30 October 2015

Magazine Article Review - After the Battle Magazine - Volume 74

After the Battle Magazine - No. 74  (From After the Battle website)
After the Battle Magazine - No. 74
(From After the Battle website)

The Magazine Article
MI5's Secret Interrogation Centre, After the Battle, volume 74, Battle of Britain Prints International Ltd., 1991, pages 50-53.

Summary
This issue of After the Battle Magazine contains an article on MI5's Secret Interrogation Centre, also known as: Latchmere House, Camp 020, Ham Common or simply Ham.

The article gives a brief history of the centre, how it came to be and a few of the stories that have continued to swirl about it. Touching on the issue of interrogation methods, the article does acknowledge that prisoners were often treated rather harshly, left to stew in their cells for a few hours, fed inedible meals and threatened with execution.

26 October 2015

James John Rymer - The Innocent Radio Engineer tainted by a German Spy

National Identity Card (forged) found in the possession of German spy, Josef Jakobs. (held at National Archives, Kew)
National Identity Card (forged) found in the possession of German spy,
Josef Jakobs. (held at National Archives, Kew)
When German spy Josef Jakobs descended from the heavens on the night of 31 January, 1941, he brought with him a load of trouble for one James John Rymer of London.

Josef Jakobs had been equipped with a National Identity Card in the name of James Rymer of 33 Abbotsford Gardens, Woodford Green. The ID card was notable for many reasons, the most glaring being the registration number 656/301/29. Registration numbers always started with a letter prefix and Josef's was clearly an odd one.

21 October 2015

Josef Jakobs visits Cannon Row Police Station

During World War 2, almost all of the captured German spies were taken to Cannon Row Police Station in London for a preliminary interrogation/statement. 
Josef Jakobs, who arrived via parachute on January 31, 1941, was no exception.

After a cold night in a potato field near Ramsey, nursing a broken ankle, Josef was discovered by the local Home Guard and taken to Ramsey Police Station. After being processed by the Ramsey Police, Josef was transported to London on the afternoon of February 1, 1941.

Red Lion Pub, Derby Gate, London (copyright 2012 G.K. Jakobs)
Red Lion Pub, Derby Gate, London (copyright 2012 G.K. Jakobs)
Many of the German spies had been told by their handlers that London was a bombed-out wreck, but as Josef was driven through the streets of London, he would have realized that the Abwehr spymasters had been lying.

16 October 2015

Magazine Article Review - After the Battle Magazine - Volume 72

After the Battle Magazine - No. 72  (From After the Battle website)
After the Battle Magazine - No. 72
(From After the Battle website)
The Magazine Article
From the Editor - Letters, After the Battle, volume 72, Battle of Britain Prints International Ltd., 1991, page 36.

Summary
Last year I wrote a short article review on After the Battle Magazine's classic piece on German Spies in Britain (Volume 11, published 1976). In the late 1980s, this magazine was one of the first sources of information that I cam across in my research on Josef Jakobs. In 1991, I wrote a letter to After the Battle Editor, Winston Ramsey.

In Volume 72 of After the Battle Magazine, Ramsey published portions of my letter to him as well as the photograph of Josef that I had sent to him. The article also includes a photograph of the memorial statue in the Chapel at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Kensal Green, London.

Review Score
4 out of 5 - Accurate although the source of Josef's photograph was not acknowledged in the photograph caption.

12 October 2015

Lt. Col. Charles R.T.M. Gerard - The Man in Charge of Josef Jakobs' Execution

When Josef Jakobs was found guilty of Treachery (espionage) by a military court martial in early August 1941, his fate was placed into the hands of the London District Deputy Provost Marshal, Colonel Charles Robert Tolver Michael Gerard. It was Gerard who would make arrangements for Josef's execution and who would ensure that everything surrounding the event was carried out with military precision.

Early Life
Charles Robert Tolver Michael Gerard (we'll just call him Charles) was born on 28 February, 1894, in the rather posh district of St. George/Hanover Square in London. His parents were the Hon. Robert Joseph Geard-Dicconson and Eleanor Sarah Bankes.

Charles' grandfather was the 1st Baron Gerard of Bryn but Charles' uncle ended up inheriting the title. But as fate would have it, eventually Charles' own grandson would inherit the 5th Baron Gerard of Bryn title due to a lack of male heirs in the other line. Charles' family was quite well-to-do and the household bristled with an array of maids, cooks, footmen, butlers and coachmen. It comes as no surprise then to learn that Charles was educated at the prestigious Eton College in Windsor, Berkshire.

