28 February 2014

Chair of Execution

Chair in which Josef Jakobs was seated for his execution. Held by the Armouries, Tower of London.
Chair in which Josef Jakobs was
seated for his execution.
Held by the Armouries, Tower of London.
Photo courtesy of  Sir Winston Ramsey.
Copyright held by After the Battle magazine)

Josef Jakobs was seated in a chair for his execution by firing squad at the Tower of London. The use of a chair for his execution has been variously explained:

(1) Jakobs had broken his ankle during his landing and was unable to stand, therefore he was seated in a chair.

(2) Jakobs was to be hanged, but could not stand due to his broken ankle, therefore seated in a chair and shot.

Neither scenario is accurate.

Jakobs was able to walk to his execution as evidenced by an eye witness account recorded in the book The Prison Governor by Major Benjamin Dixon Grew. As the Governor of Wandsworth Prison, Grew was present when Jakobs left the prison enroute to the Tower of London. Grew noted that " I stood at the entrance to my office as he approached, still limping from his injury".

But, if Jakobs could walk/stand why was he seated in a chair for his execution? Historically, several different positions have traditionally been used during firing squad executions: standing, sitting, kneeling. The condemned could be positioned facing his/her executioners or facing away. The firing squad could consist of several persons or of only one. The situation depended on the country involved. In the case of Britain, spies executed by firing squad were seated. This was clearly supported by the stories of the eleven German spies executed by firing squad at the Tower of London during World War I.

German Spies Executed in World War I

Chair in which German spies were executed during World War I.
Chair in which German spies were executed
during World War I.
(Photo from Imperial War Museum)
In the book Shot in the Tower, Leonard Sellers drew on various references and resources to portray the execution of each German spy, with varying levels of detail. In nine instances it was quite clear that the spies were seated in a chair for their execution. While no mention of a chair was made in the cases of Ernst Waldemar Melin and Ludovico Hurwitz-y-Zender, it was probable that they too faced their death seated. For example, the description of Carl Hans Lody's execution on 6 November 1914 states:

"A few moments later the procession disappeared through the doorway of the sinister shed [the miniature rifle range; here spies were blindfolded and secured by straps to a chair], and shortly after that came the muffled sound of a single volley [by the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards]." (Sellers, 42)
The chair that was used for the execution of the World War I spies (pictured above) disappeared during the inter-war period and a new chair was found for the execution of Josef Jakobs.

The reason that Jakobs faced a firing squad instead of a hangman's noose was because he was tried before a military court-martial and was a member of the German Armed Forces.




References

Grew, Benjmain Dixon. The Prison Governor, Herbert Jenkins Ltd., 1958.
National Archives, Secret Service file on Josef Jakobs, KV 2/27.
Sellers, Leonard. Shot at the Tower, Leo Cooper, 1997.

24 February 2014

The Final Resting Place of Josef Jakobs

Map showing location of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery in London.
Location of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery - Google Maps
On 18 August 1941, following the execution and autopsy at the Tower of London, Jakobs' body was driven to St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green, in northwest London. A funeral service was held at the chapel, possibly presided over by the army chaplain who had ministered to Jakobs during the final weeks of his life. Jakobs was then buried in an unmarked grave (Plot 1734G) in the Common Graves area of the cemetery.


St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery
St. Mary's Cemetery opened on 10 May 1858. Over 165,000 people have been buried in the cemetery. The cemetery has both Public and Private Graves.

Chapel at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery in London.
Chapel at St. Mary's Cemetery.
(Nigel Cox - Creative Commons License)
Public Graves, also known as Common Graves, were the cheaper burial option and were used up until the end of the 1970s. Over 115,000 people were interred in Public Graves at the cemetery.

A Public Grave could contain several people, often more than eight, who were not related to each other but who died around the same time. Over 115,000 adults and children were interred in Public Graves at St Mary's Cemetery.

