The following written statement was provided by Theodore Schurch, as a result of his interrogation in Rome.
27 May 1945.
STATEMENT OF: No. T/61711 Pte. SCHURCH, Theodore John William,
432 Company, Royal Army Service Corps, 201 Guards Brigade,
8th Army, 2nd Echelon, M.E.F.
I am a Swiss subject and was born on the 5th May 1918 at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, London. I was baptised at the Swiss Church in London and was registered as a Swiss citizen by my Father Theodore Schurch in his village of ROHRBACH, Canton Berne, Switzerland. From the time I first remember I lived with my parents at in WALFORD ROAD, STOKE NEWINGTON, LONDON N16; from there we moved to CASTLEWOOD ROAD, Stamford Hill, London N16 and from there to WEST COURT, North Wembley, Middlesex, which is my last address in England. After leaving school I worked for several firms in the Wembley area, as a costing accountant.
On the 8th July 1936, I went to the Recruiting Office in WHITEHALL, LONDON, to join the Army, as it was put forward to me by a Mr. BIANCHI who had previously enrolled me in the Fascist Intelligence Service, and who definitely asked me to join the Royal Army Service Corps as a driver. After certain formalities I signed my attestation papers and joined the British Army on 8th July 1936, for six years with the colours and six years with the reserve, in the rank of driver and was allotted the Army number of No. T/61711. I was posted to Buller Barracks, Aldershot, to No. 2 Training Company, Royal Army Service Corps Training Depot. I was there for three months until I completed military training, after which I was sent to the Royal Army Service Corps Driving School at Feltham for eight weeks. I was then posted to Aldershot Service Companies, Clayton Barracks, and later posted to No. 9 RASC Coy. at Borden.
During this time the Fascists had been in touch with me through Mr. Edward KING, I think his name was King, who worked at Messrs. SPINKS, Curio Dealers, Regent Street, London, and according to his instructions I volunteered for overseas service in the Middle East. I eventually embarked from LIVERPOOL on the H.T. CALIFORNIA, on the 11 November 1937 for PALESTINE, with a draft including the Border Regiment. We arrived at HAIFA on the 19 November 1937 and went to 14 Coy Detachment RASC, JERUSALEM. After a short while I was posted to HQ 14 Company, at SAFAFAND, where I stayed for two months, then being posted to the detachment at Jerusalem, to take over a Staff Car of the GHQ Palestine and Trans-jordan, then under General WAVELL. About this time 14 Company was split into two companies, 68 Company and 14 Company. I was posted to 68 Company still at JERUSALEM whose job was the Staff Cars, RODEXES (RAF Wireless Trucks) and petrol for the JERUSALEM area.
After a short while in Jerusalem I was approached by an Arab who asked me who I was. On telling him he asked me to get in touch with a Mr. HOMSI of Jaffa Road, Jaffa who was a friend of Mr. BIANCHI’s. I went to see HOMSI, receiving from him instructions to supply all movements of General WAVELL and other Staff Officers Heads of the various departments at GHQ, which was quite easy for me to do as all my friends in the Barrack Room, were their drivers and I knew where they were going and for how long by their Transport Work Tickets and what they told me. At this time General WAVELL’s drivers were Cpl HURRELL and later Dvr HEATH. I supplied all the information he desired about such movements and military information that he needed about location of troops. I did this because I thought that in my small way I was helping the Fascist Movement in which I believed.
About the beginning of 1940 I was sent to SARAFAND and I changed my trade from Dvr. to Technical Mechanical Transport Clerk, under the instructions of Mr. HOMSI. I was still with 68 Company. Whilst in this department HOMSI wanted information of material and equipment being supplied to the theatre which I was not able to supply then as I was in the wrong department.
In early 1941 I was compulsorily posted to Egypt, Base Depot at GENEFA and from there to No. 6 MT Supply Depot, TEL-EL-KEBIR, where I found I could give the information HOMSI needed as this was the MT Supply Depot for all the Middle East. Upon arriving at my new unit, and leave being refused me, I went AWOL for the purpose of seeing HOMSI and telling him where I was. For this I did Field Punishment. As a result of seeing HOMSI, I later received a letter from BIANCHI, telling me to meet him at GROPPI’s Cafe Cairo, which I did. After this I tried to contact BIANCHI according to his instructions, but I was unable to.
