19 April 2017

A Blog, a Podcast and a YouTube Video explore Bella in the Wych Elm

Clara Bauerle
Clara Bauerle
My goodness... how people love an unsolved mystery. I guess there is a fair bit of fun in speculating on solutions. Bella in the Wych Elm generates a fair bit of blog posts, articles, podcasts and videos out there. I've come across a couple more recently...

Oh How Peculiar 
A blog post on Tumblr notes the usual possibilities - prostitute, Dutch member of a spy ring, victim of a witch's coven and... of course... that she was Clara Bauerle:
[one theory...] She was a part of a Nazi spy ring operating in the area. In declassified documents, a Nazi spy named Josef Jacobs was reportedly carrying a photograph of a woman he identified as Clara Bauerle. A music hall performer who had toured the Midlands before, he claimed that Bauerle was recruited and going to parachute into the area in 1941. Jacobs was captured before she was to have arrived and he was later executed by firing squad at the Tower of London. Investigators have been unable to eliminate Clara Bauerle as a match for “Bella.” [There is no evidence whatsoever that Clara Bauerle toured the Midlands. The Home Office records that tracked entry and exit records noted a different Klara Sophie Bauerle who had been in England in the 1930s.]
Thinking Sideways
Thinking Sideways Podcast - cover image
Thinking Sideways Podcast - cover image
This is a bit different... a podcast on Bella in the Wych Elm. The podcast runs to about 45 minute and is, interestingly, hosted by a trio from Portland, OR - Joe, Steve, Devin. The main host (Joe) introduces the history of the story with the other two hosts (Steve and Devin) interjecting comments at various points In many ways it sounds like a morning radio show in North America where the hosts chat quite a bit with themselves. The co-hosts ask various clarifying questions, for example, how would the investigators know that the mystery woman had given birth? Answer - the hip bones change during pregnancy/child birth. Those questions and answers are generally helpful although sometimes they tend to go off onto tangents.

Apparently, the forensic examiner originally concluded that the body had been in the tree for four years (so, since 1939) and then revised his estimate to 18 months. That's a pretty big spread... 18 months to 48 months. Clearly, determining time of death with little more than a skeleton is a tricky business. Many of the theories that Bella in the Wych Elm was Clara Bauerle would require the 18 month estimate to be fairly firm. It doesn't sound like the forensic examiner would have been that certain of his estimate.

The podcast hosts cover the usual possibilities for Bella in the Wych Elm - victim of a witch coven, thief who had her hand cut off, a music hall singer of a West Midlands spy ring, and, of course, the Clara Bauerle theory. The hosts actually get the details of what Josef Jakobs said about Clara correct. Josef didn't actually think Clara would be sent over since the Germans hadn't heard from him. The hosts did make a tenuous connection with the music hall singer and Clara Bauerle - but it is a tenuous connection indeed. The hosts even mentioned my blog - which is nice. They do engage in a fair bit of discussion as to whether Clara could have been the singer who spent two years in the West Midlands, whether Clara spoke English, etc. According to one of the hosts, the Tower of London has all of Josef's parachute gear (painted white). Actually, the parachute gear at the Tower are just generic props. The location of his parachute gear is unknown.

The hosts do mention the height difference between Bella and Clara and reference my website and conclude that the spy theory is far-fetched. The podcast was produced in 2014 so there is no mention of my tracking down Clara's December 16, 1942, death certificate from Germany. The hosts then touch on a variety of other interesting parts of the story. Why was the body stuffed in a tree? Was she a local woman? Was she a refugee from London?

I thoroughly enjoyed this podcast. It was interesting and well researched, as well as entertaining.

Cayleigh Elise - Nameless #3
This video, just over 15 minutes, goes into a fair bit of detail about about the West Midlands spy ring and the possibility that Bella in the Wych Elm was Clara Bella Dronkers, a Dutch woman and a member of the spy ring.

The video later notes that another spy, Johannes Marinus Dronkers was captured near the same area and might have a connection with Clara Bella Dronkers. This is not accurate. Johannes Marinus Dronkers was captured from a boat off the southeastern coast of England, nowhere near the West Midlands.

The video also spends a fair bit of time on the Clara Bauerle theory and does reference my blog and website. Again, there is no evidence that Clara Bauerle spent two years in the music hall scene of the West Midlands.Produced in November 2016, the video does reference my discovery of Clara Bauerle's death registration in Berlin.

This was an interesting video and generally well-researched. It touches on many of the theories about Bella and presents the information well.

14 April 2017

Bella in the Wych Elm - Carnie Films

Carnie Films - Bella in the Wych Elm
Carnie Films - Bella in the Wych Elm
I know that there is an HD Paranormal film in the works about Bella in the Wych Elm but... in searching the net, I came across a link to another film, this one with Tom Lee Rutter as Writer/Director/Producer. The film, Bella in the Wych Elm, is billed as A Folk Mystery Phantasmagoria.

A review of the film was done by Midlands Movies on April 12, 2017. I'm kind of keen to see this film as the reviewer notes: "In real-life the victim, whose murder was estimated to have occurred in 1941, remains unidentified but Rutter takes a very interesting premise and turns it into much more than the tale itself." Wonder what the interesting premise is...

It looks like the film was just completed a week ago sooo... have to be satisfied with the Teaser/Trailer on Vimeo.

10 April 2017

Arbitrary Times... and Facts?

Arbitrary Times logo
Arbitrary Times logo
Came across another little site called Arbitrary Times that has a short post on the Last Execution in the Tower. I'm not sure of the information source for this article but there are some inaccuracies.

The last execution in the Tower of London took place during World War II when Josef Jakobs, a German soldier, was captured while parachuting into England.

After a quick trial in Brixton
[trial actually held at Duke of York's Headquarters], he was convicted of espionage, brought to the Tower, held overnight [brought to the Tower on the morning of his execution], and executed by firing squad on August 14, 1941 [Nope, August 15, 1941].

The chair in which he sat during his execution is still on display.

