30 June 2014

June 30, 1898 - Birth Date of Josef Jakobs


Happy Birthday Josef Jakobs!


On this date, 116 years ago, Josef Jakobs was born in Luxemburg City. His parents both had long German pedigrees and Josef too was a German citizen.

Form Letterhead for extract from Luxemburg Birth Records  (copyright G.K. Jakobs)
Form Letterhead for extract from Luxemburg Birth Records
(copyright G.K. Jakobs)
Luxemburg City was only a few dozen kilometres from the border with Germany and easily accessible from the ancient German city of Trier.

In 1941, Josef celebrated his 43rd birthday within the confines of Camp 020, the MI5 interrogation centre. It would be his last.

Map showing location of Luxemburg City (lower left) and Trier (upper right).  (from Google Maps.)
Map showing location of Luxemburg City (lower left) and Trier (upper right).
(from Google Maps.)

25 June 2014

Magazine Review - After the Battle Magazine - Volume 11

After the Battle Magazine - Volume 11
The Magazine
German Spies in Britain, After the Battle, volume 11, Battle of Britain Prints International Ltd., 1976.

Review

In 1976, After the Battle Magazine published an edition that featured on German Spies in Britain. The series of articles focused on World War II spies and fleshed out a lot of their stories. A two-page spread was devoted to Josef Jakobs.

The first edition of the magazine mistakenly indicated that Jakobs had landed in North Stifford, but that was corrected in a subsequent edition.

Given the fact that this edition was published decades before any of the MI5 files had been declassified, it represented quite an accomplishment for the editor-in-chief, Winston Ramsey. Naturally, given the lack of primary resources, some of the information is inaccurate, but on the whole, the article was very well done.

It turns out that Jakobs was not held in a cell at the Tower of London prior to his execution, but was held in Wandsworth Prison until the morning of his execution at the Tower. The account of the Catholic priest Fr. Josef Simmil never took place - Jakobs had access to military chaplain Fr. Griffiths who ministered to him from August 5 to 15. The execution took place on August 15 at 7:12 am (not August 14 at 12:12 pm).

The main coup of Winston Ramsey's was that he managed to discover where Jakobs was buried, in St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery in Kensal Green. Ramsey wrote to every cemetery in London before finally hitting pay-dirt. The two-page spread on Jakobs also included a picture of the chair in which he had been executed, and a picture of the lint circle that had been used as a target.

Summary
The article on Josef Jakobs is, on the whole, accurate and one of the better sources of information on Jakobs from the 1970s. Nigel West's book, MI5, drew heavily on information unearthed by After the Battle magazine.

Review Score
4.5 out of 5 - The piece on Jakobs is relatively accurate and includes original research which uncovered the final resting place of Jakobs.

20 June 2014

Book Review - Historical Dictionary of World War II Intelligence (2008) by Nigel West

Cover of Historical Dictionary  of World War II Intelligence.
Cover of Historical Dictionary
of World War II Intelligence.
The Book
Historical Dictionary of World War II Intelligence, Nigel West, Scarecrow Press, Lanham, Maryland, 2007.

Review
As the name indicates, this is dictionary style book that gives short summaries of various people and places related to World War II Intelligence. This style of book is generally a great reference resource, with a myriad number of short, topical extracts.

The section on Josef Jakobs has only a couple of minor errors. Despite that, the article is accurate and provides a connection with double-agent SNOW and demonstrates how newly-arrived spies were already expected by the British.
JAKOBS, Josef. A 43-year-old German dentist, Josef Jakobs was a parachute agent who landed in a potato field in Huntingdonshire on 1 February 1941 [Correction - He landed 31 January]. He was court-martialled in August 1941 and shot at the Tower of London 10 days later. His imminent arrival had been signaled to Arthur Owens, who had supplied the Abwehr with his cover name, "James Rymer", and other information that was found on his forged identity card. MI5 had been confident of catching "Rymer" because Owens had been instructed to make contact with him, but an unforeseen accident had wrecked the scheme. Jakobs had broken both ankles [Correction - He broke one ankle] when he hit the ground and had been arrested a few hours laters as he lay in agony beside his parachute. The circumstances of his capture near Ramsey were widely known in the neighbourhood, so there was considerable risk to employing him as a double agent. As a result, Jakobs became a prime candidate for prosecution.

Summary
The article on Josef Jakobs is necessarily short but brings forward a couple of lesser known points about Jakobs and his connection with double-agent SNOW (Arthur Owens). The article also provides an accurate reason for Jakobs' not being suitable as a double-agent - the public nature of his capture.

Review Score
4 out of 5 - The piece on Josef, while short, is accurate.

