20 May 2020

Research during a Pandemic

A few weeks ago, I took advantage of the free digitized files from the National Archives at Kew. I had a happy little downloading streak bouncing between several different email addresses that I own. The archives limits downloads to 10 files/day/registered user with a maximum of 50 files every 30 days. I admit I did a bit of an end-run around that and used three registered accounts to download the 100+ files that I had my eye on. With the first swarm of files done, I'm doing a more detailed sift through of the KV 2 (Security Service/MI5) files to see if I missed anything.

National Archives - Kew
National Archives - Kew
Having said that... I've noticed a few things. While the KV 2 files have a very good digitization rate... the other KV sections are hopeless. The KV 2 files are the Personal Files or the files of individuals. The other KV sections deal with organisations and subjects and... while I have a bunch that I would love to download.... No luck. I keep coming up against this implacable notice... "This record has not been digitised and cannot be downloaded."

And let's not even talk about WO, CAB, CRIM, PCOM, LCO, DPP files... all of which are not digitized...

Which means I will have to wait until I can visit Kew in person. And who knows when that will happen given the pandemic. Even the copying options are not available right now... although that is a very expensive proposition. Sooo... I'm going to have to be happy with the KV 2 files.

The other thing I noticed was that the downloading spree forced me to get seriously organized with my National Archives research. I had created a spreadsheet a few years ago, tracking the files that I accessed at the National Archives, but... this bonanza of files has bumped it up a level. Whenever I visit the National Archives, I have limited time and so I prioritize the files that I want to look at it. There are always more files than time... sigh...

On top of that... I've discovered a few new file categories that look interesting... Specifically, the WO 208 series which seems to have a treasure trove of files. There is a whole section that has CSDIC interrogation reports and likely has info on Nikolaus Ritter, Julius Jacob Boeckel and a few of the other Hamburg Abwehr officers. I'm adding those files to my "next-time-at-Kew" list... since they too are not digitized. I always have the hope that I will come across some extra information on Josef, on his recruitment, training, etc. Time will tell.

In the meantime... I have more than enough other material to keep me busy! Between all the downloaded KV 2 files... I also realize that I have several unread/unfinished books on my to-read list. Soooo... there is no danger of me becoming bored during the pandemic's stay-at-home time.

13 May 2020

Bella: A Mystery within a Mystery

While listening to some podcasts on the Bella in the Wych Elm mystery, I was struck by one claim which didn't sound right. This extract is from the Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories podcast, Episode 165 (part 1 of their Bella trilogy). The excerpt below comes from around the 16:30 mark of the podcast.
Narrator: The final and most promising item was a woman's identification card. The investigators were relieved and briefly hoped that the skeleton belonged to the woman named on the card, but when they visited the address on the card they found its owner was still alive. 
[Dramatization]
    **sound of knocking at door**
Woman: Hello?
Officer: Hello ma'am, sorry to bother you at home. Your address was listed on this identity card and we wondered if you knew the owner.
Woman: Oh thank you, that's my card!
Officer: Yours?
Woman: Yes, I've been missing it for months. Wherever did you find it?
Officer: That's just it, this card was found in Hagley Wood.
Woman: Hagley Wood,  you mean where they found that woman in the tree.
Officer: Well, yes, we actually thought this card might have been hers.
Woman: But that's so strange, I've never been near Hagley Wood in my life.
Officer: Really?
Woman: Never even been to Hagley. Can I have my card back?
Officer: Sure you can have it back, just as soon as we catch whoever put that lady in that tree.

Narrator: Mysteriously, the woman had no knowledge of how her ID card had ended up in Hagley Wood and claimed to have never been there in her life. With no evidence to discount her story the police were forced to move on.
A typical buff coloured Identity Card from the early years of WW2 in England
A typical buff coloured Identity Card
from the early years of WW2 in England
This did not ring true to my ear and I decided to do a bit of digging. The obvious thought that came to me was... perhaps this woman had stolen Bella's identity. Perhaps it was actually Bella who lived at that address, and this woman had had her knocked off and stepped into her life.

But... there were also several problems with this theory... the most obvious one being that no-one could survive for long in wartime Britain (1943) without a valid identification card and ration book.

In the dramatization, the woman says she has been missing her card for months. That would clearly be impossible since identification cards needed to be produced when requested  by the police, when opening or withdrawing from a Post Office (bank) account and when accessing National Health Services. Logically, the woman, upon noticing that her card was missing, should have gone and applied for a replacement. Perhaps she didn't, because she had stolen it in the first place? Hmmm...

This little story seemed rather odd, and I decided to go back to the police files on the Bella case and try to trace the origins of the story. Perhaps I could even find the name and address of the woman. But... after much searching, I found no reference to the identity card. I checked with Pete and Alex Merrill, who have sifted the police files with a fine-tooth comb and... they said that they had found no reference to the identity card either. Stranger and stranger.

ID Card in the Literature: Coley & Sparke
Interesting... I had a look in Joyce Coley's booklet and Andrew Sparke's book, and they both mention the identity card but give no references. Their versions differ slightly from the podcast dramatization.
An identity card was found in the wood with the name and address of a woman from a town some distance away. This clue was also pursued. The woman was not aware that her card was missing and she had never been to, or heard of, Hagley Wood. There was no further work on how her card came to be placed there. (Joyce M. Coley, p. 7)
In this piece, the woman didn't even know her card was missing, which seems even more far-fetched given conditions in wartime Britain. It would be the same as me not noticing that my driver's license was missing.

We then have the account from Andrew Sparke:
The search of the area around the hollow tree turns up a woman's identity card but at the address stated on it the presumed victim is discovered alive and well. If baffled as to how her identity card could have ended up in Hagley Woods, a place she's never been.
Very brief and doesn't make clear if the woman knew her card was missing or was clueless as to its disappearance.

What is also baffling is that the police did not question the woman further as to her fellow lodgers. Was there someone else within the household who could have taken her card? Could she have been lying? Was there any proof that she was actually the person listed on the card? How old was she? Why was she not considered a prime suspect?

And the questions multiply.
 
Murder by Witchcraft (cover)
Murder by Witchcraft (cover)
Back to McCormick
Pete Merrill, while confirming there was no mention of the ID card in the police files, said that the earliest reference he and Alex had found was in Donald McCormick's 1968 book, Murder by Witchcraft.

