29 April 2016

Photos from the Field Trip with Karel Richter

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote two posts which I hope brought some clarity to the location of Karel Richter's landing site.

The first looked at the possibility that Karel had sheltered at the Cherry Green Leaves camp northeast of London Colney.

The second delved more deeply into determining, with some certainty, the landing site of Karel Richter and the location of his equipment stashes.

A series of photographs taken by Camp 020 psychologist Dr. Harold Dearden during the field trip in mid-May 1941 were of great help. Whilst writing the second post above, it became clear, in looking at Dearden's photographs, that they were taken at two separate locations. One set was taken where Richter stashed his parachute. The second set was taken where Richter stashed his radio gear.

I thought I would try to assign each photograph to the relevant location.

Location 1 - Parachute Stash - just off White Horse Lane
According to a report by Capt. Stimson (May 18, 1941), the first stash included: camouflaged parachute, parachute holder and harness, steel helmet, flying overalls, empty knife sheath, a parcel of food (large salami sausage cut into halves, brown bread, sausage meat and paste sandwiches) and a hand trowel. The knife wasn't found and Richter figured he must have lost it between his landing point and the hedge.

Richter, Lt. Short and a Camp 020 guard walk along the edge of the hedge in the field off of White Horse Lane. One of the isolated trees is visible in the background.
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941 (National Archives KV 2/32)
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941
(National Archives KV 2/32)

The group begins to extract Richter's equipment from the hedge. Note that the field furrows go almost up to the hedge.
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941 (National Archives KV 2/32)
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941
National Archives KV 2/32)
Camp 020 guard, Lt. Short and Lt. Goodacre listen to Richter.
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941 (National Archives KV 2/32)
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941
(National Archives KV 2/32)

Camp 020 guard watches as Richter and Lt. Sampson examine the hedge (note field furrows).
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941 (National Archives KV 2/32)
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941
(National Archives KV 2/32)

Richter points out into the field, possibly indicating his landing site. Left to Right are Major Stephens, Lt. Sampson, Lt. Short, Richter, Capt. Stimson and Lt. Goodacre.
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941 (National Archives KV 2/32)
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941
(National Archives KV 2/32)

Lt. Goodacre and Superintendent Reeves of the Hertfordshire Constabulary spread out Richter's parachute on the field (note the furrows).
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941 (National Archives KV 2/32)
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941
(National Archives KV 2/32)

Richter and Stephens after the parachute has been spread on the ground. Object along lower left side of photograph could be Richter's parachute helmet held by one of the party.
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941 (National Archives KV 2/32)
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941
(National Archives KV 2/32)
The group examines Richter's parachute on the ground. The other man dressed as a civilian is Superintendent Reeves. Richter's trench coat appears to be made of a coarse fabric, perhaps wool and his pants are dark. Reeves' trench coat is made of a smoother fabric and his pants are lighter. Richter's coat is belted closed whereas Reeves' coat is open.
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941 (National Archives KV 2/32)
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941
(National Archives KV 2/32)

The group looks at Richter's parachute. Slightly different angle from previous photograph.
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941 (National Archives KV 2/32)
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941
(National Archives KV 2/32)

Party returns to the cars. Furrows may be parallel to camera at this point as there is a hedge just behind Stephens (right side of photo). Pictured are Short, guard, Richter and Stephens.
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941 (National Archives KV 2/32)
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941
(National Archives KV 2/32)

Group has almost reached the gap in the hedge along White Horse Lane. Camp 020 guard accompanies Richter, while Stephens leads the way.
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941 (National Archives KV 2/32)
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941
(National Archives KV 2/32)

At the gap in the hedge along White Horse Lane. Superintendent Reeves and Lt. Sampson hold up Richter's parachute.
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941 (National Archives KV 2/32)
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941
(National Archives KV 2/32)

Second location - Field off North Orbital Road 

According to Stimson's report, the second stash included: a torch, black leather camera case containing wireless parts and a loaded automatic pistol.

