29 October 2014

Food for the Hungry

Genuine British Ration Books from 1939.  From the Quince Tree blog.
Genuine British Ration Books from 1939.
From the Quince Tree blog.
Had German spy Josef Jakobs landed uneventfully in Huntingdonshire on the evening of 31 January, 1941, he would still have faced a number of hurdles on his way to London.

Wartime Britain had instituted food rationing in January 1940 and every man, woman and child required a Ration Book. All food items were rationed: sugar, tea, meat, bacon, butter, margarine and fat. In order to purchase food, Josef would have needed to present a Ration Book.

The British authorities issued different ration books for different groups. The general Adult ration book was a buff colour. Soldiers on leave received a different style of Ration Book. Later in the war, children were also issued with slightly different Ration Books.

The pink Traveller's Ration Book found in  Josef Jakob's possession.  Held at the National Archives.  (photograph copyright G.K. Jakobs).
The pink Traveller's Ration Book found in
Josef Jakob's possession.
Held at the National Archives.
(photograph copyright G.K. Jakobs).
The German Abwehr provided their spies with forged Traveller's Ration Books. These Ration Books were pale pink in colour and were to be used while a person was in transit.

The Ration Book issued to Josef Jakobs was notable in several respects. The book had none of the particulars completed. The inside was completely blank and the book looked brand new. It was sent to Sir Sylvanus Vivian, the Registrar General, for inspection. He noted that normally a ration book would be expected to contain forged entries and food stamps. Anyone found with a completely blank ration book in their possession would probably have been arrested on the spot under suspicion that they had stolen it from a Food Office. Vivian thought that perhaps the Germans did not feel safe in forging the particulars added to a normal ration book.

Inside page of Josef Jakobs' Ration Book.  Held at the National Archives.  (photo copyright G.K. Jakobs)
Inside page of Josef Jakobs' Ration Book.
Held at the National Archives.
(photo copyright G.K. Jakobs)
There is evidence to suggest that the particulars of Josef's ration book, including the serial number (CA 567927) were handed over to the Germans by British double agent SNOW and his sub-agent BISCUIT.  The Ministry of Food said that Josef's ration book bore a genuine number and was part of a consignment of books that had been sent to the War Office (the headquarters of MI5). MI5 knew what serial numbers the Germans would use because they had sent the information to them!

Czech-born German spy Karel Richter who arrived by parachute in England in May 1941 was also issued with a blank pink Traveller's Ration Book.

While the Germans might have thought that they were equipping their agents with well-forged documents, the truth was that even a cursory examination of their Ration Books would have resulted in the arrests of Josef Jakobs and Karel Richter. Happy to rely on the information sent over by SNOW, the German Abwehr sent poorly trained and equipped men to their ultimate deaths.

References
National Archives, Security Service files on Josef Jakobs - KV 2/24, 2/25, 2/26, 2/27.

24 October 2014

A Light in the Darkness

The torch and battery found in  the possession of Josef Jakobs.  Held at the National Archives.  (photo copyright G.K. Jakobs)
The torch and battery found in
the possession of Josef Jakobs.
Held at the National Archives.
(photo copyright G.K. Jakobs)

The farm field in which German spy Josef Jakobs landed on the night of 31 January 1941 was most likely enshrouded in unrelieved darkness. The waxing crescent moon was hidden behind clouds and British wartime regulations ensured that farmhouse lights were hidden behind blackout curtains.

Josef was equipped with two items which would have helped to relieve the darkness: a cigarette lighter manufactured by Karl Wieden and a small torch/flashlight.

The torch found in the possession of  Josef Jakobs. Held at the National Archives.  (photograph copyright G.K. Jakobs)
The torch found in the possession of
Josef Jakobs. Held at the National Archives.
(photograph copyright G.K. Jakobs)
The electric torch was powered by a battery and could give off an exceptionally bright light.

