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History Mysteries: The post mistress who was a spy

Updated Wednesday, 18th January 2006

Was postmistress Mabel Stranks really a spy? The History Mysteries team investigate the rumours.

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Jonathan with statue

Mabel Stranks was the post mistress in the small village of Highworth for over 25 years. During the war, the post office was a decoy address for new recruits arriving to train for a secret underground guerrilla army – the auxiliary units – at nearby Coleshill House.

Rumours have it that little grey-haired Mabel Stranks was herself a spy whose name was even on Hitler’s ‘Death List’. Mabel’s grandson, Brennan, wants to find out whether the rumours are true or not.

Jonathan starts by exploring the old post office where Mabel worked, very little remains and it’s a dead end. Miranda tracks down Graham Tanner, who is the president of the local history society and actually knew Mabel during World War Two. What information does he have? Meanwhile Nick starts his search at The National Archives.

Miranda and Jonathan take their investigation to nearby Coleshill House. The house burned down after the war so there is little to see. Thousands of civilians trained there as Auxiliers where they learnt to do everything from blowing up bridges to slitting throats in case of a German invasion.

Jonathan hunts for evidence of the house as it would have been during the war for his reconstruction. Miranda meets up with Bill King who explains how the Auxiliers were trained.

Nick has found no proof in the archives that Mabel was a spy. He looks for Hitler’s Death List at the Imperial War Museum. Miranda finds Eric Gray, a Coleshill veteran on the People’s War website. He confirms that Mabel was not a spy at all.

Nick finally manages to find Hitler’s Death List. Is Mabel’s name on it or not? What will the team reveal to Brennan about his grandmother?





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