The three poplar trees in the background clearly mark this photograph as coming from the second location (see this blog post). From left to right, Stimson, Reeves, Stephens, guard and Richter. The North Orbital Road would be in the background, beyond the fence and down an embankment.
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941 (National Archives KV 2/32)
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941
(National Archives KV 2/32)

The hedge at this location is more irregular with overhanging branches. The field is not furrowed. Left to right - guard, Stephens, Reeves, Sampson.
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941 (National Archives KV 2/32)
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941
(National Archives KV 2/32)

Harold Dearden, Reeves (note the light-coloured pants) and Lt. Sampson examine the hedge.
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941 (National Archives KV 2/32)
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941
(National Archives KV 2/32)

Reeves looks deeper in the hedge, beneath the overhanging branches.According to Stimson's report, there was a ditch in the brambles and some of Richter's equipment was covered with a soil and leaves.
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941 (National Archives KV 2/32)
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941
(National Archives KV 2/32)
Stephens and Sampson look on while Reeves crouches in the hedge.
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941 (National Archives KV 2/32)
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941
(National Archives KV 2/32)

Reeves exits the hedge while the guard looks on.
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941 (National Archives KV 2/32)
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941
(National Archives KV 2/32)

The party returns to their vehicles from the second site - notice the three poplar trees in the background.
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941 (National Archives KV 2/32)
Karel Richter field trip photos taken by Harold Dearden - May 18, 1941
(National Archives KV 2/32)
Stimson's report also notes that one of the cars belonged to him, while the other belonged to Dearden. One is left to wonder which of the two men had the sporty convertible!

25 April 2016

Karel Richter at the Centre of a Conspiracy Theory

Karel Richter (From National Archives KV 2/31)
Karel Richter
(From National Archives KV 2/31)
Given that Josef Jakobs and Karel Richter trained together in Hamburg under the Abwehr, I am always interested in information on Richter. Sifting through the internet the other day, I came across a rather odd article and even odder site that mentioned Richter.

The site is called the Online Publishing Company (OPC) and is run by Giovanni Di Stefano, a convicted fraudster according to Wikipedia. Soooo... let's just say that the site and its authors seem a bit dubious.

[N.B. I didn't snoop around the site too much as it seemed a bit sketchy to me.]

The article "Two Historic Convictions, Executions and An Urgent Appeal To Our Readers" is written by "Giovanni Di Stefano & Caroline Bayford" and dated 2014-06-26.

The first "historic conviction" is that of Anthony Mancini. The second is that of Karel Richter.

The article includes a photograph of Karel Richter - the one from the National Archives but there was no acknowledgement of the photo's source.

According to the OPC article, Richter's mission was to assassinate the exiled Czechoslovakian premier and also to pass on money and information to other enemy agents already in the country. It is highly doubtful that Richter was sent over as an assassin, but I suppose everyone is entitled to their own speculative fantasy.

The rest of the article touches briefly on Richter's capture and trial, but focuses most of its attention on his execution. The authors make much of the fact that trial was held in camera, something that was quite "unusual" according to them. The account of the execution is likely that of Albert Pierrepoint (the executioner) but again, there is no acknowledgement of sources. The story of Richter's struggle follows Pierrepoint's account fairly well until the moment just before the trap door opened.
At that moment, as the rope slackened, the drop fell. As he did Richter shouted ‘the trial.[N.B. Well, that's news to me.] The rope swung violently in the pit but Richter was hanging limp and lifeless his neck was broken and dead.
It had taken 17 minutes from entering the cell to the condemned spy hanging beneath the trapdoors.
The last words of Richter ‘the trial’ were edited out of any reports but are found on his file at MI6 headquarters. [N.B. Doubtful since (a) MI6 had nothing to do with Richter and (b) all the files were released to the National Archives long before 2014. And... if the words 'the trial' were edited out, how do the authors know about them? Albert Pierrepoint's account, reproduced in one of my blogs, makes no mention of any final utterance by Richter.]

