31 January 2015

Today in 1941 - January 31 - Josef Jakobs landed by parachute near the village of Ramsey in Huntingdonshire

On this day in 1941, German spy Josef Jakobs descended from a German airplane over the dark fields of England. Like many parachutist spies, Josef hurt himself during the descent, breaking his ankle as he left the aircraft.

Today in 1941 - January 31 - Josef Jakobs landed by parachute near the village of Ramsey in HuntingdonshireAt about 7:30 pm local time, Josef landed in a potato field on Dovehouse Farm, near the village of Ramsey in Huntingdonshire. Josef's arrival went unnoticed by the inhabitants of Dovehouse Farm and nearby Wistow Fen Farm. It was a cold, dark, January night and everyone was tucked inside, snug and warm around the Aga cooker.

Josef would spend the next 12 hours, alone in the clammy mud of an English field, awaiting discovery by peasant farmers.

30 January 2015

Book Review - Fighting to Lose: How the German Secret Intelligence Service helped the Allies win the Second World War - John Bryden (2014)

Book Cover - Fighting to Lose - John Bryden (2014)The Book
Fighting to Lose: How the German Secret Intelligence Service helped the Allies win the Second World War. John Bryden. Dundurn. 2014.

Summary
There have been many books written about the triumph of the British double-cross system run by MI5 during World War II. The inept German Abwehr (German Secret Intelligence Service) sent poorly trained spies to Britain who were then turned into double agents by MI5. These double-agents sent incorrect information back to Germany and helped win the war.

So goes the story. But even within MI5 at the time, there was head-scratching over the clumsiness of the Abwehr. Could they really be that stupid? That inefficient? The Germans, who were the paragon of efficiency?

Shoulders were shrugged and the story persisted that the Germans were inept and inexperienced at espionage and that the British were sly and successful. But is that the real story? I had never questioned that story until I read this book.

Bryden builds on the work of several other authors who, as early as the 1950s, suggested that the Abwehr was a nest of anti-Nazi officers who actively worked to undermine the Nazi war effort, particularly in regards to Hitler's plans to invade England.

The invasion of England was widely seen as folly by the officers of the German Army and Navy. Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, the head of the Abwehr, ensured that the various offices of the Abwehr (Asts) were staffed by anti-Nazi officers who were loyal to Canaris. When orders came to prepare for the invasion of England in 1940, these officers ensured that espionage efforts against England were doomed to failure.

Bryden suggests that the Abwehr was not as dumb as it appeared. Canaris got extremely high marks for intelligence operations that ensured that the invasion of France and the Low Countries was a success. There was also evidence that the Abwehr knew that their agent JOHNNY, known as SNOW to the English, was working for MI5. And since SNOW was connected with several other double-agents, including TATE and TRICYCLE, MI5s double-cross system was likely blown.

On top of all that, there is strong evidence that the spies sent to England by the Abwehr, particularly in 1940 and 1941 were sacrificial agents. They were meant to be caught. On a whole, they were poorly trained, lacked English skills and their identity papers and ration cards were full of glaring errors and omissions. For example, some identity cards had a continental "1" written on them (a 1 with a tail on it). The Abwehr documents division could imitate every ink, piece of paper, stamp or seal, and yet the papers on the spies sent to England were flawed in so many ways.

Finally, the author suggests that there was communication between Canaris and the head of MI6, Stewart Menzies. This has been suggested by several other authors.

In the end, Canaris was removed as head of the Abwehr in 1944 and executed as a traitor in April 1945, a few short weeks before the end of the war.

Review
I found this book to be very readable. The material presented was eye-opening and the author made a compelling argument for his premise that the Abwehr was fighting to lose, at least against Britain.

Review Score
5 out of 5 - eye-opening and thought-provoking.

26 January 2015

A Peek inside Wandsworth Prison

Prison Officer and Curator - Stewart McLaughlin  (From This is Local London)
Prison Officer and Curator - Stewart McLaughlin
(From This is Local London)
I went to prison while visiting London last year.

Before that statement gives my parents heart failure, I must note that I went to prison as a visitor, not as an inmate. It was an enlightening and disturbing experience.

A few months prior to my visit, I had contacted Prison Officer Stewart McLaughlin who also serves as the curator of the Wandsworth Prison Museum.

Stewart was very helpful and quite happily arranged for me to visit the prison and see the cell in which Josef was kept from July 24, 1941 until the morning of his execution on August 15, 1941.

Front of Wandsworth Prison (Copyright G.K. Jakobs)
Front of Wandsworth Prison (Copyright G.K. Jakobs)
Getting into prison, even as a visitor, was no small feat. I had to divest myself of: money, cell phone, camera, memory cards, knapsack and identification.

