22 May 2017

Bella in the Wych Elm - An Unexplained Podcast

Unexplained Podcasts - Richard Maclean Smith
Unexplained Podcasts - Richard Maclean Smith
I came across a podcast site last week that is rather interesting. The Unexplained Podcast is produced by Richard Maclean Smith and has garnered some great reviews.

Smith tackles the Bella in the Wych Elm saga in two podcasts. The first aired on January 26, 2017 and the second aired on February 11, 2017. Various sources are listed and it would appear that much of the podcast is based on Andrew Sparke's book, Bella in the Wych Elm (more on that below). A transcript of both podcasts is also provided.

The podcast is quite well done and definitely worth a listen. Unfortunately, the same misinformation around McCormick's speculations are included here as well. The most glaring errors are the following:
  • In 1968, McCormick is alleged to have conducted a series of interviews with a former Nazi called Franz Rathgeb. It turned out that a number of German spies had been active around the Midlands after all at precisely the time that the unknown woman would have gone missing. One of those spies was Rathgeb.  Although he claimed not to know anything of the murdered woman he did recall a fellow spy by the name of Lehrer who had a Dutch girlfriend called Dronkers, Clarabella Dronkers, who was herself a spy living in the Birmingham region. [Having read McCormick's book, in actuality, this is all inaccurate. Rathgeb spoke of a spy who had possibly been parachuted into England named 'Clara'. He did not recall Lehrer's girlfriend's name, but supposedly put McCormick in touch with a Frau Kremer in Amsterdam who thought that 'Clara' was identical with a woman named Dronkers. As we can see, there are three different females here: a spy named 'Clara', an unnamed girlfriend and a woman named Dronkers Ifirst name unknown). Over time, these three have been been amalgamated into one, but there is no evidence supporting McCormick's assertions. In addition, no where in McCormick's book, does he refer to Clarabella.]
  • [In reference to the picture post card of a woman that Josef had on his person...] On the back of which was a message written in English.  It read, ‘My Dear, I love you forever.  Your Clara, Landau, July 1940." The woman is Klare Sophie Bauerle. Born in Ulm, Germany on 29th of Jun 1906, in 1941 she would have been 35 years old.  She is a cabaret singer and sometime actress who not only worked for a number of years performing in music halls across the west midlands but speaks fluent English with a Birmingham accent and was known locally as Clarabella. Not only that, but according to Jakobs she is extremely well connected with Nazi Party and had been recruited as a spy with plans to drop her into the Midlands region.  Finally it seemed that the pieces were coming together. Is it possible that Klara Bauerle is our unknown woman? [MI5 had searched their records of people arriving and departing the UK and had come across a Klara Sophie Bauerle who had arrived in the 1930s. This woman is NOT the same as Hedwig Clara Bauerle, the cabaret singer that Josef Jakobs knew. Josef never said that Clara had spent time in the West Midlands, nor that she spoke with a Birmingham accent, nor that she was known locally as Clarabella. He also never said she was well connected with the Nazi Party, nor that she was destined to be dropped in the Midlands area. These inaccuracies seem to be a result of the Anna of Claverley information being blended with the MI5 files.]
These podcasts rely heavily on Andrew Sparke's book, and the inaccuracies are therefore more a reflection of that book. Still, an enjoyable podcast.

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