So what did Richter mean when he said the two words ‘the trial' that for 73 years have remained secret? The Trial, all of it, was held in camera meaning in secret! [N.B. Actually standard procedure for the trials of all wartime spies.] Did Richter name names? [N.B. Nope - and the court transcript was released to the National Archives as well.] Why was he unsuitable to be a double agent? [N.B. Because he was a liar from the start, didn't cooperate with MI5 and the officers at Latchmere House didn't trust him.]

Do you have access to the trial transcripts now 71 years old? [N.B. Yes, they are at the National Archives.] Are you a relative of Karel Richter? Are you a relative of PC Scott? Do you have any information regarding the case? Were any of your relatives the interrogation of Richter? Are you related to Mr Justice Tucker? Do you have anything that may shed light on what Richter was trying to say? If so please contact our editor Caroline Bayford.
Conspiracy theories are all well and good, but I find it annoying when people have not done their research, nor named their sources.

The Security Service files, the Central Criminal Court files and Prison Office files have all been released to the National Archives. Albert Pierrepoint's account of Richter's execution makes no mention of the words "the trial" but, I suppose conspiracy theorists would argue that MI5 had those words edited out. As they say "don't confuse me with the facts, my mind's made up". I wish OPC and Caroline Bayford the best of luck in tracking down the "truth" behind Richter's trial and execution.

20 April 2016

Landing Site of German Spy Karel Richter

Last week, I wrote a blog in which I tried to figure out the 1941 parachute landing site of German spy Karel Richter. A map drawn by Camp 020 officer, D.B. Stimson, gave some clues but also had its fair share of problems, most notably a mysterious row of houses and an odd North direction.
MI5 sketch map showing location of Richter's landing site and equipment stashes. (National Archives - KV 2/30)
Rough MI5 sketch map (by D.B. Stimson) showing location of
Richter's landing site and equipment stashes.
(National Archives - KV 2/30)
Since then, I've had an email chat with Tony, a researcher/writer who's been working on the story of another spy, Jan Willem Ter Braak a.k.a. Engelbertus Fukken. Tony knows the London Colney area fairly well and his thoughts and comments spurred me to dig a bit deeper.

The last time I visited the National Archives, I took photographs of some papers from the MI5 files associated with Karel Richter. As happy circumstance would have it, one of the images from Richter's trial included a sketch map of his landing site. The sketch map is an order of magnitude better than Stimson's map. The North direction is relatively accurate and the map clearly shows the country lane near which Richter landed.
Sketch map of Richter's equipment stashes (National Archives - KV 2/32)
Court sketch map of Richter's equipment stashes
(National Archives - KV 2/32)
The map also notes the two locations where Richter stashed his gear.
Close-up - Sketch map of Richter's equipment stashes (National Archives - KV 2/32)
Close-up - Court sketch map of Richter's equipment stashes
(National Archives - KV 2/32)
If we take Stimson's map, crop off the highway, reduce the map to just the lane and turn it upside down, we begin to see the rough outlines of the country lane noted on the trial map. Today, this lane is called White Horse Lane.
Close-up of MI5 sketch map showing location of houses, Richter's landing site and equipment stash. (National Archives - KV 2/30)
Close-up of MI5 sketch map showing location of houses,
Richter's landing site and equipment stash.
(National Archives - KV 2/30)
White Horse Lane has a distinctive "S" shape and connects the North Orbital Road with the southeastern corner of London Colney.
Google Earth view - showing location of White Horse Lane to northeast of London Colney.
Google Earth view - showing location of White Horse Lane to northeast
of London Colney.
A bit more digging produced a war-era aerial photograph of the area. The two images below are roughly the same scale based on the location of the North Orbital Road and White Horse Lane.