Italy had then entered the war and I lost contact with all Fascist Agents in Egypt. With the idea of getting across the line to contact Italian Intelligence, I began agitating my unit for a posting to a front line unit. After about eight months I finally managed to get a posting to 432 Company RASC, in the TOBRUK area in June 1942. I was only there a couple of days when the Germans took Tobruk and I became a POW.
After a couple of weeks during which the confusion settled down I approached an Italian Officer at BENGHAZI, to where I had been transferred, and asked to be put in touch with the Italian Intelligence who were under the control of Lt. Col. Mario REVERTRIA. Eventually I got in touch with Col Revertria who got in touch with ROME, checking my statements, after which I came under his control, doing such work as getting information from Prisoners of War, particularly Officers, and also crossing the lines getting specified information of the British, according to instructions.
My first job under Colonel REVERTRIA was on 13 September 1942, at AIN-GAZALA where he asked me to go immediately to TORBUK where two British Naval ships the SIKH and the ZULU had been sunk when trying to land troops at TOBRUK. The Germans and the Italian Intelligence had had previous information concerning this movement, and had prepared for it. I went to TOBRUK in the uniform of a British soldier with my own A.B 64’s Parts I and II with instructions to get the information from prisoner’s from these two ships, as to their units, and what the object of the operation was. I stayed with the prisoners all that day mainly mixing with the officers: that evening being transferred with all the other prisoners to DERNA, the whole time getting the information as ordered, under the guise of a British Private which I actually was. The next morning an Italian Captain who was responsible to Col. REVERTRIA for DERNA had me taken out of the POW Cage, and asked me if I had got the information required. I told him “Yes” and he immediately got in touch with Col. REVERTRIA who came and took me to his office in DERNA.
After giving him the information Col. REVERTRIA asked me to go to Benghazi with him and one other Italian who spoke perfect English, having lived at Victoria, London, all his life whose name was GIOVANNI ANTONIASI. Colonel REVERTRIA explained that some British Prisoners had been captured on the night of 13 September 1942, at BARCHI and BENGHAZI and he wished to know what their unit was and all the information respecting this type of unit. ANTONIASI dressed himself in the uniform of a Flight Lieutenant of the Fleet Air Arm, and I dressed myself as a British Captain of the Inter Service Liaison Department giving my name as Captain John RICHARDS. This was on 14 September 1942 and the prisoners were brought into a room where we were and we stayed together for approximately six hours, after which we gave the signal to be taken out as we had the necessary information. We found out that they were special units of the Long Range Desert Group latter called the Special Air Service.
The next job that Col. REVERTRIA gave me was round about October 1942, to cross the British Lines to get any important information I could get hold of. In consequence I went as an English Private using my own documents. I crossed the lines at ALAMEIN, reporting to a British Officer that I was an escaped POW and was sent to a Transit Camp not far from ALEXANDRIA. I stayed there four or five days and having obtained the information desired, I re-crossed the lines into Italian hands, where after giving the password, I was sent to AIN-GAZALA to Col. REVERTRIA to whom I gave the information I had acquired.
The next time I went to work as an agent was when I stayed behind at BENGHAZI when the British took it, and after obtaining information, particularly as regards the state of lines of communication, I returned to the Italians via the front line. I reported to Col. REVERTRIA and a few days afterwards he again asked me to go through the lines at EL AGHELIA which I did again as a British Private.
At this time the lines were static at EL AGHELIA and Col. REVERTRIA had his HQ at HOMS. During this time two or three patrols of the Special Air Service were captured and by this time Col. REVERTRIA had made it my responsibility to get information from all prisoners of the Special Air Service. I mixed with three officers and also other ranks of these captured patrols again as Captain John RICHARDS and from information received in this manner and from documents captured we found where other patrols were located, and also their strength. From this information received we were able to capture two other patrols and acquired information as to the operations of other patrols in that area in the near future.
Also about this time a Major CHAPMAN of the ISLD was also captured, who was working behind Italian line getting information re troop transports and lines of communication. Just after this, owing to the British advance, Col. REVERTRIA changed his Headquarters to VILLAGIO BIANCHI and I went by Hospital Ship from TRIPOLI to NAPLES, and then to SIM HQ which is at ROME. This was at the end of January or the beginning of February 1943.