St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery in London.
Private Graves at St. Mary's Cemetery.
(© 2010 Giselle K. Jakobs)

In the mid to late 1970s, the cemetery reclaimed all of the Common Graves. Headstones and grave markers were removed and 12 feet of fresh soil was placed on top of the graves. The newly created plot was then used for Private Graves.
Private Graves or Family Graves were available for purchase but in recent years the amount of space available in the cemetery has been severely restricted. The maintenance of the cemetery depends upon funds derived from the sale of burial plots. Given the restriction in plots and funds, the cemetery trustees erected a sign outside the chapel advising visitors that they have had "no alternative but to reduce the standard and extent of the maintenance of the cemetery to a level consistent with the income at their disposal". As a result, older portions of the cemetery have a decidedly neglected air.


Josef Jakobs
Map of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery in London, showing location of grave of Josef Jakobs.
Map of St. Mary's Cemetery showing the approximate location of
the grave of Josef Jakobs. (from St. Mary's Cemetery website)
Josef Jakobs was buried in Plot 1734G. The "G" area was one of those reclaimed in the 1970s and is located near the southern boundary of the cemetery.
Sir Winston Ramsey, editor of After the Battle magazine, was the sleuth who, in the late 1970s, determined the exact location of Jakobs' grave.

In 1991, I accompanied Ramsey to St. Mary's Cemetery where he showed me the approximate site of Jakobs' grave. The exact location will most likely remain a mystery given the addition of 12 feet of soil onto the former Plot G.
St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery in London.
Approximate area in which Jakobs was buried.
(© 2010 Giselle K. Jakobs)
Interestingly, the area above Jakobs' grave, while populated by a number of impressive gravestones, also contains a grave marked by a simple wooden cross. While having no relation to Jakobs' grave, the wooden cross serves as a distinctive reference point when searching for the approximate location of the grave.
A Memorial
Interior of Chapel at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery in London.
Inside view of St. Mary's Chapel.
(© 2012 Giselle K. Jakobs)
Memorial statue in Chapel at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery in London.
Memorial Statue for all
those buried in Plot G
(© 2012 Giselle K. Jakobs)

In searching for Jakobs' grave, Sir Winston Ramsey contacted the German War Graves Commission. The Commission disavowed any knowledge of Josef Jakobs, although they made a note of Ramsey's enquiry.

In early 2012, I contacted the German Dienststelle and the German War Graves regarding Josef Jakobs. After sharing some family documents regarding the service record of Josef Jakobs, the German War Graves Commission added Josef Jakobs to their online database.
Jakobs' grave had no headstone and there was, until recently, no individual burial memorial for Jakobs. The cemetery does have a chapel, within which funerals and memorial Masses are conducted.
Along the side wall of the chapel is a statue of Mary with an inscription below. 
Memorial plaque in Chapel at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery in London.
Memorial Plaque erected in memory of those buried in Plot G.
(© 2012 Giselle K. Jakobs)
 This Statue was erected in memory of
Maria Grazia D'Urso
who was buried on the "G" Plot in July 1932.
After the closure on 17th June 1970 this Statue
was placed in St. Mary's Chapel in Memory
of all the Souls at rest in this section,
and was dedicated to their memory on
Sunday 4th October 1970 by The Very
Reverend Canon J.F. Marriott, Chief Adm.


Example of private memorial plaque in Chapel at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery in London.
Private memorial plaque.
(© 2012 Giselle K. Jakobs)

Example of memorial wall plaque in Chapel at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery in London.
Memorial Wall Plaque
(© 2012 Giselle K. Jakobs)
Some descendants of those buried in Plot G have sought to have a more personal memorial erected in honour of their deceased family members.
Personal plaques can be purchased or the name of the deceased can be inscribed on a common memorial wall plaque.
In 2012, the family of Josef Jakobs purchased a memorial line on a wall plaque located on the left wall of the chapel sanctuary.
Memorial wall plaque for Josef Jakobs in Chapel at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery in London.
Wall Memorial Plaque for Josef Jakobs.
(© 2012 Giselle K. Jakobs)

While Jakobs has had a virtual memorial/grave on the Find A Grave website for several years, a physical memorial is far more tangible.

19 February 2014

Does the Ghost of Josef Jakobs haunt the Tower of London?

