UNLESS you are a Second World War buff the name Eddie Chapman probably means nothing to you.

But as a marvellous Timewatch documentary on BBC2 showed this week, his life was straight out of a Boy’s Own comic.

Before the war Chapman was a safe blower, becoming one of the country’s most wanted criminals. He fled to Jersey where he was finally imprisoned and remained in jail as the island was occupied by the Germans. From his jail cell he offered to spy for the Germans and thus began one of the most amazing tales of the war.

For Chapman became Agent Zigzag, the most successful British double agent who was so convincing that the Germans awarded him the Iron Cross.

He is credited with saving thousands of lives, giving German V1 rocket crews the wrong co-ordinates for targets in England meaning that many of the deadly weapons missed London altogether.

With an enthusiastic presenter plus an interview with the man himself, recorded 18 years ago but only now allowed to be shown on TV, this was an unexpected treat and another example of how, when it does something properly, the Beeb is still the best.

The real star, whowever, was Chapman himself — he died in 1997 at the age of 83.