Scottish dentist spy fooled Colditz Nazi censors

PAPERS and photographs belonging to a Scottish dentist who worked as a spy for the 
security services while he was imprisoned in Colditz Castle are to go under the hammer at Bonhams in London next month.

A scene from The Colditz Story, starring John Mills

Second World War prisoner Captain Julius Morris Green, from Dunfermline, sent coded letters to his parents John and Clara, and his sister Kathleen, when he was held in Colditz and other camps. The letters were then forwarded to the British Directorate of Military Intelligence, Section 9 – MI9.

Letters from Capt Green’s parents to their son were used by MI9 to contact him.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Capt Green proved to be an ideal candidate to carry out espionage work for British intelligence because, as a dentist, he travelled from camp to camp, attending to patients and gathering vital information for MI9.

The auction collection consists of 40 coded letters from Capt Green to his family from 1941-1945 and is expected to fetch around £4,000-£6,000 at the auction on 18 June.

In one letter dated 16 December, 1942, MI9 wrote to Capt Green’s mother at her home in Malcolm Street, Dunfermline, saying: “You will see that in lines 20, 21 and 22 your son refers to certain matters which will have no meaning for you.

“These remarks are intended for us, so please do not worry about them, nor refer to them in any way when replying to your son. For your private information, we are very glad to tell you that your son is continuing to do most valuable work.

“Please do not show this letter to anyone outside the immediate family circle and remember to burn our letter when read.”

MI9 also sent the Greens draft letters for them to send to their son, and dispatched coded letters to him from made-up correspondents – Charles Outram and his daughter from Chelsea, London.

Capt Green, who was Jewish, was born in 1912 in Killarney, County Kerry, where his father had a dental practice.

He went on to study at the dental school of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh and was practising in Glasgow when he joined the Territorial Army in 1939, being posted to 152 Field Ambulance of the 51 Highland Division.

He was captured with his brigade in June 1941 and spent the remainder of the war in a series of prisoner of war camps, including Colditz.

Knowing that if he was exposed as a Jew he would be executed, Capt Green abandoned his identity discs which gave his religion, and posed as a Presbyterian.

In 1941, when a prisoner at PoW camp Ilag VII in Bavaria, he was recruited as a spy and taught a secret code to communicate with MI9, which was responsible for aiding resistance fighters in enemy-occupied territory and gathering intelligence from British prisoners of war.

He would then send information on what was happening at the camps, and strategic details from recaptured prisoners and escapers about German shipping and troop movements, as well as listing materials useful for escapes which could be sent in parcels from home.

Capt Green often wrote his letters in a nonsensical broken-language style to ensure information got past German censors.

The censors often had only a basic grasp of written English and this meant he was able to pass information through that would have been easily spotted by someone more fluent in 
the language.

Capt Green returned to Scotland in 1945 after the war, and some of his letters were donated to the Imperial War Museum in London.

He later wrote a bestselling book about his experiences entitled From Colditz in Code.

He also worked as a businessman for a number of years before returning to dentistry. He died in September 1990.