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WWII knicker spy Margery Booth photos to be auctioned

Photograph of Margery Booth
Image caption The photograph of Margery Booth is expected to fetch about £100

A photo of a little-known World War II spy who sang for Adolf Hitler while concealing secret documents in her knickers is to be sold at auction.

Wigan-born Margery Booth was a renowned singer with the Berlin Opera after moving to Germany before the war.

She was allowed to perform for British prisoners of war and, unknown to the Nazis, ferried secret information out.

The picture is one of a series taken at Stalag IIID PoW camp in Berlin that will be auctioned on 30 September.

It shows the singer in a wood and on it she has written the words "With kindest remembrances, Good luck, Margery Booth", with "Freigegeben Stalag IIID" stamped on the back.

Traitor details

Her story was revealed in the memoirs of Stalag IIID prisoner John Brown. The photographs have emerged from a private collection.

The singer made her debut at Covent Garden opera house in London in 1936, and went to Germany after marrying Dr Egon Strohm.

The Nazis hoped that by letting her sing for the British prisoners it might persuade some of them to switch sides and fight against the Soviet Union in a "Britischer Freikorps".

She performed a variety of English folk songs, but the Germans were rather less happy when she sang Land of Hope and Glory to round off her appearances.

At Stalag IIID she met Brown and agreed to help him get information out of the camp so it could be relayed back to Britain.

Brown gave the false impression to the Nazis that he was a sympathiser, and as a result he knew details about British traitors and the Britischer Freikorps.

Arrested and tortured

Unaware of her activities, the Nazi leadership held Booth in high regard and she once sang in the presence of the Fuhrer with secret information hidden in her underwear.

Brown was found out towards the end of the war and Booth was arrested and tortured by the Gestapo, but was released after it failed to prove anything.

Booth escaped Berlin during a bombing raid and returned to Britain, where the information she provided helped in the Old Bailey trials of traitors William Joyce, known as Lord Haw Haw, and John Amery, who were hanged for treason.

The photographs will be put under the hammer by auctioneers Mullock's, at Ludlow racecourse in Shropshire, with the Booth picture expected to fetch about £100.

Auctioneer Richard Westwood-Brookes said: "It is astonishing that the heroic activities of this opera singer are not widely known about.

"It is the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and we've been remembering our brave airmen, but it is also worth remembering those heroes such as Booth, who received no fame at the time."

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