Jakobs was one of hundreds who were executed at the Tower of London during its 900 year history
, and as a result it has gained a reputation as one of the most haunted locations in Britain. [I don't know about hundreds - according to the Capital Punishment UK site - confirmed executions from 1388 to 1780 were 122 with another 11 in the 20th Century. Not sure if 133 counts as hundreds. As well, those actually executed within the confines of the Tower (and not Tower Green) are much fewer - only 10 from 1388 to 1780 and then the 11 spies from WWI and WWII.]
  Even a quick glance at the Wikipedia entry for Josef Jakobs would have corrected the inaccuracies.

05 April 2017

Another article about Bella in the Wych Elm

Murder and Mystery at the Witch Elm (Any-NewsBD site)
Came across this site the other day - it has a rehash of the Bella in the Wych Elm story.
Any-NewsBD - Murder and Mystery at the Witch Elm

While containing many of the same inaccuracies as the original Allison Vale piece (Josef Jakob was a Czech Gestapo agent who was supposed to meet Clara Bauerle in the Midlands), this article does acknowledge the 1942 death date of Clara. In that way, it is an improvement over some of the other sites.
Other theories as to the mysterious murder also hinge on the spy idea. In 1941, a Czech [German, not Czech - Karel Richter was the Czech agent] agent of the Gestapo [Abwehr - not Gestapo. The Abwehr was the Military Intelligence arm of the Germany Armed Forces. The Gestapo was the Nazi State Secret Police. Two very different organizations.] named Josef Jakobs was arrested after covertly parachuting into Cambridgeshire, England. Authorities found on his person a photograph of a German cabaret singer and movie star named Clara Bauerle. Under questioning, Jakobs would point to Bauerle as being a Gestapo [Abwehr] secret agent as well, mostly recruited for her ability to speak with a Birmingham accent [Josef said not such thing.] and blend into the crowd [didn't say this either], and who was meant to parachute in and meet up with him later in the Midlands [Josef made no mention of the Midlands]. Although she was fairly well-known, Clara Bauerle sort of dropped from the radar at about that time, leading to speculation that it was her who had ended up in the Wych Elm. Yet, if this was the case, it has never been satisfactorily explained how she would have ended up out in that tree in the private woodland of Hagley Wood or who could have been the one to kill her or why. Bauerle is also thought to have been too tall to have been Bella, and she is often listed as having dying in 1942, which does not fit in with the Wych Elm murder. We will probably never know for sure and Jakobs was put to death by firing squad on August 15, 1941, holding the distinction of being the last person ever put to death in the Tower of London. His secrets would go to the grave with him.
 The article on this site was moderately accurate and gives a nice summary of the entire Bella in the Wych Elm saga.

31 March 2017

Media Review - Spy! - Episode 2: Camp 020 - 1980

Screenshot from Spy! Episode 2 - Camp 020 - BBC - 1980
Screenshot from Spy! Episode 2 - Camp 020 - BBC - 1980
BBC - Spy! Episode 2: Camp 020 (1980)

Original Air Date - 20 January 1980
TV Series - Spy!

Duration - 47:00 minutes

Director - John Bird

A few years ago, I read snippets from Christopher Andrew's authorized history of MI5 (The Defence of the Realm). At the time, I was digging into background information on Lt. Colonel Robin William George Stephens.  Andrews noted that:

Screenshot from Spy! Episodee 2 - Camp 020 - BBC - 1980 The Major receives a call from the Commandant in the Officer's Mess.
Screenshot from Spy! Episode 2 - Camp 020 - BBC - 1980
The Major receives a call from the Commandant in
the Officer's Mess.
"In 1980, ten former members of the secretarial staff at Camp 020 (some of whom had worked there from its opening in July 1940 to its closure at the end of the war) made a "vigorous' public protest at the BBC's portrayal of Tin-Eye Stephens of MI5 as a violent bully:

 'In fact the Commandant, though of terrifying aspect, was a skilled interrogator who obtained results without recourse to assault and battery. Indeed, the very basis of Camp 020 procedure was that nobody raised a hand against a prisoner. ... In sum, the Commandant's behaviour towards his officers, secretarial staff, guard troops and prisoners was, in our experience, always scrupulously correct.' "

Screenshot from Spy! Episodee 2 - Camp 020 - BBC - 1980 Hans Hansen (Wulf Schmidt) undergoes his first interrogation at Camp 020 by Lt. Duthie.
Screenshot from Spy! Episode 2 - Camp 020 - BBC - 1980
Wulf Schmidt undergoes his first interrogation
at Camp 020 by Lt. Duthie.
I was rather intrigued to hear of this BBC show and some digging revealed it was most likely a TV Series entitled Spy! which broadcast in 1980. Episode 2 of the series dealt with Camp 020 but, given that the series aired over 37 years ago, trying to track down a copy seemed like a wild goose chase.

However, recently I was able to lay my hands on a copy of the episode in question and watched all 47 minutes with interest. In brief, the episode tells the story of Wulf Schmidt, a Danish national who landed in England via parachute in September 1940. He had been recruited by the German Abwehr but was captured rather quickly and brought to Camp 020 for interrogation.

Screenshot from Spy! Episode 2 - Camp 020 - BBC - 1980 Wulf Schmidt tries the patience of The Commandant
Screenshot from Spy! Episode 2 - Camp 020 - BBC - 1980
Wulf Schmidt tries the patience of The Commandant
Eventually, Wulf Schmidt was turned and became a double-agent, one who would broadcast mostly false information to the Germans right up until the end of the war. He was Britain's famous agent TATE.

Given that the show aired in 1980, before any of the MI5 records had been declassified, I was intrigued to see that Nigel West was credited with the research. West knew both Agent TATE and Major Thomas Argyll Robertson who ran the double-cross system. It would seem that much of the episode's material is based on the personal recollections of these two men.

There are, naturally, some inaccuracies, as with many personal recollections. The most glaring, and the one which the Camp 020 secretaries took such offense to, was the portrayal of Lt. Col. Stephens.