16 June 2014

Book Review - Historical Dictionary of British Intelligence by Nigel West (2014)

Cover image of Historical Dictionary of British Intelligence by Nigel West.
Cover image of Historical
Dictionary of British
Intelligence by Nigel West.
The Book
Historical Dictionary of British Intelligence (second edition), Nigel West, Scarecrow Press, Lanham, Maryland, 2014.

Review
As the name indicates, this is dictionary style book that gives short summaries of various people and places related to historical British Intelligence. The first edition was published in 2005. This style of book is generally a great reference resource, with a myriad number of short, topical extracts.

Unfortunately, the short section on Josef Jakobs contains some factual errors.
JAKOBS, JOSEF. The only German to be executed by a firing squad in the Tower of London during World War II, Josef Jakobs was an Abwehr spy who was arrested soon after he had parachuted into a field near Ramsay in Huntingdonshire in April 1942 [Correction - landed 31 January 1941]. He badly fractured his leg upon landing and, after an initial interview at Camp 020, was treated at Greenwich Hospital [Correction - treated at Dulwich Hospital].
Under interrogation, Jakobs revealed that he was a Wehrmacht officer [Correction - he claimed to be an officer during WWI but said he was a corporal during WWII] who had been decorated in World War I and subsequently had pursued a career as a dentist and typewriter salesman. He claimed to be part of an anti-Nazi organization in Germany and asserted that he had only accepted recruitment by the Abwehr in an effort to reach the United States. He admitted having been imprisoned in Switzerland before the war when caught in a financial fraud and acknowledged that he had embezzled funds from Jews desperate to emigrate.
Jakobs offered to cooperate with MI5 and, when confronted with Karel Richter, confirmed having met him in Hamburg while undergoing espionage training. Sentenced to death by a court-martial, Jakobs was shot on 14 August 1941 [Correction - Executed 15 August 1941].
Interestingly, elsewhere in the book, under Executions, the date of Jakobs' execution is correct, 15 August 1941.

Summary
The article on Josef Jakobs is necessarily short and it is unfortunate that it contains the errors that it does. The remainder of the book may be different.

Review Score
2 out of 5 - The piece on Josef, while short, is not all that accurate.


11 June 2014

The Tower of London's Shed of Death

During World War I and World War 2, a dozen German spies, including Josef Jakobs, were executed by firing squad at the Tower of London. Ten of the executions took place in the miniature rifle range and two took place in the Tower moat.

Constable Tower with a view of the carport which stands upon the location of the former miniature rifle range.
Constable Tower with a view of the carport which
stands upon the location of the former
miniature rifle range.
(Copyright 2012 G.K. Jakobs)
More than one Rifle Range?
When one hears of the miniature rifle range at the Tower of London, one naturally presumes that there was only one. The miniature rifle range to which everyone refers was located along the east side of the outer ward between Constable Tower and Martin Tower. It is a well known fact that this particular rifle range was torn down in 1969 and replaced by a pre-fabricated office building. The office building, in its turn, was eventually removed and replaced by a carport. If one peers over the inner wall of the Tower, and looks into the outer ward, one can just see the top of the carport.

But was there an earlier version of the rifle range? A few lines of evidence suggest that it was quite possible.

Photographic Evidence
The BBC ran a story about the WWI spies shot in the Tower and included two photographs of the rifle range which were very different.

The first photograph showed the traditional view of the rifle range. This picture shows a long, low building situated between the Constable Tower (left) and Martin Tower (right).
Miniature Rifle Range between Constable Tower (left) and Martin Tower (right).
Miniature Rifle Range between Constable Tower (left)
and Martin Tower (right).
 The second photograph showed a long shed with open windows and also claimed to be a photograph of the rifle range, taken in 1910. The difference in years not withstanding, the two sheds were clearly not the same. The shed with the open windows (below) was situated between the Bowyer Tower and the Flint Tower, along the north side of the outer ward. Was this shed the original rifle range?

The shed located between Bowyer Tower (left) and Flint Tower (off screen to the right).
The shed located between Bowyer Tower (left) and
Flint Tower (off screen to the right).
The same shed located between Bowyer Tower (left) and Flint Tower (middle of photo).
The same shed located between Bowyer Tower (left) and
Flint Tower (middle of photo).


Documentary Evidence
While researching this piece, I came across a file at the National Archives which was quite intriguing. Folio WORK 31/813 contains one sheet of paper, a drawing relating to the the Tower of London with "plan, section and elevation of proposed miniature rifle range". The file was dated 19 July 1915.
Screen clip or WORK 31/813 folio from National Archives website.
Screen clip or WORK 31/813 folio from National Archives website.

Could it be that in mid-1915, a new miniature rifle range was constructed at the Tower of London? The document would seem to suggest that something of the sort was being planned that year.

Historical Evidence
Tower of London map showing location of shed from 1910 and Miniature Rifle Range.
Tower of London map showing location of
shed from 1910 and Miniature Rifle Range.
Interestingly enough, during the summer months of 1915, three German spies were not executed in the miniature rifle range.

