23 July 2014

Josef Jakobs - A Victim of the Treachery Act - Part 3

During World War II, several individuals were charged under the Treachery Act. The vast majority of them were found guilty and executed. A few escaped with their lives.

Remember that during the House of Commons discussion on May 22, 1940, the Members of Parliament were told that the Treachery Act would only be applied in serious and grave cases of espionage and sabotage. They were also reassured that the death penalty was not necessarily a given as offenders could be charged jointly under the Treachery Act and the Defence Regulations (2A & 2B).

The First Four Spies
In early September 1940, four spies landed from two rowboats along the Kent coast. All four were quickly captured, imprisoned and eventually charged under the Treachery Act. They were tried in a civilian court in late November 1940. Their circumstances were all slightly different.

Jose Waldberg (German) had managed to set up his transmitter on the beach and actually sent a message back to Germany. He was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.

Karl Meier (Dutch) and Charles Van der Kieboom (Dutch) both hid their transmitter gear but did nothing else. Both were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.

Sjoerd Pons (Dutch) did not hide his gear. He claimed at his trial that the Gestapo had threatened to harm his father if he did not take on the mission. The jury acquitted Sjord. He was interned for the duration of the war under Defence Regulation 18B.

The Housewife from the Isle of Wight
Dorothy P. O'Grady from Daily Mail
Dorothy P. O'Grady from Daily Mail
Dorothy O'Grady (British) was a housewife on the Isle of Wight whose husband was training firefighters in London. In the fall of 1940, Dorothy trespassed on various Wight beaches so her dog could swim the ocean. She was also found to have sketched the coastline and suspected of cutting telegraph wires. She was charged under the Treachery Act and the Defence Regulations (2A & 2B). Although she had made no contact with the Germans, nor had any means to do so (i.e. radio transmitter or secret ink), the civil court found her guilty and sentenced her to death. He lawyer appealed the verdict and in February 1941, the Treachery Act conviction was overturned and Dorothy was sentenced to 14 years in prison under the Defence Regulations.

She later claimed that it was all a big game and that she was pretending to be a spy. One researcher has suggested Dorothy had mental health problems.

The First Briton Executed

George Johnson Armstrong (British) was a marine engineer who, in 1940, wrote a letter to the German Consul in Boston, offering to help the Germans. He was arrested in Boston and deported to England where he was charged under the Treachery Act. George was found guilty in May 1941 and sentenced to death by hanging.

Port Gordon Spies
Vera Erikson (from PortGordon website)
Vera Erikson
(from PortGordon website)
In late September, three spies disembarked from a German flying boat off the coast of Scotland and rowed ashore in a dinghy. Robert Petter (alias Werner Waelti - German), Vera Erikson (various aliases - Danish?) and Karl Druecke (alais Francois de Deeker - German) were to have cycled to London but their bikes had been swept overboard in the choppy seas. Vera and Karl walked to Port Gordon to catch a train where they were quickly apprehended. Robert walked to Buckie and managed to catch a train to Edinburgh, where he was promptly arrested. Robert and Karl were charged under the Treachery Act, found guilty at their civil trial in mid June 1941 and hanged.

Vera, for some mysterious reason, was not charged. She spent the remainder of the war in prison and then disappeared.

British Fascists
Norah Briscoe and Gertrude Hiscox (both British) were enamoured with Nazi Germany. They joined a group of far right facist extremists in Britain. Norah worked in the Ministry of Supply and, in early 1941, stole sensitive documents which she showed to her landlady, Gertrude. A meeting was set up with a supposed German spy in what was actually an MI5 sting operation. Both women were arrested and charged under the Treachery Act and the Defence Regulations (2A & 2B). At their civil trial in mid June 1941, the prosecution inexplicably withdrew the Treachery Act charges. The lawyer for the two women convinced the court that they were deluded and deranged. They were sentenced to five years imprisonment under the Defence Regulations.

The Man who Fought
Karel Richter was a Sudeten German who landed near London Colney in May 1941. He hid his equipment, but did nothing else and was arrested a few days later. He was charged under the Treachery Act, found guilty and hanged in December 1941, after a struggle with Albert Pierrepoint, the executioner.

Briton on the Rock
Jose E. Keys was a British subject from Gibralter. He had planned to report to the Germans on Allied shipping movements. He was charged under the Treachery Act and found guilty in May 1942. He was hanged.

Secret Writer
Alphons L.E. Timmerman (Belgian) was trying to enter the United Kingdom as a Belgian refugee when he was found to have secret writing ingredients on his person: an envelope containing white powder, a bunch of orange sticks and a piece of cotton wool. He was charged under the Treachery Act and found guilty in May 1942. He was hanged.

