Tuesday, 15th November | 9pm | BBC2
Following on from his hugely successful BBC 2 documentary, Operation Mincemeat, based on his book of the same name, writer and presenter Ben Macintyre returns to the small screen to bring to life his other best selling book - Agent Zigzag. As part of this new Timewatch series, Macintyre reveals the gripping true story of Britain's most extraordinary wartime double agent, Eddie Chapman.
Codenamed Zigzag by his British handlers, Chapman breaks every stereotype of the stiff upper-lipped WW2 spy. A working-class pre-war crook - and one of the best safe-blowers in the country - he was a dashing, handsome, womanising conman whose talents led to one end: breaking all the rules.
Arrested in 1939 in Jersey after blowing a safe at the Co-Op, Chapman faced 20 years in prison. When the Germans occupied the Channel Islands in 1940, he immediately offered them his services. His safe-blowing skills recommended him: that, and the fact that he was wanted by every police force in Britain. Trained in a secret German spy school in France, Chapman was parachuted into England in 1942 with orders to blow up the factory producing the famous Mosquito aircraft - Britain's fastest bomber.
But Chapman had other ideas. Immediately after landing, he turned himself in to MI5 and began working for them - as a double-agent. An astonishingly bold plan was hatched to fake the attack on the Mosquito factory. The fraud was successful beyond anyone's dreams. Chapman was flooded with radio messages of congratulation by his German spymasters. When he finally returned to Occupied Europe via Lisbon – an act of extraordinary bravery - he was also awarded Germany's highest decoration, the Iron Cross. He remains the only British citizen in history ever to win one.
A lone British spy at the heart of the German Secret Service, Chapman's Nazi handlers never suspected him. Instead, they lavished money and gifts on him. As the Third Reich's star spy, he even helped train other German agents in the black arts of espionage. Meanwhile, he was busy hatching his own plan to assassinate Hitler at a rally, a plan which was stopped for reasons that are still classified.
In June 1944, the Germans sent Chapman back into Britain for a new mission. M15 installed him in a suburban house in Hendon, from where he sent false reports back to Germany about the accuracy of the V1 rockets which were terrorising London. As a result, he was personally responsible for saving thousands of lives.
Including remarkable and newly-discovered footage from an interview Chapman gave three years before his death in 1997, Macintyre goes on the trail of one of Britain's most unlikely heroes in this true-life ripping yarn - a story of adventure, love, intrigue and astonishing courage.
Double Agent: The Eddie Chapman Story is directed by Stephen Walker, who also produced Operation Mincemeat and directed the multiple Bafta-nominated A Boy Called Alex about a young Eton music scholar who suffers from cystic fibrosis.