15 August 2018

Update on "The Spy in the Tower" Publishing Adventure

Josef Jakobs plaque Tower of London - East Wall display (copyright 2014 G.K. Jakobs)
Josef Jakobs plaque
Tower of London - East Wall display
(copyright 2014 G.K. Jakobs)
Today is a day of significance - the 77th anniversary of Josef Jakobs' execution at the Tower of London. It also marks "T minus 1 month... the manuscript is due at the The History Press on September 15. Things are slowly coming together.

I've been pruning the manuscript and then sanding it down. I've managed to trim a good 40,000 words off of it, which is quite an accomplishment. It's now a matter of cleaning up lingering loose-ends.

There is a big formatting hurdle still to tackle, but only in the days immediately prior to September 15: going from double-spaced to single-spaced, eliminating all MS Word-generated bullet lists, etc, and (the big one) transforming MS Word's auto-generated end notes into manual end notes with square brackets. I definitely don't want to do that one until everything is squeaky clean in the manuscript. Deleting one end note would result in a massive headache.

I've been getting photo contributions from some of the people of whom I have made requests. I still need to scan my own pile of photographs for the book. And I have gotten clear about what it would cost to use photographs of National Archives images and/or documents. It ain't cheap. On the other hand, I did get a discount from the Royal Armouries, so that was nice. And After the Battle magazine is kindly sharing some of the photographs from their archives free-of-charge.

On another note, I have been following-up on some leads relating to Tin-Eye Stephens (Lt. Col. Robin William George Stephens). Some leads have produced lovely information while others have been a dead-end. And yet others need a bit more research. I'm hoping to get a blog post out soon... maybe not before September 15 though... can't get distracted.

12 June 2018

Adventures in Book Publishing - The Great Purge

Getting a book published is no mean feat. There's the research, the writing, the re-writing, and more re-writing and maybe some more research. Then a publisher needs to be found and then... then the author has to take their baby and hack it to bits. Seriously.

My manuscript is in the 170,000 word range and needs to be hacked back to the 120,000 word range. All those bios I researched on characters in the Josef saga? Gone... except for the chosen few - like Stephens... and Hinchley-Cooke. I am shaving and condensing and hacking and then sanding over the transitions and rough bits. I know that the manuscript is better after I've done this... but it is still a hard thing to watch so many choice bits end up on the cutting room floor.

I am taking comfort from the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and The Little Prince. "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." I need to keep that in mind.

I also liken this to my flabby, bloated manuscript being put through a serious physical fitness program... I'm hoping that a lean, mean machine is going to come out the other end. It is time-intensive and... the blog suffers a bit as a result.

30 May 2018

New Book on Operation Lena (in Dutch)

Cover for Zig Spioneerden tegen England (They Spied Against England) (image courtesy of Jan Willem van den Braak)
Cover for Zig Spioneerden tegen England (They Spied Against England)
(image courtesy of Jan Willem van den Braak)
A couple of years ago, Dutch author, Jan Willem van den Braak published a book (in Dutch) on Dutch spy Engelbertus Fukken (alias Jan Willem ter Braak).

And this year, he has published another book titled
Zij Spioneerden tegen England - Operatie-Lena (1940-1941): tot mislukken gedoemd (They Spied against England - Operation Lena (1940-1941): doomed to failure)

The book description (with a bit of help from Google Translate) reads thusly:
In the summer of 1940, the Nazis hastily recruited nearly twenty spies from various countries, including the Netherlands, and in the following months sent them to England, as a sort of scout for the planned invasion of England - which would never happen. This Operation Lena became a catastrophe for the Nazis and the spies involved. Some were executed, one committed suicide and a few could only save their lives by becoming double agents.

In this book, Operation Lena is fully described in its historical context for the first time in the Netherlands. The author also makes some special discoveries, partly in relation to Churchill. In 2017 he published the biography of one of the Lena spies under the title Spy against Churchill; life and death of Jan Willem ter Braak.
 Hoping that an English translation will see the light of day eventually!