I was given a "visitor" tag to wear around my neck and Stewart escorted me out of the Administration block and into the prison yard.

Alas, having no camera, I was unable to take any photographs inside the prison, but have scrounged a few from the web.

1851 Plan for Wandsworth Prison - showing Wings. (Wandsworth Prison Museum has a copy of the plan)
1851 Plan for Wandsworth Prison - showing Wings.
(Wandsworth Prison Museum has a copy of the plan)
Wandsworth Prison was built in 1851 in the shape of a star with a central rotunda from which radiate five prison wings (A, B, C, D, E) and one shorter wing (F). The shorter wing, known as F wing, was the Administration wing in 1941.

After entering the main gates of the prison, Josef would have entered the prison building through large doors at the end of F Wing, directly opposite the main gates. Those doors have since been walled off, so Stewart and I entered F wing through a door near the junction of A and F wing.

One thing I noticed in prison was that there were a lot of doors with locks. It seemed as if there was a locked door or a locked gate every 20 feet or so. Stewart was forever locking and unlocking doors and gates. He would open the door with the key, I would pass through, then he would come through and lock the door behind us. It was a most disconcerting sensation.

Wandsworth Prison - central Rotunda  (From LBC website)
Wandsworth Prison - central Rotunda
(From LBC website)
Finally we stood within the central rotunda. As you can see from the photograph (left), there were three floors: Level 2, Level 3 and Level 4. Level 1 was accessed through a different entrance.

Within the rotunda, there were two spiral staircases that connect the different levels. One set of stairs was located between A and B wing (seen on the photograph at left), while the other was located between D and E wing (the position from which the photograph at left was taken).

Back in mid-1941, two cells of Wandsworth Prison were designated as a miltary prison (Cells F2 and F3) so that Josef could be held there while he awaited his court martial and execution.

1851 Plan for Wandsworth Prison - showing location of Josef's cell and execution chamber. (Wandsworth Prison Museum has a copy of the plan)
1851 Plan for Wandsworth Prison
- showing location of Josef's cell and execution chamber.
(Wandsworth Prison Museum has a copy of the plan)
According to the Prison Governor's diary, Josef was held in Cell F3. With a bit of sleuthing, Stewart had concluded that Cell F3 (which was on Level 3) was located at the junction between F Wing and E Wing. This cell was quite large and had bathroom facilities, something that would have been essential for a self-contained cell. Interestingly, just around the corner, in E wing, lay the execution chamber. Today, Cell F3 is the chaplain's office.

Wandsworth Prison Rotunda - showing doors of end-wing. (Photograph by Antonio Olmos from The Guardian)
Wandsworth Prison Rotunda - showing doors of end-wing.
(Photograph by Antonio Olmos from The Guardian)
The door to Josef's cell would have opened out onto the Rotunda. While I couldn't find photographs of the Josef's former cell, in the photograph at left, you can see a dark blue door on the main level (Level 2) located between C Wing and D Wing. There are corresponding doors located on Level 3 and Level 4. Josef's cell door would have looked similar to those.

The location of Josef's cell, in close proximity to the execution chamber, would have been a cause for concern on Wednesday, August 6, 1941. It was the day after Josef's court martial. Josef had been found guilty of Treachery and condemned to death by shooting. He would have been in a fragile state of mind.

That same morning, at 9:00 a.m., German spies Werner Walti and Karl Theodore Druecke were hanged in E Wing by hangman Thomas Pierrepoint, ably assisted by Albert Pierrepoint (his nephew) and Harry Kirk. Josef's window looked out onto the area where the bodies were removed from the drop zone of the gallows.

1851 Plan for Wandsworth Prison - close-up - location of Josef's cell and execution chamber. (Wandsworth Prison Museum has a copy of the plan)
1851 Plan for Wandsworth Prison - close-up
- location of Josef's cell and execution chamber.
(Wandsworth Prison Museum has a copy of the plan)
Was Josef kept otherwise occupied at that critical moment? Perhaps his military guards had taken him for exercise at the far end of the prison complex.

While executions might not be advertised in the prison, word would quickly have spread that two men had been executed that morning. It would have been a sobering reminder to Josef of the fate that awaited him, albeit by firing squad.
 
On the morning of his execution, at around 4:45 a.m., Josef would have left his cell and walked down the spiral staircase between D Wing and E wing. Reaching the bottom, he would have turned left and walked through the rotunda to F Wing.