Tower of London
Tower of London - © G.K. Jakobs 2012.
The Tower of London is apparently one of the most haunted places in the world. The ghosts of Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey and Thomas Becket are said to wander the grounds and buildings of the Tower. The Yeoman Warders, former soldiers, who are presumably not prone to flights of fancy, have had many ghostly experiences. Some of the on-site soldiers (from the Guards Regiment) have also had ghostly encounters.

There are several ghostly occurrences that have been connected with the story of Josef Jakobs. Geoffrey Abbot, a former Yeoman Warder, wrote about several of them.

Mysterious Encounters

On a cold September morning, around 3:00 am, a sentry was patrolling the front of the Waterloo Block. The soldier got the feeling that he was being watched even though his colleagues were at least 50 yards away. The soldier reached the end of the Waterloo Block, turned around and continued his patrol along the front of the building. Suddenly, within the illuminated foyer of the Waterloo Block he saw the silhouette of a man crouched, watching him! The soldier knew that all of the doors within the Block, both internal and external, were locked. How could anyone be left in the building? The shape moved awayand the soldier used his radio to call out the guard and the Armouries Warden. The doors were unlocked and the squad of soldiers entered the Waterloo Block and gave it a through search. The security devices were checked, every room was checked... but nothing was found. The sentry was questioned extensively by the Officer of the Guard and stuck to his story. The incident was entered into the Report Book as "inexplicable".

Guardsman - Tower of London
Guardsman - Tower of London
© G.K. Jakobs 2012
Several other mysterious events took place within the Waterloo Block around the same time. The upper floor of the Waterloo Block was composed of apartments occupied by yeoman warders and their families. Security was a top priority and all of the residents had to lock the outer doors whenever the entered or left the building at night. During 1979 and 1980, two yeoman warders experienced several disturbing incidents. During the night, they would near loud knocking at the doors to their apartments, yet when they reached the doors, no one was ever there. On several occassion, upon opening their doors, both warders saw that the swing doors at the end of the corridor were moving slightly, as if someone had passed through them. Yet all doors beyond the swing doors were locked. Was it a practical joker? Or something more sinister?

On 30 July 1980, a yeoman warder was leaving his flat on the second floor of the eastern end of the Waterloo Block. He closed the door and heard a voice say "Oh - sorry!". Upon turning around, the warder saw a man standing by the swing doors at the end of the corridor, about six paces away. The man passed through the swing doors and left. It was mid-day and staff members from elsewhere in the Tower did sometimes pass through the building. But the warder wondered where the man was going. He followed the route the man had taken and discovered that every door leading off the spiral staircase at the end of the corridor was locked. The warder described the man as wearing an ordinary looking suit and a wartime-type brown pointed trilby hat.
Waterloo Block - Tower of London
East Tower of Waterloo Block
© G.K. Jakobs 2012

Several months earlier, in the early morning of 24 April 1980, two patrolling sentries saw at tall, dark figure at the east end of the Waterloo Block. The soldiers chased the figure down the stone steps leading to the Casemates, the area between the two walls of the Tower, but could find no trace of the intruder. Another sentry had heard suspicious noises at that time, so the guard was called out. A thorough search was made of the area, but nothing was found.

A Connection with Josef Jakobs?

Geoffrey Abbot, in his book, Ghosts of the Tower, made a connection between the above apparitions and Josef Jakobs. According to Abbot, Jakobs had been held in an upper floor room at the east end of the Waterloo Block, very close to the mysterious man in the trilby hat.

"Was he - could he have been - the 'man in the trilby' seen by the yeoman warder? The fact that words were spoken did not necessarily preclude 'him' from being an apparition; phantoms are sometimes quiet vocal; unmistakeable screams have on occasion been heard emanating late at night from the execution site on Tower Green, and ghostly moans have also been reported from other places over the years. Were the knocks on the doors his appeals for help in escaping his prison? Was he the 'crouching man' at the Waterloo Block door who, on seeing an 'enemy' soldier through the window, turned away and disappeared? Could he have been the 'tall dark figure' seen by the two sentries vanishing down the steps to the Casemates - the route which led to the site of the rifle range? And does his spirit frequent this area as well? In 1979 a poodle owned by a yeoman warder's family living opposite, took to staring at the place where the range once stood, barking and growling as if witnessing something only it could see. Whether apparition was that of Josef Jakob [sic] or not, may he, a brave and loyal soldier who died for his country, find eternal peace."

