy had largely succeeded as 'at present no one will accept a Bank of England note in any neutral country…except at a very large discount'.

Other highlights

Professor Frederick Curie (Catalogue reference: KV2/3686)
  • Files on the Nobel-prize winning French scientists, Frederick and Irene Joliot-Curie (KV2/3686)
  • Japanese espionage inside the Fortress of Singapore leading up to its dramatic capture in February 1942 (KV3/426)
  • The story of the Nazi dubbed the Gestapo 'Lawrence of Arabia', Franz Wimmer-Lamquet, who claimed he had led a desert army of Arabs in North Africa during the Second World War before his capture by the Soviet Union (KV2/3663)