It was an eerie experience to stand in the rotunda. To hear the footsteps of the guards, the murmur of voices, and to know that my grandfather had walked in that same place.
Wandsworth Prison Rotunda - stairs between D Wing and E Wing.  (Photograph by Martin Godwin from The Guardian)
Wandsworth Prison Rotunda - stairs between D Wing and E Wing.
(Photograph by Martin Godwin from The Guardian)

I had hoped that Stewart would give me a tour of the Wandsworth Prison Museum, but everything was in boxes. The new location for the museum (which had been housed in a former garage) was in the process of construction. That was a bit of a disappointment, but some pictures of the Museum can be seen here

Wandsworth Prison - Google Earth Red arrow points to location of prison graveyard.
Wandsworth Prison - Google Earth
Red arrow points to location of prison graveyard.
While I was at Wandsworth, I asked Stewart if I could see the prison cemetery. Prisoners who were executed at Wandsworth were buried in unmarked graves within the prison walls. Stewart took me to the location marked with a red arrow on the photograph at right.

I had expected to see something. Perhaps a plot of bare ground, or a square of grass. But there was simply pavement or tarmac. The area of the graves had long since been paved over, covered up.

There was nothing to indicate that over a hundred executed people were buried there. Walti and Druecke were buried there. Richter was buried there. Stewart told me that at some point, a couple of graves were exhumed (possibly John Amery and William Joyce) and that there remains were transferred to more hallowed ground by the families of the men. Not so for the others. They remain buried beneath the ground with nothing to mark their final resting place.
Wandsworth Prison - Google Earth Red arrow points to location of prison graveyard.
Wandsworth Prison - Google Earth
Red arrow points to location of prison graveyard.

21 January 2015

Book Review - In the Highest Degree Odious: Detention without Trial in Wartime Britain - A.W. Brian Simpson (1984)

Book Cover - In the Highest Degree Odious - A.W. Brian Simpson (1984)
The Book
In the Highest Degree Odious: Detention without Trial in Wartime Britain. A.W. Simpson. Clarendon Press. 1984.

Review
This book was riveting and eye-opening. It is perhaps best encapsulated by a quote from Churchill, part of which forms the title of the book:
The Power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgement of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.
The author, who passed away in 2011 was a lawyer, British legal historian, author and professor of law.

In this particular book, he delved into the detention of British citizens during World War 2. In May 1940, the German Army launched an offensive against the Low Countries and France. The speed of their advance was incomprehensible to the Allies and led to the belief that a Fifth Column must have been at work in the Low Countries. With most of Continental Europe firmly under the jackboot of the Germans, England felt backed into a corner and looked to uncover an Fifth Columnists and spies within the island kingdom. The Security Service, underfunded during the interwar period, fueled the paranoia and portrayed the threat as greater than it probably was.

Jewish refugees, enemy aliens, British citizens of German or Italian extraction, Communists, members of the British Union of Fascists - all came under suspicion and a wave of internments followed. At the start of the war, the British Government had passed the Defence Regulations, of which #18B gave the executive the right to detain British citizens. Herbert Morrison, an MP for the Labour Party noted that the regulation gave the executive "really extraordinary sweeping powers under which, it seems to me, anybody whom the Home Secretary did not like could be hanged, drawn or quartered, almost without any reasonable or proper means of defending himself".

The author noted that there was a huge difference between imprisonment for a criminal offence (where guilt has been established through a public trial) and imprisonment by executive decision. He noted that "once government is, for one reason, empowered to bypass the tedious requirements of the rule of law, and lock up its citizens without charge, trial, or term set, the temptation to extend the use of so convenient a power seems to be quite irresistible - the threat to liberty comes not from some malevolent enthusiasm for tyranny, but from a professional concern for efficient government".

Whitehall, with the legacy of World War I still fresh in its memory, felt that war could only be carried on under conditions in which civil liberty had, as a matter of law, been abolished. The powers granted to the government were incompatible with a democratic state and the "legal regime under which Britain fought the war was that of a totalitarian state".

In mid-1940, citizens, refugees, enemy aliens and political opponents were arrested without warning and imprisoned without trial. Some were held at special interrogation centres (Camp 020 being one of them) where they were subjected to various forms of what we would now term psychological torture. By 1941, Churchill began to have doubts about detention without trial, recognizing that the Fifth Column was a myth. Some detainees were eventually released, many remained interned for the duration of the war.

