Friday, January 11, 2013

Spies of Llandrindod?

The BBC's latest espionage offering Spies of Warsaw, with David Tennant somewhat miscast as a tough French military attaché, is set in the late 1930s as Europe prepares for war.  Meanwhile in Llandrindod .....

Our story, a true one as it happens, starts in Vienna in 1934, with the assassination of the Austrian chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss in a Nazi inspired coup. While Dollfuss bled to death on the floor of his own office, his pregnant wife Alwine was holidaying in Italy with her two young children Eva and Rudi.  They were staying as guests of Mussolini and his wife Rachele.  It was left to the Italian dictator to break the news of her husband's murder to Frau Dollfuss.  Angered and fearing a German invasion of Austria in the wake of the failed coup, Mussolini mobilised a force of some 50000 men and sent them to the Tyrolean border.  This gave Hitler pause for thought and it was not until 1938 that German troops finally entered the country.  Frau Dollfuss, by then a mother of three, fled Austria for Budapest before eventually finding sanctuary in Llandrindod Wells.

The family lived at Trevaldwyn, a white and green villa in Montpelier Park, the home of a South African widow, long resident in the town, Mrs Murray-Parker.  Frau Dollfuss, "a most lovable person" according to a maid at the house, was said to be writing a book and it was perhaps this, townsfolk reasoned, which led to the appearance of a carload of mysterious strangers in the Spa in April 1939.  The strangers, one was described by a garage mechanic as "a typical German with cropped hair and glasses," began asking for Frau Dollfuss at guest houses and hotels.  Eventually they called at Trevaldwyn, by which time the Dollfuss family, accompanied by Mrs Murray-Parker, had already fled the town.

Eventually Frau Dollfuss must have returned to Llandrindod since newspaper photographs from 1940 show the family preparing to leave for Canada.

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