One can clearly see that London Colney has expanded quite a bit over the last 75 years and that the A1081 (the major road bypassing London Colney from lower right to upper left) has drastically reduced the size of the fields.
Aerial photograph - preview version from UK Aerial Photos website
Aerial photograph - preview version from UK Aerial Photos website
I took the two images, increased the transparency of the modern Google image and superimposed them. One can begin to see how new and old align. This image also solves the problem of the mysterious group of garden houses visible on Stimson's map.
Superimposed images - black and white aerial photo and modern Google Earth image
Superimposed images - black and white aerial photo and modern Google Earth image
Those 11 houses with gardens, were the some of the first to be built as part of London Colney's expansion eastward. They are just to the west of the present day A1081 along White Horse Lane and are clearly visible on the war-ear aerial photograph and the modern Google Earth image.

Aerial photograph showing location of houses noted on Stimson's map. (Preview version from UK Aerial Photos website)
Aerial photograph showing location of houses noted on Stimson's map.
(Preview version from UK Aerial Photos website)
Poor Stimson. A tailor by trade, he clearly was not the best at reading maps or at navigating. A good thing, in many ways, that he did not end up leading any fighting troops on the Continent. On the other hand, he did manage to outline the narrow hedge that cuts NE-SW across the fields and the isolated large trees in the middle of the field, just south of the hedge.
Close-up of MI5 sketch map showing location of houses, Richter's landing site and equipment stash. (National Archives - KV 2/30)
Close-up of MI5 sketch map showing location of houses,
Richter's landing site and equipment stash.
(National Archives - KV 2/30)
A closer view of Stimson's map shows the location of the two MI5 vehicles (circled in red below) and the group's access point to the fields (small red "x"). The penciled "x" just southwest of the cars marks the place where Richter hid his parachute and some other gear in a hedge. The penciled "x" near the three large trees marks Richter's landing site.
Close-up of MI5 sketch map showing Richter's landing site and equipment stash. (National Archives - KV 2/30)
Close-up of MI5 sketch map showing Richter's landing site and equipment stash.
(National Archives - KV 2/30)
Putting all of the information together - we can come to this conclusion: Richter's parachute and some of his gear was buried within a bramble hedge along the margin of the fields adjoining White Horse Lane. His landing site was located in the middle of the fields, apparently near the isolated trees.
Superimposed images showing Richter's landing site and parachute stash. (Black and white aerial photo from UK Aerial Photos website & modern Google Earth image)
Superimposed images showing Richter's landing site and parachute stash.
(Black and white aerial photo from UK Aerial Photos website
& modern Google Earth image)
In addition to the aerial photos, one other source of information feeds into this discussion. Harold Dearden, Camp 020 psychologist, took his camera along on the trip to recover Richter's gear and his photographs have been extremely helpful.

This photograph shows the group of MI5 officers in the process of retrieving the parachute and from the hedge along the margin of the fields along White Horse Lane.
Photo taken by Harold Dearden showing group of MI5 officers retrieving Richter's parachute from a hedge near White Horse Lane.
Photo taken by Harold Dearden showing group of MI5 officers retrieving
Richter's parachute from a hedge near White Horse Lane.
Left to Right - Stimson and Short/Goodacre in the hedge, Richter, Short/Goodacre
Sampson with back to camera, he is blocking a clear view of the guard and Stephens
Superintendent Reeves at far right
(National Archives KV 2/32)

Below is another photograph taken near the gate through which the group accessed the fields off of White Horse Lane. Pictured are Superintendent Reeves of the Hertford County Police and Lt. G.F. Sampson.
Superintendent Reeves and Lt. George F. Sampson with Richter's parachute. (National Archives KV 2/32)
Superintendent Reeves and Lt. George F. Sampson with Richter's parachute.
(National Archives KV 2/32)
If we then take a look at a modern day view at the area. The Google Street View shot below is pretty close to where the MI5 group would have accessed the fields. The parachute hiding spot would be just to the left, accessed from the fields. The large trees that used to stand in isolation in the field are long gone.
Google Street View image of approximate location where MI5 officers accessed fields to retrieve Richter's parachute.
Google Street View image of approximate location where MI5 officers
accessed fields to retrieve Richter's parachute.
Were one to visit the site during the spring, before the trees have produced any leaves, it might be possible to match some of the larger trees along the side of the field with the other photographs taken by Dearden in 1941. While fields and bramble hedges might change, major limbs of trees might stand the test of time.