09 May 2018

Bella in the Wych Elm - Jill Mossop

Birth Registration Index entry for Jill K. Mossop (from FamilySearch.org website)
Birth Registration Index entry for Jill K. Mossop
(from FamilySearch.org website)
In her 1953 statement to police about the Bella in the Wych Elm murder, Una Abel Mossop stated that: "The only child of our marriage was born in 1932 and he was christened Julian and at the present time, he is somewhere in America." Seemingly an open and shut statement except... when it comes to the Mossops, nothing is open and shut.

A few months ago, Duncan Honeybourne (a Mossop descendant) and I both noticed an intriguing entry on the Ancestry genealogy website. The birth of a Jill K. Mossop was registered in the first quarter of 1942 in Warwick... and the mother's maiden name was Abel.

Was this little girl really a child of Jack and Una? Could she have been conceived while Jack and Una were still together? Would Una have left Jack in December 1941 in the last few months of her pregnancy? So many unanswered questions.

Birth Registration for Jill K. Mossp (GRO)
Birth Registration for Jill K. Mossp (GRO)
A few weeks ago, I bit the bullet and ordered the birth registration.

Jill Kyra Mossop was born on 19 November 1941 at 124 Warwick Road in Kenilworth. The last two letters are hard to decipher and show up in column 6 as well. [A reader of this blog has since suggested that the two letters are U.D., an abbreviation for Urban District.]

Jill's parents were indeed Jack Mossop and Una Ella Abel. And the date of birth does indicate that Jill was born before Una left Jack Mossop for good in December 1941.

Birth Registration for Jill K. Mossp (GRO)
Birth Registration for Jill K. Mossp (GRO)
The second part of the registration notes that Jack Mossop was an aircraft engineer, living at 39 Barrow Road, Kenilworth. The same two initials show up after Kenilworth, as in column 1. [Likely U.D. for Urban District.]

Column 7 should be the signature of the informant, which in this case would be J. Mossop, father, living at 39 Barrow Road, Kenilworth. The handwriting for this column, however, looks identical to the rest of the entry, which would seem to indicate that either Jack completed the entire entry, or that he did not sign the document and his information was simply filled in by the registrar. The birth was registered 2 January 1942, a good 6 weeks after Jill's birth, which makes sense if Jack and Una were in the process of breaking up. The other question would be... was the child actually Jack's? Or had Una and her soon-to-be second husband, James Alfred Hainsworth, engaged in an extra marital tryst?

What became of Jill Kyra Mossop? Why, in 1953, did Una not acknowledge the presence of another child? In later records for Una and her second husband, there is no mention of a Jill Mossop. Una and James had five children, one of whom died as a young child, and nowhere is Jill mentioned:
  1. Andre J.F.S. Hainsworth - born 9 December 1943 in Warwickshire
  2. Eugene H.S. Hainsworth - born 23 January 1945 in Warwickshire
  3. Heather H.R.S. Hainsworth - born 15 November 1946 in Warwickshire
  4. Annette Hainsworth - birth and death registered March 1949 in Warwickshire
  5. Terese Hainsworth - born 15 November 1956 in Ledbury, Shropshire
Death Registration Index for Jill M. Hainsworth (from Ancestry.co.uk website)
Death Registration Index for Jill M. Hainsworth
(from Ancestry.co.uk website)
There is one small clue, and it is a bit of a stretch. In 1942, there is a first quarter death registration for Jill M. Hainsworth.

This Jill was born around 1942 and died in Warwick at the age of 0 years (any age less than 12 months was registered as 0 years). Could Jill, infant daughter of Jack Mossop and Una Abel have been born in 19 November 1941 but her birth was perhaps not registered due to the turmoil in the Mossop household as Una sought to leave Jack for good? Could this young child then have passed away in the early months of 1942, thereby necessitating the registration of her birth? Or, perhaps she became ill and needed a birth registration in order to access medical care? And, given that the young child was now living with Una and her new husband Jack Hainsworth, perhaps her death was registered as Hainsworth? The middle initial in her name is a bit of an issue but looking at her birth registration, it is easy to see how a "Kyra" could be misread in haste as "Myra". It is interesting that there is no birth of a corresponding Jill M. Hainsworth sooo... it could be that Jill K. Mossop and Jill M. Hainsworth are the same infant.