Screenshot from Spy! Episode 2 - Camp 020 - BBC - 1980 Wulf Schmidt being roughed up by the Commandant.
Screenshot from Spy! Episode 2 - Camp 020 - BBC - 1980
Wulf Schmidt being roughed up by the Commandant.
In the episode, Stephens barges in during Lt. Duthie's interrogation of Schmidt. Stephens ejects Duthie and the female secretary and then manhandles the stubborn Schmidt, punching him in the mouth. Based on what we know about Camp 020 and what took place there, this was more likely an altercation that took place between Schmidt and Colonel Scotland, Commandant of the infamous London Cage. Scotland was subsequently banned from Camp 020 interrogations for roughing up Schmidt.

Unfortunately, in the Spy! episode, the Commandant of Camp 020 seems to be a blend of Scotland and Stephens.

While Stephens did like to use the "blow hot, blow cold" method (essentially, good cop-bad cop), he was very much again physical beatings. At least at Camp 020.

Screenshot from Spy! Episode 2 - Camp 020 - BBC - 1980
Dr. Harold Dearden - mastermind behind Camp 020's
interrogation techniques.
I also found it interesting that while several different Abwehr officers were mentioned by their correct names, only one of the Camp 020 staff were identified by their correct names: Dr. Harold Dearden. The Commandant has no name. The Major is likely meant to be T.A. Robertson. Lt. Duthie and Lt. Pringle are pseudonyms for other Camp 020 officers, identities unknown. Although, if we dug in the TATE files from the National Archives, we could probably identify the officers involved in Schmidt's initial interrogations.

While the episode does have some historical inaccuracies, it is fascinating to watch as it is one of the few pieces of film media that deal with Camp 020 and the double-cross system. I thoroughly enjoyed it and... if anyone else wants to see it, let me know via email.

IMDb - entry for Spy! Camp 020.
BBC Genome - entry for Spy! Camp 020.
Christopher Andrew - Defend the Realm - The Authorized History of MI5, 2009.

26 March 2017

BS Historian Blog and Blank Rounds

Tower of London - East Walk - display commemorating wartime spy executions
Tower of London - East Walk - display
commemorating wartime spy executions
I came across a WordPress blog yesterday entitled the BS Historian - Sceptical Commentary on Pseudohistory and the Paranormal. I'll leave it to everyone's imagination as to what "BS" stands for. The anonymous author of the blog wrote a post on: Conscience Bullets – Firing Squads and the use of blank cartridges.

The blog author mentions Josef's execution and states that "There is no evidence to suggest that a blank cartridge was used in Jakobs’ case."

I don't agree with that statement as I do think there is a fair bit of commentary that indicates that was indeed the case. One of my blog posts looked at the British Procedure for Military Executions by Firing Squad, a document which states that two blank rounds were to be used.

The reasoning behind some rounds being blank was thought to be that it afforded each member of the firing squad a bit of doubt - "did I really fire the lethal round?". This worked well in the days of muskets when the wad that was placed in the muzzle along with the ball of shot also generated recoil. It was hard to tell the difference between a musket loaded with wad and ball and one just loaded with the wad. With modern rifles and bullets, any skilled marksman would notice the difference between the recoil of a live round versus that of a blank round (recoil was less due to absence of a bullet). But apparently, over time, the mind could convince itself that the recoil was softer. Another possible explanation was that should the firing squad ever be brought before a tribunal (e.g. by the enemy), each could plausibly deny that they had fired the lethal round. While the reason behind the modern-day usage of blank rounds might be a mystery, it was clear from the Military Police Manual, that blank rounds were issued.

22 March 2017

Pervitin in Josef Jakobs' Pocket

A book came out last year, written by a German author, that outlines the widespread use of drugs in the Third Reich. One of the main drugs was Pervitin, whose active ingredient is methamphetamine - today known as crystal meth.

Pervitin vial
I had come across suggestions of this before, that the German troops favoured methamphetamine while the American troops favoured benzedrine. Both drugs helped soldiers to stay awake, focused their attention and just helped them to perform at a higher level.

Norman Ohler, author of Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany goes even farther though and notes that Pervitin was seen as something of a wonder drug and was taken by housewives, truck drivers, train conductors and even Adolf Hitler.

"While Adolf Hitler allowed the world to believe he was a teetotaller who didn’t even touch coffee, a man who had thrown his last cigarettes into the Danube, the reality was that he was a super-junkie, addicted to cocaine, the heroin-like eukodal, and a toxic cocktail of narcotics supplied by Theodor Morell, a doctor described as ‘the Reich injection master’."

That would certainly explain a lot about Hitler - his manic energy, his crazyness. The thing with sustained use of methamphetamine is that it can lead to psychosis. No wonder then that the German war machine stuttered and died in the latter years of the war.

When German spy Josef Jakobs, was captured at Dove House Farm in Ramsey, Huntingdonshire, he had several packets of pills in his pockets. One of the packets was an aluminum screw-top container that contained white pills which Josef claimed "helped one to stay awake". British tests showed it to be methedrine or benzedrine - essentially methamphetamine. Most likely it was a capsule of Pervitin. Perhaps the Luftwaffe crew gave him a vial... or maybe the German Abwehr officers. Or maybe it was just normal to carry around a vial of crystal meth in Nazi Germany.

I haven't read Ohler's book yet, but it sounds very interesting. The story about Pervitin use by the troops of the Third Reich is not a new one. A 45 minute YouTube video outlines the history of the drug as well, for those who are interested. Alas, the video is in German and used Google Translate to generate English subtitles which, apparently, are not all that accurate.

Daily Mail - Blitzed Krieg: How Nazis rampaging across Europe were fuelled not just by blind fanaticism but CRYSTAL METH - supplied by a cocaine-addicted Fuhrer fed daily drug cocktails by the Reich ‘injection master’ - published online 2016 09 03.

Spiegel - The Nazi Death Machine - Hitler's Drugged Soldiers - published online 2005 05 06. 

17 March 2017

The India General Service Medal of Robin William George (a.k.a. Tin-Eye) Stephens

Lt. Col. Robin William George Stephens (a.k.a. Tin-Eye Stephens)
Lt. Col. Robin William
George Stephens
(a.k.a. Tin-Eye Stephens)
It's been a while since I wrote a post on Lt. Col. Robin William George Stephens, a.k.a. Tin-Eye Stephens, fearsome former commandant of MI5s secret wartime interrogation centre, Camp 020.