Robert Rosenthal, having been held at the Tower in June of that year, was transferred to Wandsworth Prison and eventually hanged there on 15 July. He was the only spy during WWI to be hanged rather than shot.

Two other spies, Janssen and Roos, were executed by firing squad on 30 July, but they were shot in the Tower ditch, not in the rifle range.

Thus, there was a period of almost two and a half months, from 23 June (when Muller was executed) to 10 September (when Melin was executed), during which a new miniature rifle range could have been constructed within the outer ward.




Miniature Rifle Range
The miniature rifle range, in which most of the spies were executed, no longer exists. All that remains are photographs and memories.

Several photographs exist of the exterior of the rifle range. The one below shows the larger context of its location in the eastern outer ward, with Tower Bridge visible in the distance.
Miniature Rifle Range (exterior) (dated 1914-1916).
Miniature Rifle Range (exterior) (dated 1914-1916).
From Imperial War Museum - Fair Use policy.
A few photographs of the interior of the sinister building also exist.

Miniature Rifle Range (interior) (dated 1914-1916).
Miniature Rifle Range (interior) (dated 1914-1916).
From Imperial War Museum - Fair Use policy.
Interestingly, along the back of the rifle range, where the targets (numbered 1-4) were located, one can see several wooden planks or boards below the numbers written on the wall.
Miniature Rifle Range (interior) (dated 1914-1916).
Miniature Rifle Range (interior) (dated 1914-1916).
From Imperial War Museum - Fair Use policy.

Those same boards are visible in a picture of the chair used for the execution of the World War I spies. The chair was lost to history, although one rumour stated that it was broken up and sold at a local pub.
Chair used for the execution of World War I spies.
Chair used for the execution of World War I spies.
(From German Spies at Bay - public domain).





Conclusion
While the miniature rifle range has long disappeared from the precincts of the Tower of London, its memory looms large. Whether there was one rifle range, or two, a dozen spies forfeited their lives during the two world wars.

References
German Spies at Bay, Sidney Theodore Felstead, 1920.
Shot in the Tower, Leonard Sellers, 1997.

06 June 2014

The Smoking Accessories of German Spy Josef Jakobs

Upon his capture near Ramsey, Huntingdonshire on 1 February, 1941, Josef Jakobs was found with several smoking accessories in his possession. One of the Home Guard volunteers who found Jakobs said that he was surrounded by used cigarette butts (about 30) and that his lighter was empty. During his imprisonment at Camp 020, the British interrogation centre, Jakobs requested an increase in his cigarette ration as 10 cigarettes a day was not enough for him. Clearly he was a heavy smoker.


Example of a Cordon Rouge cigarette tin from A. Batschari Company.
Example of a Cordon Rouge cigarette tin from
A. Batschari Company.
Packet of Cigarettes
Jakobs was carrying a packet of Cordon Rouge cigarettes. The packet contained 20 cigarettes and was marked American Blend (No. 3525).


Cordon Rouge simply means Red Ribbon and is most commonly associated with Cordon Rouge champagne and Cordon Rouge Grand Marnier.

There was cigarette manufacturer in Germany who manufactured a Cordon Rouge brand of cigarettes, A. Batschari. The company was based in Baden-Baden and operated from 1834 until World War 2. There are very few pictures of Batschari cigarette cases and it is conceivable that they also made an American Blend version.


Leather Cigarette Case
Red leather ZEKA WETTIG GEDER cigarette case advertised on Ebay.
Red leather ZEKA WETTIG GEDER
cigarette case advertised on Ebay.
Jakobs was also carrying a leather cigarette case marked ZEKA WETTIG GEDER.

Several years ago, a reddish leather cigarette case, from ZEKA, was listed for sale on Ebay in Singapore.

Another leather case, slightly different in style from the first one was recently listed on the UK Ebay site.


Black leather ZEKA WETTIG GEDER  cigarette case advertised on Ebay.
Black leather ZEKA WETTIG GEDER
cigarette case advertised on Ebay.
Cigarette cases were quite popular with soldiers during the war. The wear and tear on cigarettes in paper packets could be quite heavy and so many soldiers carried their cigarettes in leather or metal cigarette holders which offered more protection.

Jakobs' leather cigarette holder is lost to history. He may have given it away to one of the witnesses at his trial (perhaps one of the farmers or Home Guard soldiers) or passed it along to one of his Military Police guards.

