A SENSATIONAL new book tells how Britain’s ambassador to Spain was tricked by a German spy, who was the sister of the man who inspired dictator Franco’s bloody Spanish coup.
The book on Spain’s role as a ‘neutral’ country in the First World War reveals the incredible infiltration of spies from both Britain and Germany at the time.
Pilar Millan Astray, a Spanish novelist and German collaborator, would sneak into the bedroom of Sir Arthur Henry Hardinge to extract secrets and copy private documents.
Secretly working for the German embassy in Barcelona, she struck up a close ‘friendship’ with Hardinge, who had earlier been the governor of Gibraltar, and was able to monitor his movements.
While the exact status of their relationship is not known, she is said to have accessed his ‘private’ suite at the Hotel Colon with ease.
Astray, it emerges, was the sister of Jose Millan Astray, the founder of the crack army brigade the Spanish Legion.
Espana en la Gran Guerra, by Fernando García Sanz, explores this web of spies used by Germany and the Allies to manipulate Spain during the First World War.
The Spanish government was infiltrated from all the major nations involved in the war, while the newspapers allegedly accepted bribes from either side to publish propaganda.
Even Mata Hari, a famous Dutch dancer convicted of spying and executed by firing squad in France, is described as an amateur compared to the likes of Astray.
The book also reveals that Hari spent time in Madrid during the war, presumably working as a spy.
“Some of them were so skilled that we can still only suspect what they got up to,” said García Sanz.
“The Spanish didn’t realise that all their codes had been broken even before the war started, all communications were intercepted, including those of King Alfonso XIII.”