War hero lived to tell tale af­ter gal­lows fail­ure

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Remember When? - by Mike Ben­nett mben­nett@thek­m­group.co.uk

WIDOW Bar­bara Seth has re­pub­lished the re­mark­able story of her late hus­band’s time as a war­time se­cret agent as a per­sonal trib­ute to his brav­ery.

As an RAF of­fi­cer Ron­ald Seth vol­un­teered for the Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Ex­ec­u­tive in 1942 and was dropped into oc­cu­pied Es­to­nia where be­fore the war he had been pro­fes­sor of lit­er­a­ture at Tallinn Uni­ver­sity.

But on land­ing he lost his ra­dio and equip­ment and was be­trayed by a Nazi sym­pa­thiser to the Gestapo.

He re­sisted 120 hours of tor­ture be­fore be­ing sen­tenced to death. Mr Seth es­caped the Ger­man gal­lows when the hang­ing mech­a­nism failed to work with the rope round his neck.

It was found later his for­mer stu­dents had blocked the trap door. But the tor­ture in prison con­tin­ued and he was forced to be a counter-spy send­ing false mes­sages to Bri­tain.

To save his life he vol­un­teered to help the Ger­mans. Sent to Luft­waffe head­quar­ters in Paris he con­tacted the French Re­sis­tance and was again caught.

Still con­vinced by his story that he was a Nazi sym­pa­thiser the Ger­mans then sent him to a Bri­tish pris­oner-of-war camp as a stool pi­geon.

With the Al­lies ad­vanc­ing in 1945, Gestapo chief Hein­rich Himm­ler sent him to Switzer­land for a mis­sion to re­turn to Eng­land with of­fers of peace to Win­ston Churchill.

Once safely in the Bri­tish Em­bassy he re­vealed him­self as an SOE of­fi­cer.

Mr Seth’s story A Spy Has No Friends was first pub­lished af­ter the war but has been long out of print.

His sec­ond wife Mrs Seth, 87, who has lived in re­tire­ment in Jar­mans Field, Wye, for the past quar­ter of a cen­tury since his death, said: “It is an amaz­ing story and it still makes me up­set to read it.

“It would make a re­mark­able film and ac­tor John Hurt has

shown some in­ter­est.”

HAVE you got any sto­ries or pic­tures from the past that you would be will­ing to share with read­ers? If so send them, with brief de­tails, to Mike Ben­nett, Ken­tish Ex­press Re­mem­ber When, 34-36 North Street, Ash­ford, Kent, TN24 8JR.

Pic­ture: Dave Downey pd1490466

Bar­bara Seth with her late hus­band’s book – ‘it still makes me up­set to read it’

Ron­ald Seth, whose book is on sale again

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