Other anecdotal stories claim that Josef's ghost has been seen standing around with bullet holes. Many tourists have commented on this sight over the years, thinking that it was part of an exhibit.

Does Josef Jakobs haunt the Tower of London? Josef did have a trilby hat with him when he parachuted into England. He was executed in the miniature rifle range in the Casemates, but so were many of the German spies during World War I. As Hamlet once said: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

References

Tower of London, Thomas Bryers.

Ghostly Glimpses Through the Fog of War, James Clark, 2011.

Ghosts of the Tower of London, Geoffrey Abbott, 1998, Hendon Publishing.

14 February 2014

A Prescription for Death

View of a prison similar to Wandsworth Prison
From Flickr - Valery Photography

Death Row. The end of the line. One door in, one door out. Appeals are written. Appeals are rejected. There is usually only one exit from Death Row. Inexorably the clock ticks down to the appointed hour. Usually there is no escape.

Josef Jakobs was found guilty of treachery at his court martial on August 5. His penalty was death by shooting. From August 5 to August 15, Jakobs was held in a condemned cell in Wandworth Prison. He knew his execution was coming. The date was set. The venue was chosen. There was no escape.What does that do to a person?

In the United States, where the death penalty is still in use, death row inmates who face their imminent execution are sometimes offered sedatives to calm them. Some states ban the use of sedatives but where they are allowed, physicians often prescribe Valium, Ativan or some other anti-anxiety drug. Some prisoners turn down the offer of a sedative. In the 1800s, prisoners facing the gallows were offered a few shots of whiskey to calm them.

Several references on Josef mentioned that he had been offered a sedative prior to his execution by firing squad.

Prescription for Josef Jakobs

In October 2009, several objects from the estate of Harold A. Rowe, a former London pharmacist were brought to Eldreds Auctioneers in Roborough, Devon. After reviewing the objects, the auctioneers found several interesting objects: a prescription for a sleeping draught for Rudolf Hess (Deputy Führer to Adolf Hitler), a prescription for Josef Jakobs and a newspaper clipping from August 1941 which reported Jakobs' execution.

The items were put for auction on October 20 and were eventually sold for £750 to the Royal Armouries Museum. Bridget Clifford, the Royal Armouries' Keeper of Collections at the Tower of London, said, “These are exciting and significant additions to the Royal Armouries’ extensive collections. Jakobs’ prescription is perhaps the most interesting for us as he was the last prisoner to be executed here.“

There was quite a bit of secrecy surrounding Josef's court martial and execution, and this even extended to his prescription. The prescription was written out by Dr. R.W. Taylor of the Royal Medical Corps on August 14, 1941. It was prescribed to A English Esq. at the Tower of London. Harold A. Rowe, the pharmacist who dispensed the medication, kept the prescription form. On August 18, 1941, when news of Jakobs' execution had been widely reported in the newspapers, Rowe made a note on the back of the prescription which stated:
Reverse of the prescription issued to Josef Jakobs on 14 August 1941.
Prescription for Josef Jakobs - back.

18.8.41 - Prescription for Josef Jacobs, dispensed by me as ordered, H.A. Rowe

One of the newspaper articles which reported the execution of Josef Jakobs noted that, while he had initially refused the offer of a sedative, he relented in the moments before his execution. Rowe was a rather smart man and correctly inferred that the prescription he had dispensed for the English Esq. at the Tower of London on August 14 was meant for the condemned German spy, Josef Jakobs.

Obverse of the prescription issued to Josef Jakobs on 14 August 1941.
Prescription for Josef Jakobs - front.
Josef was prescribed two drugs: Leptandrinae Comp. tablets and Sod. Amytal capsules. Leptandrinae was usually prescribed for dyspepsia and Sodium Amytol was used as a sedative.

