Woman discovers grandmother’s diary confirms identity of WWII detective

A woman learns that a diary preserved by her grandmother reveals the identity of a World War II British spy codenamed Agent Mullet.

The stunned Debra Britton, 65, was given the magazine by her grandmother, Florence Gering, who was once a housekeeper for a woman named Irene Thornton.

The diary was handed over to Gearing, which was later handed over to his family.

Debra Britton discovers a diary left by her grandmother that reveals the true identity of a World War II British spy codenamed Agent Mullet.
Anna Hughes/Zanger

The diary is written in a mix of English and French, and details the life of Thornton, who lived in the town of Coombe Dingle, near Bristol, in south-western England, during World War II.

Irene, who was originally from Belgium, moved to Britain with her English-born husband, Eric, to escape the Nazis at the start of the war.

Researchers have now studied the diary and cross-referenced it with war files kept by the British military intelligence agency MI5. They say they have been able to prove that Eric’s nephew Ronald was a British double agent known as a mullet.

Mullet assisted fellow agents Puppet and Hamlet in misinforming the Nazis about British invasion plans.

They were all “double-crossed” agents – the Nazis believed they were loyal to them but were actually working for the British.

The MI-5 files have been heavily modified, meaning finding the real people behind the code names has always been a challenge, but experts say the diaries have helped them find Ronald’s surviving family. , who were able to provide details about their movements during the war. ,

Researchers say new information confirms that he was a mullet.

The Briton said, “I remember my dad showing me the diary as he remembered the war.

“They told me to take care of it because it was local and family history.

“It’s always been in this house—just placed on my bookshelf with hundreds of others and it stayed in the family home until my parents passed away.”

Diary Confirms Identity Of Wwii Spy Mullet
The diary is written in a mix of English and French, and details the life of Thornton, who lived in the town of Coombe Dingle, near Bristol, in south-western England, during World War II. The inlaid photo is what the researchers believe Irene and Eric Thornton to be.
Anna Hughes/Zanger

Briton described the diary as “a day-to-day account of the 1941 Bristol Blitz air raid”, depicting a “very different war for most of the survivors”.

On 2 January 1940, Irene wrote: “It snowed. Coombe Dingle is amazing under his white coat.

“Today morning, 6 am – all clear after alert. Then at 7 am, new alert and at 8 am all clear… 6.50 am air strike alert, evening spent at our shelter.

“A quantity of Jerry’s passing over us and some serious rounds of bullets.”

Excerpts from Irene’s Diary were published online as part of Website of Sea Mills 100 Project To mark Victory in Europe (VE) Day.

They caught the interest of independent researcher Andrew Drake, who released MI-5 files at the National Archives in London detailing the movements of Mullet, Puppet and Hamlet.

In them, the mullet is described as “a British subject born”. [redacted] In Belgium, a . Of [redacted] father and a [redacted] Mother.

“He was educated in Belgium and Paris, and has been in business (mainly.) [redacted]) in Belgium for most of his life.

“He is more Belgian in many ways than English and his wife, [redacted] A member of a famous Belgian family.”

After reading about the diary on the Sea Mills 100 website, Drake looked for family members whose actions matched those of the mullet.

His attention turned to Eric’s nephew Ronald.

Drake traces Ronald’s grandson Alan Thornton, now living in London, who confirms that Ronald’s wartime activities matched those of the mullet.

Thornton says that research conducted by Drake has helped him fill in some gaps in his family history and confirm his grandfather’s role as a detective.

He said: “Ronald told my dad about some of his wartime capers, but it was all just word of mouth.

“I’ve scanned some detailed files relating to the mullet and, along with what my father told me, many of the details about my father’s escape from Belgium and travel to Lisbon are fine, so we’re 100 percent sure.

“It was nice to finally pin down Ronald’s code name and know that all the second-hand information got backed up by the files.

“It’s good to see that this European background helped him play his part in the liberation of Europe.

“Some of Ronald’s allies were killed by the Belgian resistance because they were seen as allies.”

Wwii Thornton Diary
Debra Britton described the diary as “a day-to-day account of the Bristol Blitz air raid of 1941”, depicting a “war very different from what most survived”.
Anna Hughes/Zanger

Thornton ran a shipping business in Bristol – E Thornton & Son Ltd.


Ronald, who was killed in 1969, could not return to Belgium after the war.

After the war, Irene returned to Belgium but left her diary with Thornton’s housekeeper.

“Mullet: Selected Historical Letters Related to the British” from the National Archives and 1943 state:

“MULLET worked pre-war in Brussels.

“After fleeing to Lisbon via France they were farmed by HAMLET (see KV/2/327), who allegedly wanted to establish liaison with British officials to represent the anti-Hitler Germans.

“Indeed, as confirmed by ISOS TRAFFIC, HAMLET appointed MULLET as its commercial representative in Great Britain, assisted by PUPPET (see KV/2/329).

“MULLET and PUPPET provided commercial cover for secret writing correspondence between ‘agents’ in Great Britain and HAMLET in Lisbon until 1944, when Abwehr lost interest in the case. PUPPET’s contents contained, among other things, invasion plans The associated British dissolution was involved.

“An original paper on ‘morale in Germany’ by HAMLET, with a summary of the background of MULLET’s and HAMLET’s early deals, Abwehr Questionnaire for HAMLET, Summary of ISOS marks on PUPPET. Date: 1941 Nov 08-1943 Aug 25.”

Ronald had three sons: Norman, Eric and Reginald.

This story was provided to Greeley Tribune zenger news,

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