» Jersey Zig Zag with Eddie Chapman
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Libertines, Lotharios or Bastards?

Jersey Zig Zag with Eddie Chapman

Jersey Zig Zag with Eddie Chapman
Eddie Chapman 1914-1997

Please be Upstanding

1939

Birth, School, Work, Death. That’s alright for most people but not for Eddie Chapman.

Everyday life is too boring; instead he’s devoting his time to excitement money and women.

He’s busily avoiding the hum drum and the police, definitely the police.

Eddie is a safecracker, the best in the business he says (but then he would wouldn’t he?) He loves gelignite but never uses a gun and now he’s on the run…in Jersey.

He had a poor upbringing your honour. At seventeen he tried to lift himself above his lowly station while serving his country by joining the Coldstream Guards. No one told him sentry duty’s bloody boring though so when he got a few days leave; instead of popping home he wandered around Soho and the West End gawping at the tarts and flash blokes in fast cars.

Eddies London Eddies London

He met a girl, shacked up with her for the weekend, stayed two months, forgot to tell the army.

When he got out of the glasshouse he went straight back to Soho and tried to earn an honest bob as a barman, a film extra, a dancer, a wrestler and a masseuse.

Just like Ronald Coleman Just like Ronald Coleman

No one told him that if you really want to enjoy yourself in London you need a few nicker so he turned to petty crime, who wouldn’t?

His matinee idol looks helped him no end ( he’s got  a thin little moustache like Ronald Coleman) One wheeze involved seducing pretty wives, getting a mate to take a few mucky photos of them “at it” and then threatening to show her old man if she didn’t cough up.

It was when he formed “The Jelly Gang” however, that things really started to “Go with a Bang”.

They blew safes you see.

There was Eddie (the brains) , Jimmy (The “Cracksman”), Darry (the Burglar) and Hugh (the Driver) After a shaky start when Hugh drove their getaway car in to a lamppost they soon established themselves as major players in the London underworld and Eddie loved it.

 After the crash, a petty thief who had nothing to do with the gang absentmindedly touched the bonnet of the wrecked car. The police found his dabs on it and as he’d got previous they sent him down for four years, you have to laugh.

Dapper in his Savile Row suit, his Fedora worn at a rakish angle, Eddie cruised the Soho streets in his Bentley, pockets bulging with cash, trousers bulging with mischief.

"Watch Out, its the Rozzers!" “Watch Out, its the Rozzers!”

Pop into the Windmill to appreciate the nude review. Maybe invite one of the fan dancers for dinner at The Nest on Kingly street (a table is permanently reserved) then drinks and jazz into the early hours at Smokey Joes, The Shim Sham or The Gaucho.

Mixing with the likes of Noel Coward and Ivor Novello Eddie was quite open about his shady occupation but as he was “Frightfully charming” no one seemed to mind.

 

Off to The Wimdmill Off to The Wimdmill

It was quite a life.

"Hello ladies, fancy some Jazz?" “Hello ladies, fancy some Jazz?”

When he wasn’t the king of Soho, Eddie was a happily married man (to a woman of Russo-German extraction called Vera.) He was also happily living with a Southend dancing girl called Freda who was expecting his child.

One evening in the Nite Lite Club he met a Shropshire farm girl named Betty and was very happy about that too.

This reminds me awfully of The Cotton Club This reminds me awfully of The Cotton Club

He told her he was in “The Film Business” and they were lovers before her head stopped spinning. London was getting a little too hot for Eddie however so a few weeks later after packing some gelignite into his golf bag he gave Betty a “passionate farewell” and drove the gang to Scotland.

Before long he was back. An attempt to rob the Edinburgh Co Op had gone wrong and the gang had ended up in the nick. Somehow Eddie got bail and once through the police station door had jumped in the Bentley and sped off to London, Scotland’s finest in pursuit.

Arriving on Betty’s doorstep Eddie suggests a surprise trip to France via Jersey, how could she say “no”?

Eddie however is not alone and while it’s not very romantic having to share the speeding car with two unsavoury looking men in overcoats he says they are “Film Colleagues” so Betty puts up with the inconvenience. Anyway they’re all off to Croydon Aerodrome to fly….  “IN AN AEROPLANE”

"Wont take five minutes in the Bentley" “Wont take five minutes in the Bentley”

Arriving in Jersey, Betty is dazzled by their plush accommodation at the Hotel de la Plage and by an evening of champagne and roulette at the West Park Pavilion. The Chapman charm has worked its magic.

In the morning as they sit in the rarefied splendour of the hotel dining room, with only the soft mummer of conversation and gentle clink of crockery for company, Betty feels like she’s walking on air.

If only wasn’t for some official looking fellow talking urgently to the head waiter everything would be perfect.

"I must tell you my dear, I have absolutely no intention of jumping out of the window" “I must tell you my dear, I have absolutely no intention of jumping out of the window”

 

Abruptly, Eddie stops his hushed endearments, stands up, kisses her once gently on the lips and runs full tilt towards the window. Tables are overturned, crockery smashes, women scream and men bellow “I Say!”  Eddie pays them no heed as he desperately hurls himself through the window, which unfortunately for him is firmly closed. Landing on the beach in a shower of broken glass, he cuts a less than elegant figure legging it along the sand with two plain clothes coppers chasing after him.

Betty quite rightly guesses that this marks the end of their relationship.

For Eddie however the journey into becoming Britain’s most remarkable double agent has only just begun.

 

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