Leptandrinae Comp. is a homeopathic medicine derived from Leptandra virgincia, also known as Culver's Root or Blackroot. Leptrandra virginica gently stimulates the liver to promote bile secretion without irritating the bowels. It is useful for diarrhea and dysentery. Today Leptrandra compositum is an herbal remedy used to treat minor abdominal pain and discomfort (e.g. gastritis, diarrhea and flatulence). It comes in a liquid form and includes: Leptandra virginica, Quassia amara (Bitter Wood), Podophyllum peltatum (Mandrake), Arsenicum album (diluted arsenic trioxide), Carbo vegetabilis (vegetable charcoal), Niccolum metallicum (metallic nickel) and phosphorus. The prescription for Josef was for twelve tablets of which two or three could be taken at any one time "as required".

Sodium Amytal, also known as Amobarbital sodium, is a barbiturate. It has sedative and hypnotic properties. When given orally, it takes effect after 20-60 minutes. When given intravenously, it can take effect after 5 to 15 minutes. Although Sodium amytal has been referred to as "truth serum", there is virtually no evidence that it enhances "memories". It simply lowers the threshhold for sharing virtually all information, both true and false. Sodium amytal can actually increase the risk of false memories. Sodium Amytal came in several strengths, none of which are indicated on the prescription. The prescription is for six tablets of which two could be taken per day.

Go Gentle into that Good Night

For whom was the sedative prescribed? For Josef? For the guards? For the firing squad?

Josef initially did not want to take the sedative, but in the end, relented. Perhaps it had taken effect by the time he was seated in the chair, perhaps not. Perhaps it was more of a psychological comfort for the soldiers who gathered around him to do their various duties. It would be an unpleasant thing to have a botched execution. The executed would soon be out of their misery... not so for those who witnessed the execution... and lived with the memory.

Josef may have raged against the "dying of the light" at some point, but on the morning of 15 August, 1941, he was prepared and he went gentle towards that good night. Josef's last words were to the firing squad, "shoot straight Tommies". Even Colonel R. Stephens, hardened interrogator at Camp 020, commented that Josef was a brave man to the very end.

On the other hand, Josef's fellow spy, Karel Richter, took the opposite tact... he raged against the dying of the light and he did not go gentle into that good night. (next article)


References

Personal communication from a registered pharmacist.

Hitler's Nazi deputy Rudolph Hess memorabilia on sale - The Telegraph - October 14, 2009.

Prescriptions for Rudolf Hess and Josef Jakobs auctioned in Plymouth - This is Cornwall - October 15, 2009.

Prescription for top Nazi Hess auctioned in Britain - Catherine Bosley - Reuters - October 20, 2009.

Prescriptions for Rudolph Hess and Nazi spy executed at the Tower acquired by Royal Armouries - Culture 24 - October 22, 2009.

10 February 2014

The Truth about Clara Bauerle

Who was Clara Bauerle? What really happened to her? To begin with, we have to recognize that Clara Bauerle's name could be spelled in a variety of ways:
     Claire/Cläre/Clära/Clara
     Kläre/Klära/Klara
     Bauerle/Bäuerle

If one searches long and hard on the internet, one can find the following information on the singer/actress known as Clara Bauerle.

Early Life & Movie Career

Clara was born 27 August 1905 in Ulm, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

In 1932-1933, Clara had a small part in the movie Die Blume von Hawaii (The Flower of Hawaii) which was released on 21 March 1933.
Poster for the movie "Die Blume von Hawaii".
Poster for the movie "Die Blume
von Hawaii".

In 1939-1940, she played a young lady at the ball in the movie Bal Paré which was released 22 May 1940.
Poster for the movie "Bal Paré ".
Poster for the movie "Bal Paré ".