A silver lighter manufactured  by Karl Wieden - similar to  the one Josef had.  (From My Lighter website).
A silver lighter manufactured
by Karl Wieden - similar to
the one Josef had.
(From My Lighter website).
The torch was also equipped with a flashing device which, in the opinion of MI5 officers, was intended for signaling enemy aircraft. Given the fact that Josef had broken his right ankle while leaving the German aircraft, he had no opportunity to do anything other than lie where he had landed.

While it is unknown if Josef used the torch to look around him, it is clear that he used his cigarette lighter to light a steady supply of cigarettes. By the time he was found the following morning, the lighter was empty and the torch was useless to him.

References
National Archives, Security Service files on Josef Jakobs - KV 2/24, 2/25, 2/26, 2/27.

15 October 2014

Money Money Money

A £1 note from the 1930s.  (From Bank of England website)
A £1 note from the 1930s.
(From Bank of England website)
When German spy Josef Jakobs parachuted into a farm field near the village of Ramsey in England, he carried upon his person a small fortune in British currency.

Members of the Home Guard who searched him the following morning found wads of new and old £1 notes tucked away in his wallet and various pockets.

The Ramsey Police counted the notes several times and came up with a total of £497 or £498. Today, that amount would be the equivalent of about £22,000. Det. Sgt. Oliver Mills noted that several of the notes looked like forgeries to him.

Several MI5 officers noted that Josef Jakobs was, up until that point, the highest paid agent to land in Britain. That fact only made them think that he was highly valued by the German Abwehr. Other German agents had generally arrived with £200 or less. Josef steadfastly maintained that he had been given more money than other agents because the previous amounts were deemed to be inadequate. He denied that he was to deliver the money to another agent in England. In the end, MI5 believed at least that part of his story. At one point, interrogation officers told Josef that the bank notes were forgeries, but that was probably a ruse used to shake his confidence in the German Abwehr who had supplied him with the money. While the MI5 officers examined many of the objects brought by Josef, the bank notes were never brought under intense scrutiny.

A £1 wartime issue note from the 1940s.  (From Bank of England website)
A £1 wartime issue note from the 1940s.
(From Bank of England website)

At Josef's court martial, Col. William Edward Hinchley Cooke, the public face of MI5 testified that the bank notes found in Josef's possession had been deposited with the Bank of England but could be produced upon request. While the bank notes found in Josef's possession were probably not forgeries, other German agents were supplied with forged Bank of England notes.

In the early years of the war, Nazi Germany embarked on an ambitious currency counterfeiting plan, their goal was to destabilize the British pound. Operation Andreas operated out of Charlottenburg in Berlin and after much trial and error figured out the correct formula for the paper product used by the Bank of England. Drawing upon a small army of Jewish typographers, illustrators, painters, retouchers, chemists, engravers, pressmen, bookbinders, bank workers and forgers, the Nazis set to work. The only hiccup in the plan was that the counterfeiters had to use existing serial numbers of authentic banknotes. Forged £5, £10, £20, £50, £100 and £500 notes were produced but would they pass inspection? A set of forged notes was sent to a bank in Switzerland under a cover story. The Swiss bank concluded that the notes were genuine. Still unconvinced, the Germans asked the Swiss to pass the notes by the Bank of England which concluded that 90% of the forged notes were genuine. Produced in preparation for the invasion of England, the counterfeiting program was put on hold after the invasion never materialized.

In 1942, a second program, Operation Bernhard took up the baton and moved the counterfeiting operation to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp north of Berlin. In the end, Operation Bernhard produced £130-million in fake British currency, about 10% of the total in circulation. The fake British notes eventually destroyed confidence in the Bank of England notes overseas. Eventually all of the Bank of England notes above £5 were recalled and new ones issued. The story Operation Bernhard is told in the movie The Counterfeiters, winner of the 2007 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

While it is clear that Nazi Germany did have a large-scale counterfeiting operation, there is no evidence that they produced counterfeit £1 notes. The notes that Josef Jakobs brought to England were legitimate, probably gleaned from transactions in various neutral countries, most likely Portugal and Spain.

