Showing posts from August, 2014

Britain's Spy-Catcher - Lt. Col. William Edward Hinchley Cooke

One of the last people to see Josef Jakobs alive on the fateful morning of his execution was Lt. Col. William Edward Hinchley-Cooke. Cookie, as he was affectionately known by his MI5 colleagues, later noted that he was impressed by Josef's calm pluck on the morning of August 15. In fact, Cookie was fluent in German and was one of the few people with whom Josef could speak his native tongue.  How Cookie, himself half-German, came to be Britain's master spy-catcher is an intriguing story.

Early Life
William Edward Hinchley Cooke was born to a British father and a German mother around 1894. The exact circumstances of his parentage and birth are shrouded in mystery, hidden under a veil of secrecy in the MI5 personnel files.

Cookie was either born in Germany or went to Germany as a young boy, for in later years he could speak German fluently and his English was tinged with a German accent. Cookie attended school in Dresden before becoming a student at Leipzig University around 1910 …

Article Review - Medal News - Two Gurkha Officers: Part II - May 2014

After the previous post on Colonel R.W.G. Stephens was published, a magazine I had ordered online almost a month previous finally came in the mail. It had a four page article on Robin Stephens written by Chris Bilham.

The article was quite extensive and stitched together the scanty facts of Robin's life into a relatively cohesive whole. The author provided context to the various events in Robin's life such as the background to the Third Afghan War and the history of Camp 020. The article made a passing reference to Josef Jakobs: "[of the 16 spies executed during WWII] one was a serving member of the German Army and was executed by firing squad in the Tower of London".

I had hoped that the article might fill in some of the gaps in Robin's life. In some areas it did, in others, the holes remained.

A few interesting tidbits came to light in the article. The author stated that Robin divorced his first wife, Phyllis Gwendoline Stephens because of her adultery.…

Interrogator at Camp 020 - Lt. Col. Robin William George Stephens

When Josef Jakobs arrived at Camp 020 in 1941, he was interrogated by Tin-Eye Stephens, commandant of the Camp. Lt. Col. Stephens was a fearsome man who had little patience for fools and was rather xenophobic in his relations with people of other nationalities, particularly Germans. Who was this man and how did he come to be MI5's chief interrogator?

Early Life
Robin William George Stephens was born on 23 June, 1900 in Alexandria, Egypt. His father, William Henry Stephens was a lecturer/teacher for the Egyptian Ministry of Education. Young Robin completed his early education at the Lycee Francais in Egypt. By 1910, Robin was in England and studying at Dulwich College Prepatory School. From there he went on to study at Dulwich College from 1913-1918, becoming active in sports and even serving as Captain of Athletics for a couple of years.

A Soldier of the Indian Army
In 1918, having graduated from Dulwich College, Robin entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolich as a cadet. He qui…

Execution of Josef Jakobs - 15 August, 1941

Shortly after midnight, in the early hours of Friday, 15 August, 1941, Josef Jakobs sat in a cell at Wandsworth Prison and wrote his final letter to his family. A few hours later, around 3 am, Fr. Edward Jackson Griffith heard Josef's last confession and then celebrated Mass with him. For Josef, the date was auspicious as it was the Catholic Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven. An appropriate day to die.

Around 5 am, Josef was escorted from his cell by his Military Police guards. He said his final goodbyes to the Governor of Wandsworth Prison, Ben Dixon, and then climbed into a black car with his guards. The dawn was just breaking as the car left the prison compound - destination Tower of London.

At the Tower, preparations were underway for Josef's execution. A chair had been placed in the miniature rifle range and tied to some beams. The chair was not the same one as had been used for the execution of the World War I spies. That earlier chair has been los…

Radio Review - BBC Radio 4 - Punt PI - Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm

Radio - Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm
Original Air Date - 2 August, 2014
Station - BBC Radio 4
Show - Punt PI: Steve Punt Investigates
Duration - 30 minutes
Host - Steve Punt
Producer - Sarah Bowen
Clip available here

In this half hour show, BBC's resident gumshoe, Steve Punt, looks into the mystery surrounding a woman's body found in an old hollow tree in Hagley Wood in the spring of 1943. The mystery has engendered a lot of speculation over the years and not a few conspiracy theories. Punt takes a look at the various theories and by interviewing witnesses (a 101 year old forensic scientist) and descendents of witnesses manages to dispel some of the more popular theories. Was it witchcraft, espionage or a prostitute who was in the wrong place at the wrong time? The show was quite enjoyable and apparently well-researched.

The show made no connection between Bella in the Wych Elm and Josef Jakobs and his mistress Clara Bรคuerle, in part because evidence indicates that Cl…

Josef Jakobs - A Victim of the Treachery Act - Part 4

On 24 July 1941, Josef Jakobs was visited by Lt. Col. William Edward Hinchley Cooke. Josef had been transferred to Wandsworth Prison the previous day and the move from Latchmere House boded ill. Hinchley Cooke charged Josef with:committing a civil offence, that is to say, Treachery, an offence contrary to Section I of the Treachery Act, 1940, in that at Ramsey in the County of Huntingdon on the night of January 31/February 1, 1941, with the intent to help the enemy did an act designed or likely to give assistance to the naval, military or air operations of the enemy, or to impede such operations of the enemy, or to impede such operation of His Majesty’s Forces, namely did descend by parachute in the United Kingdom. Breaking down the charge, one can see that Josef's offence was the fact that he descended by parachute in the United Kingdom. Josef had done nothing overt - he hadn't set up his radio or written any secret ink letters, so MI5 was left with the one act that h…