Ah yes, back to McCormick, a well-known source for all sorts of rumours and fables. Somehow this does not surprise me. Here's what McCormick has to say about the identity card...
At last, however, a clue was reported. An identity card was found lying under a sodden bush near to the site of the crime. It was a woman's identity card and the police hoped it might belong to the victim. They called at the address in the Midlands which was written on the card and asked to speak to the woman of that name. There was no hesitation on the part of the woman the police saw: before they had announced the reason for their call she readily admitted her identity.
'Then perhaps you would please let us see your identity card,' said the detective.
'Certainly,' replied the woman, and she went to get her handbag. But when she searched through the bag the identity card could not be found. She could not think how she had lost it. As far as she could remember it had always been kept in her handbag and she had never missed it before.
'Then how do you account for the fact that your identity card was found in Hagley Wood?' inquired the detective, producing it for her to examine.
The woman was incredulous. "I just don't know,' she said, completely bewildered. 'I have never been to Hagley Wood in my life.'
Nor could the police prove she was lying. And even if she had been, the mystery of the identity of the skeleton in Hagley Wood remained unsolved. (Murder by Witchcraft, p. 65-66)
Carry your Identity Card Always (poster from wartime Britain)
Carry your Identity Card Always
(poster from wartime Britain)
This too, is rather an odd account. An identity card found lying under a sodden bush... Given that the identity cards were made out of paper card stock, one could wonder at the condition of the card which was, presumably, also sodden. The fact that the woman had lost track of her identity card, and could not find it in her handbag, makes one wonder when last she accessed her card. At least there is a hint that the woman might have been lying... but no police follow-up.

Now, where McCormick got his story from is a mystery. Given that he had no access to the police files, one might guess that he was relying on anecdotal stories from eye-witnesses and/or folk from the area. And, as with many stories, things can get exaggerated rather quickly. Perhaps the original source seed of the identity card story was the discovery of a handbag in Hagley Wood.

The Handbag of Hagley Wood
There are a couple of police reports from the Bella police files, which mention a handbag found in Hagley Wood in November 1944. This was about 19 months after the discovery of the skeleton in the tree. Was it connected to Bella or not?

On 17 November, 1944, Special Constable R. Sheppard was in Hagley Wood, "by virtue of being connected with the shooting rights of this Wood", and discovered a brown leather lady's handbag "some distance" from the Wych Elm tree. The discovery was reported to the Chief Constable of the Worcestershire Police on 20 November, by Police Constable (302) Arthur J. Pound.

Approximate location of handbag discovery in Hagley Wood
Approximate location of handbag discovery in Hagley Wood
(thanks to Alex Merrill for identifying the location
in his first book on Bella)
This may be the same police constable, Jack Pound, who took an ax to the tree to widen the opening when the police first investigated. This is confirmed by the 1939 National Register in which Arthur John Pound (1895-1954) was a Police Constable living at the Bromsgrove Police Station with his wife (Rhoda Auden) and a child. Pound had served as a Bombardier with the Royal Garrison Artillery in the First World War.

On the morning of 18 November, 1944, P.C. Pound accompanied Sheppard to the Wood and found the empty, dilapidated handbag at the base of a small birch tree. The handbag was 9.5" x 6.5" with no separate compartments. It was made of brown leather, nickel plated strengthened corners and a nickel plated snap fastener. According to Pound, the handbag had obviously been exposed to the elements for quite a while since it was falling apart and was covered with green moss on top. The handbag had been found just north of the Elan aquaduct, just off of Hagley Wood Lane, about 170 yards north of the Wych Elm.

1930s Handbags
1930s Handbags
The Clent Police Station records were searched and a lady's handbag of a similar description had been reported stolen from a motor car in Hagley Wood Lane on 16 December 1939. The owner of that handbag was Doctor Dorothy Edith Marhkam [sic] of 25 Elgin Road, Alexandra Park, London, N.22. Her address in 1944 was No. 1 Compton Court, Compton Road, Wolverhampton. When stolen, Dr. Markham's handbag had 15/- in cash, her driving license and a fountain pen, but none of those articles were found in Hagley Wood. Pound closed his report by noting that he planned on visiting Dr. Markham to determine if it actually was her handbag.

Two days later, on 22 November, Pound submitted another report in which he stated that he had met with Dr. Markham that morning at 8:15 am. He showed her the handbag and she confirmed that it was hers. Pound concluded that the handbag had no connection with the Hagley Wood murder.

Unlike the story of the identity card, Dr. Markham presumably never said that she had never been to Hagley Wood in her life, since she had reported the handbag stolen from Hagley Wood Lane!

Dr. Dorothy Edith Markham
I did do a little poke at Dr. Dorothy Edith Markham, just in the interests of completion. She is listed in the 1939 Electoral Register as living at the General Hospital on Steelehouse Lane in Duddeston. This is likely Birmingham General Hospital, right in the heart of  Birmingham. Which makes sense, given she was a physician.

The 1942 UK Medical Directory has her listed as:
MARKHAM, Dorothy Edith, 25, Elgin Rd., Alexandra Park, N. 22 -- M.B., Ch.B. Birm. 1938; Res. Anæesth. Gen. Hosp. Birm.
Birmingham General Hospital - Steelehouse Lane
Birmingham General Hospital - Steelehouse Lane
From this, we can deduce that she had a Bachelor of Medicine as well as a Bachelor of Surgery. She had completed her degree in Birmingham in 1938 and served her residency at the General Hospital in Birmingham as an anæsthetist.

A bit more digging and the Medical and Dental Students List from 1933 notes that she received her Oxford School Certificate in December 1931. She began studying at the University of Birmingham in June 1933.

Finally, the 1939 National Register has her listed as a Medical Practitioner at the General Hospital in Birmingham. She was born 9 June 1913 and later changed her surname to Stumbles. That gives us enough to trace her birth and death. Dorothy was born 9 June 1913 in Tamworth, Staffordshire. In the first quarter of 1944, she married George Leslie Stumbles in Wolverhampton. Dorothy died on 12 January 2004 in Dorking, Surrey at the age of 91.

1942 UK Medical Directory entries for the Markham sisters
1942 UK Medical Directory entries for the Markham sisters
As an aside, in case Dorothy was not enough of an aside, she had a sister, Winifred Mary Markham, born 1910, who also became a doctor, albeit with slightly more impressive credentials. In the same 1942 UK Medical Directory, listed just below Dorothy, is Winifred Mary Markham. She received her Bachelor of Science in 1933 from Birmingham. She had attended University College London and W. London. By 1940, she belonged to the M.R.C.S. (Membership of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons - England) and to the L.R.C.P. (Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians - London). Born in 1903, Winifred Mary had a long and distinguished medical career. In the mid 1960s, she was Deputy Medical Officer of Health for the County Borough of Darlington (County Durham). At that point, she had also acquired a D.C.H. (Diploma in Child Health) and D.P.H. (Diploma in Public Health). Winifred Mary passed away in 1991 with an estate valued at over £200,000. But, I digress...

Origins of the ID Card Story
One can see how the story of the handbag might have been twisted a bit over the 25+ years before McCormick wrote his account. A handbag which had once contained an identity document (driving license).. a woman who was confronted with the found object. But beyond that, the similarities cease.