Singing Career

Clara also had a music career and by piecing together her recordings, the following timeline emerges:
  • 1940 September - Wenn die kleinen Veilchen blü'n (1608 - Tempo 5035) with Bernhard Etté Orchester
  • 1940 September - Die Männer sind schon die Liebe wert (1612 - Tempo 5038 & 4176A) with Bernhard Etté Orchester
  • 1940 December - Mit meinem Küssen auf den Lippen (1616 - Tempo 5035) with Bernhard Etté Orchester
  • 1941 March - Bleib bei mir ein paar glückliche Stunden (1661 - Tempo 5050) with Juan Llossas & Orchester
  • 1941 March - Ich bin heute ja so verliebt (1662 - Tempo 5050) with Juan Llossas & Orchester
  • 1941 March - Mamatschi (schenk mir ein Pferdchen) (1671 - Tempo 5055 & 4088A) with Tempo Salon Orchester
  • 1941 Mar/Apr - Bevor du schlafen gehst, ruf mich noch mal an (1672 - Tempo 5084) - Curt Hasenpflug (conductor)
Tempo record with Claire Bauerle
Recording with Claire Bauerle.

  • 1941 Mar/Apr - Ich möcht' so gern ein Patenkind von Herrgott sein (1673 - Tempo 5055 & 4088B) - Curt Hasenpflug (conductor)
  • 1941 Mar/Apr - Ich hab' es oft versucht (1674 - Tempo 5084) - Curt Hasenpflug - conductor
  • 1941 July - So wird's nie wieder sein (1718 - Tempo 5090) - with Bernhard Etté Orchester
  • 1941 July - Du darfst mir nie mehr rote Rosen schenken (1720 - Tempo 5035) - with Bernhard Etté Orchester
  • 1942 - Ich weiss, es wird einmal ein Wunder gescheh'n (1813 - Tempo 5113) with Orchesterbegleitung (Orchestra accompaniment)
  • 1942 - Davon geht die Welt nicht unter (1814 - Tempo 5113) with Orchesterbegleitung (Orchestra accompaniment)
  • 1942 - Schiff Ahoi (1816 - Tempo 782) with Orchesterbegleitung
    (Orchestra accompaniment)
Clara Bauerle, the singer and actress recorded songs through the latter part of 1940 into 1941 and 1942. She most certainly did not parachute into the British Midlands in October 1941.

Her singing career ended in 1942. Why?

On 16 December 1942, Clara Bauerle, singer, actress, mistress and potential spy died in Berlin Germany.

Postscript (8 December 2014)
D.J. Cockburn has written a nice summary of the various theories around Bella in the Wych Elm - well worth a read.

Updates (18 July 2015)
A couple of blog postings with more recent news of my search for the ever-elusive Clara Bauerle

2015 02 23 - A Follow-up to Clara Bauerle and Bella in the Wych Elm
2015 07 17 - Update on the Elusive Clara Bauerle and Bella in the Wych Elm

References

Biographical Information on Clara Bauerle
IMDb (Internet Movie Database) Website
Film Portal Website
Bayerisches Musiker Lexicon Online

1933 Movie - Die Blume von Hawaii
 www.filmportal.de/film/die-blume-von-hawaii_2cb65160ada44820b6c5937d86e11c65

1940 Movie - Bal Paré References
http://cinema.theiapolis.com/movie-08MA/bal-pare/credits.html
http://www.transitfilm.de/en/suche/suchergebnis.asp?ID=66
http://www.new-video.de/film-bal-pare/
www.filmportal.de/film/bal-pare_38e151a55d064331803390fa513bb49c

Audio Recordings
Otto Stahmann Record Production to 1945
Discovering Music Archive
Wikipedia - Tempo Label 
World Catalogue - various Bauerle recordings available 
Discogs
YouTube - various Bauerle recordings available (Claire Bauerle)
Ebay - various Bauerle recordings for sale (Claire Bauerle)

05 February 2014

Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?

Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?

On 18 April 1943, near the town of Stourbridge, four young boys in search of bird nests in Hagley Wood found a hollow elm tree (a Wych Elm or Scots Elm). One boy climbed up and peered into the hollow trunk and found a human skull staring back at him. Despite a pact of silence, one boy, Tommy Willetts, told his father about their grisly discovery and the police were quickly called.
Wych Elm wherein "Bella" was found
The Wych Elm wherein the body of
"Bella" was found. (From
Brian Haughton's website).
The Worcestershire County Police recovered a skeleton from the trunk, along with some fragments of clothing and finger bones scattered around the trunk. A pathologist concluded that the remains belonged to a woman  who had been placed in the tree about 18 months previously (October 1941) while still warm. She had likely been asphyxiated due to the taffeta stuffed inside her mouth.

