A version of this story can be traced back to Masterman, who wrote the espionage classic, The Double Cross System, immediately after the war. (It was declassified and published in 1972.) Significantly, Masterman discusses ZigZag but makes no mention of Maskelyne.
ZigZag was “a criminal who had been imprisoned in Jersey for safe-blowing and similar activities.” Recruited by the Germans, ZigZag “offered his services to them in order, as he alleged, to escape to this country (England) ... The tasks set him were first and foremost to sabotage the de Havilland works at Hatfield where Mosquito light bombers were made ... He was promised 15,000 pounds for the de Havilland sabotage.”
Masterman later adds: “ZIGZAG started the year (1943) with his operation at the de Havilland works. Here on the night of 29 January camouflage experts made suitable arrangements for us, and aerial photographs gave a convincing picture of a considerable explosion. Reports from ZIGZAG and notices in the press seemed to convince the Germans of the success of the operation ... .”
The double agent ZigZag certainly existed and the de Havilland operation was authentic. However, there is no evidence that Maskelyne was involved in this deception exercise.
It is highly unlikely that Maskelyne would be able to arrange a transfer back to England so quickly after El Alamein (November 1942).
Magic–Top Secret and Maskelyne’s private scrapbook make no mention of the de Havilland operation.
Maskelyne’s own service record shows that he remained in the Mediterranean area throughout 1943.
Indeed, why would the security service bother calling Maskelyne back from Egypt when it could quickly and conveniently draw on the skills of film and theatre production crews who worked nearby in London?
Maskelyne’s so-called masterpiece of camouflage appears to be yet another example of wishful misattribution.
Truth has again been zigzagged
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