The first thing people noticed about Millis Jefferis was his extraordinary physique. He looked like a gorilla, with ‘a leathery looking face, a barrel-like torso and arms that reached nearly to the floor’.
The second thing they noticed – if and when they got to speak with him – was that he had a brain like lightening. Jefferis was a maestro of applied mathematics and a genius at structural engineering. He had built the most extraordinary bridges, viaducts and roads.
But he one other talent that was known to only a handful of people. He was the country’s greatest expert in destruction. Millis Jefferis knew better than anyone else how to blow up a bridge, a viaduct or a power station. And in time of war, that made him very valuable indeed.
Jefferis joined the top secret guerrilla unit, MIR (Military Intelligence Research) in the spring of 1939; he was to be MIR’s expert on explosives. When the office secretary, Joan Bright, was first introduced to him, she was as startled as everyone else by his strange looks and abrupt manner.
His jacket was crumpled and his trousers creased: the overall impression was of someone with a complete disdain for military etiquette. His brother-in-law thought he looked ‘more like a race-course bookie’ than a soldier. Joan wasn’t so sure. She took one look at his ruddy cheeks and declared that ‘he could never have belonged to any other branch of the army but the Royal Engineers."
To find out what happened next, listen to the full episode of our podcast, Unknown History, in the top right hand player of this page or on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify. Plus, connect with Giles on Twitter and Facebook