In this book, the author has touched on an issue that is extremely relevant given society's current concern with home-grown terror networks. The history of Britain's Defence Regulation 18B illustrates a problem that faces liberal democracies in times of grave crisis and raises an interesting question.
Is it essential to their survival that they should temporarily cease to be liberal democracies until the threat is over?
The danger is particularly acute when it comes from an illiberal enemy. Apparently "when the security of the state, and the very survival of British liberty, is at stake, the rights and interests of individuals simply have to go by the board". Or, as someone else put it, "War is a rough business; you cannot make omelets without breaking eggs".

The author leaves us with this warning - "It is wise to be extremely skeptical when security services, or indeed anyone else, puts forward the claim that drastic action needs to be taken against an enemy within. You can never really trust security services. They are in the business of constructing threats to security, and the weaker the evidence, the more sinister the threat is thought to be."

Summary
The British government was ruthless in its handling of German spies. It was extremely revealing to learn that the British government was equally ruthless in how it dealt with its own citizens. When faced with a dire threat, a government can lay democracy aside, without the consent, or even the awareness of its citizens. A scary thought. Or as Churchill said: "In the highest degree odious".

Review Score
5 out of 5 - very revealing, particularly given the infringements on civil liberties in modern society

16 January 2015

The Rocky Road to Josef Jakobs' Court Martial: The Officer Commanding Grenadier Guards

The court martial of an enemy agent was no simple matter. Josef Jakobs was a member of the German military, the English had decided that he could be tried by a court martial. But in order to comply with military law, Josef needed to have a commanding officer who could implement the proceedings. In late July, Josef Jakobs was attached to the Grenadier Guards for disciplinary purposes, which meant that Lt. Col. George Mervyn Cornish, Officer Commanding Holding Battalion Grenadier Guards, was now Josef's commanding officer.

George Mervyn Cornish
George was born on 11 September 1884 in Yarmouth, Norfolkshire, nestled on the shores of the North Sea. Yarmouth missed out on being the easternmost point in England by just a few metres, that honour went to Lowestoft, a town a few kilometres south of Yarmouth. Young George was the first child of Australian expats, Lt. George William Cornish and Maud Ethel Nathan.

George Sr. had a most interesting career. In 1877, at the tender age of 17, George Sr. received a commission in the Royal Navy as a Midshipman. By 1879, George Sr. was serving on Her Majesty's frigate, the Raleigh. George was promoted to sub-lieutenant in 1881, and by 1884, George Sr was serving on the Corvette Briton. A promotion to Lieutenant followed in 1885. At some point, George Sr. married Maud and the young couple moved to England. They moved around a fair bit as George Sr's postings took him to various coastal stations in England.

George Sr. and Maud had a second child in 1897. Young Norah Brooking Cornish was born in Weymouth on the Dorset coast. Four years later, the young family was living in Youghal, County Cork in Ireland. They were evidently fairly well off, for the household included a couple of cooks, a nanny and a coachman. At the time, George Sr. was serving as a Lieutenant within the Royal Navy and was a Divisional Officer of the Coast Guard. In 1906, George Sr. retired from the Royal Navy with the rank of Commander and the family settled down in Westgate-on-Sea, Kent.

One would expect that young George, with such a sea-faring history in his family would have followed in his father's footsteps, but George was not a sailor. By 1911, George was attending Sherbourne School, a private boy's school in northwest Dorset. A decade later, young Alan Turing would attend the same school and go on to become England's best code-breaker during World War II.

Artists Rifles Badge
Artists Rifles Badge
At Sherbourne, George became an avid cricket player and would continue to play during his military career. In 1914, with the outbreak of war, George enlisted in the Army as a volunteer. He started off at the bottom of the ladder: a Private in 28th (County of London) Battalion of The London Regiment, but his prospects for advancement looked good. Known as the Artist's Rifles, the 28th Battalion served as a pool from which the Army drew new officers. George was sent to France on 6 December, 1914, and displayed a certain degree of leadership and courage. On 15 January, 1916, young George was picked out of the enlisted ranks and given a commission as a temporary Second Lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards.

Grenadier Guards Badge
Grenadier Guards Badge
In late September, 1916, George was wounded during an offensive with the the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards at the Somme. George and his battalion were sent over the top as part of a nighttime attack to clear out some German posts. Of the 22 officers who took part in the attack, 17 were wounded or killed. George, "though twice wounded and streaming with blood, continued to lead the advance. Not till after the trench was firmly in our hands did he allow himself to be taken to the dressing station" (Gazette). George had "behaved with great gallantry" and was recommended for, and eventually awarded, a Military Cross. In November, George was promoted to temporary Lieutenant (effective 26 January, 1916). George went on to survive the war and was appointed a Captain in the Grenadier Guards on 1 September, 1923. A couple of years later, he was appointed Adjutant to vice Captain J.A. Lloyd. In 1929, George was seconded from the Grenadier Guards to serve under the Colonial Office. What that actually entailed was a mystery.