I have, through this blog and my website, made contact with a distant relative of Stephens. Together, I'm hoping that we might crack the case of Stephen's death and place of burial.

In the meantime, I contacted the author of the 2014 Medal News article who has Stephens' India General Service Medal. I thought that perhaps tracing the history of the medal might lead us closer to Stephens himself. The author of the Medal News article bought the medal in the 1990s from a dealer in Norfolk.

India General Service Medal with five clasps of Robin William George Stephens (From Medal News May 2014)
India General Service
Medal with five clasps
of Robin William George
(From Medal News
May 2014)
Information that accompanied the medal indicated that "it was formerly in the collection of a well-known collector, Colonel Kingsley Foster and sold by Glendining (formerly a leading London dealer) in December 1971. Quite likely Foster acquired the medal directly from Stephens."

That seemed like a rather tantalizing lead. A quick internet search led me to a website entitled "The Nugents of Antigua". An entire page is devoted to Kingsley Osbern Nugent Foster, a member of the Peerage who served with the Northumberland Fusiliers.

Kingsley Osbern Nugent Foster (from Nugents of Antigua website)
Kingsley Osbern Nugent Foster
(from Nugents of Antigua website)
The website gives quite a bit of history for Kingsley and I won't repeat it here, other than to say that the information came from Kingsley's daughter, Patricia Foster.

I did learn a few things. Kingsley was a serious medal collector and amassed a collection that was "second to few in the British Isles and was the greatest authority on the subject in the army. He had already published one book on the subject and was writing a second". From what I can gather, Kingsley's first book was entitled "The Military General Service Medal Roll - 1793-1814", published in 1947.

Alas, before Kingsley could publish his second book, he was killed in action while commanding the 1st Battalion, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers at Imjin River, Korea on 25 April, 1951. He was only 44 years old. He is buried at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan, Korea.
Kingsley Osbern Nugent Foster - war memorial headstone
at Busan, Korea (Section 24 Row 1 Grave Number 1700)
(From Ancestry.com website)
What became of Kingsley's amazing medal collection? Some of them ended up at the Regimental Museum, Alnwick Castle. Others were sold to support his widow. But what about the General India Service Medal of our friend, Robin William George Stephens? Given that Kingsley passed away in 1951, it is highly unlikely that he purchased Stephens medal after that date. Stephens must have sold the medal to Kingsley, or to some other medal dealer, at some point prior to that, perhaps in the mid 1930s, when Stephens declared bankruptcy. Hard to say.

I had been using the 1971 date as a loose bookend, thinking that Stephens must have passed away before that date if his medals were being sold off. Clearly this is not the case.

So, the last real trace we have of Stephens is 1963, living in Brighton. Beyond that, we do know that he was deceased when his wife Joan passed away in 1992. A rather broad expanse of time, but we will just have to keep digging.

Nugents of Antigua - page on Kingsley Osbern Foster - written by his daughter Patricia

Fusiliers Association

Ancestry - genealogical website

Imperial War Museum - link to his memorial at Northumberland Fusiliers Museum

Northeast War Memorials Project - has photos of the medals at Northumberland Fusiliers Museum

Last Stand: Famous Battles Against The Odds by Bryan Perrett - snippets are available through Google Books - gives an account of Foster's death during an ambush by the Chinese

Roll of Honour - Cambridgeshire - has a picture of a memorial in Hildersham

13 March 2017

P.S. to the Paranormal surrounding Bella in the Wych Elm

Two local newspapers (Dudley News and Hales Owen News) from the West Midlands in the UK, recently carried the same article about the HD Paranormal investigation into Bella in the Wych Elm. See my blog post from Friday March3...

Both articles note:
Jayne has also been in touch with the grand-daughter of Josef Jakobs - a German spy and the last man to be executed at the Tower of London after he was captured parachuting into the UK in 1941.

She said: "He had a photo with him of a lady who matched ‘Bella's’ description, named Clarabella, and claimed she was a spy and that he was supposed to meet her in the West Midlands.”
The articles contains a few factual errors.  First off, I was never contacted by Jayne and therefore the "She said:" in the second paragraph does not refer to myself.

The photo Josef had on his person was of Clara Bauerle (not Clarabella) who was described as being a "tall" woman by Josef and another spy who knew her. Given that Bella in the Wych Elm was around 5 feet tall, I'm not entirely sure I would say their descriptions "match".

Josef said that Clara Bauerle was possibly going to be spent to England but, given that the German Abwehr had not heard from him, he doubted that they would send her over. Since the Germans would also have heard about Josef's execution on August 15, 1941 (courtesy of widely available international newspapers), it is highly unlikely that they would have sent Clara to meet up with Josef (who was, at that point, deceased). Or perhaps the Abwehr decided to send her over to spring Josef out of MI5s clutches? I'm sure Clara could have used her feminine wiles to sneak her way into Camp 020 or Wandsworth Prison or the Tower of London. A regular Mata Hari perhaps.

Josef also never said that he was to meet her in the West Midlands.

One could, naturally, wonder... if the Abwehr was really going to send Clara Bauerle over to England, would they have let one of their agents travel with a picture postcard of her? Rather hard to imagine...

I still think D.J. Cockburn has the best theory...

08 March 2017

Terra Incerta Blog on The Fatal Chair

Chair in which Josef Jakobs was executed at the Tower of London
Chair in which Josef Jakobs was
executed at the Tower of London
A few days ago, Kit Ward sent me a link to his blog on the chair used at Josef's execution. He drew on my website and blog for a lot of the information and got most of the details correct.

It's always nice when people touch base before, or after, posting a blog. Even nicer when they have a link back to my website and blog.

The chair is obviously an evocative image that speaks for itself without needing a lot of words.

03 March 2017

The Paranormal Side of Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm

Clara Bauerle
Yup, more Bella in the Wych Elm. It seems that this story will never rest. HD Paranormal is raising funds for a film on Bella using previously classified police and MI5 records. You can check out their page here.

