Who Was Agent Zigzag?

July 27, 2017

Who Was Agent Zigzag?

Edward Arnold Chapman was an English Wartime spy. During the Second World War he offered his services to Germany as a spy and subsequently became Britain’s most extraordinary double agent. His British SS handlers code-named him ZIGZAG in acknowledgment of his rather erratic personal history.

Eddie Chapman was born 16 November 1914 in County Durham, the son of a former marine.

Chapman joined the Second Battalion of the Coldstream Guards, where his duties included guarding the Tower of London. After only nine months in the post, Chapman absconded with a girl whom he met in Soho, and so began his first stint in jail.       

Upon his release, Chapman spent time working casual jobs, from barman to working as a film extra, but gambling debts and his taste for fine alcohol soon left him broke and led him into further brush-ins with the law.

While Chapman was serving two years in a jersey prison, the Germans invaded the Channel Islands. Concocting a plan to get off the island, Chapman along with fellow inmate Anthony Farasmus transferred to Paris, where he confirmed his willingness to act as a German spy. He was trained in explosives, radio communications, and parachute jumping under the direction of Captain Stephan von Gröning.

On 16 December 1942, Chapman was flown to Britain in a Focke-Wulf bomber, converted for parachuting from Le Bourget airfield. Tasked with sabotaging the De Havilland aircraft factory in Britain, he was equipped with wireless, pistol, cyanide capsule and £1,000.


Tasked with sabotaging the De Havilland aircraft factory in Britain, Eddie Chapman parachuted in to Britain in December 1942. Ultra - the British Military Intelligence group assigned to breaking high-level encrypted enemy communications - were aware of Chapman's existence for some time and decided to use him as a double agent to gather counter-intelligence.

After an uncomfortable flight, during which he suffered a nosebleed due to a poorly tightened oxygen mask, Chapman became stuck in the hatch as he tried to leave the aircraft. Finally detatching himself, he landed some distance from the target location of Mundford, Norfolk.

The British secret services had been aware of Chapman’s existence for some time, via Ultra - decrypted German messages. They devised Operation Nightcap to find and capture Chapman, without revealing Ultra. Chapman surrendered immediately and offered his services to the MI5, who decided to use him as a double agent.

On the night of 29 January 1943, Chapman with MI5 officers faked a sabotage attack on his original target of the De Havilland factory, where the Mosquito was bring manufactured. German reconnaissance aircraft photographed the site, and faked damage to convince Chapman’s German controllers that the attack had been successful.

The SS17 ZIGZAG tee is available in Ecru Marl and Ochre Yellow.

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