14 August 2014

Execution of Josef Jakobs - 15 August, 1941

Assumption of Mary (St. Thomas the Apostle Church Bloomington, NJ)
Assumption of Mary
(St. Thomas the Apostle Church
Bloomington, NJ)
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 lost to history. Josef's chair would be a simple Windsor chair.

At about 5:45 am, Josef arrived at the Tower and was taken to the M.I. Waiting Room in the Casemates. Shortly before 7 am, Josef and his guards walked across the cobblestones and entered the gloom of the miniature rifle range. Josef, still limping from his ankle injury, was seated in the chair and tied to it. A hood was placed over his head and a white target was pinned to his chest. The guards stepped back. The firing squad entered and picked up their rifles from the table. Silent hand signals guided them to lift their rifles, aim and... the word "Fire" was called out. A moment before, Josef called out to the soldiers "Shoot straight, Tommies!"

Josef was executed at 7:12 a.m. The firing squad placed their rifles on the table and filed outside where they had a smoke. The body as eventually removed and taken to the mortuary under the Tower Bridge. A few hours later, the East District coroner, W.R.H. Heddy and forensic scientist Bernard Spilsbury arrived to conduct the post mortem. Cause of death was due to bullets to the heart.

Josef was executed on this day, 73 years ago. Colonel Stephens, commandant of Camp 020, the interrogation centre where Josef had spent several months, noted that Josef had died a brave man.

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