Sunday, October 21, 2012

Still on the Trail of Valentine Williams

Chevalier, Order of the Crown of Belgium










In our previous post, we not only took a look at a gallery of Clubfoot covers, but also read a brief bio of mystery author and Clubfoot progenitor Valentine Williams.

That biography read:

WILLIAMS, (George) Valentine. Also wrote as Douglas Valentine. British. Born 20 October 1883. Educated at Downside School; studied in Germany. Served as a Lieutenant in the Irish Guards, 1915: Military Cross (twice wounded); with the Guards Division Staff, London, 1918-19; did confidential work for the Foreign Office, London, 1939-41, and at British Embassy, Washington, D.C., 1941-42; Member of the Political Warfare Department, Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire, 1942-45; Married Alice Crawford; Sub-Editor, 1902-03, and Berlin Correspondent, Reuter's news agency 1904-09,; Journalist for the Daily Mail, London, from 1909, Paris Correspondent, 1909-13, Special Correspondent during Portuguese Revolution, 1910, reported Balkan War, 1913; First accredited correspondent to British General Headquarters, 1915; In charge of staff, Versailles Peace Conference. 1919; later Foreign Editor; free-lance journalist in North Africa and United States during 1930s; Chevalier, Order of the Crown of Belgium, 1940. Died 20 November 1946.

This biographical sketch is a bit all-over-the-place chronologically, but it does shed some light on previously discovered and questionable information.

First edition dust jacket, 1938.
The French language Wikipedia site contains an entry for Williams (under Valentin Williams), which states this: During World War II, under the guise of professional reporter, Williams accepts espionage missions on behalf of the Foreign Office and in 1942, he joined the ranks of the Political Warfare Executive until the end of the conflict.

We already know that Williams was a member of the PWE early in the war, which is listed as him having dome "confidential work for the Foreign Office" from 1939 to 1941, during which time he was awarded the title Chevalier of the Order of the Crown of Belgium [pictured above, left].

He then was apparently assigned to Washington, D.C., as the United States entered the war, spending 1941-1942 in North America.  Williams then returned to Britain and spent the duration of the war back at Woburn Abbey with the PWE.

It still seems that "confidential work" and "espionage missions" would not be exactly synonymous in the case of Williams, a German-speaking reporter and author who had written about imaginary espionage carried out on behalf of the Crown two decades before.  Could it be that the French version is is simply a mistranslation from the English language biography from detective-fiction.com?  We don't know—it isn't cited as a reference, and the references cited don't contain any information similar to that.

Williams is the author of an autobiography entitled The World of Action.  The text was published, however, in 1938 and can shed no light on the activities of Williams during the war.


1 comment:

Phil. UK. said...

Hello Sam - also known as Harry. I discovered your blog while trawling through Google search references to the British Intelligence black propaganda activities of the 'Britanova News Agency' in New York during WW2. My interest is in uncovering elements of the life of my Great Uncle, himself a survivor of the Somme, a Reuters Senior Foreign Correspondent in Paris, Rome & Lisbon until 1941, an SIS spy, an SOE D/Q black propaganda agent and subsequently an agent with William Stephenson’s BSC organisation and the Britanova News Agency in New York, South America and the Caribbean.

I was very interested to read of Valentine Williams involvement with similar Intelligence agencies and other such political warfare activities during WW2, as well as his arrival in Washington during 1941/42 under the veil of the PWE. It would seem that to some extent we are each following in the footsteps of allied shadows down similarly parallel trails and dark corridors. I’d be delighted to share and exchange some information and theories with you, which may or may not help you shine a little more light on Valentine’s past. I cannot give you any hard boiled evidence of Valentine’s work with the PWE at present, although I am checking through a BSC agent cover code list for the Americas in general. I do have references to Valentine and separately George Douglas Williams, in respect of their times at Reuters, especially Valentine’s direct involvement with the breaking of the news of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s intact sarcophagus in Egypt during early 1924, although much of this may well be old news to you long since now.

I can’t publish an email address to reach me by on these comment pages for obvious reasons, and there is no reference to yours within your ‘about me’ profile page. Any suggestions as to how I can contact you beyond your blogs here Sam?

I look forward to hearing from you as and when time permits.

Best wishes – Phil – UK.