EVERY time I walk past the Grand Hotel cultural centre in central Palma my thoughts turn to a meeting which took place there in the 1930s. It was a lunch meeting between a senior British politician and the British Consul. This meeting would prove vital years later during the Second World War and would effectively keep Spain neutral. The British politicians was no normal politician;he was Winston Spencer Churchill and the British Consul was no ordinary Consul it was Captain Alan Hillgarth. Churchill was touring Europe and arrived in Majorca and decided to check in with “our man in Palma.” Hillgarth was an adventurer who had been washed up on the shores of Majorca and settled here buying a home in Santa Maria. The two, thanks to this meeting became good friends. At the outbreak of World War 2 Churchill ordered that Hillgarth be made Naval Attache at the British Embassy in Madrid and he was also Britain´s spy-master in Spain. He managed to persuade key Spanish generals, close to dictator General Franco, to keep Spain neutral despite Nazi pleas for German troops to be allowed to cross into Spain from France and capture the key outpost of Gibraltar. Hillgrath, who had direct access to Churchill during his time at the Embassy, was involved in many elaborate espionage operations and later on the orders of Churchill carried out a similar mission in the Far East. The Grand Hotel will always have a special place in history.
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