27 May 2016

New Josef Jakobs Website in the Works

It's time for a change.

For the last few years, I've had the Josef Jakobs website hosted on Moonfruit. It was easy. It was cheap. But a few weeks ago, I got a new laptop with Windows 10 and McAfee Anti-Virus. I tried to update the website and McAfee had a snit-fit and told me it was not a safe site. Come again? I overrode McAfee eventually but... the experience made me pause.

Moonfruit has been urging me to update my site to HTML5, but I've heard that it muddles up your website quite badly and... I didn't really want to deal with that. Plus, I've been meaning to rejig the site for a while. The News section is getting ridiculously long and confusing (even to me)!
 Josef Jakobs website - screen shot (Moonfruit)
A bit of research revealed that the old version of Moonfruit uses Flash which is apparently quite susceptible to attacks, hence the McAfee alarms. Well then, if I'm going to have to upgrade Moonfruit and go through the hassle, why not move elsewhere?

Sooo... I have been researching other website builders: WordPress (.org and .com), Wix, Weebly, etc. After much to-ing and fro-ing and dither-ing, I've settled on one. At the moment, I am busy moving content from the Moonfruit site to the new one. Once that is done, the final step will be to get the domain address transferred. Keeping my fingers crossed that will go smoothly.

The new host is expandable, so I might eventually get around to hosting a store-front (when the book gets published).

In the meantime, here's a sneak preview of the new look... home page (trying to keep a similar look to the current site).
New and improved home page for Josef Jakobs website - coming soon

And a sub-page of the News section

Up and coming new look for the Josef Jakobs website

23 May 2016

The Ruins of RAF Upwood

A view of the derelict RAF Upwood base from the water tower.  (From Behind Closed Doors website).
A view of the derelict RAF Upwood base from the water tower.
(From Behind Closed Doors website).
I came across a few interesting sites that document the abandoned RAF Upwood base near Ramsey, Huntingdonshire. German spy, Josef Jakobs, landed near Ramsey on January 31, 1941 and MI5 speculated at the time that he might have been sent to snoop around the airbase. While Josef had a Shell Touring Map of England in his possession, he most definitely did not have a map of RAF Upwood.

A couple of penciled marks on the map seemed to coincide with RAF Upwood and RAF Warboys, but are not perfect matches to either location. As mentioned in the previous blog post, the circle on Josef's map likely marks the place where the German aircrew of his plane hoped to cross into the general drop zone. The "x" on the map marks the likely location of where the aircrew hoped to drop Josef.

The site, Behind Closed Doors, has a nice series of photographs of the old RAF Upwood base. A short write-up on the site notes that:
"In February 1941 a German spy named Josef Jakobs was discovered by a farmer, after he parachuted into the area resulting in a broken leg. He was found to have maps of RAF Upwood, a code device and £500 in his possession. He was interrogated by MI5 and spent several months at Dulwich hospital before being put on trial. He was found guilty of treachery and was executed by firing squad at the Tower of London"

The Urban Ghosts site also has some amazing photographs and a similar write-up:
"However, one of the most notable wartime stories concerning RAF Upwood was that of German spy Josef Jakobs, who was captured by local farmers after parachuting into the area and breaking his leg. Found in possession of a code device, £500 in cash and maps of the RAF base, Jakobs was interrogated by the security services and executed for treachery at the Tower of London in August 1941.
Both sites are mostly accurate, except Josef did not have maps of RAF Upwood.

A third site, Derelict and Dangerous,  has a few photographs and a short write-up:
"Interesting tid bit of history: When captured, German spy Joseph Jakobs was found to have RAF Upwood maps in his possessions amongst other things. He was court-martialled and sentenced to death by Firing Squad in 1941."

18 May 2016

A Theory for the Marks on Josef Jakobs' Shell Touring Map

When German spy Josef Jakobs parachuted into a potato filed on Dovehouse Farm the night of January 31, 1941, he had a Shell Touring Map in his possession. The map was a fold-out variety and relatively small-scale. Not the best map for a would-be spy!

Shell Touring Map (National Archives - KV 2/27)
Shell Touring Map
(National Archives - KV 2/27)

When MI5 examined the map, they noticed that a triangle had been drawn on one of the sheets connecting Peterborough, Bedford and Cambridge. According to Josef, this was the area in which the German aircrew said they would drop him.
Shell Touring Map found in Josef Jakobs' possession - showing triangle (National Archives - KV 2/27)
Shell Touring Map found in Josef Jakobs' possession - showing triangle
(National Archives - KV 2/27)

Within that triangle were two other marks, a penciled "x" and a small circle. The penciled line under the word Ramsey was added by the President of Josef's General Court Martial and is noted in the court martial transcripts. Ramsey actually lies outside the boundaries of the triangle and given that Josef was dropped southeast of Ramsey, this suggests that the aircrew did not have exceptionally precise navigation.
Shell Touring Map found in Josef Jakobs' possession - close-up of Ramsey area (National Archives - KV 2/27)
Shell Touring Map found in Josef Jakobs' possession - close-up of Ramsey area
(National Archives - KV 2/27)
There was much speculation in 1941 as to what the penciled "x" and circle could mean. Some suggested that they indicated the locations of RAF Upwood and RAF Warboys. If we look more closely however, RAF Upwood is actually located just west of Ramsey (marked with the red star) while the penciled "x" is quite a ways further west. The circle is a bit closer to RAF Warboys.
Shell Touring Map found in Josef Jakobs' possession - close-up of Ramsey area (National Archives - KV 2/27)
Shell Touring Map found in Josef Jakobs' possession - close-up of Ramsey area
(National Archives - KV 2/27)