Cigarette Holder
Cigarette holders were fashion accessories in the early to mid 1900s. They were considered an essential part of lady’s fashion, although men used them as well (e.g. Noel Coward, Franklin D. Roosevelt). The cigarette holder could be made of silver, jade or even Bakelite and came in different lengths, suitable for different occasions:
  • opera length - 16-20 inches
  • theatre length - 10-14 inches
  • dinner length - 4 to 6 inches
  • cocktail length - shorter holders

An example of a shorter cigarette holder.
An example of a shorter cigarette holder.
Cigarette holders were also practically useful. In the days before cigarettes contained built-in filters (pre-1960s), the cigarette holder contained a filter. Plus, a cigarette holder would prevent nicotine staining on the fingers.

There was no description of Josef’s cigarette holder or of its length or composition. It too was lost to history.

Automatic Lighter


An example of a Karl Wieden lighter showing the initials KW on the base
An example of a Karl Wieden lighter showing the
initials KW on the base.
Jakobs also had an automatic lighter in his possession which was marked KW on the bottom. After much speculation as to the meaning of those initials, the MI5 officers eventually concluded that the letters were simply a trademark of the manufacturer, Karl Wieden.

Karl Wieden was a German company based in Solingen that manufactured lighters from 1905 to 1980.  The trademark initials of the company were KW, later becoming KAWEE. Those initials were often inscribed on the bottom of Karl Wieden lighters. 

Jakobs may have given his lighter to one of the witnesses at his court martial or to one of the military police guards. It too was lost to history.

References

National Archives, Security Service Files - Josef Jakobs - KV 2/24, KV 2/25.

02 June 2014

Mystery Tablets found on German Spy Josef Jakobs

When Josef Jakobs was captured near the village of Ramsey on 1 February, 1941, several tablets (pills) were found in his possession. The British Security Service (MI5) thought that they might be useful for secret writing. Jakobs denied this and said that the pills in his possession were codeine and aceticone (both useful for coughs) and pervitin (to help one stay awake).

On 5 February, an MI5 officer sent the tablets to Lord Rothschild of B1C who was in charge of the Explosives and Sabotage section. Rothschild forwarded the tablets to the National Institute for Medical Research in Hampstead, London where they were tested. Later, on 25 April, 1941, the tablets (slightly reduced in number) were sent to the Scientific section of the General Post Office for additional testing by H.L. Smith esq.

Group 1 Tablets
The first set of tablets were contained within a small aluminium screw-capped tube (3.6 cm long and 1.1 cm in diameter). The tube held 25 small white tablets and 2 slightly larger, heavier white tablets cross-marked to facilitate partition into quarters. The February tests concluded that the tablets were a cerebral stimulant similar to Benzedrine, which could be used to keep someone awake. The tablets had been ground up, diluted in water and injected into mice. The mice went into a state of excitement for several hours, a reaction that was similar to what happened when they were injected with  Methedrine hydrochloride. Further tests indicated that the tablets were N-methylbenzedrine. The April tests concluded that the the tablets were mostly sugar but included a non-alkaloid substance such as strychine, none of which would be useful in keeping one awake.

Tube of Pervetin circa 1940.
Tube of Pervitin circa 1940
Jakobs had said that one set of tablets was Pervitin (Methedrine) to help one stay awake. Both Benzedrine and Methedrine are amphetimines. Methedrine is actually a methamphetamine and is commonly known as “speed” today. In low doses, Methedrine increases self-confidence, concentration and the willingness to take risks, while at the same time reducing sensitivity to pain, hunger and thirst, as well as reducing the need for sleep. Methedrine was given to German soldiers to increase their alertness, while the Americans favoured Benzedrine.

Group 2 Tablets
The second group of tablets were contained within a torn wrapper with red printing (W.S.P.XI ) and included three white tablets and a portion of a fourth. Both the February and April tests concluded that these tablets contained codeine and phosphate and could be used for coughs.

Jakobs said that one set of tablets was codeine, a cough cure. Codeine phosphate is an opioid and a mild pain killer. It can also be used as a cough suppressant and to treat diarrhoea.

Group 3 Tablets
The third group of tablets were contained within a wrapper of grease-proof paper with black printing (V.Z.). The five grey tablets were of obviously heterogeneous composition. Both the February and April tests concluded that the tablets contained sugar, ammonium chloride and a vegetable extract (possibly liquorice)--and would be useful for coughs.

Packet of Acedicon ("Half a tablet of Acedicon is enough even for a strong cough").
Packet of Acedicon ("Half a tablet of Acedicon is enough
even for a strong cough").
Jakobs said that the third group of pills were Aceticone – most likely a mis-spelling of Acedicon (sounds the same) - trade name of the drug Thebacon. Acedicone is a hydrochloride salt (such as ammonium chloride) used as a expectorant in cough medicine.

Conclusion of Tests
The scientists concluded that none of the tablets contained a secret writing compound and, in fact, contained too much sugar and starch to make them suitable for secret writing.

It turned out that Jakobs was carrying genuine medicine which would not be used for secret writing.




References

National Archives, Security Service files - Josef Jakobs - KV 2/24, KV 2/25.