Given that there are some files missing from the police records of the Bella case, specifically the eye witness statements from the early days of the case... I suppose there is a small possibility that there was actually an identity card and a woman who denied all knowledge of how it ended up in Hagley Wood... But without any evidence... all we have is McCormick's book, which has already been shown to contain a number of fabricated stories. The story of the identity card is likely another one of them...

06 May 2020

Podcast Review - Unsolved Murders - Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm

I discovered a veritable treasure trove of podcasts the other week and quickly found a whole bunch related to Bella in the Wych Elm. I thought I would start with a trilogy from Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories, produced by Parcast.

The three part series starts with an overview of the murder and the various theories (gypsies, witchcraft, etc). The second episode looks at the Charles Walton murder in Lower Quinton and the third episode examines the espionage theories.

I was unable to find the exact publication date for these podcasts. Given the number of podcasts and the hosts' statement that the podcasts are published every Tuesday, counting backwards leads us to a likely air date of September 2019.

Cover Image - Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories
Episode 165 - Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm - Part 1 (50 minutes)
This episode starts with a dramatization of the boys finding the skull in the wych elm. It's an inventive way to start a podcast except the American accents take away from the reality of the dramatization. And British colloquialisms don't quite sound the same without the British accent.

The two hosts give a summary of the story of how the boys found the tree and the skull. They also give a quick etymological lesson into "wych elm" and suggest that the tree was not actually a wych elm but actually a common hazel. This is the same conclusion reached by Alex Merrill in his first volume on the Bella mystery.

There are a few inaccuracies that have crept in... for example, that Tommy Willetts slept on the discovery before revealing the information to his parents the following morning. This is not accurate - he told his father on the evening of the discovery.

During the recounting of the investigation, the hosts note that on the day that the police hacked open the tree, they found a woman's identity card on the forest floor. I'd have to do a bit more fact checking, but I don't remember the card being found on the first day (another blog post coming up).

Other than that, the hosts do a fair job of recounting the tale of Bella in the Wych Elm. Although, their dramatization of the Margaret Murray piece seems a bit far-fetched. They do spend a fair bit of time expanding on the witchcraft theory and the hand of glory. They end the episode with a reference to the Charles Walton murder and its echoes of witchcraft.

From The Mirror site
Episode 166 - Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm - Part 2 (54 minutes)
This episode begins with a description of the Charles Walton murder in Lower Quinton. Even here, the hosts manage a small dramatization with Walton engaging in one-sided conversations with the birds and, eventually, the anonymous murderer.

The hosts then narrate the discovery of the body. "Pinned to the earth by a pitchfork that had been stabbed through his face". I do believe the pitchfork prongs were stabbed into the ground on either side of Walton's neck, not in his face. Again, the dramatization lacks a bit of reality given the American accents.

The hosts spend a quite a bit of time recounting the history and bravery of Chief Inspector Robert Fabian during the Piccadilly Circus bombing in 1939. There follows an interwoven narration and dramatization of Fabian attempting to investigate the murder. We learn of the suspicions that Walton had dabbled in witchcraft and possessed the Evil Eye.

The hosts spend some time focusing on Fabian's suspicions of Alfred Potter, including the search for fingerprints on the murder weapons. As well, the episode touches on Walton's finances and then recounts the story of a young Charles Walton meeting a black dog (and a headless woman) on several nights. Finally, the hosts narrate the murder of Ann Tenant, a suspected witch, who had also been pinned to the ground by a pitchfork.

This episode concludes with the note that Fabian would also need to look at the case of Bella in the Wych Elm...


Episode 167 - Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm - Part 3 (58 minutes)
Oyyy... this episode opens with a rather hokey dramatization of "Bella" being dropped out of a German plane. No German accents here either. After some ads, the hosts review the Bella and Charles Walton cases. And then spend more time on the Charles Walton case as Robert Fabian meets with Professor Margaret Murray. We then learn that Fabian headed back to London with the Walton case unsolved. And... finally... we get to the espionage theories around Bella.

We hear about returning soldier, Warwick Plant, and the woman named Bella who used to play piano in his mother's pub. This Bella played at several other pubs but one day she stopped showing up. Apparently the police made no effort to follow up with Warwick Plant. We also hear about the Home Guard member who saw a car with an Air Force officer and a woman in the backseat.

Next up is Byford-Jones and the letters from Anna of Claverley. The dramatization of Jack Mossop and Van Raalte is a bit of a mish-mash of different aspects gleaned from Anna's letter, her police statement and Byford-Jones' newspaper articles.

Clara Bauerle
Clara Bauerle
At about the 36 minute mark, the hosts get to the espionage theories. They begin by talking about the Birmingham Blitz and mention that two Jewish refugees, Austrian Otto Frisch and German Rudolf Peierls, worked on atomic weapons plans in Birmingham. They suggest that Birmingham would have been of intense interest to the Germans.

We hear about Johannes Marinus Dronkers... who arrived in 1942. Naturally, this leads us to Donald McCormick and his theories about Clarabella Dronkers published in his book, Murder by Witchcraft. At least the hosts of the podcast have some up-to-date information and note that Dronkers wife was not named Clarabella and that she died in Amsterdam 1944.


Finally, we have the case of Josef Jakobs. Right off the bat, the hosts say MI5 declassified the files in 2009. They were actually declassified in 1999. The hosts also refer to Josef as a "Gestapo agent". This is thanks to Alison Vale and her 2013 article in which she referred to Josef as a Gestapo officer. Josef was not a member of the Gestapo, Nazi Germany's Secret State Police, and he most definitely was not an officer.

The hosts give a very brief summary of Josef's arrival, capture and execution. They add a dramatization of Josef's execution which includes a completely imaginary scene in which someone reads a statement to Josef: "Josef Jakobs you have been found guilty of espionage and have been sentenced to death by firing squad. Is there anything you wish to say now, before God and Man?" At which point Josef says "Shoot straight, Tommies". While Josef's words are accurate, the phrase spoken before that is fabricated.

We then hear of Clara Bauerle... except, the hosts manage to conflate several accounts and place Clara Bauerle in Warwickshire in the early 1930s as a singer. Not accurate. At least, they do note that the facts take Clara Bauerle out of the running based on (a) her height, 6 feet, (Bella was 5 feet) and (b) her death in Berlin in 1942. Although, they say "hospital records" from Berlin, when it was actually her death registration.

We hear briefly about the disappearance of Bella's skeleton... and a few summary statements on the Bella and Walton cases.

Conclusion
A moderately engaging podcast although the American accents are a bit jarring, particularly when they try to use British turns of phrase. There are several inaccuracies and some new ones that crop in during the dramatizations, which is a bit annoying. All that serves to do is muddy the waters.

