TRIBUTES have been paid to a former secret agent who was captured by the Nazis, escaped, and was eventually imprisoned by his own country.

Author Bernard Durrant, who died last week from heart disease aged 92, lived in Leigh for the last ten years before his death.

But perhaps the most significant chapter of his life was his colourful exploits during the Second World War.

Born in Wimbledon, London, in 1919, to Dorothy Swift and Archibald Durrant, the family later moved to south Essex.

Already serving in the Army, Bernard was recruited by British Intelligence on the eve of the Second World War and was smuggled into Germany, but was soon discovered by the Nazis due to an inadequate cover story.

Offered the choice of switching sides or death, he was posted to Alexandria, Egypt, where his brief was to spy on Allied shipping in the Mediterranean.

When he arrived in Egypt, he escaped his German paymasters, and eventually made it back to the British Consul in the country.

By this time he was considered tainted goods and was shipped back to Britain.

Once back on English soil he was promptly imprisoned in the Isle of Man under the Defence Regulation Section 18b, which was used by the Government to lock up more than 1,000 suspected traitors during the course of the war.

He was eventually released in 1945 as one of Britain’s longest-serving political prisoners from the conflict.

He later wrote about his experiences in his memoir, Journey to Nirvana, while he has also penned other novels and poetry.

Richard Faraway, 61, of Leigh, was a good friend of Mr Durrant after meeting him through the Wesley Methodist Church.

He said: “It’s an incredible tale and frankly I don’t think his book did it justice.

“He described them with much more colour talking to me. He told me he felt no bitterness towards the British authorities for their actions whatsoever. He said they did what they had to do.”

After the war he worked for the BBC on programmes, including Woman’s Hour and Children’s Hour, before moving to Australia where he met a Japanese woman, Tsuyako Matsumoto, who would become his wife.

He later moved to Japan where he worked as an English teacher before the couple separated.

Mr Faraway added: “He was a highly cultured old gentleman “But he was not in the least bit snooty. In fact he got on really well with everybody.

“Leigh has lost one of its familiar characters. Bernard Durrant was to be seen in bookshops, Leigh library, the park, and in the Terracotta cafe. He will be greatly missed.

“A small group of Bernard’s friends will group together to ensure that his wonderful poetry lives on, via the internet, and through sponsoring a local annual poetry competition for young people. He always delighted in encouraging youngsters to write.”

Bernard Durrant died on July 26 and is not survived by any children.

His funeral will take place at Wesley Methodist Church, in Leigh, on Friday, August 12.