Duncan Scott-Ford
(from Wikipedia)
Blackmailed
Duncan A.C. Scott-Ford (British) was a Merchant Navy seaman who was blackmailed into reporting on shipping movements for the Germans. He was charged under the Treachery Act and found guilty in October 1942. He was hanged.

A Refugee from Nazism

Johannes M. Dronkers (Dutch) and two Dutch refugees landed in England from a small yacht in May 1941. While the other two could give convincing refugee stories, Dronkers was so hysterical, nothing he said made sense. He was charged under the Treachery Act and found guilt in mid December 1942. He was hanged.

Another Refugee

Franciscus J. Winter (Belgian) arrived in England as a supposed refugee in July 1942. His story was not believed and he eventually admitted that the German Secret Service had asked him to spy on convoys and send information back to an address in a neutral country. He was charged under the Treachery Act and found guilty in December 1942. He was hanged.

Portuguese Mystery
Rogerio de Magalhaes Peixto de Menezes (Portuguese) was charged under the Treachery Act, found guilty and sentenced to death in March 1943. His sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life. Then, through an act of Cabinet, he was reprieved and eventually deported to Portugal. His trial files are closed until 2025.

Secret Letters Sent
Oswald John Job (British) had been interned in France under the Germans. He escaped (was released?) and made his way to England. Soon, Postal Censorship noticed strange letters going to Oswald's former internment camp in France. He was visited by investigators who found secret ink & ciphers in his possession. He claimed that he took on the mission in order to escape the internment camp. Oswald was charged under the Treachery Act and found guilty in March 1944. He was hanged.

Eye on Shipping
Pierre R.C. Neukermans (Belgian) was a refugee who arrived in Britain in 1943. Several months later, when confronted by investigators, he admitted that he had reported on convoy shipping to the Germans. He was charged under the Treachery Act and found guilty in June 1944. He was hanged.

Eye on Aerodromes
Joseph J. Van Hove (Belgian) had spied on French and Belgian workers employed by the Germans. He was sent to England by the Germans in February 1944. He was immediately arrested and charged under the Treachery Act and found guilty in July 1944. He was hanged.

Traitorous Soldier
Private Theodore J.W. Schurch (British) was court martialed in January 1946. He had apparently reported information to the Germans while stationed in northern Africa in 1942 and 1943. Theodore was charged under the Treachery Act and found guilty. He was hanged.

Conclusion
In total, 16 people were executed under the Treachery Act (including Josef Jakobs - whose case will be discussed in the next post). Were their offences of a grave and serious nature? Clearly the Prosecutor's office thought so. Four women managed to escape with their lives, three of them because they were charged jointly under the Defence Regulations and the Treachery Act and one (Vera Erikson) for mysterious reasons. The crime of some of these people were that they arrived in Britain via irregular means (parachute or boat) equipped with spy gear. Despite the fact that they had had no opportunity to spy, they were sentenced to death. It all came down to their "intent". As some of the MPs in the House of Commons had noted, determing "intent" was a slippery slope. Sixteen people slid down that slope. Interestingly, an even greater number of potential spies and saboteurs were simply interned for the remainder of the war. Why were these sixteen charged and executed and so many others were not? A very good question to which there does not seem to be a good answer. Political expediency? Protecting the Double-Cross system?

Next up - a look at Josef Jakobs and how he was charged under the Treachery Act.

References
Stephen Stratford website
Wikipedia
National Archives - files on various spies

18 July 2014

Josef Jakobs - A Victim of the Treachery Act - Part 2

Old House of Commons - was destroyed by German bombs in 1941 (from Wikipedia)
Old House of Commons - was destroyed by
German bombs in 1941 (from Wikipedia)
Josef Jakobs was charged under the Treachery Act of 1940. Prior to its promulgation, suspected spies and saboteurs could be charged under the Official Secrets Act or the Defence Regulations, neither of which offered the death penalty as a punishment.

On May 22 and May 23, the Treachery Act bill was rushed through the House of Commons and the House of Lords before receiving Royal Assent.

Treachery Act in the House of Commons, May 22, 1940
When the House of Commons was presented with the Treachery Act on 22 May, 1940, there was a fair amount of discussion surrounding its implementation. While the vast majority of MPs supported the implementation of the Act, there were several MPs who had concerns about the Act and raised their voices in courageous protest.