Badge of the Grenadier Guards
Badge of the Grenadier Guards
World War I
With the outbreak of the war in 1914, Charles was a prime officer's candidate. He obtained a commission in the 1st Battalion of the Grenadier Guards as a 2nd Lieutenant.

Charles arrived in France on September 19, 1914, with the 2nd Battalion of the Grenadier Guards. Within a month, Charles and his battalion were enmeshed in fighting around Ypres. The battalion suffered heavy officer losses and by December, Charles had risen to the rank of Lieutenant.

Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
Distinguished
Service Order (DSO)
In early 1915, Charles was appointed as an Aide-de-Camp to the Commander of the 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards, a move that took him out of the trenches but not out of harm's way.

That fall, likely whilst on leave in England, Charles married Aimee Gwendolyn Clarke in London. By 1917, Charles had risen to the rank of Captain and was serving as Adjutant to Lt. Col. Viscount Gort, Commander of the 4th Battalion, Grenadier Guards. In early 1918, Charles was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.). He was also Mentioned in Despatches twice (1916 & 1918), having earned those for gallant and distinguished service in the field.

Inter-War Years
Badges of the Manchester Regiment. In 1923, the badges changed to the fleur-de-lis.
Badges of the Manchester Regiment. In 1923, the badges
changed to the fleur-de-lis.
Charles is rather hard to pin down during the inter-war years. Some information suggests that he served with the 5th Battalion, Manchester Regiment, ending up as a Brevet Colonel.

On the family front, Charles and his wife Aimee, had two sons together. Rupert Charles Frederick Gerard was born in October 1916 and Robert Guy Standish Gerard was born in 1921. Both sons were educated at Eton College, but by 1929, it was clear that Charles and Aimee's marriage was not an amicable one.

Aimee filed for divorce which was granted in 1930. That same year, on 25 September, some might say with unbecoming haste, Charles married Norma Rogers.

5 Great Scotland Yard - offices of the Deputy Provost Marshal, London District during World War 2.
5 Great Scotland Yard - offices of the Deputy Provost
Marshal, London District during World War 2.
World War II
With the outbreak of the war, 45 year old Charles was remobilized from the Reserve of Officers as an officer in His Majesty's Armed Forces.

Charles eventually gained the rank of Colonel in the Grenadier Guards, but he saw no active fighting.

His role in the war was to serve as Deputy Provost Marshal for the London District, essentially the chief Military Policeman for the London District.

Officer of the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.)
Officer of the Order of the
British Empire (O.B.E.)
It was in this role that Lt. Col. Charles R.T.M. Gerard would come to oversee the execution by firing squad of Josef Jakobs.

In 1944, Charles was invested as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.). Both of his sons would end up receiving commissions into the Grenadier Guards. Rupert would end up a Major and Robert, a Lieutenant.

After the war, Charles disappears from view, and we only know that he passed away in Windsor, Berkshire, on 14 January, 1971, at the age of 76.










References
Ancestry.com - genealogy information
British Army List
The Gazette
The Grenadier Guards in the Great War of 1914-1918, Volumes 1-3, published 1920.
The Peerage - entry on Charles R.T.M. Gerard

07 October 2015

Update on the Hunt for Kenneth C. Howard

N.B. See my February 12, 2017 blog for a break in the search for Kenneth C. Howard

Two small notebooks are contained in one of the Josef Jakobs folders (KV 2/27) at the National Archives in Kew, England. Both notebooks seem to be the property of one Kenneth C. Howard from Birmingham. They were sent to MI5 by the Birmingham Police in June 1941, but the only spy connection seems to be a reference to Karl Theodore Druecke. Nowhere in the MI5 files on Josef Jakobs is there any mention of these notebooks nor any questions around Kenneth C. Howard. Unfortunately the Druecke files were heavily weeded - so no help there.

I've done several blogs on Kenneth and his little notebooks:
Who is Kenneth C. Howard?
The Mystery of the Two Notebooks and a Boy named Kenneth C. Howard
The Mysterious Diary of Kenneth C. Howard
Kenneth C. Howard's Little Black Book
A few weeks ago, a couple of comments were left on the second blog offering some genealogical threads that might help track down Kenneth. The most promising seemed to be the idea of looking at the electoral lists for Birmingham and examining the address of 17 Evelyn Road - the address given in one of Kenneth's notebooks.