As for the second site at which Richter stashed his gear. This was apparently accessed off of the main Hatfield road (now the North Orbital Road). Stimson's description notes embankments on either side of the road, and the photograph below would seem to confirm this and indicate that the group did indeed stop along a major roadway.
Image of MI5 group along the Hatfield Road after accessing Richter's second equipment stash. (National Archives KV 2/32)
Image of MI5 group along the northwest side of the Hatfield Road
after accessing Richter's second equipment stash.
(National Archives KV 2/32)
Today, the trees and shrubs have grown up, so the area looks quite different, although the embankment on the far side is still discernible.
View of Hatfield Road showing approximate location of MI5 photograph above.
View of northwest side of Hatfield Road showing approximate location
of MI5 photograph above.
A further clue is an oblique aerial photograph taken of the area in 1950. The camera is situated over the southern part of London Colney, pointing in a rough northeasterly direction. One can see the North Orbital Road and White Horse Lane (marked in blue). The red circle is around a clump of tall poplars, which are situated just this side of a hedge. If one looks at the Dearden photo above, one can see the poplars in the distance, as well as the end of the hedge. The red mark below on the North Orbital Road marks the position of the MI5 cars. An arrow points towards Richter's second equipment stash.
London Colney area - showing White Horse Lane. (Britain from Above website)
London Colney area - showing White Horse Lane.
(Britain from Above website)
In his report, Stimson noted that Richter's second stash was accessed by crossing the roadway from the parked cars, climbing a shallow embankment and then a fence. The group walked along a copse/hedge for about 30-40 yards. Today, the Google Street View below shows a similar landscape.
Google Street View - southeast side of Hatfield Road where MI5 groups accessed Richter's second equipment stash.
Google Street View - southeast side of Hatfield Road where MI5 groups
accessed Richter's second equipment stash.
While the second location is a little harder to pinpoint, the oblique photograph was helpful. In the modern Google Earth image below, the former location of the group of poplars are marked with several small circles, and the former neighbouring hedgerow is marked by a red line. Richter's second stash, which included a couple of camera cases with radio parts, is marked with a large red circle.

This also dovetails rather neatly with Stimson's sketch (once one has removed the poorly positioned "country lane" from Stimson's map). Stimson shows the embankment, fence and copse along which Richter's second equipment stash was discovered.
Close-up of MI5 sketch map showing Richter's second
equipment stash.
(National Archives - KV 2/30)
A final photograph from Harold Dearden was clearly taken at the second equipment stash. One sees the poplars and thick hedge in the distance, along with the fence below which lay the Hatfield Road.
MI5 group at Richter's second equipment stash. Pictured are left to right: Stimson, Superintendent Reeves, Stephens, guard and Richter. (National Archives KV 2/32)
MI5 group at Richter's second equipment stash. Pictured are left to right:
Stimson, Superintendent Reeves, Stephens, guard and Richter.
(National Archives KV 2/32)

Final Conclusion
After all that... here is the final conclusion in picture form.
Sites for Karel Richter's landing, equipment stashes and apprehension at telephone kiosk in London Colney
Karel Richter landed by parachute in a field to the northeast of London Colney, near White Horse Lane. He stashed his parachute and some other gear in a hedge along the field bordering White Horse Lane. He stashed the rest of his gear along a copse/hedge farther to the northeast, near the North Orbital Road. He was eventually apprehended at a telephone kiosk next to a roundabout at the north end of London Colney. The current roundabout did not exist in 1941 and, based on the aerial photographs, the roundabout referred to in the MI5 reports was most likely the one where the High Street crossed the Hatfield Road (now the North Orbital Road).

