Showing posts from February, 2015

Tower of London - The Summer of 1915 - Plans for a Miniature Rifle Range

Last year, I wrote a post about the Miniature Rifle Range at the Tower of London. The rifle range was used for the firing squad executions of eight World War I spies and one World War II spy (Josef Jakobs).

Two other World War I spies, Haicke Petrus Marinus Janssen and Willem Johannes Roos were not executed in the rifle range, but rather shot in the Tower moat. Their execution took place on 30 July, 1915. Why were these two men not executed in the miniature rifle range? Historical documents are a bit sketchy but simply indicate that the miniature rifle range was "not available".

In October, 2014, I visited the National Archives in Kew and had a look at file WORKS 31/813. The file contained an architectural plan for a proposed miniature rifle range at the Tower of London, dated 19 July 1915.

The mystery of why Janssen and Roos were executed in the Tower moat and not the rifle range is likely explained by this file. During the summer of 1915, a new miniature rifle range was b…

A Follow-up to Clara Bauerle and Bella in the Wych Elm

It's always neat to connect with other bloggers and researchers. A few months ago, I connected with D.J. Cockburn who writes a blog entitled Cockburn's Eclectics. DJ wanted to do a piece on Bella in the Wych Elm and touched base with me as he knew I had done some research on Clara Bauerle.

He crafted a rather fascinating blog entry about the Wych Elm story and came up with a few interesting theories. His blog is well worth a read.

For a while I had entertained the thought that perhaps Bella in the Wych Elm was the infamous Vera Erickson, one of the German spies who landed on the Banffshire coast near Port Gordon in September 1940. Vera was supposedly repatriated to Germany but the British authorities lost track of her quickly. The Bella files indicate that the woman found in the Wych Elm was 5 feet tall. Vera, it turns out was 5'5" tall... and Clara Bauerle was even taller. But check out DJ's blog for a few other theories.

Josef Jakobs - A Photograph of a German Spy

In 2010 or 2011, I posted a photograph of Josef to his virtual memorial on the Find-a-Grave website. I used a slightly warped photograph with a low resolution.

Since I posted that photograph, it has migrated around the web, used freely (and without acknowledgement) by various bloggers.

It seems odd to search for Josef on Google and come across websites with this particular photograph.While the internet is a bit of a wild west, it is still nice when people acknowledge the source, even if it is Find-a-Grave.

Book Review - Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture (2012)

The Book
Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture. Ian Cobain. Portobello Books, London. 2012.

Since the tragedy of 9/11, there has been much in the news about the war on terror, and the questionable interrogation methods used by the United States of America. While many point fingers at the United States, Great Britain has also participated in interrogations during which prisoners were tortured.

What is less well known, is that many of the physical and psychological torture techniques used by the British were developed at two British interrogation centres during World War II: the London Cage and Camp 020. The London Cage seems to have leaned more towards physical torture, whereas Camp 020 used psychological torture.

During World War II, Lt. Col. Alexander Scotland commanded the London Cage, an interrogation centre for German prisoners of war. Thousands of prisoners passed through the doors of the Cage, located in Kensington Gardens, behind the doors of three Victorian mansio…

Book Review - Execution: A History of Capital Punishment in Britain - Simon Webb (2012)

The Book
Execution: A History of Capital Punishment in Britain. Simon Webb. The History Press. Stroud, Gloucestershire. 2012.

[Disclaimer - I did not read the entire book, only the sections on Josef Jakobs and Karel Richter]

The author of this book takes a look at the various methods of execution used throughout Britain's history. In the course of a chapter entitled Shot at Dawn, Webb tells the story of German spy Josef Jakobs. Given the multitude of small errors that have crept into Josef's story over time, I am constantly on the lookout for the propagation of those errors.

In the very first paragraph, the author claims that Josef was the last person executed by a British firing squad on British soil. I always knew that Josef was the last person executed at the Tower of London, but this statement was a new one. A bit of research revealed that the author is correct.