Eleanor Rathbone
Eleanor Rathbone
Miss Eleanor Rathbone (Combined English Universities) questioned the mandatory death sentence. She wanted to know what would happen if the prisoner was found guilty of an offence that was not so serious. Would the prisoner be sentenced to death or would they be acquitted because there was no possibility of a lesser penalty.

Sir John Anderson (from Wikipedia)
Sir John Anderson
(from Wikipedia)
Sir John Anderson (Secretary of State for the Home Department) replied that, in order to be charged under the Treachery Act, the offence would have to be of a grievous description, including grievous cases of sabotage. He also noted that under the Defence Regulations, there was provision, which they did not propose to abrogate, in Regulations 2A and 2B for dealing with acts done with intent to assist the enemy and with acts of sabotage. According to Anderson it would be possible for the court to charge the person jointly under the Defence Regulations and the Treachery Act. The court might then come to the conclusion that only a lesser case of treachery applied, as contemplated by Defence Regulation 2A and 2B and therefore impose the penalty provided under those regulations. The maximum penalty under 2A was imprisonment up to penal servitude for life and a fine. Under Defence Regulation 2B (sabotage), the penalty was penal servitude for a period not exceeding 14 years and/or a fine not exceeding £500.

Defence Regulation 2A dealt with "an act likely to assist the enemy or prejudice the public safety or the defence of the Realm or the efficient prosecution of the war". If a person were convicted of that he would suffere penal servitude for life.


George Benson (from National Portrait Gallery)
George Benson
(from National Portrait Gallery)
Mr. George Benson (MP for Chesterfield) stated that "the death penalty is morally repugnant to a very large number of people, of whom I am one, and I do not feel I can allow the Bill to go through without making a protest". He made the point that one could not measure what someone "deserved" in terms of a penalty. A century previously, a man deserved death if he stole a sheep. In his opinion, deserts were not inherent in the offender or the offence but were subjective judgements. Benson went on to say that "I feel passionately that the death penalty is beneath the honour and dignity of a great and civilised community, and it is for that reason, and that reason alone, that I oppose the Bill".Benson noted that the death penalty did not act as a deterrent. Studies had shown that beyond a certain point, the severity of the punishment did nothing to increase the deterrent effect.


Sir Ralph Glyn (from the Peerage)
Sir Ralph Glyn
(from the Peerage)
Sir Ralph Glyn (MP for Abingdon) noted that the Act was only for grave acts and wondered if more definition would be given as to what constituted a grave act. There was no response to the implicit question.

Mr. Thomas Edmund Harvey (Combined English Universities) was opposed to the death penalty and asked the House to consider not merely the question of principle but the question of expediency. Executing enemy aliens could lead to hard feelings between the two countries at a later date. The second problem with the death penalty was its irrevocability. According to the Treachery Act, the intention of the offender was of primary importance. How could any court make a perfect judgement as to intention? In most cases, intention could only be inferred by a process of reasoning deduced from acts. Mistakes might be made that might only come to light afterwards. If the death penalty was inflicted, there was no possibility of redress. Harvey agreed that severe measures should be taken but suggested that the Treachery Act should be amended to included a clause that would allow the court to impose a very long sentence of imprisonment. He didn't like idea of charging a person jointly under the Defence Regulations and Treachery Act but much preferred giving an option to the court in the Act itself.

Mr. James Barr (MP for Coatbridge) had sat on the Select Committee on Capital Punishment in 1930 which considered the question of capital punishment in cases tried by civil courts in times of peace. They concluded that the death penalty was not a deterrent. If the death penalty was not a deterrent in peace time, then it could not be a deterrent in war-time.

Major Milner noted that it was not essential in every case, after a verdict of "guilty" that the death penalty should necessarily be inflicted. "I am aware that this is the law at present in regard to murder, and indeed in regard to treason and one or two other offences, but the Home Secretary pointed out that it would be competent for the Attorney-General so to conduct a prosecution as to join other and lesser offences with those constituting the charge under the Bill. In that way, a loophole would be found whereby, in less serious cases of offences coming under the Bill, it would be possible for the court to award a less penalty than death.

Lt. Col. Sir William Allen (from National Portrait Gallery)
Lt. Col. Sir William Allen
(from National Portrait
Gallery
)
Mr. Samuel Silverman (MP for Nelson and Colne) had his doubts about the bill regarding the wording "with intent to help the enemy". That would be the first thing that the prosecution would have to prove and the onus would lie upon the prosecution. He wondered if there was not a legal rule that the court might infer intention, in which case all the prosecution would have to say would be "I cannot prove any actual intention positively, but I can and I do prove that it is a reasonable consequence of this act that it will have this effect; as every man is presumed to intend reasonable consequences I have proved reasonable consequences, and I have therefore proved the intent." The Attorney General did not think that there was any such danger and that the burden was on the prosecution to convince the jury.