From these concrete points, it would appear that Richter, after landing in an open field, hugged the treelines as he stashed his gear and eventually found his way to the roundabout at the north end of London Colney. It is highly doubtful that he ventured as far as the Cherry Green Trees summer camp as speculated elsewhere. A link to the updated Google Map (see below) with locations can be viewed here.
Updated Google Map for Karel Richter

 

15 April 2016

Article Review - BBC History Magazine - The Secret History of Spies

Cover image - BBC History Magazine The Secret History of Spies
Cover image - BBC History Magazine
The Secret History of Spies
Today, I received three courtesy copies of a BBC History magazine entitled The Secret History of Spies. I had been contacted last year by the magazine's Picture Editor about supplying a copy of Josef's photograph. In return, they sent me copies of the magazine.

It is a nice-looking piece of work and covers a range of topics - everything from spying during the American Civil War to modern day "spies" like Edward Snowden.

One section covers spying during World War II. It is understandably difficult within the space of 6 pages for any publication to cover the complexities of espionage during the Second World War. Volumes of books have been written about that era and more continue to be written. The author of that section had a difficult task.

The entire Double Cross system gets about 250 words, and Josef gets a cameo appearance.

BBC History Magazine - The Secret History of Spies - portion of p. 61
BBC History Magazine - The Secret History of Spies - portion of p. 61


"Much like the military, British intelligence had to fight on all fronts during the war. Back at home, the security service MI5 was responsible for locating and identifying all German agents. Operating out of Wormwood Scrubs, a prewar prison in west London, MI5 officers were able to locate all German spies in the UK. The fact that Ultra could reveal so much about them - and that there were around only 120 of them - meant that the task was considerably easier than first feared. Yet the real genius in this was in its application. The German spies were given a simple choice: work for British intelligence or face execution. Unsurprisingly, the majority opted for the first option, but not all did. Josef Jakobs chose not to become a British spy. Instead he was put on trial for committing an "act of treachery" in Huntingdonshire when he "descended by parachute with [an] intent to help the enemy". Although he pleaded not guilty, the charge was upheld and he was executed by military firing squad, becoming the last person to ever be executed at the Tower of London. Those who did become British spies were used by the mysterious sounding 'XX Committee', known as Double Cross, to deceive the Germans. At a tactical level, this involved feeding back inaccurate reports on a variety of issues; at a strategic level, it was used to great effect to confuse the Germans about the location of the D-Day landings and hte performance of the V-weapon campaign against London.

Two things stand out:

(1) Nowhere in the magazine is there any acknowledgement of the photographs used in the publication. Unfortunate.

(2) The article perpetuates the story that Josef declined to work for the British. The truth is that on February 2, 1941, during his first interrogation under Major R.W.G. Stephens at Camp 020, Josef did indeed agree to work as a double agent for the British. This is made quite clear in Stephens' jubilant report that very evening. Unfortutately for Josef, his capture was quite public and within two weeks, it became quite clear to MI5 that news of his arrival had spread far and wide, and he was therefore deemed unsuitable.

06 April 2016

Clearing up Memories of German Spy Karel Richter

Karel Richter - KV 2/31 - National Archives
Karel Richter - KV 2/31 - National Archives
In the early morning hours of May 12, German spy, Karel Richter landed by parachute near London Colney. Originally a Czech citizen from the Sudetenland, in 1938, Karel suddenly found himself a defacto German when the Sudetenland was appropriated by Nazi Germany. A seaman by trade, Karel abandoned ship with the declaration of war in 1939 but was eventually nabbed by the German authorities and thrown into prison.

After kicking his heels in prison for a few months, Karel was "encouraged" to take on an espionage mission to England for the German Intelligence Service (Abwehr) but, as with many of the 1940/41 spies, he was a lackluster agent.

