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Euan Rabagliati

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Euan Rabagliati

Colonel Cuthbert Euan Charles Rabagliati, known as Euan Rabagliati, was a pilot, racecar driver and was later recruited by MI6 during World War II serving as head for Holland and Denmark. He shot down the first German plane in World War I by firing with a pistol and his crash at Brooklands was followed by the banning of mechanics racing alongside their drivers.

Biography

Cuthbert Euan Charles Rabagliati (1892-1978), was the son of Andrea Rabagliati. Head of MI6 Danish and Dutch Country Sections 1940-49. Married Beatrix Oliver 1940 (died 1992). Served RFC World War I (M.C., A.F.C.)

World War I

He had one of the earliest pilot's licences and joined KOYLI (the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) and ultimately the Royal Flying Corps.

He shot down the first German plane during World War I. On 25 August 1914, with Lt C.W. Wilson he forced down a German Etrich Taube which had approached their aerodrome while they were refueling their Avro.

1930 Brooklands Crash

During the Easter 1930 Double Twelve Hour Race the car which had been running fourth in Max Aitken’s hands was withdrawn after the other two team cars of Rabagliati and Hebeler collided. Rabagliati was seriously injured, his mechanic and one spectator died in what was one of Brooklands’ worst accidents.

Towards the end of the first days race, Rabagliati and Ted who was his riding mechanic at the time, were chasing the Alfa Romeo of Ivanovsky and Eyston when they came upon Archie Frazer-Nash's Austin 7 which was travelling considerably slower in the center of the track. See June 1930 Motor Sport " The JCC Double Twelve".

As Rabagliati swerved to avoid the Austin he got sideways and was hit by Hebeler in one of the other Talbots. The Rabagliati and Allery Talbot rolled into the infield spectator area causing carnage. Twenty people were injured, many of them seriously. Ted and one of the spectators died at the scene. Rabagliati suffered head injuries but survived as did the other injured spectators.

Rabagliati was left for dead but miraculously survived the crash following surgical insertion of a silver plate cap to the front of his skull. After waking from a coma, his first words was to ask for a bottle of champagne.[1]

The accident gave rise to the legal case: Hall v Brooklands Auto Racing Club, after which the signs "Motor Racing is Dangerous" were displayed at all race meetings.

Working for MI6

In the book 'The Hornet's Sting' by Mark Ryan (2008) about Danish second world war spy Thomas Sneum, Rabagliati's role as head of MI6 in charge of Holland and Denmark is described from interviews with Sneum who met Rabagliati on 25 June 1941 at his London home in St. James's close to the offices of MI6.[1] Rabagliati persuaded Sneum to work as a spy having survived a heroic crossing of the North Sea in a Hornet Moth.

By December 1941 Rabagliati together with van 't Sant had infiltrated five agents into occupied Holland, but only one, Aart Alblas, was left at liberty. He was arrested as other agents, often as a result of betrayal, and executed at Mauthausen in 1944.

Rabagliati is described as small in stature but tenacious and professional.

During World War II Euan Rabagliati was in charge of a secret operation called Contact Holland. During this operation Dutch secret agents were put ashore in Scheveningen (occupied Holland). One of them was Peter Tazelaar, who went ashore in a tuxedo; this was source of inspiration for the James Bond movie Goldfinger pre-title sequence. Operation Contact Holland also was the inspiration for another movie, Soldier of Orange (where Euan Rabagliati was played by Edward Fox).

After the war he was British vice-consul in San Francisco, eventually retiring to Cannes in the South of France.

References

  • Celebrating 90 Years of Brooklands
  • Ted Allery Obituary describing Brooklands Crash
  • The Debrief: Dutch Courage (About Operation Contact Holland)
  • [1]
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