Alan Hillgarth

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Captain Alan Hugh Hillgarth, CMG, OBE (1899–1978) was a British adventure novelist and member of the intelligence services, perhaps best known for his activities in Spain during and following the Spanish Civil War.[1] Hillgarth appears as one of the actual historical figures in C. J. Sansom's 2006 novel, Winter in Madrid, and also in María Dueñas's 2009 novel, El tiempo entre costuras (English translation 2011, The Time in Between (US), The Seamstress (UK)).

In the book Roosevelt & Churchill: Men of Secrets, the historian David Stafford gives an account of Hillgarth's links with Winston Churchill in prewar Majorca, where Hillgarth was the British consul. By the outbreak of World War II, Hillgarth was Naval Attaché in Madrid, where he handled a huge number of clandestine intelligence operations on behalf of the British government. He had a prominent role in Operation Mincemeat, in which faked documents were used to fool the Germans about Allied plans for the invasion of Sicily. He was successful at simultaneously appearing to try to retrieve the documents before the Germans saw them, and yet making sure that they did, all without arousing suspicion.[2]

In his book Men of War, Hillgarth wrote that "adventure was once a noble appellation borne proudly by men such as Raleigh and Drake . . . [but is now] reserved for the better-dressed members of the criminal classes."

Hillgarth was also a member of the strange and extravagant 'Sacambaya Exploration Company,' which, in 1928, went in search of Bolivian gold. A number of British adventurers set forth on a romantic enterprise with modern machinery, to excavate a treasure believed to amount to more than 12 million pounds.It turned out to be a scam as the maps and documents turned out to have been fakes.[3]


  1. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. ^ Macintyre, Ben (2010). Operation Mincemeat. The True Spy Story that Changed the Course of World War II. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-0-7475-9868-8.
  3. ^ See the article "Atahualpa’s Ransom & Other Treasure Fables" at

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