Lt. Col. Sir William Allen (MP for Armagh) had a question regarding the use of the court martial since he had seen courts martial in which not a single person had any knowledge of the law. The Judge Advocate General might be neither a judge, nor an advocate, nor a general. He requested that at least some one person on the court martial panel should have some knowledge of the law.

A Proposed Amendment
Thomas Edmund Harvey (from NationalPortrait Gallery)
Thomas Edmund Harvey
(from NationalPortrait Gallery)
After the second reading, Mr. Thomas Harvey (Combined English Universities) moved that the following clause be added to the penalty of death--"or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 20 years". This would give the court an option for punishment. Otherwise, if the prisoner was not charged jointly under the Defence Regulations and the Treachery Act, but only under the Treachery Act, then there was really only recourse to the death penalty. Mr. Cecil Wilson (MP for Sheffield, Attercliffe) supported the amendment. Mr. George Muff (MP for Hull, East) also supported the amendment and that the punishment should fit the crime.

Osbert Peake (from Ebay)
Osbert Peake (from Ebay)
Mr. Osbert Peake, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department did not advise the House of Commons to accept the amendment. The Treachery Act was designed to deal only with the most serious cases of the base crime of treachery. Less serious case either of sabotage or espionage, or acts done with intent to assist the enemy, could be dealt with under Defence Regulations (2A and 2B). The Treachery Act was only ever intended to deal with cases of the most serious character. Unless there was the clearest possible evidence of all the most serious elements of the charge, undoubtedly the prosecution would join the more serious charge with lesser charges under the Defence Regulations. For him, the real argument against accepting the Amendment was that it would be contrary to British judicial procedure and tradition to give any alternative to the death penalty and to place a judge in the position of having to choose which punishment. The Treachery Act was designed to meet only the most serious cases imaginable. If the charge was not of that character, other charges could be joined for which smaller penalties were provided under the Defence Regulations. There was, of course, always the preogative of mercy which could be exercised by the Crown.

The amendment was rejected.

Conclusion
From the above discussion it is clear that the Treachery Act was meant to be applied in "the most serious cases of the base crime of treachery. Less serious cases of sabotage, espionage, or acts done with intent to help the enemy could be prosecuted under the existing Defence Regulations (2A & 2B). The Treachery Act's only punishment was a sentence of death. Thus, instead of giving the judge a choice between death and penal servitude, the choice was simply passed up the line to the Prosecutor. That person would get to decide whether or not a person should be charged jointly under the Treachery Act & the Defence Regulations, allowing a possible sentence of imprisonment or solely under the Treachery Act, with death being the only option upon conviction.

Several MPs had questions about the language of the act and its use of the word "intent", with good reason. The intent of a person is virtually impossible to decide with any certainty. As we shall see in the next posting when we take a look at some of the people convicted under the Treachery Act.

References
Treachery Act, 1940 - the text of the Act
House of Commons, May 22, 1940 - second reading of Treachery Act
House of Lords, May 23, 1940 - passage of Treachery Act

14 July 2014

Josef Jakobs: A Victim of the Treachery Act, 1940 - Part 1

German spy Josef Jakobs was charged under the Treachery Act, 1940, tried by court martial and executed by firing squad on 15 August 1941. In total, 16 spies were executed within England during World War 2 under the Treachery Act, yet many others were spared. What was the Treachery Act and how did it come to pass?

Emergency Powers (Defence) Bill
In August 1939, with war looming on the horizon, Britain passed the Emergency Powers (Defence) Bill. The Bill allowed the government to do whatever it felt was necessary to pursue the war effectively on the Home Front.

A Loop-Hole
The Bill did not include any provision for the death penalty should anyone breach the Defence Regulations with intent to assist the enemy. At the time, it was thought that any such acts could best be dealt with under the Treason Act of 1351. It was only later that the government decided that the Treason Act was far too antiquated and cumbersome to handle potential espionage or sabotage cases in the modern war (although the traitor William Joyce (Lord Haw Haw) was later prosecuted under the Treason Act). In addition, the Treason Act only applied to British citizens and resident aliens who owed allegiance to the King. The government realized that it was doubtful if the Treason Act could be applied to an alien who had come to England surreptitiously for such a person did not owe allegiance to the Crown. But the deficiencies in the Defence Regulations was only recognized in May 1940.