It is, of course, entirely possible that infant Jill K. Mossop was farmed out to Una or Jack's parents. All of this is, of course, speculation, and until someone orders Jill M Hainsworth's death registration, such it will remain.

Ancestry genealogy website - births, marriages, deaths, passenger manifests, etc.
FamilySearch genealogy website - same as above
FindMyPast genealogy website - same as above
GRO - birth registration for Jill K. Mossop
West Mercia Police files on Bella in the Wych Elm

05 May 2018

Bella in the Wych Elm - Julian Mossop

The West Mercia Police files on the Bella in the Wych Elm mystery contain many interesting documents. There is one file, however, that has the most intriguing title: "Folder 11 - Possible Suspect Julian Mossop". It turns out that Julian Mossop was the son of Jack Mossop and Una Abel. Let's take a look.

Julian Michael Mossop was born on 3 August 1932 in Wombourne, near Wolverhampton. Already, we can see a problem with him being a "possible suspect". Julian would have been 9 years old in 1941. Could a 9 year old have murdered a five foot tall woman in her mid-30s and stuffed her body in a tree trunk? It seems ludicrous and raises more questions. Who was Julian Mossop? What became of him? Was he really a suspect? How far did the police try and track him?

According to the testimony of Jack Mossop's friend and co-worker, Bill Wilson in late 1953, he hardly ever saw Julian and said that the boy was raised by his grandmother (likely Jack's grandmother who had also raised him). Julian attended Campion Elementary School in Leamington Spa until he was 14 years old (around 1946). His father had died in the Stafford County insane asylum in 1942 and his mother, Una Abel Mossop had married Jack Hainsworth in 1943 and settled in Knutshurst, Shrewley Common, near Warwick. After leaving school, Julian worked for his step-father, at a florist shop in Warwick and at a pig farm in Knuthurst.

Lyons Coventry Street Corner House ca 1960
(from British History Online site)
Off to London
In August 1949, at the age of 17, Julian left his step-father's employment and headed to London to seek his fortune. At this point, Julian's story has several different strands. He apparently attended Jack Solomon's Boxing Gymnasium for a few weeks and then obtained a part-time position as a kitchen porter for Messrs. J. Lyons & Co at the Coventry Street Corner House. He worked there from 27 August 1949 to 8 September 1949, less than two weeks. He apparently left of his own accord and this information was verified by the police at a later date.

Julian then claimed that he was employed as a comi-waiter (someone who brings food from the kitchen to the table) at the Grosvenor House Hotel for about three months and then left of his own accord. The police made enquiries but could not confirm that he had been employed there.

He then claimed that he returned to J. Lyons & Co. and was employed as a comi-waiter at the Cumberland Hotel leaving there on 20 April 1951. Again, the police could find no trace of him having been employed there.

On the other hand, Julian apparently used several aliases that the police knew about - Julian Michael Abel and Michael John Kelly - it is possible that he may have used other aliases at the Grosvenor House Hotel and Cumberland Hotels that were not known to the police.

Another report states that when Julian came to London he was employed as a porter at the American Embassy in London and was still employed there when the report was written (unfortunately the report is not dated).

In Trouble with the Law
Julian Mossop - 26 September 1952 Copyright West Mercia Police - all rights reserved - used with permission
Julian Mossop - 26 September 1952
Copyright West Mercia Police - all rights reserved - used with permission
On 4 May 1950, Julian had his first brush with the law. He was brought before the Marylebone Magistrates' Court and sentenced to twelve months probation for receiving ladies clothing (valued at £15). Likely because the ladies clothing was stolen.