In 1938, George, now a Major, returned to London from Jamaica and took up residence at 417 Nell Gwynn House in Chelsea, a few blocks from the Chelsea Barracks. Unlike many of his military brethern, George apparently never married before the war. His first, and only love, was the Grenadier Guards.

On 1 August, 1939, George was appointed Lt. Colonel and given command of the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards. His battalion was quickly sent to France where, on 12 September, 1939, it was inspected by His Majesty the King. On 20 April, 1940, George was transferred back to London where he was given command of the Holding Battalion Grenadier Guards, a move that would save him from the humiliating evacuation at Dunkirk in June 1940. A year later, in July 1941, George was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE).

After the war, George retired from the Army and eventually passed away in Truro, Cornwall, the town in which his parents had eventually settled. There is some evidence that in 1947 he may have married one Josephine Phyllis Carlisle.

References 
Ancestry.co.uk - Birth, Marriage, Death, Census records, Passenger Lists.
Army List - 1941.
Artists Rifles. Regimental Roll of Honour and War Record 1914-1919, S. Stagoll Higham (ed.) 1922.
CricketArchive.com website
London Gazette - various notices.
Navy List - various years.

Orders of Battle website.
World War 2 Guards website.

12 January 2015

The Rocky Road to Josef Jakobs' Court Martial: the Judge Advocate

MI5's application to have German spy Josef Jakobs tried by court martial had been accepted by the Attorney General in late June. The officers of MI5 had anticipated that the court martial would take place within two weeks of the AG's approval but there was some difficulty in arranging military prison accommodations for Josef within London. Thus the proceedings for Josef's court martial were delayed significantly.

Warrant from Judge Advocate General appointing Carl Ludwig Stirling as Judge Advocate for court martial of Josef Jakobs. (National Archives - WO 71-1240).
Warrant from Judge Advocate General appointing
Carl Ludwig Stirling as Judge Advocate for
court martial of Josef Jakobs.
(National Archives - WO 71-1240).
Finally, on July 22, 1941, with all of the ducks firmly in a row, Josef was attached to the Grenadier Guards for disciplinary purposes. A week later, on July 28, a Summary of Evidence was held at Wellington Barracks under the direction of Major Anthony Marlowe, the barrister who would also serve as the Attorney for the Prosecution. The various witnesses read out their statements and Josef was given a chance to cross-examine them if he so desired. Given that an interpreter was not present, nor a defence lawyer, Josef had little to contribute to the proceedings.

Finally, on August 1, 1941, the Judge Advocate General, issued a warrant appointing the man who would act as Judge Advocate at Josef's court martial.

Carl Ludwig Stirling was a Barrister-at-Law, a civilian who served as the Deputy Judge Advocate General. It would be his job to ensure that all of the intricacies of British military law were followed during Josef's court martial. He would also present the summing up of evidence before the members of the court decided Josef's fate. Stirling would play a key role, not only in Josef's court martial but also in the trials of many of German's war criminals.

Carl Ludwig Stirling
Despite his German-sounding name, Carl Ludwig Stirling was born November 10, 1890 in Manchester, England. His father, William Stirling, was a physician and professor of physiology at Manchester University. Carl's mother was Elizabeth Ferguson Crawford. Both of Carl's parents had been born in the same year in the tiny village of Bothkennar, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

Carl was the youngest child in the family with one sister and one brother. Carl's father was obviously well-do-to for the family employed several servants. Carl's mother often took the children north to Scotland to visit her relatives in Bothkennar. Her family, too, was quite well off, with her eldest brother managing the steamship company inherited from their father.

Recruiting Poster for the 2nd (City of London) Battalion of the London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers). (From WWI Propaganda Posters)
Recruiting Poster for the 2nd (City of
London) Battalion of the London Regiment
(Royal Fusiliers).
(From WWI Propaganda Posters)
While many of his contemporaries studied at Oxford, Carl chose to go to school closer to home, attending the University of Manchester and Belfield Lodge, Fallowfield. Despite this rather provincial education, Carl was called to the Bar of the Middle Temple in London on June 4, 1913.

World War I
Unlike several of his legal contemporaries (AG, JAG, DPP), Carl did not end up fighting in World War I, although he did join His Majesty's Forces. On January 16, 1915, Carl received a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd (City of London) Battalion of the London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers).

On October 15, 1915, dressed in his dashing Royal Fusiliers uniform, Carl married Fenna Kemp Fenn Smith at St. John the Evangelist Church in Wembley.