Treachery Act, 1940
Winston Churchill (from Wikipedia)
Winston Churchill (from Wikipedia)
In mid May, the British Army and its allies had their breath taken away by the lightening fast advance of the German Army as it invaded the Low Countries (and eventually France). Dismayed by the speed and ease with which the Germans moved through Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, many British politicians speculated that there must have been an active Fifth Column within those countries that helped the German invasion. The Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, was not seen as an effective wartime leader and resigned. He was replaced by Winston Churchill who was appointed Prime Minister by King George VI. Churchill was a far more formidable opponent for Germany.


Faced with the possibility of a German invasion of the British Isles, the British Government quickly drew up the Treachery Act to handle Fifth Column activities, sabotage and potential legions of espionage agents. On 22 May, 1940, the Treachery Act sped through the House of Commons, going through all readings and being passed on to the House of Lords. On 23 May, the House of Lords passed the Act within a few minutes and sent it on to the King who gave Royal Assent that same evening. The Treachery Act "was the creation of a Parliament of a free nation superbly determined, in any extremity of circumstances, to defend its liberties and its life." (Modern Law Review, p. 218)

The overall gist of the Treachery Act was simple - if someone did something with intent to help the enemy, then they would be prosecuted and, if found guilty, be punished with death.

Commission of an act
"If, with intent to help the enemy, any person does, or attempts or conspires with any other person to do, any act which is designed or likely to give assistance to the naval, military or air operations of the enemy, to impede such operations of His Majesty’s forces, or to endanger life, he shall be guilty of felony and shall on conviction suffer death."

Prosecution
Prosecution of the act could happen through civil court or court martial. Court martials could be used for an enemy alien, in other words, for a person who was a citizen of a country at war with Britain.

Punishment
British Firing Squad (from Michael Collins page on Internet Movie Firearms Database website)
British Firing Squad (from Michael Collins page
on Internet Movie Firearms Database website
)
If found guilty of the offence, the accused was to be punished as if they had been convicted of murder--the sentence was to be death. Generally the method of execution was death by hanging but if the Secretary of State decided that, at the time of the offence, the person had been a member of the armed forces (of the Crown or of any other foreign power, including the enemy), then death could be by firing squad.



Capital Punishment in the United Kingdom
The imposition of the death penalty in the Treachery Act was an interesting development in Britain. For over 125 years prior to 1940, Britain had been moving in the direction of doing away with the death penalty. In 1808, Samuel Romilly introduced reforms to reduce the number of offences (220 at its height) for which the death penalty could be imposed. No longer could one be sentenced to death for pickpocketing or hanging around with gypsies for a month. In 1823, Parliament abolished the death penalty for letter-stealing and sacrilege, among other things. That same year, judges could commute the death penalty for all offences except murder and treason. In 1861, the list of capital crimes was reduced to murder, treason, espionage, arson in royal dockyards and piracy with violence. The mandatory punishment for murder was death by hanging although the Home Secretary could commute the sentence of one of life imprisonment.

In 1938, the House of Commons held a vote that called for legislation to abolish hanging in peacetime for a five-year experiment. When war broke out in 1939, the experiment was postponed. The stress of war and the struggle for national independence meant that Britain took a step backwards in regards to capital punishment.

Opposition to the Treachery Act, 1940
The Treachery Act was hustled through British Parliament in the space of two days, culminating with Royal Assent. Despite the speed with which it went through Parliament, there were some politicians who courageously spoke up and questioned the necessity for such an act and the use of the death penalty.

In the next post, on Friday, we'll take a look at what concerns were brought up by Members of Parliament.


References
Treachery Act, 1940 - the text of the Act

09 July 2014

Book Review - Camp 020 by Col Robin Stephens, editted by Oliver Hoare


Camp 020: MI5 and the Nazi Spies (book cover)
Camp 020: MI5 and the Nazi Spies
(book cover)
The Book
Camp 020: MI5 and the Nazi Spies, Lt Col. R.W.G. Stephens, introduced and edited by Oliver Hoare, Public Record Office, 2000.

Review
This book might not be what you would expect, in that it is not a "book" per se. In the 1990s, MI5 declassified a document entitled A Digest of Ham written by Lt. Col. R.W.G. Stephens, the former commandant of Ham (a.k.a. Camp 020). The document forms the core of this book, prefaced by an introduction to World War II espionage and the Double Cross system by Oliver Hoare. While the introduction is quite readable, the document by Stephens is sometimes a challenge, particularly the section on case histories. After a while, all of the case histories begin to sound the same. Part of the challenge is Stephens' unique writing style. Stephens was known as a ferocious, xenophobic interrogator with a flair for the dramatic. His comments about Camp 020 inmates are liberally peppered with exaggerations and prejudices. Stephens wrote the document after World War II and apparently had access to the summary sheets of the inmates, along with his own memory.

