Jack the spy


John Croft III’s son, known as Jack, was one of the most colourful and remarkable members of the Croft dynasty.

Watercolour by Jack Croft 
He was a man of many talents, an accomplished linguist and scientist who was later admitted to the Royal Society in London and the Royal Academy of Sciences in Lisbon as well as receiving an honorary doctorate from Oxford University.  But it for his work as a spy during the Peninsular campaign of the Napoleonic Wars that he is usually remembered.  

In 1810 he was recruited by Charles Stuart, the British Minister in Lisbon, to collect intelligence on French troop movements in the north of Spain and convey it to the commander of British forces, Arthur Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington.  To do this, Jack had to travel undetected into enemy territory as far as La Coruña in Galicia and set up a network of agents to observe and report on the movements of the French army.  Their messages were carried by clandestine courriers on mule-back to the Galician coast where they were picked up by small British vessels and conveyed to Jack Croft in Oporto to be deciphered.