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Showing posts from June, 2015

Final Jeopardy for Josef Jakobs

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Quick! Who was the last person executed in the Tower of London? Tick. Tick. Tick. The clock timer is counting down.

It's a trivia question and one that few people answer correctly. Some might remember Anne Boleyn from the time of the Tudors. Others might think of Catherine Howard. Few would think that the last execution took place in the 20th century, a mere 74 years ago.

While that question pops up on many online trivia sites, it recently achieved a new level of notoriety when it appeared, in modified form, on the famous game show Jeopardy.

On May 8, 2015, three contestants worked their way through a series of Jeopardy clues. The trick with Jeopardy is that the correct "answer" to each clue has to be phrased as a question. For example: "This man is the host of Jeopardy" would be the clue. The answer would be "Who is Alex Trebek?" The contestants earn money with each correct answer and by the end of the Double Jeopardy session on May 8, each had built…

BBC Article - Unsolved English Murder Mysteries - 13 January 2015

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Every once in a while, I dig around the internet, turning over stones and looking for new and interesting tidbits about Josef and his associates. This morning I came across a January 2015 BBC article entitled "English murder mysteries that have baffled detectives".

Naturally, the article included the case of Bella in the Wych Elm. The article mentioned the usual suspicions that the deceased woman had been a German spy. But this article had an interesting tidbit of information.
The publication of MI5 files detailing the capture of a German spy [Josef Jakobs] with a picture of the actress Clara Bauerle in his pocket led to speculation last year Clara was Bella.
But author Piu Marie Eatwell, who is researching the case, dismissed the theory, highlighting the women's different descriptions and that Clara lived after 1943.
She said her own research had found a lot of police files associated with the case were missing. My researcher antennae perked up at the mention of ano…

Daily Mail Article - German Spy - Carl Hans Lody

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On 2 July, 2014, the Daily Mail published an article which outlined the story of Carl Hans Lody. The article was prompted by the discovery, in the Guards Museum, of a letter written by Lody to the Commander of the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards, thanking him and his men for their kindness.

The letter was recently included in a display at the Guards Museum commemorating the 100th anniversary of Lody's death. The display also apparently includes the bullet which ended Lody's life as well as a sixpence that he gave to one of the guards as a tip.

The Daily Mail article also includes an inset piece on the bloody history of the Tower, highlighting some of the more famous (infamous?) executions which have taken place over the centuries. The inset mentions that during World War II, the Tower served as a "temporary prison" and served as the execution site for Josef Jakobs.

This line may not be entirely accurate. The Tower was considered to be a fortress and a royal palace du…

Today in 1941 - June 18 - German spy Josef Jakobs gave a statement to Lt. Col. Hinchley-Cooke

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Today in 1941, Josef Jakobs was taken to Cannon Row Police Station where he gave a statement to Lt. Col. Hinchley-Cooke of MI5.

Since mid-May, Josef had been involved in a cross-ruff with fellow spy Karel Richter; one spy being played off the other. MI5, however, was eager to move in the direction of prosecution and by mid-June, felt that they had all of their ducks in a row. All that was required was for Lt. Col. Hinchley-Cooke to take a statement from Josef.

For this purpose, Inspector Douglas Grant from Special Branch (Metropolitan Police) transported Josef from Latchmere House to Cannon Row Police Station. The statement was taken in the presence of Inspector Grant, Detective Sergeant Smith and Detective Constable Wills. Hinchley-Cooke took the statement in the form of question and answer. After covering the basics of Josef's birth, nationality and military service, Hinchley-Cooke briefly touched on how Josef had arrived in England (by parachute from a German military aircraft…

Tower of London - Fortress and Royal Palace, not Prison

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A few days prior to Josef Jakobs' execution on 15 August, 1941, Lt. Col. W.E. Hinchley-Cooke of MI5 met with W.B. Purchase, the Northern District Coroner (London) and G.H. Cox, Assistant Adjutant General of the London District (military). The three men met around 10 August to discuss the procedure surrounding a coroner's inquest in the case of the death of a person in military custody.

Hinchley-Cooke wanted to keep Josef's execution as secret as possible. He desperately wanted to avoid a coroner's jury and notice of the execution being posted on the gates of the Tower, both of which were necessary when a person was executed at one of His Majesty's Prisons. Hinchley-Cooke recognized that the members of a coroner's jury would need to be informed prior to the actual execution, and he wanted to avoid this at all costs.

Purchase said that a coroner's inquest would be necessary because the death would be unnatural and, if the Tower of London was a prison, then t…

The Tablet - A Brief Tour of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green

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On 23 November, 2013, the Tablet newspaper in England published an article entitled "From NW10 to Eternity". The article gives a brief history of St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery in Kensal Green where Josef Jakobs is buried.

The article highlights some of the more impressive tombs in the cemetery and mentions the three spies who are buried within its grounds - Josef Jakobs (German spy), Krystyna Skarbek (British Secret Intelligence agent) and Andrzej Kowerski (SOE agent during World War 2).

The article also notes that there is an underground catacomb below the chapel and the chapel office, a fascinating tidbit of information.

The article notes that the cemetery was almost full in 1992 and that a second lift of soil was placed on graves in the southern area of the cemetery. Winston Ramsey of After the Battle magazine indicated that a second lift of soil was placed on graves in the "G" area of the cemetery in the mid-1970s. Shortly afterwards, he visited the cemetery…

Website Review - Blog by Robert Walsh

I came across a blog article last year entitled: Josef Jakobs - The Last Execution at the Tower of London. The author of the blog, Robert Walsh, outlines the story of Josef Jakobs. The account, while quite readable, suffers from several factual errors, inconsistencies and spelling mistakes.

Date of execution - Walsh correctly says that Josef was executed on August 15, 1941, and then later alters that to August 14, 1941.

Executions at the Tower - Walsh correctly notes that 11 spies were executed at the Tower during World War I, but later notes that prior to Josef, the last execution took place in 1747. Prior to Josef, the last execution at the Tower took place in 1916 (World War I spy - Ludovico Hurwitz-y-Zender).

Nationality - Walsh states that Josef was a Luxembourger, which is inaccurate. Josef was born in Luxembourg to German parents and was a German citizen.

Money - Walsh says Josef was equipped with £500 in forged notes, also inaccurate. The currency that Josef brought was turned in …

Digitization at the National Archives

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A friend of mine recently told me that the Josef Jakobs files at the National Archives had been digitized. I took a look and, sure enough, it is now possible to purchase the KV 2 files for the princely sum of £3.30 each, which I think works out to just over $5 CAN.

Twelve years ago, when I first visited the National Archives after the files had been released, I paid £1.00 per page to have the files photocopied. About £800 or almost $1500 CAN, if I remember correctly. A worthwhile investment but it is still nice to know that the files are now available for a much more reasonable cost. I did, however, notice that the court martial file has not yet been digitized. Perhaps the Archives only digitizes "popular" items that have reached a certain threshold of views.

In addition, the National Archives has provided images of some of the artifacts and photographs in the Josef Jakobs files. The x-ray images of Josef's fractured ankle from the KV 2/24 file are available for purchase…