I was then asked to try and locate a British wireless station operating in the VATICAN CITY, and for this purpose I operated in Civilian clothes without success.
I was then sent to a special prisoner of war camp in ROME to get information from a British Colonel. I was put in with Colonel STIRLING, CO of the SAS whom I found to be the Colonel referred to and whom I recognised from a description of his badges. I was posted as Captain John RICHARDS of the RASC, and as the necessary information respecting the SAS had already been obtained, I was told only to obtain the name of Colonel Stirling’s successor. This I found out to be a Captain “PADDY” MAYNE.
Later on, on Easter Sunday 1943, I again went to this Camp in ROME on behalf of the German Intelligence to whom I had been loaned, for the purpose of gaining information off all British submarine activities, etc. in the Mediterranean from Lieut. BROMAGE of the Royal Navy Commander of the British submarine SAHIB and from Lieut. HARDY RNVR Navigational Officer of the British submarine SPLENDID, both these vessels having been sunk. I again went as Captain John RICHARDS of the RASC and was dressed in British Battledress with Captains pips. From these two officers, unknown to themselves, I obtained information that “S” Squadron submarines were operating from certain bases in the Mediterranean, the names of submarine commanders, and that the Squadron Commander, at that time was BEN BRYANT.
About April 1943, I again went to this POW Camp to get information from three naval officers and one Army officer of the Special Boat Service. One of the Naval Officers was Lieut. HART the Scottish Third Lanark footballer, and the Army Captain was a Captain Lee, who had been at one time a Sergeant in the Royal Engineers. I got the information and handed it to the Italians. For this purpose I was again Captain John RICHARDS of the RASC.
About a month later, again as “Capt. RICAHRDS”, I got information from a Sergeant of the Special Boat Service, whom I learnt in peacetime was a Metropolitan Policeman.
About September 1943 I was sent to PERUGIA in civilian clothes with my British Pay Book to get in touch with people who were supposed to be working for British Intelligence, but owing to the Italian Armistice being signed, I was arrested by German Troops who believed me to be an escaped prisoner of war. Whilst in transit by rail, to Germany with other British POWs I escaped with others and made my way to ROME where I was taken to Col. HELFRICH, Head of the Ober, by the German Military Police, to whom I had given my history. After being in hospital for some time for injuries to my ankle sustained when escaping from the train, I was collected by Major SCHNEEWEIS, who was the Head of Colonel HELFRICHS’S Departments, and from that time I commenced to work for the Germans under the Ober and later the SD.
After this on several occasions I posed as a British POW in civilian clothes, and also as a British Agent contacting Italian Agents working for the British Intelligence. This was to obtain information for the Germans.
At the end of March 1945, I was detailed by General HASLER Chief of the German SD in Italy, and Senior Officers of the Department 6 of the SD to come to ROME and the Vatican to get political information concerning England, Russia, France, Spain, countries occupied by Russia, and what the Vatican was doing concerning these things such as Pacts, etc., especially on the Religious viewpoint of the countries occupied by Russia, and also about DE GAULLE and FRANCO, and what was Archbishop SPELLMAN doing for the Americans.
Whilst at LA SPEZIA en route for ROME, the Allies occupied LA SPEZIA and whilst waiting to get transport to go to ROME I was apprehended by an American Officer of the CIC.
Having become too deeply involved in the Axis Intelligence Services I was unable to return to the British Army although my faith in the Fascist Movement, at one time deteriorated owing to the fact that the Heads and important people of the German and Italian Commands were living in a manner directly opposite to the policy of Fascism which was my cause. In October 1944, I received from the Swiss General Consulate at COMO, Italy, my Swiss Passport solely for my own use if at any time I should need it, this being the first Swiss Passport I have had.
I quite realise, from what I have done in these past years, the consequences and I am quite willing to face them, but if in any way I can help the British Authorities in whatsoever manner they want me to, I am quite willing to do so. As I am still a British Soldier I wish to be treated as such and be dealt with by the British Government.
(Sgd.) T.J.W. Schurch.
I have read over the above statement, and have had the opportunity of making any alteration or addition where necessary. It is made voluntarily and is correct and true.
(Sgd.) T.J.W. Schurch.
Statement taken down by Captain R.A. Archer, DARM, 76th Section SIB, CM Police, at the Carcere Minorenni Aristide Gabelli Prison, Rome, on 27 May 1945.