26 November 2014

Historic Royal Palaces - Podcast - Curious Connections: Spies and Us

Historic Royal Palaces - Podcast
Historic Royal Palaces - Podcast - Curious Connections: Spies & Us

Taped - 14 October 2014
Original Air Date -30 October 2014
Series - Curious Connections

Duration - 59:12 minutes

Producer - Historic Royal Palaces
Clip available here



Presenters:
Sally Dixon-Smith - Tower Collections Curator, Historic Royal Palaces
Richard J. Aldrich - Professor of International Security
Charlie Beckett - Director of London School of Economics Journalism Think Tank

Review
"From the 11 spies executed at the Tower of London in 1914, to spying in today's digital age, espionage has long been an intriguing practice.
Hear Tower Collections Curator Sally Dixon-Smith and professor of international security Richard J Aldrich discuss spying techniques, digital intelligence and our own personal data during this talk recorded at the Tower of London.
This podcast is part of our Curious Connections series, which looks at contemporary issues through stories from our palaces’ past."


I have to say I rather enjoyed this podcast. Richard Aldrich brought up some fascinating aspects of espionage and privacy in the digital era. Aspects of science fiction are rapidly becoming science fact.

Sally Dixon Smith made a very interesting point regarding the WWI spies. This year, 2014, marks the centenary since the execution of the first WWI spy, Carl Hans Lody. Sally noted that centenaries are when things become history. People are generally more comfortable discussing and thinking about these things because they have passed outside living memory. It would explain why the circumstances surrounding the execution of WWII spy, Josef Jakobs are still a bit of a touchy subject.

Sally had clearly researched the WWI spies and was able to answer several of the questions that were put to the presenters from the audience. She was a little more hesitant when it came to questions around WWII, primarily because she hasn't looked into that era.

One person had asked why so many spies were shot during WWI and only one (Josef Jakobs) during WWII. While most of the WWI spies were tried by military court-martial, Josef Jakobs was the only spy during WWII to be tried by military court-martial. The reason for this was that under the Treachery Act, neutral aliens and British citizens were to be tried in a civilian court. Only enemy aliens could be tried by court martial (if the Attorney General agreed). Thus, Josef Jakobs, a German national became the only person to be executed by a military firing squad during WWII. All of the others were tried by civilian courts because they were neutral aliens, British citizens or were accomplices of such. Convicted in a civilian court, the men were executed by civilian methods (hanged).

Review Score
4.5 out of 5 - enjoyable and informative podcast

21 November 2014

Historic Royal Palaces - Podcast on Josef Jakobs

Historic Royal Palaces - Podcast
Historic Royal Palaces - Tower Prisoner Stories - Jacobs
Original Air Date - 13 February 2013
Series - Stories from the Palaces


Duration - 4:19 minutes

Producer -unknown
Clip available here


Review
This programme was produced by the Tower of London Education Series in conjunction with the Royal Armouries.

It tells the story of German spy Josef Jakobs in miniature. In condensing the story of Jakobs into the span of less than four minutes, various inaccuracies and simplifications have crept in.

According to the program, Jakobs told the farmers who found him that his name was James Rymer. In fact, Jakobs did not give his name to the farmers and only revealed his real name, Josef Jakobs, to police officers at Ramsey Police Station. His false identity card gave the name of James Rymer, but Jakobs never claimed that name.

The programme skips directly from Josef's discovery in the farmer's field to his court martial at the Duke of York Headquarters in Chelsea. The programme thereby implies that Jakobs only fully revealed his identity at the court-martial. In fact, Jakobs had been in the custody of MI5 at its secret interrogation centre, Camp 020 at Ham Common since mid-April. At no point did Jakobs claim to be a German Intelligence Officer.

At his court-martial, Jakobs was found guilty and, according to the programme, was transferred from Brixton Jail to the Tower of London on 14 August, 1941, the day before his execution. He was apparently held in the east turret of the Waterloo Block. This is an old and erroneous story that has circulated about Jakobs for many years. Jakobs was only held at Brixton Prison Infirmary in early February (for two nights) and in late March and early April, while he recovered from his broken ankle. From early February to late March, he was held at Dulwich Hospital.