I did some digging and pulled up the electoral registers for 1930, 1935 and 1939. The registers are definitely not well indexed but after a bit of hunting, I found 17 Evelyn Road:


1930 Electoral Register - Birmingham - 17 Evelyn Road
1930 Electoral Register - Birmingham - 17 Evelyn Road

1935 Electoral Register - Birmingham - 17 Evelyn Road
1935 Electoral Register - Birmingham - 17 Evelyn Road

1939 Electoral Register - Birmingham - 17 Evelyn Road
1939 Electoral Register - Birmingham - 17 Evelyn Road
Alas - 17 Evelyn Road had different occupants for each sweep of the Electoral Register - none of which included any Howards. Unfortunate.

It is, of course, possible, that the family have lived there in between those snapshots in time. Or even that they moved into the house after 1939.

So, this appears to be a dead-end. On the other hand, it made me think of the 1939 National Registration database. Apparently though, one needs a name as well as an address to get information - all for the princely sum of 43 GBP.

So the hunt for Kenneth C. Howard continues...

02 October 2015

Mysterious End of Robin William George Stephens - a.k.a. Tin-Eye Stephens

I've written a couple of blogs about Lt. Col. Robin William George Stephens, the commandant of MI5's secret World War 2 interrogation centre, Camp 020.

The first blog touched on the life of Stephens and was based on readily available information. One of the enduring mysteries around Stephens is the actual date of his death. It is not mentioned in any of the literature and while the death of his second wife is well-documented, that of Stephens is not. Admittedly, with a surname like Stephens, and a first name that fluctuated between Robin and Robert, it is a bit hard to pin down a death date. There are a lot of Robert Stephens in Britain.

2nd Lt. Howell Charles Stephens (brother of Lt. Col. Robin W.G. Stephens)
2nd Lt. Howell Charles Stephens
(brother of Lt. Col. Robin W.G. Stephens)
A few months ago, I did an update on the family of Lt. Col. Robin W.G. Stephens. I had tracked down Robin's parents, William Henry Stephens & Julia Elizabeth Howell, as well as an older brother, Howell Charles Stephens. Howell was killed in action during World War I, and the parents endured internment on Jersey during World War 2. But there was still no break on the death date of Robin.

Since then I've done a some more digging and come up with a few tidbits. Much of my second blog on Stephens' family, was based on deduction. Stephens and his brother went to the same school and both were born in Egypt. A William Henry Stephens married a Julia Elizabeth Howell in Egypt, etc. I'm happy to report, having ordered the birth certificates for both Robin and Howell that... they do indeed have the same parents - the couple mentioned above.

Stephens Family Grave - Cheltenham (From www.remembering.org.uk site)
Stephens Family Grave - Cheltenham
(From www.remembering.org.uk site)
I've also learned that there is a memorial to Howell Charles Stephens in the Bouncers Lane Cemetery in Cheltenham. While Howell was commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres (his body was never found), a memorial was also inscribed on the family grave in Cheltenham.

I also tracked down the Probate records for the death of Robin's father, William Henry Stephens. William passed away in October 1962. His will was dated 1956 and he left his entire estate to his sister Lillian Beatrice Birt.

Some digging on Ancestry confirmed that our William Henry Stephens did indeed have a sister named Lillian Beatrice Stephens. She married Henry Birt in 1903. Unfortunately, Lillian passed away in 1960, so William's estate likely passed to her children.

This naturally leaves one wondering why William didn't leave his estate to his son Robin. Two options seem to present themselves...

(1) Robin was estranged from his father
(2) Robin predeceased his father

Option 2 would help to narrow down Robin's death date, for he retired from the Army in 1960. If he predeceased his father, then that would leave a 3 year window (1960-1962) for his death. Alas, William's will was drawn up in 1956, when Robin was very much alive.

This would seem to leave us with Option 1 - that Robin was estranged from his father. Perhaps Robin's father disapproved of his son's divorce in the early 1930s? Perhaps William was upset over the court-martial of Robin after the war? Perhaps Robin disapproved of how his parents comported themselves on Jersey while under German occupation? Another dead end, but a few more pieces of the puzzle.