Snow: The Double Life of a World War II Spy by Nigel West & Madoc Roberts - review by Christopher Andrew

Christopher Andrew

Team of His Own

Snow: The Double Life of a World War II Spy


Biteback 224pp £20

Arthur Owens, codenamed SNOW by MI5 and JOHNNY by the German Abwehr, was the first of the double agents in the Second World War ‘Double-Cross’ deception, who fed phenomenal amounts of disinformation to their unsuspecting German case officers.

Despite SNOW’s important role in the history of espionage, he was not popular with British intelligence. An MI6 officer disdainfully described him at the beginning of his espionage career as a ‘typical Welsh “underfed” Cardiff type’ with a ‘rather thin bony face’, ‘almost transparent and ill-shaped ears, disproportionately small for size of man’, and ‘a somewhat shifty look’. An MI5 officer wrote toward the end of SNOW’s years as a double agent: 

SNOW’s principal characteristic is vanity, combined with an inherent untruthfulness. He has a perpetual itch to inform other people of his importance and when he does so (which is usually when he is rather drunk) has no regard for truth or discretion.

SNOW’s identity has never been officially revealed. His real

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