Marking the Graves of World War I Spies in England

After the Battle Magazine - Volume 11

A number of spies were executed in England during World War I, most of them were shot at the Tower of London, and one, Robert Rosenthal was hanged at Wandsworth Prison in July 1915.

Carl Hans Lody was the first spy to be caught and executed. He was buried in the East London Cemetery in 1914. For decades, his grave was unmarked. In the early 1970s, his descendants placed a marker on his grave (see cover of After the Battle magazine - Volume 11 - at right).

The other spies who had been executed in the Tower were also laid to rest in the East London Cemetery, but none of their graves received individual markers. According to After the Battle magazine:

"Only the grave of Karl Lody can be seen today--the other bodies, buried by the State in common graves, have since had other remains buried above them, the ground having been used several times.

When the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgraberfursorge, the German War Graves Commission, were planning their cemetery at Cannock Chase (opened in 1967), they asked if it would be possible to disinter the bodies. Authorities at the cemetery pointed out that under British Law permission would have to be obtained from relatives of those buried above, before the graves could be opened--an almost impossible task where common burials are concerned. It seems the German authorities were satisfied with these arguments and the bodies remain interred at Plaistow.

Near Karl Lody's grave is a memorial stone to the other ten Germans executed in the Tower. The stone also records the names of seven other Germans who died in British prisons during 1915/16."

Stone commemorating German spies & soldiers at
Plaistow Cemetery.
(Find-a-Grave - photo by Geoffrey Gillon)
The war ended almost a century ago and little remains to tell the tale of these men who paid the ultimate price for their foolhardy bravery. What motivated these men, few of whom were German citizens, to spy for the Germans? Was it money? Was it coercion? A steep price to pay for very little reward and huge risk.

Carl Frederick Muller - born in Libau, in what is now Latvia
Willem Johannes Roos - Dutch
Haicke Petrus Marinus Janssen - Dutch
Ernst Waldemar Melin - Swedish
Augusto Alfredo Roggen - Uruguayan
Fernando Buschman - French
George Traugott Breeckow - born in Stettin, in what is now Poland (at the time part of Germany)
Irving Guy Ries - American (his real name is unknown)
Albert Meyer - unknown nationality (court martial file destroyed/missing)
Ludovico Hurtwitz-y-Zender - Peruvian

The stories of these spies is told best in the book by Leonard Sellers - Shot in the Tower - published in 1997. Sellers does not tell the tale of Robert Rosenthal, the only "German" spy to be hanged during World War I.


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