Fenna was born in Durban, South Africa in 1894. Her father George William Kemp Fenn Smith had joined the Cape Mounted Rifles in 1883 and been deployed to South Africa. After his discharge from the Rifles, he remained in South Africa as a mining engineer searching for gold. He returned to the United Kingdom to marry Louise Rose Roberts in 1893. George and Louise traveled to South Africa where Fenna and her youngest brother, Warren were born. The family traveled back to the UK on occasion and in 1896, Fenna's middle brother, Gurth. was born. George died in 1901 in South Africa and his wife and children returned to the United Kingdom for good. Fenna had two brothers, Warren and Gurth. Warren joined the Royal Flying Corps and was killed in action in mid-January 1918. His brother, Gurth, originally joined the Royal Dragoons but in mid-1918 transferred to the Royal Flying Corps.

Carl and Fenna wasted no time in beginning their family. A daughter, Pamela was born in September 1916, followed by a son, William, a decade later. From 1916 to 1917, Carl sat on a series of Military Appeal Tribunals in Devonshire. Individuals who requested an exemption from military service had to present their case before the tribunal. Carl was a rather unsympathetic ear and quickly developed a bit of a reputation as a bully. In his opinion, young men should be serving their country overseas not trapping rabbits and herding cattle. Despite this reputation, Carl was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant on June 1, 1916, and to full Lieutenant on October 17, 1917.

Little can be deduced from Carl's activities during the interwar period. We do know that on February 12, 1927, he was appointed a Legal Assistant to the Office of the Judge Advocate General. At some point he also "took silk" and was appointed King's Counsel (later Queen's Counsel). He was also invested as an Officer of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

World War II
On August 4 and 5, 1941, Carl served as the Judge Advocate at Josef's court martial. Carl opened the proceedings and closed the proceedings with a summing up of the evidence.

On January 1, 1943, His Majesty the King was pleased to make Carl a Commander of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Carl Ludwig Stirling at the Belsen Trials (Photo from Corbis Images)
Carl Ludwig Stirling at the Belsen Trials
(Photo from Corbis Images)
Carl really came into his own, and achieved a fair degree of notoriety, for his role in the war crimes trials that took place after World War II. Carl served as Judge Advocate for many trials, including the Belsen Trial (trial of Belsen and Auschwitz concentration camp personnel) as well as the trial of British personnel accused of the ill-treatment of German prisoners at the Bad Nenndorf Detailed Interrogation Centre, the camp commanded by Lt. Col. Robin William George Stephens (formerly of Camp 020 at Ham Common in southwest London).

Photographs of German prisoners held by the British after World War 2 (From The Guardian).
Photographs of German prisoners held by the British
after World War 2 (From The Guardian).
In a strange twist of fate, Carl was Judge Advocate not only at Josef's court martial in 1941 but may also have been the Judge Advocate at the court martial of Stephens in 1948, the man who had interrogated Josef at Camp 020. While Stephens would be acquitted, Josef was not so lucky.

As for Carl, after the war crimes trials he faded into the background before eventually passing away on July 6, 1973 in Taunton, Somerset.

References
 Ancestry.co.uk - genealogy records - births, marriages, census records, military records.
Devon and the First World War - by Richard John Batten (pdf document).
Imperial War Museum - collection of private papers of C.L. Stirling.
London Gazette
National Archives - War Office file containing transcript of Josef Jakobs' court martial (WO 71-1240).

Rootsweb - forum thread on William George Kemp Fenn Smith.

07 January 2015

The Rocky Road to Josef Jakobs' Court Martial: The Judge Advocate General of His Majesty's Forces

In late June 1941, MI5 made a request to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to have German spy Josef Jakobs tried by court martial, rather than by a civilian court. The DPP forwarded the request to the Attorney General for his approval, which was granted on June 24, 1941. The very next day, the DPP wrote a letter to the Judge Advocate General (JAG) of His Majesety's Forces, informing him that Josef Jakobs would be tried by court martial, a proceeding which was under the control of the JAG.

Colonel Sir Henry Davies Foster  MacGeagh GCVO KCB KBE QC TD  (photograph from Henry's obituary on  Ancestry.co.uk website)
Colonel Sir Henry Davies Foster
MacGeagh GCVO KCB KBE QC TD
(photograph from Henry's obituary on
Ancestry.co.uk website)
The office of the Judge Advocate General was established in 1666 and was created to supervise "courts-martial". By the time of World War II, the Office of the Judge Advocate General oversaw the legal system of the British Armed Forces. The JAG was always a civilian, although he (to-date no woman has served in this role) may have served in the military prior to his appointment. The JAG was assisted by a team of civilian judges and a small staff of civil servants.

