Up Close and Personal: Willem

Willem Fredrik Mugge was born in Leiden, Holland and spent his childhood between his birthplace and Amsterdam. He now lives in Zwolle, in the eastern part of the country, with his wife, Antonet, and son, Wouter. We laugh about how English speaking people pronounce his surname: "Muggy" and he is fine with that. "The Dutch language," as Willem often says, "is a disease of the throat," an original way of explaining the impossibly guttural nature of his language.

Regardless, the correct phonetic pronunciation would be something like "Moo-uh-guh" yet, even then, it all depends upon how you roll the vowels around in the back of your throat. Added to this complicated language, Willem, like any spook, has an alias, which is "Weggum". If you can fathom the meaning, do let us know via email.

Willem is one of the most humble, multi-talented individuals I’ve had the privilege to work with and also call my friend. His sharp intellect, brilliant sense of humour, keen curiosity and passion for everything he undertakes is contagious. It makes our collaboration so much more fun.

Working with Willem is always an adventure. Instinctively, he produces magnificent flow charts, organises mega-databases, creates gorgeous maps, diagrams and spreadsheets and, most recently, a family album of wartime photos. He is always willing and interested in trying to create something new, invariably approaching it with fervour.

Although we only see each other once a year, we have a standing weekly Skype conference call. Our conversations often exceed two hours, and there's a six hour time difference between our two homes. The fact that we can spend hours talking, even when we have nothing new to report in the world of espionage, speaks volumes about our relationship.

We share similar values about family and priorities. Our respective families come before all else. Willem is an electrical engineer for a telecommunications company in Holland and, somewhere in between his long hours at work, he finds time to be with his family, juggle a few hobbies and work on our project. 

One of Willem's many skills is his expertise as an amateur radio operator. This played a vital role when he tracked down more than 500 wireless operators' telegrams -- belonging to Tobs’ team -- from 1943-1945. Wireless operators during World War II used a cryptic array of codes, such as the Poem Code, Double Transposition and the famous One-Time-Pad, developed by SOE code expert Leo Marks. If it had not been for Willem, I could never have translated these important documents.

He is an accomplished photographer, as is his wife, Antonet. A few of their photographs appear on this page. Willem is also exceptionally gifted when it comes to working in Photo-shop, often patiently restoring damaged wartime photos in intricate detail.

Willem at work

Willem at work

In his very subtle way, he motivated me to contact people who might have known Tobs during the war. He helped reconnect me with family members who have become an important part of this story and for that I am forever grateful.

I want to add a personal word of thanks to his wonderful wife, Antonet, and son, Wouter, who have been incredibly supportive these past years. 

Wouter, Willem and Antonet Mugge at home in Zwolle