Mountaineer, Explorer ...and a Spy for India

Article excerpt


AN explorer who kept a secret of how a climbing expedition was in reality a spying mission against the Chinese communists has died, aged 89.

Sydney Wignall, formerly of Llandudno Junction, died peacefully at Llandudno Hospital.

Some years before he died, Sydney spoke about the spying secret he had kept for 40 years and about being held at gunpoint by his Chinese captors.

He said: "The guard holding me took his arm from around my neck and stood to one side, still holding on to my hair, keeping me facing the gun muzzle.

"The gun muzzle was placed about an inch from my right eye. It was too close for my eyes to focus on. But I clearly saw his right hand and his finger on the trigger...

"I never got used to it. It never failed to unnerve me and I always tried not to show it, keeping up that pretence of the British stiff upper lip which we British know is simply suppressed hysteria."

Sydney considered himself lucky that he was not shot. His story was told in a book, Spy on the Roof of the World.

He was in the bar of the Bryn Tyrch Hotel in Capel Curig, Snowdonia, in 1954 when he dreamed of organising the first Welsh Himalayan expedition.

He approached the Daily Post which became the expedition's main sponsor. The trip came at a time when there was mounting evidence of a Chinese military build-up in Tibet.

The Indian Military Intelligence decided to find out more, and in London, Sydney was recruited to report on Chinese military activity in the region. …