An Unusual Fascist Spy, 26 August 2006
The other day it occurred to me that while I’ve done a fair amount of research on SOE and OSS and the Allied secret intelligence services, I’ve not really examined the German and Italian equivalents. But of course there were Axis agents operating behind Allied lines every bit as much as Allied agents were operating in the north of Italy. I found a small book about just that by someone called Donald Gurrey, who during the war had worked for British Counter-Intelligence in Italy. In his book he mentioned a group of Italian agents who had worked for the German Intelligence Service – the Abwehr – called the â€˜Centuria del Fascio Crociato’, which had been the brainchild of a former Italian army officer called Colonel Tommaso David. When I was at the National Archives today, I looked up David and found a whole file on him and his organisation. This in turn led me to another name, Carla Costa, who had evidently been recruited by David and who had been captured by the Allies whilst operating as an Abwehr spy. By good fortune, there was a whole file devoted to her and two other Axis agents, and when I began to look through I realised there was the most incredible amount of detail about Carla Costa’s spying career. Even better, she had been a zealous fascist and although only 17 in 1944, had been one of the most brilliant and daring of all Abwehr spies. In fact, the agents who had interrogated her claimed that in fourteen months in the theatre and despite interrogating Italian generals, German officers, countless spies, prisoners, criminals and various unsavoury types, they had never come across a more determined person or tougher nut to crack.