On top of that, the podcast hosts make no mention of Alex Merrill's facial reconstruction of Bella based on the skull photographs.

Review Score
3/5 - given the highly researched information on Bella, it seems odd that there are still obvious inaccuracies lingering. The addition of new inaccuracies is annoying.

29 April 2020

The Avant Espionage Career of Gösta Caroli

With a bit of viral lockdown time on my hands, I transcribed and translated the first two chapters of the Swedish book on Gösta Caroli. These chapters were most interesting to me for the information it had on Caroli's time in Canada during the 1920s. In late 2018, I had written a blog about Caroli's silver fox farming adventures in the Nicola Valley (British Columbia). I wanted to see what authors Olsson and Jonason had to add to what I had already discovered...

N.B. - See my blog on The Après Espionage Career of Gosta Caroli for the last chapter of this book

Once again, I have relied on Google Translate and the translation is a bit rough in areas, but I think the overall gist is accurate. I am not including the Swedish transcript in the interests of brevity. I've also added some comments in italicized square brackets. I have also added a few extra paragraph breaks as the originals were a bit long. Have also added source notes for the book's footnotes.

The Priest’s Son from Norra Vram
Norra Vram location
Norra Vram location
The crofter Carl Johan Carlsson in Fellingsbro was probably a very proud father when his son Claes, as a 24-year-old in 1886, began his university studies in Uppsala. Claes came from a poor home and the studies were far from a matter of course, rather it was a big exception. But he had a reading head, the priest in Fellingsbro even noted in the house interviews that his reading from the catechesis was "very good" and it was probably with his help that he got the support he needed to start his studies. The chance he was given would give Claes a life that was far from the crofters life in Fellingsbro, after studying and working as a teacher for a couple of years, in 1894 he was given the position of preacher at the Michael’s Chapel in Uppsala. As was normal, the surname Carlsson was also replaced by the more Latin Caroli, which has since been carried by the family [This is fascinating. I had always wondered why Gösta had such an Italian sounding last name.]. His career continued in the church, first as assistant pastor in 1896 and then as cathedral coordinator in 1899, both positions in Uppsala. He moved to the small Scanian [Scania is a province in southern Sweden] agricultural community Norra Vram in 1901 when he was appointed pastor of the parish. He brought his family with him to the parish, wife Anna Berg, daughter of curate Johan August Berg in Tärby [north of Norra Vram], and the children Ingrid, Gunnar and Gerda, all born in Uppsala [1896, 1898, 1900].

Vicarage building in Norra Vram (From Bjuvs Commun site)
Vicarage building in Norra Vram
(From Bjuvs Commun site)
The vicarage in Norra Vram is still today a magnificent stone building on two floors, when it was built in 1816 it was described as the parish's "second finest house". The finest house belonged to the person who financed the construction of the parsonage, the castle master at Vrams Gunnarstorp Castle, court marshal Georg Filip Berch. By the time Claes Caroli and his family moved into the parsonage, it had already been inhabited by a number of church pastors, among them was Gustav Henrik Mellin (1803-1876), who had moved from Finland when it was conquered by Russia in 1809, and who had read to the pastor and became a well-known author before he, in 1852, was appointed pastor of the church in Norra Vram. As church pastor, Claes Caroli was a respected and esteemed man in the parish, he spent time with the castle master and the parliamentarian Gustaf Tornérhjelm at Vrams Gunnarstorp's castle and with all the big farmers of the area. Now and then he was visited by "fine gentlemen" from the parish; politicians, churchgoers and old acquaintances from the Uppsala era.

Vram Gunnarstorp Castle (from Wikipedia)
Vram Gunnarstorp Castle
(from Wikipedia)
In this environment, on November 6, 1902, Claes and Anna's fourth child, the son Gösta Caroli, was born. Unlike his father, in Norra Vram Gösta would have a favorable childhood. The father could afford to ensure that his children received the best education and that they met and socialized with "the right people". The daughter Ingrid would later marry the pastor Axel Abring, the son Gunnar would take over the father's service as church pastor in Norra Vram and the daughter Gerda would, like Ingrid, marry a pastor, Rudolf Hoffman of Rickling between Kiel and Hamburg. The youngest son, Tryggve born in 1906, would go off the church path and instead become a successful architect. [Claes Tryggve Caroli married Anna Josefina Margarete Greta Cedarblom a pharmacist. Tryggve passed away in 1968.]

Son Gösta's education began after a few years of home schooling at Åstorp's mixed school and then continued for two years at Lund's private elementary school, a schooling granted to few in Norra Vram. Just like his father, Gösta was a good student, which was also evident in the grades, not least regarding the language subjects. Gösta was even allowed to travel to British Essex to study for a year at college, which was very unusual at this time. The childhood friend Runo Löwenmo [a botanist and author], who had the surname Andersson at the time, later wrote that “the school's language teaching at that time was a perpetual chewing of grammar. Natural spoken language was never heard. Gösta, on the other hand, was a language genius with a big A in German, English and French”. [1 - Skånska Akademien] According to Löwenmo, Gösta wanted to become a diplomat, "my father had an acquaintance who was an ambassador and that was something very nice." [2 - Skånska Akademien]

Gösta's future prospects would have been very good if it had not been for a tragic handicap that got in the way his studies. At a young age he had contracted scarlet fever, which in itself was not unusual nor a serious illness. [3 - PRO Kew KV 2/60] More serious was that during his recovery, he suffered acute rheumatic fever as a result of the streptococcal infection moving from his throat and causing inflammation of the heart muscle and swelling of the joints, which would affect him his entire life. Due to his rheumatism, Gösta had to finish his studies [4 - Obituary/In Memoriam] at Lund's private elementary school and according to the doctor's prescription the remedy was "hard work". [5 - pers comm. Caroli's nephew] Instead, the studies continued in agriculture and for two years, 1922-1924 [6 - Letter from Caroli to Müntzing 1950], he was an agricultural student on two different farms in northwestern Scania, partly at the family Tornérhjelm Vrams Gunnarstorp and partly at the Kinch Bälteberga farm. Runo Löwenmo describes Gösta during this time as a role model, a person he looked up to. Together with Gustaf Tornérhjelm, grandson of the previously mentioned Gustaf Tonérhjelm and the intended heir to Vrams Gunnarstorp, Gösta was invited to Runo's home in Höör [about 30 km southeast of Norra Vram]. There the three young men, who were all interested in nature, roamed the forests at Jularp. Gösta was well-liked in Runo's family and he describes him as “relatively neatly built, dark-haired and wearing glasses. The friendliness radiated perfectly from him. " [7 - Skånska Akademien]