(See follow-up posting)

References
National Archives, Security Service files on Josef Jakobs - KV 2/24, 2/25, 2/26, 2/27.
MI5 Files: Nazi Plot to Destroy British Currency with Forgeries, The Telegraph, Feb 17, 2012.
A Nazi Counterfeit in the National Bank - Museum of the National Bank of Belgium.
Operation Bernhard - British Notes website.
Operation Bernhard & Devil's Workshop - British Notes website.

The Gun that Saved a Life

German spy Josef Jakobs landed in a farmer's field near the village of Ramsey on the evening of January 31, 1941. Having broken his ankle while leaving the aircraft, Josef was unable to move from his landing place and lay there all night. The following morning at around 8:30 a.m. he fired his pistol into the air several times to attract attention. He was in luck and two farm workers heard his shots and came to his rescue.

A Mauser 1914/34 pistol (serial #487232) - Josef's pistol  would have looked very similar to this one.  (From Mauser Guns - opens as a pdf file)
A Mauser 1914/34 pistol (serial #487232) - Josef's pistol
would have looked very similar to this one.
(From Mauser Guns - opens as a pdf file)
According to the MI5 files, the pistol that Josef used was a 7.65 mm Mauser pocket pistol, serial number 489356.

The Mauser pistol was manufactured by the German Small Arms company, Mauser-Werke A.G. Oberndorfe A.N.

Based on the serial number, Josef's pistol would have been a 1914/34 model (transitional from the 1914 model to the 1934 model). It was manufactured sometime between 1929 and 1933.

While Josef's gun saved his life on the morning of February 1, it was only a reprieve for on August 15, 1941, Josef would face the rifles of a Scots Guards firing squad.

References
Security Service files on Josef Jakobs, KV 2/24, National Archives, Kew, London.
German Mauser pistols - website - accessed Oct 2, 2014.

10 October 2014

The Mystery of the Two Notebooks and a Boy named Kenneth C. Howard

N.B. See my February 12, 2017 blog for a break in the case. 

In April 2012, I wrote a blog article entitled Who is Kenneth C. Howard? The article arose out of two small notebooks which were contained within one of Josef Jakobs' files at the National Archives in Kew. At the time, the notebooks (or facsimiles thereof) were on display in the small curator's museum at the Archives. The notebooks have proved to be an ongoing conundrum.

You see, the police and MI5 made several inventories of the articles in Josef's possession and the only notebook-like articles were:
  • a brown leather purse with a zip fastener
  • a blue leather note case with guard
Neither of those descriptions match the two small notebooks at the National Archives. In fact, had those notebooks been in Josef's possession, the officers of MI5 would have questioned Josef rigorously about the Kenneth C. Howard to whom the notebooks belonged.

Black Notebook
Black notebook - National Archives  (KV 2/27) (Photo copyright G.K. Jakobs)
Black notebook - National Archives
(KV 2/27) (Photo copyright G.K. Jakobs)
The black notebook is about 2 inches by 3 inches. It is quite worn and has the English word "Notes" inscribed on the front.

The inside front cover of the black notebook had two stickers of British regiments: the 17th Lancers (with skull and crossbones) and the 40th Pathans. Both regiments had been amalgamated with others in a general army reorganization in 1922.

The top lefthand corner of the inside front cover has the following inscription written in what appears to be an adult hand:
K.H.
17 Evelyn R.
Sparkhill
B'ham
The number "1" is written in the English fashion, not the Continental fashion.

Inside cover of black notebook - National Archives  (KV 2/27) (Photo copyright G.K. Jakobs)
Inside cover of black notebook - National Archives
(KV 2/27) (Photo copyright G.K. Jakobs)
On the facing page, there is another inscription, written in a different and rather childish script:
On behalf of the Federation
Bureau of Investigation
* K.C. Howard
17 Evelyn Road
Sparkhill
Birmingham
England
*Hdqtrs. Etc.
By permission of B.D.P. dpt.
N.Y.
Inside black notebook - National Archives  (KV 2/27) (Photo copyright G.K. Jakobs)
Inside black notebook - National Archives
(KV 2/27) (Photo copyright G.K. Jakobs)

A few pages farther along, we come to the page which the National Archives had on display in their little curator's museum. They clearly took this to be the most important page and indicative of Josef's allegiance.

