William de Ropp

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Baron William Sylvester de Ropp, originally Sylvester Wilhelm Gotthard von der Ropp[1] (12 December 1886 - 1973[2][a]) was a British agent involved in dealings with Nazi Germany before and during the Second World War. He was described as one of the most "mysterious and influential clandestine operators" of the era.[3]

Ropp was born in Lithuania, the last child of Wilhelm Edmund Karl Reinhold Alexander Baron von der Ropp[1] and his wife Lydia Gurjef. His father was from a family of Prussian barons and owned an estate called Daudzegir, while his mother was a cossack from the Crimea.[4] Ropp was educated in Dresden, Germany.[5] He moved to England and, in 1908 enrolled as a Student at the University of Birmingham [6] and became naturalised as a British subject in 1915.[5] When he took the oath of allegiance on 25 January 1915, he was described as an Electrical Engineer of Kensington, London.[7] During the First World War, he served in the Royal Flying Corps under the command of F. W. Winterbotham. In the 1920s, Ropp went to Berlin as a representative of the Bristol Aircraft Company and became an associate of Alfred Rosenberg, a fellow Balt and a Nazi enthusiast. Rosenberg's function was to establish links with establishment figures in Britain for the Nazis. Ropp had contacts with a powerful segment of the British upper class which favoured appeasement, known as the "Cliveden Set", and also with a member of the royal family, the Duke of Kent.[8] Through Rosenberg, Ropp met Adolf Hitler and Rudolf Hess. According to Ladislas Farago, a close personal relationship developed between the Fuehrer and Ropp. Hitler used him as a confidential consultant on British affairs and outlined to him frankly his grandiose plans, described by one author as "a trust no other foreigner enjoyed to this extent".[9] Lulled by this congenial atmosphere, the Luftwaffe naively gave away its secrets to the British. F. W. Winterbotham had become head of Air Intelligence, part of MI6, and nurtured Ropp over three years. While the Nazis considered Ropp one of their agents in England, his standing helped facilitate a visit by Winterbotham to Germany in 1934. WInterbotham met Rosenberg and Goering and obtained a considerable amount of information on the growth of the Luftwaffe.[10]

Ropp married firstly Ruth Fisher and had a son, Robert, and a daughter named Ruth. His wife died in the 1918 influenza pandemic.[4][dubious ] In 1925 he married secondly Marie Woodman.[11] His son Robert de Ropp, with whom he maintained little contact, became a research biochemist and author on personal enlightenment.

Ropp died in 1973 in Herefordshire. His second wife survived him until 1986.


  1. ^ a b Rootsweb
  2. ^ General Register Office -Index of deaths registed in October/November/December 1973 in England and Wales, name: De Ropp, William Sylvester, District: Kington, Herefordshire, Date of Birth: 12 December 1886, Volume:9A, Page:173
  3. ^ Ladislas Farago The Game of the Foxes 1971
  4. ^ a b De Ropp, Robert S., Warrior's Way: a Twentieth Century Odyssey (Nevada City, CA: Gateways, 1995 and 2002)
  5. ^ a b The Appeasers. Volume 1963, Part 1, p.335
  6. ^ University Calendars
  7. ^ "No. 29055". The London Gazette. 2 February 1915. p. 1029.
  8. ^ Jonathan Petropoulos, Royals and the Reich: The Princes von Hessen in Nazi Germany (Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 201
  9. ^ Ladislas Farago, The Game of the Foxes, p. 88
  10. ^ Chris Staerck, Paul Sinnott, Luftwaffe: the allied intelligence files (2002), p. 3
  11. ^ Office for National Statistics - Marriage Indices
  1. ^ His Royal Air Force Service Record show a date of birh 7 December 1886