I knew Samuel Mosman as a Boy

Samuel David Mosman had a small cottage in the town of Rheinfelden, Germany just across the Swiss border. The location was relevant. Samuel shared a small cottage with Sarah, a very attractive woman with long black hair which she wore plaited and tied at her back. She had relatively darker skin than Samuel and looked as if she had been sunbathing all her life. She worked as a personal assistant to the manager of a small transport company. This is not relevant although you may think I could be wrong.

They were a quiet couple who did not mix easily in the community. They shared all the housekeeping duties and all the expenses although did not share the bedrooms. This is also not relevant but is interesting. No. Maybe it is not interesting but it is relevant. We shall see.

I knew Samuel long before he knew Sarah. At least I think that is the case but I can’t be sure. He may have known her for a long time. You may think my uncertainty on some matters is unsettling but I trust you will understand in a few minutes. Samuel and I went to school together. He always claimed to be British. He spoke with rather an affected British accent and we, at our school in the very Jewish suburb of Caulfield in Melbourne, thought him a little aloof. His father was Swiss and his mother was apparently the daughter of a certain British Colonel Witheringham. None of us ever actually met his family and he spun quite a story around himself. His father had been ‘in the war’ and his mother had helped airmen who’d been shot down over Germany to escape through Switzerland.

We often asked, if his father was Swiss how did he come to spend his time ‘in the war’ and if his mother was British then how did she spend her time in Switzerland. He would always give a little laugh and say, “That’s where they lived before the war, old chap.” And that was all he ever said.

It was 1962 when I knew him and we were both in the same Literature class and we were both prefects. He was a really nice bloke but very hard to get to know. After school I went to Uni to do Law and he did engineering, because ‘Father says it’s going to be big’. I lost touch with him.

In 1971 my wife and I were in Europe on the compulsory Australian tour of Europe. We had a baby son who was worth the hassle because he got us through checkpoints that other couples said were difficult. Anyway we were in Northern Italy and I picked up a newspaper with huge black headlines.

Spia israeliano. Ha rubato aereo.

I had no idea what that meant but I could not mistake the face of the person on the front page. There was a photograph and there was no mistaking Sam Mosman! It was Mosman all right. I rushed around until I found someone who spoke Italian who could translate for me. “What does this say in English?” I asked.

“It says “Israeli Spy. He stole a plane”.

“Please, I will buy coffee. Could you read the story to me?”

So we sat down together, my new Italian friend, and he read further; “Israeli spy steals plans for fighter plane from Swiss company.” This I had to see.

My wife went back to England with the baby to stay with a couple we knew from Melbourne who had a flat in Praed Street just off the Edgware Road. I went to Switzerland and sat in on the trial of my long lost mate.

The story unfolded right in front of my eyes. Sam insisted on speaking only English because he was protesting his innocence but I could tell otherwise. Whenever anyone spoke French Sam understood everything, and on a few rare occasions there were comments made in Hebrew or Yiddish or whatever it was and he also knew exactly what they were saying.

In 1967 the War of Attrition fought by Egypt and Lebanon against Israel followed the Six Day war. The Israelis lost about sixty planes and they went to France to get replacements. The French had supplied their original planes- the Mirage III. Israel ordered and paid for thirty of the new Mirage 5. but before they were supplied Israel raided Lebanon and President De Gaulle got cross and placed an embargo on all sales of weapons to Israel. France and Lebanon go way back. So the Israelis didn’t get their planes, which worried them, because the Arab states were flexing their muscles and beating their chests.

Now here is where Sam comes in. Sam hadn’t told us any lies, but he hadn’t told us all the truth. His father was Swiss and his mother was British – that was true. However they were also Jewish and in actual fact they were, all three of them, Israeli citizens. They had come to Australia so that Sam could do Engineering at Melbourne University and he then got a job at the Government Aircraft Factory (CAC) in Fishermans Bend, a suburb of Melbourne. This comes under the heading of ‘Good Forward Planning’.

The French embargo came into effect in January of 1969. Sam was a bit older than me even though we had been in the same class and so I guess he was about twenty-seven at this stage. By May of that year he had acquired a job in a Swiss factory that was making Mirage Jets, under licence, for the Swiss Air Force.  Using his experience from the Aircraft factory in Melbourne Sam very soon acquired a position in the blueprint section. However his task for the Israelis was to get copies of the plans. This was a huge task and he invented a scheme to get around this.

Samuel went to his supervisor and said that he though the blueprints were of such value that they would possibly become the target of espionage. His supervisor told Sam to go away and come up with a plan. The solution, Sam said, would be to transfer all blueprints onto microfiche plates. Being so small compared to the original plans they could then be easily secured in a safe. With the blueprints now turned into microfiche the original prints could be incinerated.

To make the process even more secure, he said, he would make himself personally responsible for burning the originals. Furthermore he would insist that no other person would be given that onerous task.

So, Samuel Mosman, secret agent for the Israeli spy organisation, Mossad, placed heavy rolls of blueprints in the back of his old and large Mercedes car, drove to the incinerator, which was strategically located outside the office of the chief of security, took out heavy rolls of newspaper which he had put under the back seats of the car late the previous evening, and burnt the old newspapers. The original blueprints for the Dassault Mirage were hidden under the back seats of the car and when he left in the evening his car was routinely stopped and weighed on a weighbridge and everything was exactly as it had been in the morning.

After dinner each night Samuel would leave the factory in Emmen, just outside Lucerne and drive the one hour to Rheinfelden just over the border into Germany to visit his ‘wife’, Sarah, who was another Mossad agent and Samuel’s immediate superior. She would then organise the transporting of the blueprints to Tel Aviv. I do not know how she accomplished this. What I do know is that she was successful and she was not on trial.

The end result was that in 1971 the first of many Israeli Nesher fighter planes, bearing a striking resemblance to the French Dassault Mirage 5, was handed over to the Israeli Air Force just in time to take a crucial role in the 1973 Yom Kippur war.

By that time, Samuel was halfway through a four and a half year sentence.

I was given permission to talk with him, but only for about five minutes. This was before he was officially found guilty. I asked him why he had done it.

He looked up at me with strong unwavering eyes. “Once a Jew, always a Jew. I did it for my country, like you would do it for yours.”

Then he smiled and thanked me for coming.

You could check most of the facts on Google. I imagine you can, I haven’t checked. I won’t tell you where I got all the information. You will have to take my word for it. But I have changed Samuel’s name, because he asked me to.

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