My Mother The Spy

Sir William Stephenson - "Intrepid" - Canada's James Bond - Winnipeg

Towards the end of her life my mother revealed to me that during the Second World War she had served the allied cause as a spy for Canadian intelligence. Knowing my mother as I did this did not come as a complete surprise to me since it confirmed some of my prior suspicions about her past life.

What she told me was that just before the outbreak of the war the port of Halifax, where she lived at home with her family, received a supposedly friendly visit by the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.

Their sailors were given shore leave and my mother engaged in a short but meaningful affair with one of the crew by the name of Fritz.

Nothing more came of this and shortly after the battle of the Atlantic began. My mother was in her first year at university when she was visited in her dorm room by two officers of British counter intelligence under whom Canadian spies worked during the war.

They told her that the convoys leaving Halifax were being decimated in the middle of the Atlantic by German wolf pack submarines who seemed to have advance knowledge of their speed and intended route. They told her that because of this the allies at that moment were actually losing the war. Everyone had to do his or her part to turn this around.

So my mother volunteered. She dropped out of university, attended spy school and then joined the student nursing program at a Halifax hospital.

This was to be her “cover”. She worked as a student nurse caring for badly injured survivors of convoys intercepted by the submarines and then returned to Halifax for hospital treatment. Her handlers told her to listen attentively to all that was said on the wards in an attempt to discover whose “loose lips” were sinking those ships.

She worked for “Intrepid”, William Stephenson, whom Winnipeg claims as one of its own. When I asked her how she could break her oath made during the war never to reveal what she was doing she said that her boss “Intrepid” wrote an autobiography so she felt she could also tell people about the part she had played.

Whether this position was ethical or not her revelation meant a lot to me in my ongoing effort to uncover the mystery of who my late mother really was.

John Perry, Sj, is doing pastoral ministry at St. Ignatius Parish, Winnipeg and is researching and writing at St. Paul's College..

  • Peter Bisson SJ
    Posted at 02:29h, 11 March Reply

    Thank you John!

  • Barbara Lewis
    Posted at 07:54h, 11 March Reply

    Each person adding their light …
    what a great adventure God writes in our heart.
    If you are bored you might want to work on your light.
    Thank you for your wonderful story!

  • Lorella D'Cruz
    Posted at 09:00h, 11 March Reply

    What a thrilling revelation!!! You must be so proud of your mother.

  • Charles Pottie-Pâté sj
    Posted at 11:20h, 11 March Reply

    What a great story of your mother, John. She made her contribution toward greater peace in the world. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Valerie Forrest
    Posted at 11:57h, 11 March Reply

    Fascinating story, Father Perry, but reassure me that the Jesuit Order is not just a cover for you!

  • Judi Gunter
    Posted at 18:30h, 11 March Reply

    I don’t know when her war secrets were officially declassified but it must have been awful for her to have carried them so long, almost to her deathbed.

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