A British spy who was a cross between James Bond and Robin Hood plotted to use a longbow to assassinate one of the most notorious Nazis, according to a new book.
Tommy Sneum lay in ambush in occupied Copenhagen armed with a bow and arrows to kill Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS. He planned to strike from a penthouse that belonged to a Danish film starlet he had seduced. Sneum chose a longbow because he did not want the sound of a bullet to be traced back to her flat.
The exploits of Sneum are told in a book published this week by Mark Ryan, who interviewed Sneum at length before the former spy died last year aged 89.
“He was a real-life 007, getting through a tremendous number of women and doing all kinds of spectacular stunts to evade the Nazis,” said Ryan, the author of The Hornet’s Sting, published by Piatkus. “When he was holed up in Copenhagen he was sleeping with both the mother and daughter of the house, without either knowing.”
Himmler was due to visit Copenhagen in February 1941 en route to Berlin after visiting SS recruits in Norway. Sneum was a handsome 23-year-old Danish aviator who, dismayed at the capitulation of his country, had become a British spy. He had struck up a relationship with the actress Oda Pasborg, whose flat he wanted to use.
“He was so much in love with her that he did not want to kill Himmler in a way that would hurt her,” said Ryan.
So he bought a steel bow that could be dismantled into halves to make it easy to transport unnoticed. He had a quiver of arrows, each marked April 9, 1940, the date the Nazis had overrun Denmark. In the end, however, Himmler failed to appear. After landing at Copenhagen airport he felt ill and flew on to Berlin.
Sneum had more success with other missions. He filmed German radar installations, often under the noses of the German guards, with a camera provided by MI6. He flew to Britain with his films in a Hornet Moth biplane he had found minus its wings in a barn. He and a friend, Kjeld Pedersen, rebuilt it and took off from a field.
Halfway across the North Sea Sneum had to venture out on the wing in thick fog to refuel the plane from a can of petrol while Pedersen tried to keep it steady.