In the same way, Gustaf Tornérhjelm invited both Gösta and Runo home to Vrams Gunnarstorp's castle, including the many hunts that happened annually. On these hunts were hares, cocks, foxes and deer, but Gösta himself did not participate in the hunt, instead he entertained the many foreign guests who came to participate. The fact that several of these guests came from Germany is not surprising, the traditional relations between Sweden and Germany were deeply rooted and went far back in time. It is therefore no wonder that Caroli was influenced by this German friendliness, especially when he himself had a sister in Germany. However, Caroli and Tornérhjelm did not only meet during the annual hunts, the distance between Norra Vram's vicarage and Vrams Gunnarstorp castle was only about 1.7 kilometers and Caroli was especially pleased with Tornérhjelm's motorcycle which he was more than happy to borrow. [8 - pers comm. with Caroli's nephew]

Silver Fox - from Wikipedia
Silver Fox - from Wikipedia
Among Silver Foxes in Canada and the Great Lakes

[Given that Caroli spent no time on the Great Lakes, other than passing through on a train, this chapter title is a bit misleading.]

In the mid-1920s, the young Caroli came to emigrate to Canada and enter a successful industry - breeding silver foxes. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the silver fox fur was a status symbol that demanded a high price, something that would be broken only in the late 1940s when overproduction made the fur an everyday product with falling prices as a result. However, the silver fox does not appear in the wild, it is instead a bred variant of Vulpes vulpes, the red fox, but with a black furry pelt with silvery spiky hair and a white tail tip. The wild red fox is widespread throughout Europe, North America, Asia and to some extent also in northern Africa and Australia.

RMS Ausonia - from Wikipedia
RMS Ausonia - from Wikipedia
However, Gösta Caroli was not the only one in Sweden who invested his money in breeding silver foxes in the 1920s. The largest Swedish farm was founded in the 1920s by the three brothers Welander in Danstorp's village in Blekinge [southern province east of Scania] and farms arose simultaneously in, among others, Loka in Ålvdalen, Bonäs at Enköping, Vikingstad in Östergötland and Långsjöby near Storuman to name a few places. The Welander brothers in Danstorp village had acquired their knowledge of the silver foxes in North America, and Caroli would follow the same path.

In Southampton, Caroli boarded Cunard Lines RMS Ausonia on March 4, 1926, and with him he had a new passport which he had ten days earlier received in Kristianstad. [9 - Immigration record] The voyage went west and after nine days the ship arrived in Halifax on Canada's east coast. Caroli was 23 when he landed and at the border check he stated that his destination was Edmonton in Alberta on the west coast. [Mmm... Alberta is not on the west coast... it is in the west of Canada, but not on the coast.] The train journey was long, nearly 4500 kilometres [The Swedish reads "450 mil". Google Translate variously translates "mil" as "10 kilometres" and/or "miles". Given the actual distance is in the range of 4800 kilometres, I'll take "mil" to mean "10 kilometers". So 450 mil = 450 x 10 kilometres = 4500 km.] and through three time zones. The first stage from Halifax to Montreal took 27 hours and on arrival they had passengers who were going west to change trains. After a break of just over two hours, the new train began to roll, the journey went all night and 25 hours later the passengers arrived in Winnipeg where there was a longer stop. While the carriages were being cleaned and both the locomotives and restaurant cars were filled, passengers were allowed to leave the train and stretch their legs for one hour and five minutes. It would then take another 22 hours for the train to reach its destination in Edmonton. The total travel time would then have been 82 hours and 30 minutes, at least if the timetable had been kept; bad weather, oncoming trains and even derailment were not all too common causes of delays. [10 - Alberta Railway Museum]

The journey from Edmonton went further west, more than 600 miles [We again have "60 mil" but in this instance it is likely 60 x 10 miles, as the actual distance from Edmonton to Merritt is around 900 km, about 600 miles.] to Lake View Fox Farm on Nicola Lake off Quilchena in British Columbia, a community of 60 residents mainly engaged in mining and livestock management. The farm was run by William Crompton and his partner Joseph Guichon, two experienced fur traders and mass dealers with several different businesses in the area. Every year, Crompton and Guichon hired a few seasonal workers, of whom Caroli would be one this year. [11 - BC Historical Federation] The work suited Gösta well and in addition to the breeding of silver foxes, he also experimented with irrigation devices for alfalfa (luzern) and silo corn. [Thanks to Traugott Vitz for pointing out that luzern/luzerne/lucerne is alfalfa.] [12 - Letter from Caroli to Müntzing 1950] However, he did not return home until after twenty months in Canada, instead of returning home after the end of the season, he traveled on a motorcycle around the area and crossed the Canadian Rockies, the Canadian part of the Rocky Mountains, among others. [13 - Obituary/In Memoriam] It was not until November 26, 1927, that he took out a new Swedish passport in Montreal and shortly thereafter he went home to Sweden. [This makes a bit more sense, as to why he would have received a passport in Montreal. Although Olsson and Jonason do not cover many other trips that Caroli took to North America and the United States in subsequent years. See my earlier blog.] Over Christmas and New Year he stayed at his mother's house before in March 1928 he once again traveled to Canada, this time from Hamburg with the ship SS Thurinjia belonging to the Hamburg America Line. This time, too, his destination was Crompton's farm in Quilchena, but the visit would be shorter, as early as June he returned to Sweden to prepare the establishment of his own farm in the upland of Storvreta.

Map of Storvreta, Sweden
Map of Storvreta, Sweden
In Sweden, he was given the opportunity to attend a wedding in Norra Vram, when father Claes performed the marriage of his sister Gerda and the priest Rudolf Hoffman from Rickling, Germany, on October 9. Here, Gösta also met Rudolf's sister, Friedel, and their acquaintance eventually developed into a love affair and eventually an engagement. The love from Gösta to Friedel was great and came to fruition even though they were occasionally on different continents; Rudolf Hoffman would remember that at this time, Gösta had sent an elegant silver fox boa to his sister. [14 - Speech by Rudolf Hoffman at Caroli's funeral]

When Gösta returned to Crompton in Quilchena in November of that year, it was to buy silver foxes for his own farm, twenty pairs, of which he would keep five for breeding and sell the remaining fifteen to customers in Sweden. The deal was expensive, 20,000 Canadian dollars for the foxes and a further 2000 for the trip, hotel, health inspections and permits. In British Columbia, the deal was noted by the regional magazine The Merritt Herald which on November 30 wrote that “The largest shipment of foxes ever exported from British Columbia left Merritt at 10:30am on Wednesday morning with the Canadian Pacific Train to Halifax en route to Gothenburg, Sweden. " [15 - The Merritt Herald]

Caroli would make further trips to Canada, but the success of the silver fox farm would fail, the economy was deteriorating and according to Gösta's family he was tricked out of money by a company. [16 - pers. comm. with Caroli's son] In 1930, his business finally went bankrupt and according to the family, Gösta disappeared for a long time after that. When he later showed up with his parents in Norra Vram, he told him that he had snuck on board a ship as a stowaway because he didn't have any money and when the crew found him he was half starved in the coal supply. The ship took him all the way to Africa but since he was a stowaway, he was given no opportunity to land - instead he was put to work in the kitchen and released only after returning to Sweden. [17 - Speech by Rudolf Hoffman at Caroli's funeral]

In 1930s Europe
With his failed business as a breeder of silver foxes behind him, Caroli returned to Norra Vram. He would not, however, stay in the area for long, for many of the following years he lived a wanderlust life where he held various jobs for short periods while traveling, or rather wandering, around Europe. The bankruptcy had, beyond reasonable doubt, been a severe blow to him and this should have been decisive for his decision to leave Sweden.