On June 25, 1941, Josef's case landed on the desk of Colonel Sir Henry Davies Foster MacGeagh, Britain's Judge Advocate General from 1934 to 1954.

Henry Davies Foster MacGeagh
Henry was born October 21, 1883, the only son of Thomas Edwin Foster MacGeagh and Fanny Davies (an American). Thomas was a surgeon who commuted back and forth to London from the family's home at Hadlow Castle in Kent. Henry had two younger sisters, Elizabeth Mary Muriel (born 1888) and Hilda Frances Stafford MacGeagh (born 1890). Henry's family was quite well-to-do and apparently liked to travel for young Henry visited New York in 1887 and 1892.

Dr. Thomas Edwin Foster MacGeagh, 1891  (From Whyte's Auctioneers website)
Dr. Thomas Edwin Foster MacGeagh, 1891
(From Whyte's Auctioneers website)
By 1901, the family had moved to London but Henry didn't stay there long. In 1902, Henry started studies at St. Paul's and Magdalen College, Oxford where he was granted an Honours degree in History in 1905. The very next year Henry was called to the Bar by the Middle Temple but not before traveling to New York for a touring trip with fellow barrister Oscar Sheridan Fleischmann.
 
1/5th Battalion London Regiment  (London Rifle Brigade)  (From London Remembers website)
1/5th Battalion London Regiment
(London Rifle Brigade)
(From London Remembers website)

Military Career
In 1909, Henry joined the 5th Battalion of the London Regiment of the Territorial Army (London Rifle Brigade) and was granted a commission as Captain.

With the outbreak of World War I, Henry embarked for the Continent on November 4, 1914 and ended up serving in France and Flanders. In 1916, Henry was appointed Military Assistant to the Judge Advocate General, a post that he held until 1923.

During that same period, Henry also served as Deputy Assistant Adjutant General and Assistant Adjutant General to the War Office. For his distinguished service, Henry was awarded the Companion of the British Empire medal in 1919.

Somewhere amongst all his duties, he found time to marry Rita Kiddle in 1917 at St. James's Church in Piccadilly, London. Rita was the only daughter of the late William Kiddle of Walbundrie Station, New South Wales, Australia. Rita inherited her father's property when her brother Captain Geoffrey Kiddle died on active service in 1916 in Mesopotamia (Iraq). Around the same time, Henry's youngest sister, Hilda, joined the British Forces as a member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment and served her country from 1917 to 1918.

Middle Temple Hall (From Middle Temple website)
Middle Temple Hall (From Middle Temple website)
In 1923, Henry transferred to the Regular Army where he was commissioned a Colonel on July 1 and served as Military deputy of the Judge Advocate General. A year later, Henry "took silk" and was appointed a King's Counsel (later Queen's Counsel). At some point in the 1920s, Henry was awarded the King George V Territorial Decoration for 20 years service within the Territorial Army.

On June 3, 1930, Henry was made a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) and a further honour was bestowed upon him in 1931 when he was made a "Bencher" in the Middle Temple. He served as Treasurer for the Middle Temple Bench where his "upstanding, dignified figure, fine appearance, charm, courtesy, good manners and sense of humour" were greatly appreciated. Further honours were bestowed on Henry when he received the Jubilee Medal in 1935 and the Coronation Medal in 1937.

Appointed Judge Advocate General
In April 1934, Henry was appointed Judge Advocate General by King George V and retired from the Army. During his tenure as JAG, Henry served under four Sovereigns (George V, Edward VII, George VI and Elizabeth II).

With the outbreak of World War II, the Office of the Judge Advocate General saw an increase in the number of court martials. Henry had a gift for delegation but made sure to review the convictions and sentences of all the important cases. He may even have reviewed Josef's court martial convictio, although there is no evidence of this in the documents.

G.C.V.O. sash badge and  breast star  (British Medals website)
G.C.V.O. sash badge and
breast star
(British Medals website)
Henry's work did not end with the cessation of hostilities for the JAG's office oversaw the prosecution of war criminals captured in the area of Germany controlled by British forces. On January 1, 1946, Henry was awarded yet another honour when he was appointed a Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (KCB), Civil Division. And lest you think that Henry was not fully appreciated by his country, on January 2, 1950, Henry was appointed a Knights Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO).

Another Coronation Medal followed in 1953 when Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne. And finally, Henry was awarded the Medal of Freedom with gold palm by the United States of America, presumably for his assistance to the Allied cause during and/or after World War II.