They have naturally latched onto the idea that Bella is actually Clara Bauerle, the German cabaret singer who mysteriously "disappeared" in 1941. Despite the fact that I tracked down Clara's death registration in Berlin (she died December 16, 1942 of veronal poisoning), several people have questioned whether this might not just be a cover up. I guess if one is a conspiracy theorist, then one can find conspiracies and cover-ups wherever one looks.

Given that Bella's body is MIA and that there is very little information on either Clara or Bella... it is rather easy to create all sorts of juicy stories.

I've said all I'm going to say about Bella not being Clara. Dig around in this blog and you'll find it all. I was asked to participate in the HD Paranormal film production and I politely declined.

I will say this... proving a theory like this would require something concrete and positive. Plausibility does not a theory prove. I tracked down Clara Bauerle's birth and death registrations - concrete physical documents. If someone wants to argue that there was a cover-up... then there would need to be concrete proof of that cover-up... not speculation.

27 February 2017

Duke of York's Headquarters targeted by Luftwaffe during World War 2

Map from a former Luftwaffe Gunner (Mail Online) dated November 30, 1941 identifying some of the bombing targets in London.
Map from a former Luftwaffe Navigator (Mail Online) dated November 30, 1941
identifying some of the bombing targets in London.
The Mail Online has an interesting article about an old map that has recently come to light.

The map, which belonged to a Luftwaffe navigator, was found in an attic of a former WW2 air gunner and likely came from a downed Luftwaffe plane.

Dated November 30, 1941, the map identifies some of the key targets for the German bombers.

One of the targets was the Duke of York Headquarters (numbered #56 in the map at right). The online newspaper notes that "The Duke of York’s headquarters in Kensington was identified because the court martials of German spies Josef Jakobs and Theodore Schurch were conducted in the building."

 Not entirely sure this would be accurate. Theodore Schurch wasn't court-martialed until later in the war (after 1941) and the location of Josef's court martial wasn't revealed in any of the contemporary newspaper accounts that I have seen. In all likelihood, the Germans simply identified all military targets of relatively high value.

Map from a former Luftwaffe Navigator (Mail Online) dated November 30, 1941 identifying some of the bombing targets in London.
Map from a former Luftwaffe Navigator (Mail Online) dated November 30, 1941
identifying some of the bombing targets in London.
The map is only one sheet of a series that would have covered the Greater London area. Alas, places like Wellington Barracks and the Tower of London are not on this sheet. The article noted that "One small mercy was that hospitals had a cross through them (pictured at left) so they were off limits for the German bombers." One does wonder why, if that were the case, the Royal Hospital at Chelsea had a box around it and a number associated with it. This would seem to suggest that hospitals were indeed targets, at least some of them.

Map from a former Luftwaffe Navigator (Mail Online) dated November 30, 1941, identifying some of the bombing targets in London.
Map from a former Luftwaffe Navigator (Mail Online) dated
November 30, 1941, identifying some of the bombing targets in London.
On another part of the map, just east of Clapham, Lambeth Hospital has a box around it and a number (#131). In addition, a firehall (#63) was marked as well as a post office (the little bugle shape).

The Mail Online article has a picture that shows the entire map sheet with the accompanying legend. It would, naturally, be interesting to see what is written concerning targets like the Lambeth Hospital, the Royal Hospital (Chelsea) and the firehalls and post offices.

Given that the map is going to be auctioned off, it will be interesting to see how purchases it.

25 February 2017

A Poem about Josef Jakobs

Josef Jakobs - chair of execution
Josef Jakobs - chair of execution
Well, this is interesting. Some budding poet has written a few verses about Josef and his execution. While the poem is short, there is an interesting discussion in the comments from other readers. Most are quite taken with the line:
... but died he did, and the chair never healed.
Indeed, a moving line.

I would say that most of the commentators are not entirely knowledgeable about the Double-Cross system. The idea that Josef was betrayed by a Welsh Nationalist is a bit of a stretch. Agent SNOW was a double-cross agent... some would even say a triple or quadruple-cross agent. His loyalties have never been firmly established, except perhaps to say that he was loyal only to himself.

17 February 2017

Media Review - BBC4 - Majesty & Mortar: Britain's Great Palaces

BBC4 - Majesty & Mortar - Britain's Great Palaces
BBC4 - Majesty & Mortar - Britain's Great Palaces
BBC4 - Majesty & Mortar: Britain's Great Palaces (2015)

Original Air Date - 2 July 2014
Series - Majesty & Mortar

Duration - 59:25 minutes

Director - Graham  Cooper
Host - Dan Cruickshank

Last January, a friend in England informed me that BBC4, Majesty & Mortar had aired a piece which included a reference to Josef Jakobs.

It's taken me a while to track down the reference. Naturally, the episode is not available in North America, nor it appears, in the U.K.

I did have a more intense snoop around the internet and came across the Daily Motion website which appears to have the entire episode available for viewing, at least here in North America. Not sure how long that will remain the case, given copyright law but... for what it's worth, you can go to this link and see the episode in its entirety.

If you'd rather skip ahead to the section on Josef Jakobs, fast forward to the 28 minute mark. The piece runs from about 28:15 to 31:51.

Dan Cruickshank, the host, gives a bit of an intro into the role of the Tower during WW1 and WW2.

"But in WW2, the Tower was shut to the public, the moat converted into allotments and the Crown Jewels whisked away to a secret location. Captured U-boat crews were imprisoned in the Salt Tower. And Hitler's Deputy, Rudolf Hess was held in the Tower in May 1941. It was also the last home to Josef Jakobs, a German spy."

"This is the chair on which Jakobs was sat for his execution. He was executed at 7:12 in the morning on the 15 of August, 1941 in the East Casement firing range here in the Tower. So nearly seven months after his capture. A long time for him to brood, to hope."