There were two executions by firing squad at Shepton Mallet Prison in 1944 - both were conducted by America…

Ramsey Company Home Guard - Two Officers of Mystery

The first people to find Josef Jakobs on the morning of 1 February, 1941, were two farmers: Charles Baldock and Harry Coulson. Their discovery was passed along to an ever expanding circle of people.

One of the farmers went to a nearby farm and notified Henry James Godfrey, a Home Guard Volunteer. Godfrey, in turn, telephoned the Ramsey Police Station and reported the discovery to Inspector Horace Jaikens.

Jaikens telephoned Captain William Henry Newton of the Ramsey Home Guard, who contacted his subordinate Platoon Commander Lieutenant John Curedale.

Much was written about Harry Godfrey in various newspaper reports after Josef's execution. Harry was the "hero" of the hour - the Home Guard Volunteer who had captured a spy.

Very little was written about Captain Newton or Lieutenant Curedale. Despite fairly intensive research on genealogy sites, I have discovered little about Captain Newton and virtually nothing about Lieutenant Curedale.

Lt. John Curedale was a Platoon Com…

Today in 1941 - February 3 - German spy Josef Jakobs was transferred to Dulwich Community Hospital

Today in 1941, German spy Josef Jakobs was finally admitted to Dulwich Community Hospital in East Dulwich. His broken ankle, injured during the parachute jump on the evening of January 31, was in desperate need of medical attention. Three physicians had examined Josef at various points on February 1 and 2 - all agreed that his ankle needed to be treated if his leg was to be saved.

Finally, at 4:00 p.m. Josef was transported from Brixton Prison Infirmary to Dulwich Community Hospital. Upon arrival at the hospital, Josef was immediately assessed by the physicians. Leg and chest x-rays were quickly ordered and the radiologist concluded that Josef had a “comminuted fracture of lower end of shaft of tibia & fibula and overlapping of tibia fragments and forward displacement of upper [?unclear?] fragments.” In other words, the lower leg bones were shattered.

With the x-ray images in front of them, the doctors ordered that Josef be prepped for immediate surgery. Josef was placed under gene…

Today in 1941 - February 2 - German spy Josef Jakobs was briefly interrogated at Latchmere House by MI5

Today in 1941, German spy Josef Jakobs woke up in a hospital bed in the Infirmary at Brixton Prison. The Medical Officer at the prison took a look at Josef's ankle and knew that Josef needed more advanced medical treatment than could be offered at the prison. Plans were made to transfer Josef to a local hospital, but before that took place, Lt. Colonel Robert W.G. Stephens at Latchmere House, MI5's secret interrogation centre, wanted a few minutes with Josef.

Josef's ankle was stabilized and after lunch he was bundled into that back of a vehicle and driven from Brixton Prison to Latchmere House in Ham Common. Because of his broken ankle, many of the reception formalities were dispensed with. Dr. Harold Dearden did take fill out a personal particulars form for Josef - height, weight, age, birth date, family, etc. Several photographs of Josef were taken. They were not ideal, due to his disheveled appearance, but had to do in that moment.

Following the rather gentle reception …

Today in 1941 - February 1 - German parachutist Josef Jakobs was discovered in a field near Ramsey, Huntingdonshire

On this day in 1941, German spy Josef Jakobs was found in a potato field on Dovehouse Farm, near the village of Ramsey, Huntingdonshire. At about 8:30 a.m. Josef had fired several shots into the air from his Mauser pistol. The shots were heard by Charles Baldock and Harry Coulson, two farm labourers who were passing by on their way to work.

After approaching Josef and realizing that he had a broken ankle and was unable to move, Coulson went to nearby Wistow Fen Farm and summoned Ramsey Company Home Guard Volunteer, James Henry Godfrey. Before accompanying Coulson back to the potato field, Godfrey telephoned the Ramsey Police Station to apprise them of events.

About half an hour later, Captain William Henry Newton and Lieutenant John Curedale of the Ramsey Company Home Guard arrived to take charge of the situation. Josef was searched and the articles in his possession were confiscated. A horse-drawn cart was procured and Josef was taken to the police station in Ramsey.

Inspector Horace J…