Spalding enjoys tales of life as a spy behind the Iron Curtain
In 1989 the world watched as crowds scrambled onto the Berlin Wall and began to tear it down. It signalled the beginning of the reunification of Germany and the end of the Cold War.
Thirty years on, the Spalding Gentlemen's Society invited retired Wing Commander Steve Griffiths MBE MBA to talk about his role as a spy behind the Iron Curtain in the 1980s.
Unsurprisingly, there was a packed audience at Spalding Grammar School to hear about Griffiths' three years in East Germany: his training, equipment and covert missions.
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The talk began with the James Bond theme tune but those of us expecting Aston Martins and shaken martinis were brought down to earth with tales of sleeping in the back of an Opel Senator and sipping cups of tea when approached by the enemy.
Griffiths explained how, when he was given the role, he had a list of required items to bring with him. On the list was the acronym KFS which puzzled him for some time. He was eventually told this highly important piece of kit was knife, fork, spoon.
His job was to identify and photograph military equipment so that the West would know about changes in Soviet capacity and thus, the level of threat. He developed accurate recognition skills and a talent for speedy photography. His training also covered how to close a car door quietly and how to lose a tail.
It was fascinating to learn how his dirty brown car could avert capture in the dark by the simple trick of turning headlights off in a certain way to emulate a Soviet vehicle, a Trabant or a motorbike.
I loved his story about how, if he was out for a meal with his wife, they would tap the flowers on the table to check for listening devices. This was a sure way to see who flinched elsewhere in the restaurant.
His wife also helped him to flush out the secret police by always heading for the ladies' underwear department whilst shopping. It was easy to spot who looked uncomfortable surrounded by intimidating German foundation garments.
Wing Commander Griffiths was such an engaging speaker. It was a joy to listen to his tales and learn that his espionage work was tiring, often mundane, yet always very risky. His small team of three were alone in enemy territory with no means of communication back to base. They survived their tours with just a map and their wits but always with a brew.
The Spalding Gentlemen's Society continues its excellent series of lectures on Friday,November 22, with a talk by renowned military historian, Stephen Badsey, on Britain and the First World War. He has many TV credits to his name so this should be another talk not to be missed. The venue is Spalding Grammar School, 7.30pm. £2.50 per person.
You can read Trish's blog at www.mumsgoneto.co.uk
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