When we think of spies, we tend to picture tuxedos and martinis. We think about daring rooftop escapes, obscure card games, number stations and scratch pads, a revolver hidden in the false wall of a briefcase. Frank Foley trafficked in none of these things. If you were to look at him, with his retracting hairline, thick glasses, and charcoal jackets, you’d be forgiven for assuming he was an accountant or a lawyer of some kind.
But Frank Foley was a spy, one who worked in conditions every bit as dangerous as any James Bond film. Even more rare than that though, Frank was a spy with a heart. For years he waged a secret battle deep inside the heart of the Nazi death machine. A heroic battle the world would not know about until after his death.
Even compassionate spies take their secrets to the grave.
The intelligence world wasn’t always in the cards for Foley. Born in 1884, the son of an engine fitter, a young Foley grew up in a humble, devoted home. His parents, both observant Catholics’ fostered a spiritual hunger in their son at a young age. As a child, Foley always assumed his future rested somewhere with the church, either as a missionary or a priest. In fact, at the age of 14, he was sent to a Jesuit seminary in France.
But life takes strange turns, and God’s plan for good men isn’t always obvious. Despite his enthusiasm for the church, Foley was also an intellectually curious teenager, devouring different subjects and classes. He proved an able polyglot with a gift for picking up languages (a skill that would later serve him well) that paired well with his observant and detailed focused personality. He never claimed to have a photographic memory, but you could say he had a mental Xerox machine. It was this zeal for knowledge that led to Foley being stranded on the wrong side of the boarder when World War 1 broke out.
Foley had the distinct misfortune of studying philosophy in Hamburg when war was officially declared. Needless to say, British citizens were suddenly very unwelcome indeed in German cities, with every foreign worker, tourist, and student being rounded up for imprisonment in an internment center.
Foley wasn’t staying around to sample the hospitality of the German military police. Quickly hatching a scheme, Foley stole a military uniform, bluffed and blustered his way past security posts, and stowed away on a train by posing as an enthusiastic young Prussian office on his way to the front lines. Changing his identity and story with every stop, Foley managed to sneak all the way home to Britain with his freedom and life intact.
You would have thought such an obvious display of aptitude would make Foley a natural fit for the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), and so did Foley himself. Sadly, his application was rejected by the office, the logic of the day being that the need for young fighting men on the frontline superseded the need for intelligence work. And so, Foley was tossed into the intractable trench warfare of the frontlines. It would take a near fatal bullet to the lung to make the SIS reconsider if they were making the best use of his talents.
And thank God they did. Without Frank Foley working as a spy for the British, more than 10,000 Jews would have perished in the horrors of the Holocaust, and the world would have been denied one of its greatest heroes.
Stayed tuned for part 2 later this week to find out exactly why Frank Foley is considered one of the most Righteous Among the Nations.