In late July 1941, Jakobs was transferred from Camp 020 to Wandsworth Prison, where he was held until the early morning hours of 15 August, 1941. The Governor of Wandsworth Prison and one of the Military Policeman who guarded Jakobs, left eye-witness testify to this. Jakobs was never held in the Waterloo Barracks at the Tower of London.

Finally, the title of the podcast spells Jakobs' name incorrectly.

Given the recent production date of this programme (2013), it is unfortunate that it relies on out-of-date information and propagates some of the errors that continue to muddy the Jakobs story.

Review Score
2.5 out of 5 - relies on out-of-date information

17 November 2014

Money Money Money - Part 2

In an earlier posting, I examined the topic of the British currency that Josef had brought with him from Germany. While acknowledging that the Germans had introduced counterfeit English banknotes into circulation, I suggested that it was doubtful that the £1 notes found on Josef were counterfeit. Since then, I have confirmed that the notes that Josef brought to England were indeed genuine.

Captured Currency
Lt. Col. W. E. Hinchley-Cooke, MI5 (from After the Battle, volume 11)
Lt. Col. W. E. Hinchley-Cooke, MI5
(from After the Battle, volume 11)

When German agents were captured, they often carried a significant amount of British currency. MI5 needed to ensure that the evidence trail for these banknotes was traceable, as the money might need to be produced at the trial of the enemy agents. At the same time, the money that the agents brought could benefit MI5 and the Double-Cross system that it was running. How to hold onto the money (as evidence) while at the same time making use of it (for counter-espionage purposes?

Specimen signatures of Lt. Col. W.E. Hinchley Cooke and  Squadron Leader H. Arnold - 22 January 1941 - for Bank of England  (National Archives - KV 4 series)
Specimen signatures of Lt. Col. W.E. Hinchley Cooke and
Squadron Leader H. Arnold - 22 January 1941 - for
Bank of England
(National Archives - KV 4 series)
In November 1940, the Bank of England and the Security Service figured out a solution to the problem.

An officer of MI5, in this case Lt. Col. Hinchley-Cooke, would bring packaged banknotes to the Bank of England. The bank would accept the packets and seal them with the seals of the Bank of England and the Security Service. The bank would then hold the packets jointly with MI5 until such time as they were no longer required and could be cancelled. In exchange, MI5 would be issued with an equivalent sum in new British banknotes. If at any point, MI5 required the banknotes (e.g. for a trial), they could be released temporarily upon the joint approval of Lt. Col. Hinchley-Cooke and Squadron Leader Henry Arnold (another member of MI5).

Bank of England, London (Wikipedia)
Bank of England, London
(Wikipedia)
On January 22, 1941, after the agreement had been signed, MI5 deposited the first eleven packets of cash with the Bank of England, a total of almost £5000. This deposit included some rather high-value notes including a £500 note, 19 £100 notes and 24 £50 notes. While these notes would have been prime candidates for counterfeiting by the Germans, there was no evidence that they were fake. Indeed, had they been counterfeit, the Bank of England would hardly have exchanged them. MI5 handed over the spy notes and got the equivalent back as a bank draft, payable to the current Director General of MI5, Brigadier Oswald Allen Harker.

The Banknotes of Josef Jakobs
On April 9, 1941, MI5 came to the Bank of England with their second deposit of captured spy currency, a grand total of £11,353. The deposit was composed of four separate packets of cash: £9700 from double-agent SNOW, £400 from double-agent CELERY, £755 from someone named George and finally, £498 from Josef Jakobs.

Brigadier O.A. Harker (Wikipedia)
Brigadier O.A. Harker
(Wikipedia)
A week later, Brigadier Harker requested the temporary withdrawal of two packets of cash for use in criminal proceedings. These packets related to Werner Walti and Karl Druecke, two of the spies who had landed on the Banffshire coast at the end of September 1940. Their trial took place in June 1941 and both were found guilty and hanged on August 6, 1941 at Wandsworth Prison.

On August 1, a few days before their execution, Brigadier Harker wrote another note to the Bank of England and noted that the two packets mentioned above were no longer required and could be disposed of. At the same time, Harker requested the temporary withdrawal of Packet #12, containing £498 which was required as an exhibit. Josef's court martial took place on August 4 and 5 and the £498 were Exhibit 18.

