Lieutenant colonel Montague R. Chidson was one of the most experienced and productive officers in the Continental service of MI-6, Great Britainís overseas intelligence operation. On May 10, 1940, the forty-eight-year old officer was seated at his desk in The Hague, Holland, when he received word that Adolf Hitlerís powerful military machine had invaded the country. The news came as no surprise to Chidson: his high-level moles in the German secret service had alerted him that the offensive was imminent. Chidson, who had been with MI-6 since World War I, rapidly changed into civilian clothes and launched a personal operation for which he had been prepared. He hurried to Amsterdam, the capital and largest city (850,000 population). Founded in about 1275, Amsterdam had been a world center of the diamond industry for centuries. At the Amsterdam Mart, where most of the Dutch diamond cache was safeguarded, Chidson found the main door locked and the place deserted. Using a key he had had the foresight to ďborrowĒ a few weeks earlier, the secret agent entered the building. From information he had obtained a month before for just such a crisis, he spent twenty-four hours fiddling with the combination in the huge master vault.
Down the hall, he heard shouts and the scuffling of many boots on the floor. He surmised that these were German soldiers whose mission was to seize the same priceless diamonds that he was coveting Ö wealth to help fuel the Nazi war juggernaut. The footsteps drew closer. If caught in civilian clothes, Chidson would probably be shot on the spot as a spy. Just then, the vault opened and he fled with the entire stock of Dutch industrial diamonds. Although the Wehrmacht had swarmed all over the Netherlands, Chidson managed to sneak the diamonds, which were of colossal value to an industrial power at war, to London. There this valuable cache was turned over to Queen Wilhelmina, who, along with top members of her government, had just escaped from her country on a British destroyer. For Chidsonís incredible exploit, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order Ö in secret. Public recognition would have unmasked one of Great Britainís most skilled and innovative undercover operatives.