Skull of Bella found in the Wych Elm
The skull found in the Wych Elm. (From Brian Haughton's website).

The woman was thought to be 35-40 years old. She was five feet tall with mousy brown hair and a deformed lower jaw. She wore a cheap gold wedding ring, no more than four years old, and had given birth at least once. 
Police sketch of Bella found in the Wych Elm
Police sketch of "Bella" found in the Wych Elm.
(From Black Country Myths website)
 The woman's distinctive teeth were a promising lead for identification purposes, but despite contacting every dentist in the country, police were unable to identify the mystery woman. Six months later, graffiti asking "Who put Bella down the wych elm" appeared in the region. Did someone know something? If so, no one was talking. The woman had seemingly come from nowhere and was missed by no one. Some speculated that the woman had been the victim of an occult ceremony. Others thought that she might be a Roma (gypsy) who had afoul of her community and been put to death.

Who put Bella in the Witch Elm
Graffiti asking "Who put Bella in the Witch Elm"
(Wikipedia - David Buttery)
In 1953, a woman calling herself "Anna" contacted a newspaper claiming to have information on Bella's killers. Anna met with local police and claimed that Bella had been murdered by a German spy ring which involved a British officer, a Dutchman and a music hall artist (or a trapeze artist, depending on sources). Anna claimed that Bella was a Dutch woman who arrived illegally in England, got mixed up in the spy ring and paid the price with her life.

In 1968, writer Donald McCormick wrote a book (Murder by Witchcraft) in which he claimed that Bella had been a Nazi spy named Clarabella, recruited by the Abwehr and given the code-name CLARA. McCormick claimed to have seen Abwehr records which suggested that CLARA had parachuted into the West Midlands in 1941 but had failed to make radio contact. McCormick suggested that the woman was actually Clarabella Dronkers, a Dutch woman who had lived in Birmingham. She had irregular teeth and would have been 30 years old in 1941. Interestingly, a Dutchman named Johannes Marinus Dronkers was executed as a spy by the British in December 1942.

In March 2013, The Independent newspaper put a fascinating spin on the case of Bella in the Wych Elm. They suggested that perhaps Bella was none other than Clara Bauerle, the mistress of German spy Josef Jakobs. The Independent presumed that Clara Bauerle and Klara Sophie Bauerle (found in the Home Office records) were the same person. The newspaper indicated that Bauerle was a cabaret artist who had spent two years working in the music halls of the West Midlands before the war and that she spoke English with a Birmingham accent. It was suggested that English audiences could easily hear "Clara Bauerle" as "Clarabella".  The music hall connection also harkened back to Anna's information in 1953. The newspaper claimed that Jakobs had said Clara was due to parachute into the Midlands in the spring of 1941. Jakobs did say that Clara might follow him to England but, to the best of my knowledge, gave no specific location for her arrival.

The Independent noted that there were no gramophone recordings, live performances or movie appearances in her name after 1941, a tantalizing mystery that would apparently leave Clara Bauerle as a potential candidate for Bella in the Wych Elm.
One comment must be made that immediately rules out Clara Bauerle as Bella in the Wych Elm. The pathologist stated that Bella was 5 feet tall. Karel Richter, himself over 5'10" tall, noted that he recognized Clara because of her tallness. Clara was not 5 feet all and Clara Bauerle was therefore not Bella in the Wych Elm. So what happened to Clara Bauerle if she didn't end up stuffed in a tree in Hagley Wood? Why did she seem from disappear from the music scene in Germany? (next article)


Postscript (8 December 2014)
D.J. Cockburn has written a nice summary of the various theories around Bella in the Wych Elm - well worth a read.

Updates (18 July 2015)
A couple of blog postings with more recent news of my search for the ever-elusive Clara Bauerle

2015 02 23 - A Follow-up to Clara Bauerle and Bella in the Wych Elm
2015 07 17 - Update on the Elusive Clara Bauerle and Bella in the Wych Elm


References