Lt Col. Robin W.G. Stephens Commandant of WWII Camp 020
Lt Col. Robin W.G. Stephens
Commandant of WWII Camp 020
One of the case histories that Stephens presented was that of German Spy Josef Jakobs. Even before we get to the section on Jakobs, Stephens mentioned him several time and noted that he was a brave man who told his firing squad to "shoot straight Tommys". In summarizing the case history of Jakobs, Stephens referred to Jakobs as a "doughty opponent" who was "shrewd and courageous". In Stephen's opinion, Jakobs volunteered little useful information and only opened up when it was clear that MI5 already knew certain things about the Abwehr and/or other spies. It is interesting to compare Stephen's assessment of how Jakobs helped MI5 break fellow spy Karel Richter with the actual MI5 case files held at the National Archives. Within those files, Stephens made it clear that without Jakobs it was doubtful if Richter would have been broken. Yet here in the Camp 020 book, Stephens glosses over that contribution of Jakobs.

Summary
Keeping in mind Stephens' predilections for dramatic flair, one does get a slightly different perspective on the case of Josef Jakobs. Stephens, who was disgusted by the craven cowardice of so many of the spies, was impressed with the courage and bravery of Jakobs.

Review Score
3.5 out of 5 - The piece on Jakobs is relatively accurate and makes for an interesting read.

04 July 2014

Film Review (Part 2) - Tales from the Tower (2001) by Ardent Productions

Film Review (Part 2) - Tales from the Tower (2001) by Ardent ProductionsThe Film
Tales from the Tower was released in 2001 by Ardent Productions, a film company based in England. It was produced for the American market and aired on The Learning Channel.

Producers: Robin Bextor, Edward Wessex (also known as Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex), Larry Lamb and Peter Koper.

Directors: Paul Bryers and Robin Bextor.

Writers: Daniel Diehl and Mark P. Donnelly (who later published a book with the same title in 2004).

N.B. This video should not be confused with the National Geographic production, Bloody Tales from the Tower, released in 2012, which was an excellent production.


Review
For the transcript and video, please go here.


The section on Jakobs was about 15 minutes long, and from start to finish, was exceedingly aggravating to watch. Inaccuracies abounded, and the entire account was fictionalized and dramatized so as to be virtually unrecognizable from historical fact. While the MI5 interrogation files had not yet been released at the time that the video was produced, the court martial documents and other references were available to the producers and writers.

The video began by narrating a supposed encounter that took place in 1991 between a Beefeater (Tower Warder) and the middle-aged daughter of Josef Jakobs. The only daughter of Jakobs died in 1946. It was one of the grand-daughters of Jakobs who visited the Tower in 1991 in the company of reputable military historians. The conversation with the Beefeater described in the video was pure fiction.

According to the video, Jakobs landed by parachute in a semi-wooded area with a broken ankle that, according to the video narration, was an "immobilizing injury". Despite the injury, the video showed Jakobs hobbling around the countryside, brandishing his firearm at a farm wife and chasing her through a mature forest before finally returning to his landing site.

The video condensed Jakobs' time in England drastically and made it appear as if he was captured, court martialled and executed in rapid succession, if not on the same day. In actual fact, Jakobs landed on 31 January 1941, and was executed almost 8 months later on 15 August, 1941. The accelerated timeline in the video was apparently deemed necessary to explain why Jakobs was seated in a chair for his execution - because he was unable to stand due to his broken ankle. In actual fact, all of the German spies executed by firing squad during World War I were seated in a chair as well - it was simply standard procedure.

All of the scenes from the Jakobs re-enactment were clearly shot in a rural area with access to some farm buildings. Even the scene purportedly depicting the execution at the Tower was filmed in a farm shed.

Finally, Jakobs was 43 years old when he was executed, however the actor who portrayed him looked to be in his early 60s.

Beyond these glaring errors, there are too many inaccuracies to count or review - e.g. he was conscious when he was found, not unconscious; he was found by two farmers, not one; he was taken by horse and cart to Ramsey Police Station, not by a jeep to a tribunal; etc.

Summary
The segment on Josef Jakobs from Tales from the Tower was ludicrously inaccurate and highly fictionalized. History can be made interesting while remaining faithful to the facts and avoiding the creation of fictitious drama.