Screenshot of Dan Cruickshank with the chair upon which Josef Jakobs faced the firing squad on 15 August 1941. - Majesty & Mortar: Britain's Great Palaces - Opening the Palace Doors
Screenshot of Dan Cruickshank with the chair upon which Josef Jakobs
faced the firing squad on 15 August 1941.
Majesty & Mortar: Britain's Great Palaces - Opening the Palace Doors

"He was shot using rifles like this, a short magazine Lee Enfield, a standard Army issue weapon, firing a .303 round, a large round. The body would have been almost torn apart, I suppose. There were eight hits, seven to the heart, one to the head, the heart being the main target."
Screenshot of Dan Cruickshank holding a Lee Enfield rifle, similar to that which would have been used at the execution of Josef Jakobs on 15 August 1941. - Majesty & Mortar: Britain's Great Palaces - Opening the Palace Doors
Screenshot of Dan Cruickshank holding a Lee Enfield rifle, similar to that
which would have been used at the execution of Josef Jakobs on 15 August 1941.
Majesty & Mortar: Britain's Great Palaces - Opening the Palace Doors

"The chair says it all, doesn't it, the back and the spindles torn away. Jakobs sitting here, his heart would have been just in front of this area, just here... the bullets going through... phew.. golly. His execution marked the end of a chapter in the history of the Tower of London. It was the last execution to take place here."
Screenshot of the chair in which Josef Jakobs was executed on 15 August 1941. - Majesty & Mortar: Britain's Great Palaces - Opening the Palace Doors
Screenshot of the chair in which Josef Jakobs was executed on 15 August 1941.
Majesty & Mortar: Britain's Great Palaces - Opening the Palace Doors

This piece is a bit different than some of the others in that they actually get the chair out from its glass case. It does pander a bit to the macabre aspects of Josef's execution but not in an offensive way.

There are a few factual errors. Josef was never housed within the Tower, but arrived there from Wandsworth Prison at about 5:30 am on the morning of 15 August, 1941. So, not quite accurate to say that it was his "last home". There was at least one blank round issued to the firing squad, so unlikely to be seven hits to the heart.

Review Score
4 out of 5 - interesting to see the chair out of the glass case.

12 February 2017

Solved - Kenneth Clifford Howard & His Diaries

1936 Pocket Diary of Kenneth Clifford Howard (National Archives - KV 2/27)
1936 Pocket Diary of Kenneth Clifford Howard
(National Archives - KV 2/27)
For the last few years, I have been scratching away at an irksome little mystery. Within the National

Archives' KV 2/27 file on Josef Jakobs are two small diary-style notebooks. Both notebooks were apparently the property of 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 (a spy who was executed in August 1941). Nowhere in the MI5 files on Josef Jakobs is there any mention of these notebooks nor any questions around Kenneth C. Howard.

I've done several blogs on Kenneth and his little notebooks detailing my attempts to solve the mystery:
 2015 - Oct - Update on the Hunt for Kenneth C. Howard
2014 - Dec - Kenneth C. Howard's Little Black Book
2014 - Dec - The Mysterious Diary of Kenneth C. Howard
2014 - Oct - The Mystery of the Two Notebooks and a Boy named Kenneth C. Howard
2012 - Apr - Who is Kenneth C. Howard?
Today, thanks to another author, Traugott Vitz, the mystery is solved! Herr Vitz was kind enough to direct my attention to file KV 2/1701, a file on Druecke, Walti (Peter) and the beautiful Vera, that I had missed on my last whirlwind trip to the National Archives.

Within KV 2/1701 are two documents which reference the two diaries.


Birmingham City Police
Criminal Investigation Dept.
Central Station

C.I.D. 958776
5 June 1941
Diary and Address Book Found and Handed to the Police at Leicester
Notebook of Kenneth Clifford Howard (National Archives - KV 2/27)
Notebook of Kenneth Clifford Howard
(National Archives - KV 2/27)

I have to report that on Sunday, 1st June 1941, a communication was received from the Chief Constable, City Police Headquarters, Leicester, enclosing a diary dated 1936 and an address book. These apparently belong to Kenneth C. Howard, sometime of 17, Evelyn Road, Sparkhill, and contain a number of German references, also two addresses in Birmingham.

I have made enquiries at 17 Evelyn Road, Birmingham but there is no trace of Howard ever having lived there. Enquiries at 86, Durham Road reveal that Eric Porter, whose name is mentioned in the address book, left this house about four years ago. His present whereabouts are unknown.

I visited 45 Shepherds Green Road, Birmingham and interviewed Mr. S.F. Philpot, whose name is also mentioned in the address book. He told me that he did not know Kenneth C. Howard, neither did any of the names contained in the address book convey anything to him. He is unable to explain how his name and address became known to Howard.

it will be seen on page 64 of the diary that Howard at one time lived at 120 Durham Road, Bromley, Kent.

I respectfully suggest that this report together with the address book and diary be forwarded to the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, New Scotland Yard, London, S.W.1., for any action he may deem advisable.

(sgd). Maurice Bennett
Constable C.I. Dept.
(sgd). C.C.H. Moriarty,
Chief Constable

Finally, some piece of paper documents that these diaries actually existed! There is, however, a mystery that still remains - how did these diaries end up Leicester? Who found them? Who turned them in?

The Metropolitan Police conducted a more detailed investigation into the diaries and sent the report to Lt. Col. Hinchley-Cooke.


Metropolitan Police
Special Branch
23 Day of June, 1941

With reference to letter dated 5.6.41 from Birmingham City Police - Ref: C.I.D. 958776 - regarding Kenneth C. Howard, with which was forwarded a diary for 1936 and a notebook containing names and addresses etc, for any necessary action:-

Enquiries have revealed that a family named Howard lived at 128 (not 120) Durham Road, Bromley, Kent, from 2.5.1931 until 17.6.1936. The rated occupier was Frank Howard, who lived there with his wife, Flora, nee Mitchell, and son Kenneth Clifford.

Frank Howard was a blouse merchant and had a business under the style of 'Flora Mitchell' at 21, East Street, Bromley, where his wife assisted in dressmaking. I was informed that towards the end of his stay at 128 Durham Road, Howard was in some financial difficulty and took employment as a salesman with "Hoovers". Enquiries of Messrs., Hoovers Ltd. Westway, Perivale, fail to show that Howard was ever so employed.

On leaving Bromley, Frank Howard gave as his intended address, 17, Evelyn Road, Spark Hill, Birmingham - the address which appears in the notebook mentioned above. No member of the family is known to have returned to London.