After burying most of his gear upon landing, including his food, Karel hid in the wood near his landing site for several nights. Finally, on the evening of May 14, Karel snuck out of hiding and made his unsteady way to a nearby roadway. Two men in a lorry asked him for directions to London and his mumbled and surly reply aroused their suspicions. Encountering a Reserve Police Constable a bit farther down the road, the lorrymen passed along their concerns about the weird stranger.

P.C. Scott approached Karel and learned that he was not feeling well and wished to be taken to a hospital. Sergeant Palmer in St. Alban's was called and, upon arrival, took one glance at Karel's Identity Card and recognized it for a forgery. Karel's career as a spy was over and the next day he was taken to MI5's Camp 020 for prolonged interrogation.

Karel was eventually charged under the Treachery Act, tried by a civil court and found guilty. He was hanged at Wandsworth Prison on December 10, 1941, by Albert Pierrepoint.

When one has access to the National Archives Security Service files on Karel Richter, his story is pretty clear. Unfortunately, some strange rumours have popped up in the last few years that muddle the waters.

A few weeks ago, I came across a WW2 People's War account on the BBC that painted a slightly different picture of Karel's capture. Given the fleeting nature of some webpages, I have reproduced the account of Florrie Cowley (née Chapman) here in its entirety.
During World War Two, signposts and anything giving the name of the village or town were removed and organisations' camping grounds were closed, and left to nature, as it was considered unsafe to venture out into the wild countryside.
My friend Rene and myself were Rangers, senior guides, and bored with restrictions and the stress of war decided it would be fun to visit our Divisional Guide camp site, Cherry Green Trees, Tyttenhanger Park, Colney Heath, and cook a sausage our mothers had managed to obtain off the tight meat ration, over a camp fire as we had done pre-war. It was Spring, May time, and the weather was good as we happily cycled on our way and eventually arrived at the farmer’s house, where we obtained the key, and took the narrow, overgrown footpath winding through the fields to the site. The site consisted of a very large field on which stood a wooden hut, which in the large room was stored tents, blankets, and camp cooking utensils and in the smaller room was set out as a kitchen and held indoor cooking utensils, crockery, etc. Across the far side of the field was a small wood.
We opened the door of the hut, undid the shutters, and were absolutely astounded as we saw there were a few tins of food and an opened fresh bottle of milk. In a hut which had not been used since war was declared in September 1939!
We gingerly went through the door of the large room and opened the shutters. One was broken and held up to give the impression it was locked and on the floor was a bed made up of tents and blankets etc. What did annoy us was our large camp site Union Jack was the top cover of the bed. How dare anyone do this - it had cost us a lot of money! Someone was obviously living there.
We quickly came out to think the situation over. Being war time there were no vagabonds, tramps etc around so who could be living there? We then thought a German Spy could have been dropped and this would be an ideal place to hide or live. This thought made us very frightened as, if we were discovered, he would be sure to kill us. Rene, thinking only of the prospect of lighting a fire and cooking her precious sausage, said we could go back to the farm after we had eaten. My thought was to get away immediately. Contemplating, she agreed. At the farm the farmer pointed to his phone and gave me the police phone number. In a short while two policemen arrived by car and went to our camp site. When they returned they stated we were to go home and on no condition tell anyone of what we had discovered. We thought the Divisional Commissioner ought to be told but the police were insistent - NO ONE.
A week or two later, I think it was in a St Albans newspaper, that a spy had been caught. I personally did not see it. I did make a few enquiries after the war but found out nothing and so ended our adventure.
Not so. Sixty-two years later I went on an outing to the Imperial War Museum in London and in the 'Spies' section there it was - a German spy caught in Tyttenhanger Park, London Colney on 14th c. Karel Richard Richter. He had been dropped by parachute on 13th May 1941 and was caught by the Home Guard and taken to Tess Road Police Station. There was no doubt whatsoever that this was 'our' spy, the date and place were right and naturally the Home Guard had been alerted by the police and succeeded in the capture.
What a different story it may have been if we had not visited our camp site. He could have lived there undiscovered for a long time as it was an ideal hiding place, especially with the adjacent wood. Or, if he had seen us two Rangers we would have been shot. On the evening of the visit to the Museum I had the History Channel 101 10pm on the TV and suddenly heard the name Karel Richard Richter, which was so fresh in my mind. It was under the 'Spies who fooled Hitler' and referred to many spies who turned into double agents. Apparently Richter told our authorities so many lies that they could not believe a word he said. At first they thought he was a Master Spy checking on the German spies over here, then there were several stories which he periodically changed so in the end they stated he was 'unreliable and a liar' and so he was taken to the Tower of London and hung on 10th December 1941.
On hearing my story my cousin who was a Security Guard at the Tower of London said many years ago a company were making a film which included spies shot at the Tower, and he was asked to sit on a chair, with lots of gun holes in it. This he did. So we wondered was Richter shot and not hung and this was the actual chair he died in. The date was similar.
Florrie's story, while quite entertaining, is highly unlikely. Based on the facts outlined in the MI5 files, Karel was apprehended thanks to two suspicious lorrymen. Karel was also not executed at the Tower of London, but rather at Wandsworth Prison.

