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:

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