Mieczysław Zygfryd "Rygor" Słowikowski
A top Polish double agent
Mieczysław Zygfryd Słowikowski, codename "Rygor", was instrumental in creating and operating the British intelligence network in North Africa during WW2. It is thanks to the data gathered by his people that the Allies could successfully land and proceed with "Operation Torch". The purpose of this operation was to release French North Africa from German military influence, by deploying American and British forces on the coasts of Morocco and Algeria.
Mieczysław Słowikowski was born in Jazgarzew on the 26th of February in 1896. Initially he studied trade in Warsaw. In 1915 he joined The Polish Military Organization as a recruit. After 1917 Mieczysław attended the Cadet School in Masovian Ostrowia for one year. At the end of 1918 he was finally accepted into the Polish Army as the platoon leader. One year later, during the Polish –Russian war of the 1920, Słowikowski led a company from the 36th infantry regiment of Academic League against the Russian invasion. Thus started a long military career, in which Słowikowski reached the rank of a general and gradually became involved in espionage under the diplomatic cover.
Mieczysław Słowikowski with his wife and son
The Second World War found him in Kiev, from which he successfully escaped to France. In Paris he managed to enter the re-organizing Polish Army, however French military was quickly defeated, by better tactically organized Wehrmacht and Słowikowski had to quickly run away from France. After the French capitulation and his escape to the UK he started to transfer Polish soldiers from France through Spain and later from Marseille to UK and North Africa. As only men above the age of 45 were allowed to leave France, soldiers had to be given passports with fake birth dates and had to dye their hair, mustaches and beards gray. Mieczysław Słowikowski helped over 2,500 men in total to escape from France.
In December 1940 Słowikowski received very important intelligence on German reinforcements arriving in North Africa to support Italian forces in pushing the British back. He duly passed it on, but this information was ignored by the British High Command in London and that made the UK suffer heavy losses in North Africa in 1941. On May 1st ,1941 Mieczysław was sent to Algeria to establish an intelligence network, which he called “Agency Africa”. It turned out to be one of the Second World War's most successful intelligence organizations. As a cover he created an oatmeal factory that, incidentally, turned out to be a huge commercial success,which could almost fully cover all the expenses of the intelligence. With the identity of a businessman he could freely move around the country and expand the network. Słowikowski had a perfect character for a spy: he knew how to connect with people, how to unite them and how to hide his real identity. He recruited a few thousand people - among them Jean Lacaze, the director of Shell in North Africa. The HQ in the UK received reports from his network several times a day. He successfully placed his people in administration offices, train stations, police, harbours and in other strategic places all over the country.
Mieczysław Słowikowski in London (1970s)
On November 8th, 1942 the Allied Forces led by Eisenhower landed on the coasts of Morocco and Algeria. It was known under a name of "Operation Torch", a big invasion of the American-British coalition launched against the German forces stationed in French North Africa. Both sides had almost 400 000 soldiers deployed in total, however ,thanks to the data provided by "Rygor", the entire French part of North Africa was seized by Eisenhower’s army within 24 hours and the casualties were much lower than it had been predicted before. For his effort Słowikowski was awarded the Order of the British Empire, the greatest distinction given to a Polish officer by the British Army so far.
Słowikowski continued to lead the organization until 1944, when he relocated to Scotland to train infantry. He was demobilized in 1947. He could not return to Poland because the ruling communist party under Russian control openly considered him a traitor. He decided to settle down in London, where he died in 1989.
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- Title picture: [internet]. https://www.sadistic.pl/mieczyslaw-slowikowski-superszpieg-z-polski-vt148819.htm [accessed 9 February 2018]
- Second picture: [internet]. http://www.newsweek.pl/g/i.aspx/680/0/newsweek/634338780776570000.jpg [accessed 9 February 2018]