The page has a picture of the King of Romania and above and below the picture the same childish script has written:
Der Könige Von Rumanie
Deutschland über Alle!

 None of the handwriting resembles Josef's handwriting in any way. In fact, the notebook looks to be that of a young boy, a boy who imagines himself to be an agent of the F.B.I. (Federal Bureau of Investigation), although he doesn't even get the name right. Clearly he does not know German either for the inscription below the picture of the King of Romania should read "Deutschland über Alles" (not Alle).

I did not photograph every page of the black notebook when last I was in England, but I believe these three images make the point - this notebook was never a possession of Josef Jakobs. It is not contained within his list of possessions and there is every evidence that it was the property of a young boy.

Blue Notebook
Blue notebook - National Archives  (KV 2/27) (Photo copyright G.K. Jakobs)
Blue notebook - National Archives
(KV 2/27) (Photo copyright G.K. Jakobs)
The blue notebook was about 2 inches by 3 inches. It was also rather worn with the words "Diary" and "1936" inscribed on the front.

Again, I did not photograph each page of the notebook, but I think the first few pages speak for themselves.

The Personal Mems page, on the left, has been filled in by the same childish script as above:
Name - Kenneth C. Howard
Address - 125 Durhams Rd., Bramley, Hants.
Telephone No. - No Tel.
Size in Collars - (blank)
Size in Gloves - 5½
Size in Shoes and Boots -7
Size in Socks or Stockings - (blank)
Bank Book No. - No Bank
(The remainder of the fields are blank)

Inside blue notebook - National Archives  (KV 2/27) (Photo copyright G.K. Jakobs)
Inside blue notebook - National Archives
(KV 2/27) (Photo copyright G.K. Jakobs)
The glove and shoe sizes are indicative of a child and are corroborated by the fact that this child has no telephone number or bank account.

On the opposite page is a note which appears to be in the first hand's script:
Price to Channel Islands (Jersey) 1½ (as in England)
On the dates of January 2 and January 4 (1936), the childish hand has written:
Have Decided to ??? THEM
Today I ??? THEM


According to the blue notebook, Kenneth C. Howard was living in Bramley, Hampshire. During World War 2, Bramley was home to Bramley Camp, a large military ordnance base, protected by several anti-aircraft batteries. It is interesting to note that Kenneth's address in Birmingham was relatively close to Armoury Road and the Birmingham Small Arms factory. In fact, Birmingham had several factories that produced ammunition and weapons for the British Army.

Connection to Espionage
The two notebooks featured above were never listed in the possessions of Josef Jakobs. There was absolutely no evidence that Josef had any connections in Birmingham or Bramley. In addition, there is not a hint of Kenneth C. Howard in the MI5 files that relate to Josef Jakobs.

There was, however, one spy who did have connections in Birmingham and that was Gosta Caroli who parachuted into England in early September 1940. He had spent time in Birmingham in 1938 and 1939 as an undercover journalist, feeding information on industrial sites back to Germany. Were these notebooks perhaps the property of Caroli?

An MI5 note that accompanied the notebooks made reference to Birmingham police records. It may also be that the thinned MI5 files on Caroli reference these notebooks. In the meantime, one wonders about Kenneth C. Howard and his relationship to the spies of Germany. How did his notebooks end up in the National Archives in the files of Josef Jakobs?