An online forum, Brookmans Park Community Discussion group, had also come across Florrie's account, and some of the contributor's noted the obvious discrepancies.

The sole commentator on Florrie' story noted that:
WW2 People's War - comment on Florrie Cowley's account of a "spy".
WW2 People's War - comment on Florrie Cowley's account of a "spy".
This comment is utter rubbish. There is no plaque on Richter at the Tower of London for Richter was never held there, nor was he executed there. As for signed autographs? Highly unlikely. It would appear that, over the years, some spy stories have gotten blended together, including those of Josef Jakobs and Karel Richter.

Finally, a glance at a map of the London Colney area, using information in the MI5 files, would weigh heavily against Richter being the "vagrant" who had invaded Cherry Green Trees camp.

The red marker is the most likely landing point of Richter based on a hand-drawn map in the MI5 files. The purple marker is the Cherry Green Trees camp. The blue marker is the Tess Road Police Station. One commentator in the above-mentioned forum noted that he could find no trace of a Tess Road Police Station. The son of the one of the Reserve Police Constables from St. Alban's has however, pointed out that Tess Road has long since been renamed Woodstock Road South and that the former Tess Road Police Station was located in Fleetville, St. Alban's, near the Fleetville Post Office. During Karel's civil trial, the prosecuting attorney noted that he was first taken to the Fleetville Police Station, more than likely identical with the Tess Road Police Station.

Google Map showing areas associated with Karel Richter.
Google Map showing areas associated with Karel Richter.
The above map can also be viewed as a saved map in Google Maps.

Below is the hand-drawn map from the MI5 files (KV 2/30). The map is not drawn to scale nor are the directions entirely accurate. But the overall layout is clear. According to the write-up that accompanies the map, the laneway along which Richter landed (upper right corner of the map) was about 500 yards from the intersection of the Hatfield and St. Alban's roads in London Colney.
Hand-drawn map from MI5 files (KV 2/30) (National Archives)
Hand-drawn map from MI5 files (KV 2/30)
(National Archives)

If we tilt the Google Map to mimic the overall pattern of the MI5 map, we see that the red marker is in the general vicinity of Richter's landing area. The only problem is that the red marker is about 1000 yards from the Hatfield/St. Alban's road intersection, not the 500 yards noted in the MI5 description. There is, of course, the very strong possibility, that London Colney's growth over the last 75+ years has altered the scene of the crime to such an extent that an accurate deduction of Karel's landing place is no longer possible. One would need to examine 1940s maps of London Colney and compare them to the current topography.
Google Map - London Colney and Karel Richter's likely landing spot.
Google Map - London Colney and Karel Richter's likely landing spot.
Note - Since writing this article, I did some more research - check out the latest blog post.