The information about Caroli's travels in Europe in the 1930s is vague and poorly documented, but Gösta himself told stories about trips to Germany, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, Turkey and Africa; trips that can to some extent be confirmed by preserved passport documents. According to childhood friend Runo Löwenmo, Caroli, together with Löwenmo, applied to the University of Vienna after Caroli's father passed away in June 1933. They would study there to be lawyers, but for Caroli, despite his sharp reading head, the studies did not go well and no degree would be given, perhaps Caroli had something else in mind. However, the details of studies in Vienna are uncertain and in the university archive Caroli is not listed among enrolled students from 1930-1939. Caroli and Löwenmo came regardless of each other down in Europe and while Löwenmo continued his studies in Vienna and later in Berlin, Caroli made his way through the increasingly Nazi central Europe. For a while, in 1935, he was employed as an insurance agent for Brand- and Lifförsäkrings-AB Skåne and was then resident at Fersens väg 10a in Malmö. [18 - Swedish Royal Archives] However, working as an insurance agent was not for the restless Caroli, it was not long before he was again down in Europe. [19 - Swedish Royal Archives]

Cover of Gösta Berling's Saga (from GoodReads site)
Cover of Gösta Berling's Saga
(from GoodReads site)
According to a story, he once, probably in 1936 [20 - PRO Kew KV 2/60], traveled from the Netherlands, through Germany, across the Brenner Pass and into Italy where he briefly worked as a gardener. [21 - Nigel West - British Sec. Serv. Operations 1909-1945] This story is supported by Gösta's passport which shows that in November 1936 he crossed the border to Italy via Brenner and that in April the following year he left the country the same way. Gösta himself would later recall that during this time he worked at Stern's gardens in San Remo where he was responsible for the cactus crops, a job he enjoyed well but had to leave when he lacked a work permit. [22 - Caroli's passport and a letter from Caroli to Müntzing in 1950] According to another story, he was once arrested in Russia on suspicion of espionage and must have been released only after it was proven that he was a journalist . [23 - Northamptonshire Police] During the years he also came to some extent to provide himself as a correspondent for various Swedish newspapers, including for Sydsvenska Dagbladdet. He mainly wrote travel notes and these were signed with the pseudonym Gösta Berling [24 - Pers comm with Caroli's son] but he never succeeded in fully supporting himself as a journalist. [Interestingly, there is an 1891 Swedish novel called "Gösta Berlings Saga" which was very well known at the time. "The hero, Gösta Berling, is a defrocked Lutheran priest who has been saved by the Mistress of Ekeby from freezing to death and thereupon becomes one of her pensioners in the manor at Ekeby. As the pensioners finally get power in their own hands, they manage the property as they themselves see fit and their lives are filled with many wild adventures. Gösta Berling is their leading spirit, the poet, the charming personality among a band of revelers. Before the story ends, Gösta Berling is redeemed, and even the old Mistress of Ekeby is permitted to come to her old home to die." Intersting choice of pseudonym.]

The life he lived was tiring and troubled, in Prague he suffered from jaundice and therefore went to Karlsbad (today Karlovy Vary) spa town where, according to his own statement, he cured himself with the health-giving water of the village. A British report a few years later found that Caroli considered it impossible during this time to find a regular job and settle down. He sought a job that gave him the opportunity to study further at university, his background as a farmer would not give him any opportunity for the career he was pursuing and the situation worsened for each passing year. [25 - PRO Kew KV 2/60] With a background in a priestly family and an environment where a title was necessary for acceptance, this endeavor is not unreasonable. He would later recall that he constantly wanted to return to Canada and create a new life there, but lack of money, an unhappy love story and then a war would put a stop to these plans.

Conclusion
These two chapters have filled in a little bit of information about Gösta Caroli and his early life. I have been flipping through the other chapters of Olsson and Jonason's book, looking at the footnote sources to decide if they are worthy of transcription and translation. Most of the remainder of the book relies on the PRO files at Kew and/or published English books. Exceptions are noted below...

Värvad till Abwehr - Referred to Abwehr -this section has some Swedish references
Abwehr - Abwehr - relies mostly on published sources or Kew
     Nicolaus Ritter - Nicolaus Ritter
     Snows - SNOW
     Snows fall - SNOWs Fall
    My Eriksson - My Eriksson
Agent i ett Fredstida Storbritannien - Agent in Peacetime Great Britain - this chapter looks interesting - relies on Northamptonshire Police archives and Swedish Royal Archives
     Den andra resan - The Second Trip
     Nya uppdrag - New Missions
S/S Mertainen - SS Mertainen - Swedish sources but seems to focus on the wreck of the SS Mertainen with very little mention of Caroli
     Malmtrafiken - Ore Traffic
     Från Narvik - From Narvik
     Tyskt flyg angriper - German Air Strikes
     Fartygets forsatta öde - The Fate of the Ship
     Kristiansund bombas - Bombing of Kristiansund [Norway]
Operation Sjölejon - Operation Sealion - published sources
     Operation förbereds - Preparation of Operation
     Slaget om Storbritannien - Battle of Britain
     Invasionsplanerna avbryts - Invasion Plans Cancelled
     Hade invasionen varit mölig? - Had the Invasion been Fun?
Operation Lena - Operation Lena - published sources
     Agenter - Agents
     Konklusioner - Conclusions
Vardagsliv i Storbritannien - Everyday Life in Great Britain - published sources
     Blitzen - The Blitz

