MI5 files reveal how 'King Kong' betrayed Allies

Philandering Dutch spy leaked details of Operation Market Garden which led to the deaths of thousands of troops at Arnhem

Kim Sengupta
Thursday 20 April 2000 00:00 BST

New light has been shed on the treachery of a Dutch double agent, codenamed King Kong, in the disastrous Allied operation at Arnhem towards the end of the Second World War.

But the MI5 documents released by the Public Record Office yesterday fail to provide a conclusive answer to the extent of damage caused by Christian Lindemans' passing of information to the Germans.

Historians and espionage specialists have differed over Lindemans' role in the major reverse suffered by the Allies in Operation Market Garden in 1944, later depicted in the award-winning film A Bridge Too Far. Almost 10,000 British and Allied paratroops were dropped on the outskirts of Arnhem with orders to take the bridge and hold it until reinforcements arrived. There followed some of the fiercest close-quarter combat of the war as the lightly equipped paratroops came under attack from tanks and battle-hardened German regiments. Fewer than 2,000 Allied soldiers escaped from the city.

The intelligence reports show that Lindemans, a resistance fighter turned collaborator, gave the Germans specific warnings of an airborne attack on 17 September, the night of the Arnhem landings. But the target he identified was Eindhoven, 30 miles away.

This leads to the strong possibility that Lindemans had overblown his importance to the Germans. Although he could get hold of some intelligence, he did not have ready access to the latest battle plans through Allied Headquarters in Brussels as he had claimed.

Lindemans was an inveterate womaniser, and MI5 chronicled a series of sexual liaisons. One report stated censorioiusly: "King Kong is a woman hunter without morals or conscience." But it also noted that he was undoubtedly in love with his common-law wife, a French cabaret singer called Gilberte. Her imprisonment, along with that of his brother, was the lever by which German intelligence persuaded him to work for them, the files show.

But Lindemans' professed love for Gilberte did not reduce his sexual appetite. The MI5 files noted how he abused the trust of a wealthy Dutch grain merchant and his young daughter, who nursed him when he was shot in the chest. "This girl, though seduced by Lindemans and robbed by him of all she possessed under the pretence that he needed her money in order to keep his 'secret organisation' going, was at the moment still in love with the man," the British agent wrote.

The reports also spoke of other affairs, one in Brussels with a lover known only as Mia, another with a Swedish woman. The liaisons took place despite Lindemans' physical frailty - though tall and immensely broad he walked with a limp, had an almost paralysed arm and was prone to seizures.

While awaiting trial after the war - and an almost certain death sentence - Lindemans continued to exert his charm on women. After his suicide in July 1946, MI5 officers learnt that he had almost escaped from jail with the assistance of a nurse, who helped him cut through cell bars. When that failed, and Lindemans took a fatal overdose of sleeping pills, the nurse tried to follow suit, only to be revived.

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