Britain had nine competing intelligence agencies during the Second World War, and they sometimes seemed to spend as much time fighting each other as the Germans. The official cover-up of the death of one key intelligence agent was to spark off the longest-running celebrity mystery story of the war.
In 1943 Captain Stephen Haggard died in a shooting aboard the night train from Jerusalem to Cairo. Whose finger was on the trigger? Was it that of a German agent, or maybe a Palestinian or Egyptian nationalist? Or did the answer lie nearer home, in the power-struggle between competing secret–service agencies, or perhaps in the agonies of some wartime romantic entanglement?
In 1943, The Army and rival secret services moved swiftly to agree on a cover-up, invoked the Official Secrets Act and opened the door to three-quarters of a century of rumour and counter-rumour.
Stephen, dead at 31, had everything to live for. He left a loving wife and two young sons. A handsome kinsman of H. Rider Haggard, Stephen was a stage star in London and New York throughout the Thirties. At the time of his mysterious death, four of his films were showing in cinemas. Stephen was also a novelist, playwright and war poet.
Bilingual in German, he had warned of the Nazi menace before the war. While serving with Military Intelligence in London Stephen became a key broadcaster of BBC wartime propaganda to Germany. He was then recruited by the clandestine Special Operations Executive in Cairo, who lost him to SOE’s deadly rival, the Political Warfare Executive.
The 1943 official inquiry into Stephen Haggard’s death was suspiciously skimpy, its findings confidential. Now in preparation, Last Train to Jerusalem draws upon secret-service sources, newly-discovered private wartime letters and a specially-convened coroner’s hearing to finally unravel the Stephen Haggard enigma. Nothing in the rumours is stranger than the truth.
Portraits of Stephen Haggard © Stephen Haggard Archive