A month later, on September 4, Harker wrote a memo to the Bank of England noting that Packet #12 was no longer required and could be disposed of. Josef's court-martial had found him guilty and he had been executed on 15 August 1941 at the Tower of London.

Appreciation to the Bank of England
In early May 1945, Harker wrote a letter to the Bank of England which included a list of packets worth almost £20,000 which could be released for cancellation. A year and a half later, Harker wrote another letter to the bank:
The contents of the last of these packets have now been released for cancellation. I am therefore writing to thank you for the admirable way in which this arrangement, which has been of the greatest assistance to this Department, has been carried out, and should be grateful if you would also convey an expression of my appreciation to all concerned.
In response, an officer of the Bank of England noted that:
Bank of England letter to MI5 - 1 October 1946 (National Archives - KV 4 series)
Bank of England letter to MI5 - 1 October 1946
(National Archives - KV 4 series)
I am glad to feel that, over the past five or six years, the Bank were able to make an effectual contribution towards the mechanics of dealing with certain of their notes presented by your Department. Your kind expression of appreciation has been conveyed to the members of the Staff of the Bank who were concerned.
Conclusion
German spy Josef Jakobs was captured with £498 in £1 English banknotes on his person, all of which were genuine. The money, given to him by the German Abwehr, ended up being used by MI5 in the great Double-Cross enterprise. In this small area, Germany ended up funding Britain's war effort.

References
National Archives, Security Service files - KV 2 and KV 4 series.

12 November 2014

Shot at the Tower - A Commemoration of the Spies executed in the Miniature Rifle Range

The year 2014 is the centenary of the beginning of World War I. From August 5 to November 11, the moat in the Tower of London has been progressively filled with ceramic poppies, one for every Commonwealth soldier who died during the war (888,246).
Tower of London poppy display (Copyright G.K. Jakobs)
Tower of London poppy display (Copyright G.K. Jakobs)
The poppies cascade out of the Tower from two points, the Legge's Mount tower at the northwest corner of the Tower and from a point along the eastern wall.
Eastern wall cascade of poppies (copyright G.K. Jakobs).
Eastern wall cascade of poppies (copyright G.K. Jakobs).
The eastern cascade of poppies is located along that stretch of the outer wall near the Constable and Martin towers. During the two world wars, a miniature rifle range was located in the Outer Ward, between the Constable and Martin Towers.
Eastern cascade of poppies - rounded Constable Tower (left) and Martin  Tower (right) (copyright G.K. Jakobs).
Eastern cascade of poppies - rounded Constable Tower (left) and Martin
Tower (right) (copyright G.K. Jakobs).
The rifle range was torn down in the 1970s and a covered car park now occupies the former site between the Constable and Martin Towers. Until this year, no memorial has marked the site of the rifle range nor commemorated the deaths that occurred there during the two world wars.
Car park roof where rifle range used to sit.  (copyright G.K. Jakobs)
Car park roof where rifle range used to sit.
(copyright G.K. Jakobs)
Historic Royal Palaces commissioned a four part installation, Shot at the Tower, to document the history of the miniature rifle range. The display is located on the Wall Walk between the Constable and Martin towers.
Commemorative installation for the Miniature Rifle Range.  (Copyright G.K. Jakobs)
Commemorative installation for the Miniature Rifle Range.
(Copyright G.K. Jakobs)

The first part of the installation presents the images of twelve men who were executed at the Tower during the two world wars.
Wartime Executions display (Copyright G.K. Jakobs).
Wartime Executions display (Copyright G.K. Jakobs).

The three-dimensional brass images give the name, nationality and execution date of the spies. Eleven men were executed at the Tower during World War I. Carl Hans Lody was the first, on November 6, 1914. Two men were executed in the Tower moat by firing squad during the summer of 1915, while the old rifle range was replaced by a new one.
Wartime Executions display - WWI spies (Copyright G.K. Jakobs).
Wartime Executions display - WWI spies (Copyright G.K. Jakobs).
Wartime Executions display (Copyright G.K. Jakobs).
Wartime Executions display (Copyright G.K. Jakobs).