It is intersting to note that the circle is actually on the border of the triangle and that the "x" is on the railway heading down to London (former Great Northern Railway). An alternate theory as to the meaning of the two marks might run as follows: as one of the members of the aircrew reviewed the map with Josef, he drew the triangle between Bedfordshire, Peterborough and Cambridge. This was the general area in which they hoped to drop Josef. The airman then drew a circle along the edge of the triangle. This was the point at which the aircrew hoped to intersect the drop zone. Finally, the airman drew an "x" where they hoped to actually drop Josef. It would certainly make sense that they would try to drop him close to a major rail line in order to facilitate his journey to London. This is, naturally, speculation but an intriguing one.

One does not, of course, know the route that the plane took as it flew from Schipol Aerodrome (near Amsterdam) to England, but presumably it was not a straight line. Their proposed route according to the present theory would have them crossing the English coast somewhere just north of Ipswich.

04 May 2016

Long Shot on discovering the death date of Lt. Col. Robin William George Stephens

For the last few years, I've been scratching away at the personal history of Tin-Eye (Robin W.G.) Stephens, former commandant of MI5s secret interrogation centre, Camp 020.

I've discovered quite a bit about Tin-Eye - his parents, his brother who died in WWI, the death of his second wife. But the death of Stephens continues to elude me. I even ordered his military records from the British Army Personnel department - they were sketchy to say the least.

There is one long shot that I haven't tried yet - the informant at the death of his second wife. But it's a seriously long shot. Let me walk you through it and maybe someone can suggest a way forward.

In the late 1920s, Stephens married Phyllis Gwendolyn Fletcher (nee Townshand) in India. They divorced in 1933 in London.

After that, there is no record of Stephens ever getting married again except... in Oliver Hoare's introduction to the book Camp 020, there is a photograph of Stephens with his second wife - Joan Geraldine Pearson Dowling.
Joan Geraldine Pearson Dowling & Robin William George Stephens
Joan Geraldine Pearson Dowling & Robin William George Stephens

That's it... there is no marriage registration for Joan and Stephens - at least not one that I've been able to find.

So... what do we know about Joan? Well, her birth was registered in December 1919  in Lincoln, Lincolnshire and her mother was a Pearson. Birth registrations were recorded in three month intervals, so a December registration would mean her birth took place in Oct-Nov-Dec of 1919.

Joan G.P. Dowling birth index - from Ancestry.co.uk
Joan G.P. Dowling birth index - from Ancestry.co.uk

Do enough searching on Ancestry.co.uk and you will find other references to her with the surname Stephens, primarily from passenger lists. She is sometimes listed as traveling alone and at other times she is in the company of our friend Stephens.

On 9 April, 1992, a Joan Geraldine Stephens passed away in Lincoln at a nursing home. According to the death certificate (which I ordered from the General Record Office), this Joan was born on 4 September 1919 in Lincoln and her maiden surname was Dowling. So far, so good. She could have been born in September 1919 and perhaps her birth wasn't registered until the following month.
Joan Geraldine Stephens death index - from Ancestry.co.uk
Joan Geraldine Stephens death index - from Ancestry.co.uk

On Joan's death certificate, her deceased spouse is listed as "Caesar Stephens, Army". Now, Joan and Stephens had spent time in Madeira, the Portuguese islands off the coast of northwestern Africa. Their last visit that I was able to track was in 1960, the year that Stephens retired from the Army at the age of 60. Still... it's a bit odd. Perhaps Stephens picked up a nickname during his time abroad? At least we know that Stephens must have passed away sometime between 1960 and 1992.

The informant for Joan's death certificate was Audrey Violet Richardson (sister) of 154 Nettleham Road, Lincoln. A bit of searching and The Gazette revealed the following:
Audrey Violet Richardson death notice - The Gazette
Audrey Violet Richardson death notice - The Gazette
Audrey passed away on 22 October 2005 and her address was 154 Nettleham Road, Lincoln. Sooo... pretty sure this is the same Audrey who was the informant for Joan's death. According to the death index, Audrey was born on 5 December 1922, so a few years younger than Joan. The birth index notes that Audrey V. Dowling's birth was registered in March 1923 (within the right ballpark) in Bedwellty, Monmouthshire (strange location - not Lincoln). Her mother was a Pearson.

In June 1948, a marriage was registered in Lincoln between Audrey V. Dowling and Keith R. Richardson. A search of births in Lincoln between 1948 and 1978 yielded no children whose father was Richardson and whose mother was Dowling. Either Keith and Audrey were childless, or they got divorced before having any children, or they moved (seems unlikely) It would appear that Audrey did not remarry.

All of this is rather disappointing. Joan apparently died with no children and Audrey as well. Sooo... any papers or photographs from our friend Stephens would appear to have been lost or... perhaps there were nieces and nephews.

Audrey's death notice in the Gazette gives the name and address of her solicitors in Lincoln. Which finally brings me to the long shot... to write to them and enquire if they have a family contact for her.

A second long shot would be to dig into the newspaper archives in Lincoln and find an obituary for Joan Stephens. Hard to do from the west coast of Canada.

Any other long shots I'm missing?