Review Score
0/5 - This video segment has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

Film Review (Part 1) - Tales from the Tower (2001) by Ardent Productions

Film Review (Part 1) - Tales from the Tower (2001) by Ardent ProductionsThe Film
Tales from the Tower was released in 2001 by Ardent Productions, a film company based in England. It was produced for the American market and aired on The Learning Channel.

Producers: Robin Bextor, Edward Wessex (also known as Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex), Larry Lamb and Peter Koper.


Directors: Paul Bryers and Robin Bextor.

Writers: Daniel Diehl and Mark P. Donnelly (who later published a book with the same title in 2004).

N.B. This video should not be confused with the National Geographic production, Bloody Tales from the Tower, released in 2012, which was an excellent production.

Background
The three-part documentary series did not receive favourable reviews. This was not altogether surprising given that Ardent Productions had a reputation in the British independent film industry as a "sad-joke" (The Guardian). Shortly after In 2002, Prince Edward resigned from the company and in 2009, Ardent Productions liquidated its assets. Investors who had pumped more than £2 million into the venture, were left with £40.

Transcript & Video
I purchased the VHS version of the series but was unable to convert it to a computer-readable format. With the DVD version of the series unavailable in Canada, I recorded the Jakobs segment using my video camera, for the purpose of critiquing it. The entire series was not reviewed in its entirety, only the section on German spy, Josef Jakobs.

I have provided a transcript of the video narration below, along with a link to the video on Youtube. A review of the video is available here.


If the above link to YouTube does not load - click here to go to the video directly.


Video Transcript of Tales from the Tower



0:00 – Preamble
(scene set in modern Tower)
Tales from the Tower (2001) by Ardent Productions
After nine centuries as Britain’s most notorious fortress and prison, the Tower now plays a far friendlier role. Today it’s only captives are millions of tourists who come to see the magnificent Crown Jewels and thrill to lurid tales of historical mayhem gleefully related by the Tower Warders.

0:19 – Woman approaches Beefeater
(scene set in modern Tower)
Tales from the Tower (2001) by Ardent Productions
But the Beefeaters were shocked one day in 1991. After a tour of the ancient blood-soaked alleys of the Tower, a middle-aged woman stepped out of the crowd. She approached the guide and asked quietly, “Can you show me the place where they shot my father?” The woman’s question revealed the tragic story of her father, the last man to be executed in the Tower.

0:48 – German need for weather reports
(images of wartime aircraft)
Tales from the Tower (2001) by Ardent Productions
Her father was Josef Jakobs, a German spy who was supposed to help guide enemy planes over England during World War 2. To ensure the skies were clear enough for Nazi planes to find their targets, the German Air force needed constant updates on the unpredictable English weather.

1:09 – Introduction to Josef Jakobs
(images of Jakobs being trained & as a dentist)
Tales from the Tower (2001) by Ardent Productions
The only way to obtain this information was to have it transmitted out of England by German spies. Spying is dangerous work and most spies are highly trained professionals. But Josef Jakobs was a poorly trained amateur, a pawn in the deadly, ruthless game of wartime intelligence. Jakobs was a dentist and had already served in the German military in the First World War, but at the age of 42 he was again drafted into the German Army.

1:43 – German Secret Service
(images of Jakobs being trained)
Tales from the Tower (2001) by Ardent Productions
In a bureaucratic blunder, Jakobs was ordered into the German Secret Service. He was given three weeks training in radio communication and meteorology but he received no special training as an espionage agent. Jakobs was considered expendable.

Jakobs was supplied with a radio transmitter hidden in the briefcase, road maps of Great Britain, a set of false identity papers and a pistol. With these simple tools, the dentist would be air-dropped into England to establish a clandestine weather service. In the heart of enemy territory, the amateur spy was to radio regular reports to Nazi headquarters.

2:30 - Landing in England
(scene set in treed field)
Tales from the Tower (2001) by Ardent Productions
Slipping into British air-space under the cover of darkness, Jakobs parachuted into Huntingdon, England in January. Not only was Jakobs not a spy, but the dentist had little experience as a paratrooper.

He landed in a farmer’s field and shattered his ankle, a painful and immobilizing injury, it would prove to be his fateful Achilles’ heel and his undoing as a novice spy.