On the right hand side of the display is the photograph of Josef Jakobs, the only spy executed by firing squad in Britain during World War 2.
Wartime Executions display at the Tower of London--Josef Jakobs (Copyright G.K. Jakobs).
Wartime Executions display at the Tower of
London--Josef Jakobs (Copyright G.K. Jakobs).

The second display shows replicas of some of the items that incriminated the spies: coded letters, lemon juice (for secret writing), bottles of invisible ink, etc.
Evidence for the Prosecution (copyright G.K. Jakobs).
Evidence for the Prosecution (copyright G.K. Jakobs).
Evidence for the Prosecution (copyright G.K. Jakobs).
Evidence for the Prosecution (copyright G.K. Jakobs).

Evidence for the Prosecution (copyright G.K. Jakobs).
Evidence for the Prosecution (copyright G.K. Jakobs).
The third display presents some of the documents surrounding the execution of the World War I spies, including a replica of a letter that Carl Hans Lody wrote to the commander of the Grenadier Guards at the Tower.
Executions at the Tower (copyright G.K. Jakobs).
Executions at the Tower (copyright G.K. Jakobs).
Executions at the Tower - map showing location of rifle range.  (copyright G.K. Jakobs).
Executions at the Tower - map showing location of rifle range.
(copyright G.K. Jakobs).
The fourth display is a brass replica of a rifle rack containing Lee-Enfield rifles used by the firing squads. A slightly more modern version of the Lee-Enfield was also used at the execution of Josef Jakobs in 1941.
Executions at the Tower - replica rifle stand.  (copyright G.K. Jakobs).
Executions at the Tower - replica rifle stand.
(copyright G.K. Jakobs).
The four-part display was designed and created by Loz Simpson of Topografik, a tactile display company.
Loz Simpson of Topografik (copyright G.K. Jakobs).
Loz Simpson of Topografik (copyright G.K. Jakobs).
Many people are surprised to learn that more people were executed within the walls of the Tower during the 20th century than during the time of the Tudors. It is hoped that this new display will kindle the interest of visitors in the stories of these men and the varied history of the Tower.

Shot at the Tower installation (copyright G.K. Jakobs).
Shot at the Tower installation (copyright G.K. Jakobs).
See the Historic Royal Palaces link on Twitter.

07 November 2014

The Artifacts of German spy Josef Jakobs

Artifacts from the imprisonment and execution of Josef Jakobs are not held in a central repository. Many organizations and individuals were involved in his capture, interrogation and execution and each seems to have acquired a little fragment of the story. Unfortunately some of the fragments are lost to history.

When Josef landed near Ramsey in Huntingdonshire, he had a variety of items in his possession including spy gear, personal items and clothing. Whatever became of those items and where can one see them?

National Archives
Many of the items that Josef brought were confiscated by MI5 and some of them ended up in the National Archives files in London including:
The National Archives also holds the original hand-written German letter that Josef wrote to King George VI.

Ramsey Rural Museum
A small fragment of Josef's parachute resides in the Ramsey Rural Museum (Cambridgeshire). The location of the rest of the parachute is unknown.

Imperial War Museum
A wall case in the Imperial War Museum displays typical equipment for a German spy who might parachute into England, including a parachute, flying suit, hand spade and radio transmitter. These articles have an unknown provenance and could be from a variety of spies. While not necessarily belonging to Josef Jakobs, they are similar to his equipment. Apparently officers of MI5 would add such items to their personal collections when they were no longer required for intelligence purposes (i.e. the spy had been executed).

Tower of London, London
Most people are aware that the Tower of London holds the chair in which Josef was executed. Held in storage for many years, the chair was brought out of the dark in the late 1990s and placed on display in the Tower. Recently the Royal Armouries in the Tower of London also acquired the prescription for some medication offered to Josef on the morning of his execution.

Scots Guards Museum, London
A less well known repository is the Scots Guards Museum at Wellington Barracks in London. It apparently holds the round lint target that was pinned to Josef's chest for his execution. The circle is not always on display.

St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green, London
Josef's body was buried at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery in an unmarked grave in Plot G, which has since been reused for other internments. The cemetery chapel contains a plaque commemorating the final resting place of all those whose graves were lost in Plot G.