Kenneth Clifford Howard was born on 4th June 1921 at 3, Leigham Court Road, Streatham. He attended Bromley County School, Hayes Road, Bromley Kent. From the fact that he could have been no more than 15 years old when he lived at Bromley, it would appear that he was impelled by a boyish interest in detectives in making several of the entries in the notebook.

Karl Theodore Druecke - National Archives
Karl Theodore Druecke
National Archives

Examination of the diary bearing Kenneth's Howard's name revealed the entry, made in pencil, for Wednesday, 13th May, 1936, as follows: - "Today my friend & (?) Ally Karl Theodor Drucke 30 years old. Was today sentenced to 3 yrs imprisonment and 10 yrs banishment". Drucke would appear to be identical with Karl Theodore Drueke, born 1906, who was sentenced to a term of imprisonment in France some years ago, and on 16.6.41 was sentenced to death at the Central Criminal Court for treachery with intent to assist the enemy.


The police reported also traced 9 of the people/addresses in Kenneth's notebook. None of the people who were traced knew the Howard family.

A bit of searching on Ancestry has not revealed much, although one Kenneth Clifford Howard, born in 1921, passed away on June 29, 2014 in Poole, England. What happened to Kenneth between 1936 and 2014? Impossible to say. His death record will also be inaccessible for a few decades, so, at this point, we are at a bit of an impasse again.

On the other hand, the reference to the diary and the address book in KV 2/1701 have cleared up a bit of the mystery. From what I can gather from the minute sheets and cover pages of this sequence of files... this file was found in Lt. Col. Hinchley-Cooke's office. How the notebooks ended up in Josef's file is another mystery. It seems that when one is successful in solving one mystery, several others pop up!

08 February 2017

The Untold Story of Jan Willem ter Braak (a.k.a. Engelbertus Fukken)

Spion tegen Churchill by Jan Willem van den Braak (to be published 2017)
Spion tegen Churchill by
Jan Willem van den Braak
(to be published 2017)
A friend of mine has been in touch with an author named Jan Willem van den Braak, a dogged researcher who has been tracing the story of a doomed Abwehr spy, Jan Willem ter Braak (no relation to the dogged researcher). Confusing, no?

Jan Willem ter Braak (the spy) was found shot in the head in early April 1941, in a an air raid shelter in Cambridge, England. MI5 determined that ter Braak (real name Engelbertus Fukken) had parachuted into England in early November 1940 and lived in Cambridge undetected.

They theorized that, despite having a wireless transmitter, he had failed to make contact with his handlers in the German Abwehr. Running short on funds, MI5 guessed that ter Braak had shot himself in the air raid shelter.

Much speculation has swirled around ter Braak since then. Did he really fail to make contact with the Abwehr? What was his mission? Did he really commit suicide? Author van den Braak has apparently dug up more on ter Braak than other researchers. His book on ter Braak, Spion tegen Churchill (Spy against Hitler) will be published in April 2017 in Dutch.

Spion tegen Churchill - back cover
Spion tegen Churchill - back cover
Alas... this blogger isn't fluent (or conversant) in Dutch, so we can only hope that a review in English will highlight some of van den Braak's discoveries.

Some information can be found on this Dutch site which quotes the Cambridge News.

03 February 2017

Article Review - Kriminalia Online Magazine - The Executioner at War: Soldiers, Spies & Traitors

Langen Seil Schneller Tod by Traugott Vitz
Kirchslager Publishers
Article Review - Kriminalia Online Magazine

I don't often find anything published on Josef Jakobs in Germany, but... that has changed.

Back in October, Michael Kirchschlager of Kriminalia, an online magazine on criminal and legal history, published a brief article stub entitled The Executioner at War: Soldiers, Spies, and Traitors – Der Henker im Krieg: Soldaten, Spione und Verräter. The article stub mentioned both Josef Jakobs and Karel Richter. but points to something beyond itself. At the bottom of the stub, which is presented in both English and Germany, there is a link to a pdf document entitled The Executioner at War: Soldiers, Spies, and Traitors.

The pdf document is evidently a chapter (pages 167-253) from the book Langes Seil Schneller Tod: Wie Grossbritannien seine Moerder haengte (Long Rope Quick Death: How Great Britain hanged its Murders) by Traugott Vitz. It looks to me like Kirchschlager is a book publisher and this online magazine promotes their books and authors.

The pdf document is an English translation and has a few pages on Josef Jakobs and Karel Richter. Interestingly, the chapter begins with a summary of the Treachery Act and how it relied upon the "intent" of the person charged. The author notes that "intent" is notoriously hard to prove and concludes that Josef was essentially sacrificed upon the altar of political expediency - "handed over to the politicians as free game". Definitely an interesting read.

5/5 - nice to see a German take on the British execution of spies

31 January 2017

BBC One Show - February 1, 2017 - Josef Jakobs & William Chidlow

BBC One Show website
Today marks the 76th anniversary of the capture of German spy Josef Jakobs at Dove House Farm near the village of Ramsey, Huntingdonshire.

Having broken his ankle during his exit from the aircraft via parachute, Josef was found around 8:30 am by two farmers on their way to work.

Josef spent the next few months in Dulwich Hospital, London and then several more at MI5's secret interrogation centre, Camp 020, on the outskirts of London.

On July 24, 1941, Josef was transferred to Wandsworth Prison, where he spent the last few weeks of his life. He was executed by firing squad at the Tower of London at 7:12 am on August 15, 1941.

Back in October (2016), my sister and I flew to London for a spot of filming courtesy of the BBC One Show. They wanted to film the meeting of myself (granddaughter of Josef Jakobs) and Kate (daughter of William Chidlow). While Kate and I had been in contact via email, we had never met in person.

Kate's dad, William, was one of the Military Policemen who guarded Josef during the final weeks of his life at Wandsworth Prison. William even accompanied Josef to his execution at the Tower. Before leaving the prison, Josef gave William one of his personal belongings which William held in trust for decades. A few years ago, Kate tracked us down and returned the object. (Yup, you'll have to watch the episode to learn more).