3:07 – Terrorizing the Farmer’s Wife
(scene set in a farmyard and a mature forest with ferns)
Tales from the Tower (2001) by Ardent Productions
He tried to escape and painfully hobbled to the nearest outbuilding. Hungry and tormented by his injury, Jakobs surprised the farmer’s wife. Terrified, she tried to raise an alarm. Trying to silence her, Jakobs pulled his pistol and limped after her.

4:12 - Returning to the Field
(scene set in a treed field)
Tales from the Tower (2001) by Ardent Productions
Hungry, in terrible pain, exhausted, Jakobs dragged himself back to his landing site. He fired his pistol to attract help. A farmer working nearby heard the shots and discovered the unlikely sight of a parachute spread across the middle of his field. When he went to investigate, the farmer found Jakobs lying unconscious beside it.

5:00 – Policeman and army reservists approach
(scene set in treed field)
Tales from the Tower (2001) by Ardent Productions
Taken into custody by local police and army reservists, Jakobs denied that he was working for the Germans. Did he think they would take pity on him? Did he think his cover story would work? 

History never recorded his thoughts, though we know that he had been caught red-handed. He had a Luger pistol, radio transmitter, forged identity papers and a map showing the location of two nearby airfields.

5:33 – Reservists load Jakobs into a military jeep
(scene set in treed field with a jeep)
Tales from the Tower (2001) by Ardent Productions
By now Jakobs’ injury was so bad that the reservists had to put him on a stretcher before driving Jakobs to London to await his fate.

After his ankle was set, Jakobs was transported under military guard to a maximum security London prison for captured spies and saboteurs.

6:27 - Military Court
(scene set in a dark room before a panel of three military officers)
Tales from the Tower (2001) by Ardent Productions
The hapless dentist appeared before a military court to be tried under strict wartime secrecy. During the trial, Jakobs claimed he was actually a native of Luxembourg and helped Jews escape from Germany. He said he was sent to a concentration camp because of his anti-Nazi activities. Jakobs said he only offered to become a spy so he could get out of Germany and join the anti-Nazi underground.
But the claim to be escaping from Nazi Germany was a cover story used by all German spies, and an investigation showed Jakobs charged huge fees to help Jews escape Germany. His military service in the First World War proved he was German, not a citizen of Luxembourg. Swiss police records indicated he had been imprisoned in 1924 for selling counterfeit gold.

Josef Jakobs was convicted as a spy and saboteur and was sentenced to death.

During the Second World War spies were normally hanged in the prison where they were held, but Jakobs couldn’t stand at the hangman’s gallows because of his shattered ankle. The dentist would have to be shot by a firing squad.

7:44 – Jeep drives Jakobs to the Tower of London
(scene set in a Jeep in the countryside)
Tales from the Tower (2001) by Ardent ProductionsTales from the Tower (2001) by Ardent Productions
The agony of the incompetent spy was further prolonged when the arrangements for his execution had to be changed. Jakobs prison did not have a military firing squad. The crippled prisoner had to be transported to the Tower of London where soldiers on active duty could do the job. So the condemned German spy was moved to the ancient cells of the fortress to meet his fateful appointment with history.

8:14 – Arrival at the Tower
(scene set before a red brick building with fields in the background)
Tales from the Tower (2001) by Ardent Productions
At 7:00 in the morning on August 15, 1941, a truck carrying the crippled dentist spy wound through the Tower’s maze of alley-ways. The truck stopped at an indoor rifle range on the outskirts of the Tower’s properties. As Jakobs was carried out, a guard pinned a small black target over his heart.


8:41 – Rifle Range
(scene set in what looks like a farm outbuilding)

Tales from the Tower (2001) by Ardent Productions
Piles of hay were stacked along the back wall to catch the bullets. In front of the hay was a wooden chair. Jakobs was tied to the chair. An officer removed Jakobs’ glasses and covered his head with a black hood.

The firing squad, six members of the Scots Guards, filed quietly across the entrance of the rifle range. Each solider carried a Springfield rifle. In the tradition of firing squads, one rifle was loaded with a blank cartridge. This gave comfort to each rifleman on the squad – there was a chance had not fired the fatal shot.

9:30 – Execution
(various images of Jakobs the Tower and the chair)
Tales from the Tower (2001) by Ardent Productions
At 7:12 am, August 15, 1941, the order of “Fire” was given and Josef Jakobs was executed. The German dentist who became a spy entered the history books as the Tower of London’s last victim.
Like some implement of medieval torture, the bullet riddled chair in which Josef Jakobs met his fate, still survives. Kept as an historical artifact, the chair remains safely in storage. It will stay hidden until it no longer haunts the descendants of Josef Jakobs, the last victim in the long and tragic history of the Tower.