Private Collections
Several items reside in private collections and these are obviously much harder to trace. The farewell letter that Josef wrote to his family on the night before his execution was held in the MI5 files for decades. It was finally delivered to his family in 1993. Josef had given one individual his spectacles (and the blue leather case marked Optiker Ruhnke) and these were recently returned to Josef's family. Other items that Josef may have given to various individuals include:
Lost to History
Josef had several other items with him, which have simply disappeared into the mists of time:

03 November 2014

A Life Torn to Shreds

Cipher disc for Werner Walti (real name Robert Petter), one of the spies who landed off the coast of Scotland in late September, 1940.
Cipher disc for Werner Walti (real name Robert Petter), one of the
spies who landed off the coast of Scotland in late September, 1940.
(After the Battle magazine).
 The German spies who were sent to England from September 1940 to January 1941 were often equipped with a cipher disc to encipher their radio transmissions back to Germany.

Cipher discs were first described in a 1467 treatise by Leon Battista Alberti, an Italian Renaissance Man. Two discs, one larger than the other were pinned together and rotated around the pin. The message letters were commonly on the outside of the disc and the ciphered results were on the inside disc. Thus, using the disc at right, the word "cipher" would become "hwepgx". A variation of the Alberti cipher disc was also used during the American Civil War. The Germans took the standard cipher disc and added their own particular twist to it, adding numbers on both the inside and outside wheel. Handwritten on heavy card stock, the German cipher discs varied from agent to agent but were helpfully numbered sequentially by their spymasters.


Outer circle of Josef Jakob's cipher disc.
Outer circle of Josef Jakob's cipher disc.
(National Archives)
When Josef Jakobs parachuted into England on the evening of January 31, he was crippled by a broken ankle incurred while leaving the German aircraft. Sometime during the night, or early in the morning, Josef took his cipher disc and tore it up into small pieces and scattered the pieces on the ground around him. When he was found the next morning, members of the Home Guard and Ramsey Police gathered up the torn fragments of the code and sent them off to MI5.

Inner circle of Josef Jakob's cipher disc.
Inner circle of Josef Jakob's cipher disc.
(National Archives)
The cipher disc fragments were sent to the cryptology experts at Bletchley Park where they were partially reconstructed. From the fragments Lt. Col. William Edward Hinchley Cooke of MI5 learned that Josef's cipher disc was numbered 9. That was particularly worrisome to MI5 as the last two cipher discs, confiscated from the German spies who arrived off the Scottish coast in late September, were numbered 6 and 7. Where was the cipher disc numbered 8?

Josef Jakobs' cipher disc fragments held at the National Archives.
Josef Jakobs' cipher disc fragments held
at the National Archives.
(photo copyright G.K. Jakobs)
In April of 1941, a dead man was found in a public air raid shelter in Cambridge. He had committed suicide with a pistol and it was eventually determined that he was a German spy who had eluded capture in England. Jan Willem Ter Braak (real name Engelbertus Fukken) had landed in early November 1940 near Cambridge and had managed to live undiscovered in Cambridge for several months. Having run out of funds, and with no fresh supply from Germany, Fukken took matters into his own hands and shot himself. His radio transmitters was found at the Cambridge Railway Station Left Luggage area. It is quite likely that his his cipher disc was numbered 8.

As for Josef Jakobs, the fact that he had torn up his cipher disc did not bode well for him. MI5 interpreted Josef's act, committed during the pain-filled darkness of a frigid January night, as a hostile act. Had Josef really intended to help the English, they argued, he would have handed his intact cipher disc over to the English authorities when he was captured the following morning. Josef said that he had been overcome by pain and was afraid that peasant farmers would treat him harshly if they saw obvious spy equipment. The officers of MI5 and the members of Josef's court martial did not agree. Other German agents had also disposed of their cipher discs and/or codes prior to capture. Josef Waldberg and Karl Meier who landed along the coast of Kent in the darkness of an early morning in September 1940 had dumped their circular codes overboard after hearing a British patrol boat in the distance.

Perhaps Josef had lost his head because of the pain of his broken ankle, but his pleas were of no avail. In the end, those torn fragments of a cipher disc sealed Josef Jakobs' death sentence.

References
National Archives, Security Service files on Josef Jakobs - KV 2/24, 2/25, 2/26, 2/27.
German Spies in Britain, After the Battle Magazine, Volume 11, 1976.