27 Aug THE OLD LADIES DRAWERS
As part of our transport and removal contract with Sotheby’s we were responsible for clearing deceased estates. One such job was a big old house in Pittville Park in Cheltenham. Together with John Harvey, a Sotheby’s valuation expert, I undertook a survey of saleable items. The owner of the house had died aged ninety three she had no known relatives and under the terms of her will, the house and its contents were to be auctioned for charity.
One chest of drawers in the main bedroom was locked, so we left it until the end hoping that the key would turn up. Sure enough the key was hidden under the mattress, with a certain amount of excitement, John turned the key in the lock to reveal:
A snub nosed revolver, cleaned, oiled and loaded!
A woollen hat with a hole in it.
Some letters in an envelope with the royal insignia.
An old style booklet driving licence in somebody else’s name.
A wedding photograph with the old lady in it.
A photograph of twin baby boys
A ticket to the Music Hall.
A puzzle box.
The first thing we did was to unload the gun and make it safe. Then we opened the envelope containing the letters.
Dated in the thirties there was one from MI5 headed ‘Top Secret’ to agent 001. Stating that the agent was licenced to kill and subject to the official secrets act of 1904.There were to be only two 00 agents active at any time. They were only replaced when they retired or were eliminated! It also stated that actual names were never to be used in any correspondence.
The next letter was an official commendation from King George VI thanking and recognising the services of agent 001 in saving the life of his cousin Frederick. The circumstances were very vague but the whole Royal Family were aware that agent 001 had been injured in the incident and were very grateful.
There was also a copy of the official MI5 report on the incident involving agent 001. It seemed that the agent was under cover watching Prince Frederick as he strolled in the park with his fiancée. They were approached by a man who was behaving suspiciously. An old down and out lady dressed in a woolly hat and an old overcoat was sat on a bench. As the man reached inside his jacket, the ‘Old lady’ sprung into action pulling out a snub nosed revolver and shouting to the man to put down his weapon. Instead he pulled out his gun and pointed and fired at the old lady who by this time had dived to the ground, she fired back eliminating the man with a single shot to the head. She attempted to get up but collapsed with blood streaming down her face from a glancing bullet wound to her head. The Prince ran over to her and gave her first aid until Police and Ambulance crews arrived. The report concluded that agent 001 had successfully prevented an assassination attempt on the Prince and possibly his Fiancee.
There was also a letter forwarded from M the controller of MI5 from Prince Frederick expressing his gratitude for the action taken and included a ticket inviting the agent to the Royal Box as their guest at a special performance at a Music Hall in London. After the performance she was chauffeured home in the Princes’ Rolls Royce. The driver escorted her to the door and after he had gone she found that he had dropped his driving licence booklet on the garden path which she put in a safe place, ready to return it to him if and when they met again.
The relationship with the Prince must have blossomed because there was also an invitation to the wedding of Prince Frederick and Lady Caroline Boothroyd verified by a picture of the wedding group, including agent 001. This was accompanied by a photograph, dated two years on, of the couples’ twin baby boys.
Also in the drawer was a Chinese puzzle box, which John was quite skilled at opening. Inside was a copy of a letter of resignation after a long and distinguished secret career with MI5 from agent 001 to M pledging loyalty to the King and the official secrets act until her death. Clearly this incident was her ‘Jewel in the Crown’
But now all was revealed!