One of the things I love about Palma is its long and interesting history; everywhere you look there is a small piece of history which has helped shape the city. The other night I was enjoying an after-work drink in the Plaza Weyler in central Palma, next to the Grand Hotel, which has now been restored to its former glory by La Caixa Bank. The Grand Hotel is an impressive building with a long history but it also played a unique role in local history. At a table not far from where I was sitting Winston Churchill met the then British Consul to Majorca, Alan Hillgarth.

There are some who claim Ian Fleming based his James Bond character on Hillgarth. Churchill struck up a good relationship with Hillgarth. When Churchill became prime minister he named Hillgarth his head of espionage in Spain. Not only did the former British Consul play a key role in keeping Spain neutral he was involved in numerous other operations. He worked with Fleming on numerous secret operations in Spain against the Nazis, included the infamous Operation Mincemeat. This was accomplished by persuading the Germans that they had, by accident, intercepted "top secret" documents giving details of Allied war plans. The documents were attached to a corpse deliberately left to wash up on a beach in Punta Umbría in Spain.

The success of the planting of false documents was confirmed through Ultra decrypts of German messages. Towards the end of the Second World War he was sent to the Pacific by Churchill to conduct similar operations. It is amazing to think that this whole episode started thanks to a meeting at a Palma hotel. Hillgarth is well remembered and respected on the island because he also played a key role in helping to avoid further bloodshed between both sides during the Spanish civil war. It is amazing how our small capital city is so rich in history. What a fantastic place.