27 November 2013

Did Josef Jakobs land in North Stifford, Essex?

The mystery and secrecy surrounding the capture of Josef Jakobs in 1941 has often made it difficult for researchers to track down accurate information on Jakobs and the circumstances surrounding his arrival in England. Over the years, two landing sites have been mentioned for Jakobs: North Stifford Village in Essex and Ramsey Village in Huntingdonshire.

Google map showing the location of North Stifford, Essex
From Google Maps - "A" marks location of North Stifford, Essex

Until last year (2012), North Stifford Village had a small story on their website that detailed the capture of Jakobs. The section on Jakobs has since been removed but it did read:

"On the night of 31st January 1941, Josef Jakobs, a German Spy, was dropped by parachute and landed near a wood close to Ardale School.  Under his flying suit he wore civilian clothes and he was equipped with a wireless transmitter, English money, food, brandy and a traditional German sausage. He also had a forged identity card in the name of James Rymer.  Several people saw him land and informed the Home Guard.  He was quickly captured by the army. Josef Jakobs was taken to Brixton prison and was found guilty of being a spy at a Court Martial in August.  He was taken to the tower of London and shot."

Ghosts of the Tower of London by Geoffrey Abbott
From Amazon
A further reference to North Stifford as the site of Jakobs' arrival in England is mentioned in Geoffrey Abbott's 1989 book "Ghosts of the Tower of London". Abbott's fairly lengthy article mentioned that:

"On the night of 31 January 1941, wearing a parachute, he [Jakobs] boarded an aircraft which then took off and headed for southern England. Once over the estuary of the River Thames, the pilot navigated by following the course of the river as far as Gravesend and Greenhithe, then turned due north to drop his passenger over North Stifford, Essex."

While Abbott's book did not provide a source for the information, the North Stifford website did contain link to a second site, the Trivia Library. This site is apparently based on outdated information  from "The People's Almanac", a series of books published between 1975 and 1981. The article contains several errors, one of which is Jakobs' landing site. No source references are are listed for the information contained within the Almanac or the Trivia Library.
After the Battle magazine, volume 11 - German Spies in Britain
From After the Battle Magazine

The most likely source for all of these accounts, and the earliest print reference to North Stifford Village, is the first edition of After the Battle Magazine, Volume 11. Sir Winston Ramsey, editor of After the Battle Magazine has stated that this edition was an error and was corrected in second edition of Volume 11. In the mid 1970s, when Ramsey was researching the circumstances surrounding Jakobs' landing, capture and execution, accurate information was difficult to uncover due to the secrecy surrounding the case.

Although After the Battle quickly corrected the information in Volume 11 and published a second edition, the North Stifford information spread into The People's Almanac and, over the years, has continued to surface in various references to Jakobs.
 
It is entirely possible that another spy landed in North Stifford during World War II, but from the information contained within the National Archives, it is quite clear that Josef Jakobs was not that spy, for he actually landed near Ramsey Village in Huntingdonshire.

No comments: