Secret service agent and author. Died aged 85.

Ron Jeffery, who died in Auckland this week, worked as a secret service agent under the noses of the Gestapo in Europe during World War II.

As an English soldier in France he was captured by the Germans in 1940, but he escaped twice and eventually found his way into the Polish underground.


Using his flair for foreign languages, particularly German, he undertook espionage missions in Austria, Germany and Czechoslovakia that were deemed of considerable value to the Allied war effort.

His efforts were at first highly regarded but subsequently studiously ignored by the British, which a disillusioned Jeffery attributed to the treachery of Kim Philby and other high-ranking communist agents entrenched in the British system.

His version of events in the murky world of resistance fighting and espionage was consistently recognised by the Poles, who decorated him several times for his wartime efforts, most recently in 1995.

When Jeffery returned to London in 1944, he was initially treated as a celebrity.

Anthony Eden, the Secretary of State and Prime Minister Winston Churchill both wanted to meet him.

But suddenly no one wanted to know him. He finished the war as a private in the British Army, peeling potatoes and cleaning latrines at a base camp.

It was whispered that Jeffery had collaborated with the Germans, and that rumour seems to have been accepted officially, although the Polish underground - which was in a better position to know - had recommended him to the British Government for decoration and a commission.

After the war, the Poles recognised the injustice when the commander of the Polish underground army, General Tadeuz Bor-Komorowski, personally awarded him the Polish Cross of Valour.

He also received the Polish Underground Cross, and in 1995 he was made a Commander of the Order or Merit, one of the highest honours the Polish Government can bestow on a foreigner.

The Wellington-based Polish Consul, Stanislaw Amanowicz, described Jeffery as a brave and courageous man with the resistance movement and "one of the people who created the modern history of Poland".

"As a member of the Polish underground army he lived with Poles, he worked with Poles and he fought with Poles," he said.

Ron Jeffery was born in Kent of an English mother and a New Zealand West Coast miner who settled in England after World War I.

He eventually wrote about his wartime career in an autobiography, Red Runs the Vistula (a river in Warsaw).

He always maintained that one of those who fostered doubts about him was Philby, the double agent who defected to the Soviet Union in 1963.

He believed the British spymaster did not want him to disclose any of the damning evidence he had gathered of Soviet conduct during the war.

In particular, Jeffery knew too much about the Katyn massacre, in which thousands of manacled Polish officers (most reported figures suggest about 15,000) were slaughtered by the Soviet Union.

Jeffery maintained that the Russians were responsible. But the Kremlin blamed Nazi Germany for decades, before Moscow finally owned up in 1990.

Deeply disillusioned and disappointed after the war, Jeffery migrated to New Zealand and ran a business.

He also, in 1987, stood unsuccessfully for the National party in Mangere against David Lange.

His World War II escapades, when the Gestapo reportedly once described him as "one of the foxiest devils in Europe" sound like the stuff of movies.

His story was made into a docudrama, The Betrayal, by New Zealand producer John Anderson in 1996.

Anderson found several verifications of Jeffery's story and included interviews with the Polish woman Jeffery married during the war, Marysia Kaziu, several other Poles who sheltered him and Scots soldier Tommie Muir, who escaped from a prison camp to Warsaw with Jeffery.

Jeffery, who also wrote fiction, died after a prolonged period of disability.