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POW Depots, Dockyards and Spies (Plymouth Branch)
Wed. 13 February 2019 at 7:30 pm
A talk entitled “POW Depots, Dockyards and Spies” given by Barbie Thompson.
Spanning the late 17th and early 19th centuries this talk will concentrate on espionage agents ranging from an exiled French Huguenot, a cross-dressing French diplomat and a master spy for the French Navy with an intricate network of informers.
An audacious plot led to the greatest threat Plymouth faced since the Spanish Armada. The American Revolutionary War also spawned undercover agents and informers including an embittered Scotsman turned solitary saboteur, and another lone-wolf Scot – the last man to be hung, drawn and quartered in England. Naval dockyards, including Devonport, were the objective of saboteur James Aitken (aka John the Painter). He travelled to Plymouth with a view to setting fire to the dockyard, but the area was on high alert. Over several nights he unsuccessfully attempted to gain entry by scaling the walls with a rope ladder. This was another lucky escape for Plymouth. He then turned his attention to Bristol where he set several fires causing alarm throughout the nation.