N.B. I have written two additional postings on these two notebooks:
They Mysterious Diary of Kenneth C. Howard
Kenneth C. Howard's Little Black Book

06 October 2014

Radio Review - BBC - World War I at Home - Carl Hans Lody

BBC Radio Scotland - Edinburgh, Scotland: Carl Lody, Spy on the Forth
BBC Radio Scotland - Edinburgh, Scotland: Carl Lody, Spy on the Forth
Original Air Date - 17 February 2014
Station - BBC Radio
Show - World War I at Home
Duration - 6:38 minutes

Producer -unknown
Clip available here


Review
Carl Hans Lody circa 1914.  (From The British Library)
Carl Hans Lody circa 1914.
(From The British Library)
This programme tells the story of Carl Hans Lody, a German spy who was executed at the Tower of London on November 6, 1914. The story is told by Canadian Peter Jackson, a professor of history at the University of Glasgow. The story itself is quite gripping and notes that Lody spoke English fluently but with an American accent.

The programme has recreated sound clips of Lody reading out the reports that he sent back to Germany. Unfortunately, having just noted that the Lody spoke English with an American accent, the programme gives Lody a strong German accent.

The programme concludes with the recreated voice of Lody reading an excerpt from his final letter to his family.

Review Score
4 out of 5 - good information but the Lody accent is a bit distracting

01 October 2014

Radio Review - BBC Radio - World War I at Home - Tower of London: The Execution of Eleven German Spies

Radio - Tower of London, London: The Execution of Eleven German Spies
Radio - Tower of London, London: The Execution of Eleven German Spies
Original Air Date - 3 February 2014
Station - BBC Radio
Show - World War I at Home
Duration - 6:49 minutes

Producer -unknown
Clip available here


Review
Miniature Rifle Range - 1914-1916  (From Imperial War Museum - fair use policy)
Miniature Rifle Range - 1914-1916
(From Imperial War Museum - fair use policy)
Although this radio programme deals primarily with the execution of German spies during World War I, it does provide some new and useful information that relates to the execution of Josef Jakobs as well.

The programme doesn't have a narrator but the bulk of the narration is provided by Sally Dixon-Smith (Collections Curator at the Tower of London) and Kevin Kitcher (Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London).

The first interesting tidbit is a note that more people were executed within the Tower of London in the 20th century than under the Tudors (e.g. Henry VII and his many wives). Many people think of the modern Tower as a place for the Crown Jewels and not as a place of execution, so it comes as a shock to realize how many people were executed in the Tower from 1914 to 1941.

Adrian Hill  (From Imperial War Museum)
Adrian Hill
(From Imperial War Museum)
The programme has a jewel of a clip from Adrian Hill, a World War I veteran. Adrian served as a Corporal with the Honorable Artillery Company from 1914 to 1915. He oversaw a party that guarded German spy Carl Frederick Mueller. Adrian said that Mueller talked quite a bit about his life and after a while Adrian got to know him so well that it seemed a "bit of a nightmare" to him. On the morning of 23 June 1915, Mueller was taken to the miniature rifle range to be executed by a firing squad composed of the Grenadier Guards. After the execution, Adrian's commanding officer said that he looked a bit "green" and could have the day off. From Adrian's account, one gets a hint of how challenging it must have been for the men who guarded the German spies.

As an aside, the original Adrian Hill sound clip is held by the Imperial War Museum (Reel 1 - 0:00 to 5:00). Adrian ended up serving in France during World War I as a war artist. After the war, Adrian coined the term "art therapy" recognizing that art could help to heel the psychological wounds that scarred the veterans even more than the physical wounds.

Yeoman Warder Kevin Kitcher  (From Londonist out Loud)
Yeoman Warder Kevin Kitcher
(From Londonist out Loud)
The testimony of Adrian Hill is neatly stitched together with observations from Yeoman Warder, Kevin Kitcher, who traced the route the spies would have taken as they proceeded through the Tower to the miniature rifle range and the place of execution. According to Kitcher, the spies stayed overnight at #29 Casemates which was a medical centre during World War I.

This last bit of information is in regards to Josef Jakobs. In the early morning hours of August 15, 1941, Josef was brought to the Tower of London from Wandsworth Prison. Josef was held in the "M.I. Waiting Room" after arriving at the Tower before being taken to the miniature rifle range. It is possible that the M.I. Waiting Room is part of #29 Casemates, the old medical centre at the Tower.


Review Score
4.5 out of 5 - well done episode which provided some new information