A wartime artist drew attention to Nazi assassination attempts on Sir Winston Churchill with these intricate diagrams.
Laurence Fish was drafted into MI5 by Lord Victor Rothschild’s Counter Sabotage Unit to illustrate how to defuse Hitler’s deadliest gadgets.
Fish was briefed from spies’ reports gathered by Rothschild who routinely X-rayed gifts sent to Britain’s Prime Minister during the Second World War.
Sketches of devices including a flask fire bomb, exploding bangers and mash and booby-trapped chocolate turned up recently at Rushbrooke Hall, Suffolk, and were sent to Fish’s widow, Jean, 83.
Laurence died in 2009, aged 89.
The drawings had never been seen publicly until a few weeks ago, when Rothschild’s daughter, Victoria, found them when she was clearing out the family home in Suffolk.
She discovered the sheaf of drawings in “deep storage” in a chest of drawers and, when she realised what they were, got in touch with Jean.
Jean, 82, an archivist and former journalist living in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, said: “I didn’t know that the drawings existed.
“He always kept the letters, but nobody knew what had happened to the drawings. We presumed that they had been destroyed or lost.
“It was only this summer that they were discovered.
“It was so exciting. There was a lot of excitement when people saw the letters, and we have been looking for the drawings since.
“There are 25 which range in size from A4 to A1, which is pretty big.
“Nowadays people would say these drawings are nothing and you could do it with a computer in seconds.
“But there was no machinery or anything like that at the time. They are all hand drawn.”
Laurence Fish, a self-taught draughtsman, was commissioned to do the drawings after his father, detective inspector Donald Fish, suggested him for the job.
Donald Fish was part of the MI5 counter-sabotage unit, which had just three members – the other two being Rothschild and his secretary, who later became his wife.
Rothschild had been looking for someone to draw the booby-trapped devices he was uncovering, and he quickly formed a close working relationship with the new artist.
“They got on so well together,” said Jean, Fish’s widow.
“It was an amazing combination. Rothschild had very great respect for Laurence – I don’t know why, but it worked well.”
Rothschild, who later became head of Prime Minister Edward Heath’s Think Tank, hung his favourite drawings in frames on the wall of his study.
They are now all being kept in the old studio of the late artist, who became a successful graphic designer and landscape painter in the 1950s.
Jean said her favourite is an intricate drawing of a 21-day timer involving a rotating disc, which has instructions reading, “do not unscrew here”, and “unscrew here first”.
She added that she hopes the drawings will be taken and displayed by a museum or archive.
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