Just over 75 years later, the circle finally closed when Kate and I met at the Tower of London.

The BBC One Show airs the 5 minute episode this evening, February 1, 2017 on BBC One between 19:00 and 19:30 - in the United Kingdom. Whether it will air here in North America is unknown.

I have to admit, while it was only 5 minutes of video... it was over 6 hours of filming. It was bitingly cold that day and the experience gave me a new appreciation for everything that goes into a few minutes of finished film!

Many thanks to my sister for acting as behind-the-scenes photographer! Thanks as well to the BBC crew and the Tower Press Office...

On the night before his execution, Josef  gave William a object which Kate  returned to us a few years ago. (c) G.K. Jakobs
On the night before his execution, Josef
gave William a object which Kate
returned to us a few years ago.
(c) G.K. Jakobs

Kate and I with our crew. (c) G.K. Jakobs
Kate and I with our crew.
(c) G.K. Jakobs

A stand-in for the chair that Josef sat on  for his execution. (c) G.K. Jakobs
A stand-in for the chair that Josef sat on
for his execution.
(c) G.K. Jakobs

Kate and I grimacing in the cold! (c) G.K. Jakobs
Kate and I grimacing in the cold!
(c) G.K. Jakobs

A break in filming when we put on our  jackets and mittens! (c) G.K. Jakobs
A break in filming when we put on our
jackets and mittens!
(c) G.K. Jakobs

Many, many takes required for some shots! (c) G.K. Jakobs
Many, many takes required for some shots!
(c) G.K. Jakobs

Myself and my sister at the Tower (c) G.K. Jakobs
Myself and my sister at the Tower
(c) G.K. Jakobs

All photos copyright G.K. Jakobs.
That means, ask if you want to use them.

30 January 2017

Article Review - The Guardian - Secrecy and firing squads: Britain's ruthless war on Nazi spies

The Guardian - 2016 08 28 - Ian Cobain article - Secrecy and firing squads: Britain's ruthless war on Nazi spies.
The Guardian - 2016 08 28 - Ian Cobain article
Secrecy and firing squads: Britain's ruthless war on Nazi spies.
Article Review - The Guardian

Another great article came out on August 28, 2016 via The Guardian. This one was written by Ian Cobain, author of Cruel Britannia. The Guardian Article is entitled Secrecy and firing squads: Britain's ruthless war on Nazi spies.

The article begins with the story of the first four spies who landed on the coast of Kent in September 1940. Cobain questions the justice of their trials, something that I have wondered as well. The article examines how MI5 wanted secrecy during trials and how this became increasingly difficult to ensure when civil trials were held at the Old Bailey. When Josef Jakobs landed in the hands of the English, claiming to be a member of the German Armed Forces, the stage was set for a secret military court martial.

The article is very good and I liked how Cobain wove in the stories of other spies. Apparently, he published a book on September 1, 2016 entitled The History Thieves, a history of official secrecy in Great Britain. According to the publisher - "The shocking new book from the author of Cruel Britannia, which uncovers the role of secrecy in the British state - and the lies, omissions and misrepresentations we've been fed to maintain the facade of a fair and just Britain." Definitely on my reading list!

5/5 - Enjoyed the article very much and highly recommend it.

25 January 2017

Article Review - Daily Telegraph (AU) on Josef Jakobs

Daily Telegraph - 2016 08 14 - Article on Josef Jakobs
Daily Telegraph - 2016 08 14
Article on Josef Jakobs
Article Review - Daily Telegraph AU

I'm a bit behind the times and catching up on six months of references to Josef around the web. Back in August, the Daily Telegraph in Australia published an article on Josef.

The article was actually quite well written and has no glaring inaccuracies, which is a nice surprise. It's always nice to come across an article that is accurate and presents the facts in a coherent framework. Kudos to the author, Marea Donnelly for a job well-done.

If I were to get really nit-picky... I would suggest a slightly different title - "last man" could lead one to believe that perhaps there was as "last woman" to be executed as well. Josef was the last person to be executed in the Tower of London.

5/5 - excellent accuracy

20 January 2017

New Josef Jakobs Website Up and Running

The new Josef Jakobs website is up and running, finally! The old domain - www.josefjakobs.com works now and will take you to www.josefjakobs.weebly.com. Still need to update some of the blog links on the site but... that will come.

New Josef Jakobs website on Weebly
New Josef Jakobs website on Weebly

16 January 2017

Article Review - National Archives Blog - Shot at the Tower - 2016 08 15

Shot at the Tower - Dr. Richard Dunley - National Archives Blog - 2016 08 15
Shot at the Tower - Dr. Richard Dunley
National Archives Blog - 2016 08 15
Article Review - National Archives Blog

Another pleasant surprise - a National Archives blog on the case of German spy, Josef Jakobs. The blog post was written by Dr. Richard Dunley at the National Archives and is well researched. Given that the National Archives has the voluminous declassified MI5 files on Josef as well as the court martial documents, the author has done an admirable job of distilling the story down to a single blog post. At the end of the article, the author notes that Josef's guilty verdict seems to have been a foregone conclusion, a statement with which I would agree.

5/5 - well written and accurate

11 January 2017

Blog Review - History of Sorts

Josef Jakobs - 1940 (c) Giselle K. Jakobs
Josef Jakobs - 1940
(c) Giselle K. Jakobs
Blog Review - History of Sorts

I came across another blog post about Josef Jakobs last week. This particular blog, History of Sorts, is written by a Dutchman living in Ireland, Dirk deKlein. Dirk has an interest in history and writes in a fairly engaging way.

His post on Josef can be found here. I'm not sure on his sources as he lists none, nor does he give any sort of credit for the photos that he uses on the site, at least one of which comes from my website and/or blog. There are the usual inaccuracies - that Josef was seated because of his broken ankle and a few new ones. According to Dirk, Josef was not hanged because of his broken ankle and was therefore shot. In actual fact, Josef was shot because he was considered a member of the German military and therefore had a military court martial. Soldiers like to shoot soldiers... a more honourable death than hanging.

3/5 - inaccuracies and no sources or photo credits