Förberedelser i Tyskland - Preparations in Germany - mostly published sources - the first section has some Swedish sources
     Gösta Utbildas - Gösta's Training
     Ritters medarbetare samlas - Ritter's Employees Gather
     I ett ockuperat Paris - In Occupied Paris
     Det första försöket - The First Attempt
     Operationen genomförs - Operation Carried Out
Landning i Storbritannien - Landing in Great Britain - British archives or published sources
     Arresterad - Arrested
Camp 020 - Camp 020 - published sources
     Camp 020, Latchmere House - Camp 020, Latchmere House
     "Tin-Eye" Stephens - "Tin-Eye" Stephens
     Förhör - Interrogation
     London Reception Centre - London Reception Centre
     London Cage - London Cage
Dubbelagenten Gösta - Double Agent Gösta - published sources and British archives
     Camp 020 - Camp 020
     Tyskarnas bild av Caroli - German Image of Caroli
     Flyktförsök - Attempted Escape
     Efterspel - Epilogue
Tate - TATE - published sources
     "Tate" i arbete - "TATE" at Work
Double-Cross organisationen - Double Agent organization - published sources
     Målsättning - Aims
     Viktiga principer - Important Principles
     Resultat - Results
Åter i Sverige - Back in Sweden - see my earlier blog on this chapter

24 April 2020

Free downloads from The National Archives

A few weeks ago, I had posted a blog about The National Archives having free downloads of their digitized files. This was exciting news although... as the weeks went by, and there was no hint of this news on their website I began to think that it had been a cruel April Fool's Day joke (since their original notice had come out on April 1).

But... I am happy to report that... it is legitimate!!!
And the service is open as of today (April 24). Thanks to Traugott Vitz for bringing this to my attention...

Now... there are some caveats... only 10 files can be downloaded per user per day... and only 50 files every 30 days. In order to prevent the system from being overwhelmed. Still... I can work with that!

22 April 2020

The Secretaries of Camp 020

Latchmere House
Latchmere House
Still chipping away at various avenues for tracking down Robin W.G. Stephens. I thought I'd take a look at Christopher Murphy's article on the Spy! episode again. I remembered him mentioning the names of several former Camp 020 secretaries who defended Stephens vociferously.

While these ladies were alive in 1980 when the Spy! episode came out... that was 40 years ago... and it is unlikely that any of them are still with us today. However, I thought that perhaps their children or grandchildren may have some tidbit of information which might help in the hunt for Stephen's death.

Christopher Andrew article
Before we get to Murphy's article, however, I want to touch on an article written by Christopher Andrew in 2014 as an introduction to a volume entitled Interrogation in War and Conflict: A Comparative and Interdisciplinary Analysis. Andrew quoted the 1980 letter written by the Camp 020 secretaries as well, but only mentions the name of one of them, Kathleen Williams.

However, Andrew does reference the last survivor of the Camp 020 staff whom, it would appear, he may have interviewed for his article. More on that below.


Murphy's Article
On page 4 of his article, Murphy cites the letter written by a group of 10 former Camp 020 secretaries. He helpfully gives their names and, in some instances, their maiden names. I'm going to do a bit of digging here and see if I can trace these women.

Kathleen Williams
Kathleen seems to have been the chief letter writer, as her name is quoted most often by Murphy and also by Christopher Andrew. With a surname like Williams, however, there isn't much hope of finding anything concrete about her. I did a Google search for "Kathleen Williams" and "Camp 020" and came up with nothing.

William Sidney Allen
(from The British Academy)
Aenea Allen (née McCallum)
N.B. Much of the information in this section comes from an article on Aenea's husband, William Sidney Allen, published in the Proceedings of the British Academy in 2006. This link opens the article as a pdf.

We have much more luck with Aenea. She was born Aenea Janet McCallum on 15 June 1919 in Rosskeen, Rosshire, Scotland. Her parents were the Reverend Dugald McCallum (1875-1942) and Mary Gillies Baxter (1881-1943). Both of Aenea's parents came from the West and spoke Gaelic as their first language. Aenea learned English growing up and studied English and Modern Languages at the University of Aberdeen. During the Second World War, as we know, she served at Camp 020 and her Modern Languages degree makes this quite understandable. After the war, Aenea served with the Control Commission in Vienna.

After her post-war service, Aenea worked in publishing and also on the subtitling of foreign films. In the early 1950s, she found at job at the SOAS - School of Oriental Studies in London. She became the editorial secretary of the School's journal, the Bulletin (BSOAS). It was in this capacity that she met her future husband, William Sidney Allen (1918-2004). William was a Linguist and Philologist whose undergraduate education had been disrupted by the war. Initially assigned as an officer to the Royal Tank Regiment, William was later sent to Iceland as an intelligence officer. In 1942, he returned to the UK and was assigned command of a photographic intelligence unit involved in planning the Normandy landing. After the war, William resumed his career and received his doctorate in linguistics. He then took up a position as a lecturer at the SOAS where he had several papers published in the school's journal, edited by Aenea.

Aenea and William were married in Cambridge in the third quarter of 1955 just as he was about to take up the Chair of Comparative Philology. They apparently had many interests in common including hill-walking and alpine skiing. Starting in the 1960s, they spent many summers traveling around Greece and exploring the smaller Aegean islands. Aenea apparently acquired a greater fluency in Modern Greek than William himself.

The couple lived in Trumpington for many years, on the outskirts of Cambridge. It doesn't appear that they had any children. In 1995, William had a hip replacement and was cared for by Aenea at home. Despite being an avid cycler and seemingly in perfect health, in January 1996 she suddenly collapsed and died a few hours later. She was 76 years old. William remarried in 2002 (Diana Stroud) and passed away in 2004. William has an obituary in The Times, which I can't access as I am not a subscriber... In case someone else is... here's the link.

Eileen Ball
Alas, too common a name, and no other identifying information make Eileen too hard to trace with certainty.

Miss/Mrs Helen Clegg
Anyone who has looked at the MI5 files of agents who passed through Camp 020 will know the name Clegg. It shows up frequently on Latchmere House reports. I had always assumed that Clegg was a man but... now I wonder. Murphy's article refers to Helen Clegg as Miss in one instance and Mrs in another instance which makes it difficult to trace her.

Nancy Farquarson
No luck with Nancy either. There isn't even a Nancy Farquarson in Ancestry although a Phyllis Helen N. Farquarson could be a match...

Joyce Hall (née Bisset)
No luck with Joyce - there isn't enough information to track her down.

Brenda Mitchell
Again, far too common a name to track down.

Margaret Randall (née Davidson)
There is a possible match with a Carol M. Davidson who married a James G. Randall in the first quarter of 1964 in Middlesex. Beyond that, however, there is nothing solid enough to hang a hat on...

Margaret Reynolds
Alas, too common a name.

Mrs. Frances Shanks (née Lepper)
This is a bit more promising as Murphy'as article names two brothers, Alan and William Shanks, who had worked as interrogators at Camp 020. In one place, Murphy notes that Alan and Frances were interviewed together in 1980, suggesting that perhaps they were married. And.... we have success. Frances M.H. Lepper married Alan D.F. Shanks in the first quarter of 1944 in Pancras registration district (Middlesex).