Retirement
Henry retired as Judge Advocate General in 1954 but continued to encourage the development and training of students reading for the Bar. In 1959, Henry's wife of 42 years passed away apparently without having provided Henry with any heirs. On December 29, 1962, Henry passed away, a soldier and a gentleman who had had served his country long and well.

References
Ancestry.co.uk - genealogy records (births, marriages, deaths, military records, obituary).
Bonham's Auctions - notes accompanying auction of Henry's 12 medals and decorations as noted below

Medals & Decorations of Colonel Sir Henry Davies Foster MacGeagh
1914 Star with Mons Bar (WWI)
British War Medal (WWI)
Victory Medal (WWI)
King George V Territorial Decoration (interwar period)
Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE), Military (1930)
Jubilee Medal (1935)
Coronation Medal (1937)
Defence Medal (WWII)
Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (KCB), Civilian (1946)
Knights Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) (1950)
Coronation Medal 1953
Medal of Freedom with gold palm (USA)

02 January 2015

The Rocky Road to Josef Jakobs' Court Martial: The Attorney General for England and Wales

The British Security Service (MI5) needed to jump through several bureaucratic hoops in order to have German spy Josef Jakobs tried by court martial. Their application for a court martial first landed on the desk of the the Director of Public Prosecutions who, after reviewing it, sent it on to the Attorney General on June 24.

According to the Treachery Act, the Attorney General's fiat or approval was required to try someone by court martial. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Edward Hale Tindal Atkinson, had consulted with Parliamentary draftsmen and knew that it was the Attorney General's intention to limit the use of his power by only accepting court martial applications for enemy aliens who were in the military service of their country. Of all the cases before them, MI5 knew that Josef's case had the best chance of being approved for court martial - an enemy alien who was in military service to Germany.

The Attorney General, Sir Donald Somervell, received the application for a court martial on June 24 and, the very next day, sent a directive back to the Director of Public Prosecutions which stated:
In the Matter of the Treachery Act, 1940.
In the Matter of Josef Jakobs.
Pursuant to my powers under section 2(1)(b) of the above-named Act,
I HEREBY DIRECT that JOSEF JAKOBS,
who is alleged to have committed an offence or offences
 against the above-named Act,
shall be prosecuted before a Court Martial.

The Attorney General dealt with many crises during his career, including the abdication of King Edward VIII. Dealing with the court martial of a German spy would have been a minor event in Somervell's life.

Harrow School Crest (From Wikipedia)
Harrow School Crest
(From Wikipedia)
Donald Bradley Somervell was born on 24 August 1889, to Robert Somervell and Octavia Paulina Churchill. Donald's father was Master and Bursar of Harrow School in north-west London, a most prestigious academy whose alumni would eventually include seven prime ministers (including Winston Churchill) and several foreign monarchs. Donald naturally studied at Harrow before moving on to Magdalen College, Oxford where he graduated with first-class honours in Chemistry.

After studying at Oxford, Donald joined the Inner Temple to study law but his training was interrupted by World War I. He served in India (1914-1917) and Mesopotamia (1917-1919). He was called to the Bar (in absentia) in 1916 and after the war became involved with commercial clauses in the peace negotiations. In 1929, Donald was invested as Queen's Council and also became interested in politics, joining the Conservative Party. He won a seat at Crewe in the 1931 election, a post he would hold for the next 14 years.

Donald Somervell grave - from Find-a-Grave (photograph taken by Kieran Smith, 2000)
Donald Somervell grave - from Find-a-Grave
(photograph taken by Kieran Smith, 2000)
The year 1933 was a busy one for Donald. In June, he married Loelia Helen Buchan-Hepburn, daughter of Sir Archibald Buchan-Hepburn of Smeaton Hepburn, 4th Bt. In addition to this auspicious wedding, Donald was appointed Solicitor General and knighted. In 1936 he was promoted to Attorney General. He served as Attorney General for nine years and oversaw such crises as the abdication of King Edward VIII.

In 1945, Somervell lost his seat and returned to law, serving as a Lord Justice of Appeal and a Law Lord. In 1954, Somervell received a life peerage as Baron Somervell of Harrow. He retired in 1960 and passed away that same year


References
National Archives, Security Service files on Josef Jakobs, KV 2/27.
Wikipedia article on Donald Somervell (accessed December 30, 2014).
Laybourn, Keith. 2001. British Political Leaders - A Biographical Dictionary, ABC-CLIO, Inc. Santa Barbara CA. Section on Donald Somervell, p. 300.
The Peerage website (accessed December 30, 2014).