Frances Mary Heron Shanks was born 2 April 1911 in Carrickfergus, Country Antrim, Ireland and died 26 July 2007 in Stone, Stafforshire. Her parents were John Heron Lepper and Winifred Emmeline Watts.

Alan David Ferrier Shanks was born 1910 in Hampstead London to Andrew Ferrier Shanks (1883-1967) and Astrid Brun (1887-1985 - born in Norway). During the war, Alan served with the Intelligence Corps. I did find an engagement announcement in the 6 March 1943 edition of The Scotsman... but not for Alan and Frances. This announcement was for Lt. Alan David Ferrier Shanks and Freda Elizabeth Underhill of Edinburgh. Not exactly sure what happened to that nuptial... Alan passed away in 4 June 2011 in Stafford, Staffordshire.

The Last Survivor of Camp 020 Secretarial Staff
For his 2014 article, Andrew apparently interviewed one of the former Camp 020 secretaries:
Cobain's conclusions are disputed by the only known surviving member of staff of Camp 020 in Britain today: a retired magistrate, who worked there as a secretary from 1942-1945. She insists, like her late colleagues after the BBC programme broadcast over 30 years before, that: 'Colonel Stephens was a brilliant if intimidating interrogator and certainly there was some shouting and night interrogations, but absolutely no torture.'
We - the secretarial staff - were for the most proficient linguists. One of our jobs was to listen in and record the conversations in the cells (all were bugged) and at interrogations. I can vouch with complete certainty that there was no torture, sleep deprivation or starvation.
The diet of prisoners she recalls, was similar to that of the staff. Had prisoners been beaten or tortured, at least some would certainly have mentioned the fact during their overheard conversations. (p. 6) [FN 4]

[FN 4] Recollections of a retired magistrate who is believed to be the last survivor in Britain of the staff of Camp 020.
This is definitely interesting information but Andrew does not mention her name.

I do have a vague recollection of having seen a documentary in the last few years which included a few brief clips of an interview with a woman who worked at Camp 020. Drat if I can remember where/when I saw that...

Sources
Introduction: the modern history of interrogation. Christopher Andrew, Interrogation in War and Conflict: A Comparative and Interdisciplinary Analysis, Christopher Andrew and Simona Tobia (eds), Routledge, Abingdon, 2014, p. 1-17.

Dramatising intelligence history on the BBC: the Camp 020 affair. Christopher J. Murphy. Intelligence and National Security, Volume 34,  Issue 5, p. 688-702, 2019. 

15 April 2020

A few Bella Blips on the Internet Radar

The waters of the Bella mystery seemed to have calmed quite a bit in the last few months. Obviously, with Covid19 ravaging the world, many things have taken a back seat to the virus. Still... the most recent news on the Bella case was Alex Merrill's second book on the Bella case, which came out last October/November. But it didn't seem to make as big a splash as the first book and... we are left with a dearth of Bella material.

I did a bit of snooping online and came up with a few things... most not worth the paper they are not written on. Sigh.

British News Paper Archives
I did come across a link to the British Newspaper Archives which published a blog about the Bella case on 4 April 2019. The blog article is based primarily on newspaper reports from the archives, so is a bit limited.

Spoiler Country Podcast
There was also a post about a month ago (25 February 2020) on the Spoiler Country Podcast site. There doesn't actually seem to be a podcast on the Bella episode, just a blog. The blog gives the usual summary, very brief, and does mention the book written by Andrew Sparke, but fails to mention Alex Merrill's first book with the facial reconstruction. This article is by no means a thorough review of the Bella case.

Saturday Morning Serial
Then we have the Saturday Morning Serial (SMS 105.1 Mix Morning Fix) podcast which published a Halloween-inspired episode about Bella on 5 October 2019. This is an American program (Utah) and while the podcast is 35 minutes long, one has to sit through several interminable prelude minutes (8 of them) where the three hosts engage in banter. This banter is perhaps hilarious for them but supremely boring for the listener...

Google Earth - Wychbury Hill - no town there...
Google Earth - Wychbury Hill - no town on the hill...
So if you want to get to the heart of the podcast, skip ahead to the 8 minute mark... maybe even the 9 minute mark...

Right off the bat we have this glaring error - "Wychbury Hill is the local town" where the boys lived. Sigh... I don't know that there is a town on Wychbury Hill unless it's Lilliputian.

Apparently the hand had "been sawed off at the wrist". That's news to me...

Oh, and there clothing was buried next to the tree... again, news to me.

Then we have this doozie - During the war, "there were... sleeper cell Nazis all over the UK... the police... were... overrun with missing persons cases because the Nazis were just abducting people." Wow. Surprising that not a single book has been written about the Nazi abductions of Britons during the war... [note sarcasm]

Mossop was confined to a "Stanford mental hospital"... I think they mean Stafford...

There are also numerous other errors... too many to list. While touching on the PI Punt episode, the hosts focus on the Margaret Murray connection and the idea of the Hand of Glory. Because the show is a preamble to Halloween after all they end with the witch connection.

Ranker
I also came across this post from the Ranker website, published in December 2019. It gives the usual summary with the usual errors and even adds some new material to muddy the waters. The article includes a dental image which is from the US War Office and has absolutely nothing to do with the Bella case. The unobservant might ,however, miss the photo caption.

As well, one of the subheadings reads:
Gestapo Agent Josef Jakobs Claimed Bella Was Really Cabaret Singer Clara Bauerle 
Good grief.

First up, Josef Jakobs was NOT a Gestapo officer or agent. He had zero affiliation with the Gestapo.

Second - Josef never, ever, claimed that Bella was Clara Bauerle. Josef was captured in 1941. Bella was discovered in 1943. Do the math.

Clara Bauerle pic from the Ranker site
Clara Bauerle pic from the Ranker site
Third - Josef never claimed that Clara Bauerle was sent to England. He said it was a possibility but that he didn't think it would happen as the Abwehr had not heard from him.

On top of that, the Ranker site published this photograph of Clara Bauerle. The caption attributes the photo to the HD Paranormal site which is rubbish. It is from the National Archives at Kew.

At least the article did give a link to my blog in which I showed that Clara Bauerle had died in 1942. Small consolation given the other problems with the article.

Takeaway
This is what happens when you have sites that publish stories based on secondary, tertiary and even quaternary sources. Things get every muddy...

According to his website, the American author of the Ranker article provides "professional writing and editing" services which is great. The author is also into Marketing and SEO Content, etc. which basically translates as writing articles that grab clicks and visits. Wonderful. Except... good writing depends upon good research.

I could probably use help with marketing and SEO content but... for now, I'll focus on research first.