Julian almost managed to make it through his twelve months probation but missed the mark by just over a week. On 26 April 1951 he was arrested again while living in a furnished room at 77 Chippenham Road, London. This time, his offense was a bit more serious. On 7 June 1951, having been in custody since April, Julian was charged at Middlesex Quarter Sessions with:
  1. Housebreaking & Larceny
  2. False Representation re: Identity Card
  3. Stealing a motor car
It would appear that Julian used a key to enter a flat where he had been staying and then stole an unattended motor car. This time around, Julian was sentenced to Borstal Training, a series of youth detention centres operated by H.M. Prison Service. Borstals were intended to reform seriously delinquent young people. On top of the Borstal sentence, Julian was also disqualified from driving for five years.
H.M. Prison Usk - former Borstal Institution
(from Capital Punishment UK site)

Unfortunately, Julian wasn't exactly a model prisoner. Less than three months later, on 25 September 1951, Julian escaped from the Borstal institution. His freedom was short-lived however, as he was recaptured two days later on 27 September. He must have kept his head down after that for on 24 November, 1952, he was released from H.M. Borstal at Usk, Monmouthshire. Following his release, he was under supervision which would expire on 6 June 1955. And that is all that the police had on Julian and his ill-starred career in England.

Off to America
Julian's life as an adult was not off to a great start. Rather than continuing on the same path in England, Julian decided to make a new start in a new country. On 25 August 1953, at the age of 21, Julian boarded the M.S. Anna Salen in Southampton and sailed for America with all of his possessions in a trunk. The ship's manifest noted that he was a student and that his final destination was to be Canada. The ship arrived in New York on 3 September 1953. It would appear that Julian never made it as far as Canada, but remained in New York for the rest of his life. In December 1953, Julian's mother, Una, during her statement to police about the woman in the wych elm, stated that "at the present time, [Julian] is somewhere in America". There is no evidence in the files that the Worcestershire Constabulary attempted to track down Julian in order to question him as a "possible suspect". He was out of the country... good riddance.

Julian Mossop - 26 September 1952 (copyright West Mercia Police Files All rights Reserved. Used with Permission)
Julian Mossop - 26 September 1952
(copyright West Mercia Police Files
All rights Reserved. Used with Permission)
At 6'2", with dark brown hair and hazel eyes, Julian would have stood out from a crowd. He apparently caught the eye of a few ladies as well. On 9 October 1954, Julian married Odette Monplaisir at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York. The marriage certificate noted that Julian Michael Abel Mossop was 22 years old and living at 6 East 94th Street in New York, just to the east of Central Park. He stated that his parents were James and Una Ella Abel Mossop.

Odette Monplaisir stated that she was 26 years old (off by 10 years as we shall see), living at 214 West 96th Street in New York, just to the west of Central Park. Her parents were Anibal & Lilian Symo [Sims] Monplaisir. The witnesses to the marriage were Raoul A. Stephens of 214 West 96th Street (the same address as Odette) and Edna May Govan of 240 West 103rd Street.

As it turns out, Odette under-reported her age by 10 years. She was actually born 19 March 1918 as noted on her 1 March 1954 Naturalization certificate. A bit of digging reveals that her father was Louis Joseph Jean Baptist Anibal Monplaisir, born 30 July 1892 in Kingston, Jamaica, the son of Horelle Monplaisir and Sophie Boom. I haven't been able to track down Odette's birth registration, but her parents had another child, Jean Marie Yvan Monplaisir, born 9 May 1934 in Port au Prince, Haiti. Odette may have been born in Jamaica or Haiti, hard to say.

A few years later, in 1958, Julian applied for another marriage license in New York with Maria Vicisoso. What happened to his marriage to Odette? Did his marriage to Maria actually take place? We don't know.

Although, according to the US Social Security Death Index, an Odette Mossop, born 18 March 1918, passed away in New York on 10 April 2008. Odette either never remarried or perhaps patched things up with Julian. The US Public Records note that her address lay within the 10025 zip code area the Upper West Side of Manhattan - sandwiched between the Hudson River (to the west) and Central Park (to the east). This was the same area in which she resided at the time of her 1954 marriage to Julian. In 1974, her address appears to have been 765 Amsterdam Avenue (Apt 3h), New York, 10025-5728.

As for Julian, in 1996 and 1997, he was living in the 10024 zip code area of the Upper West Side of Manhattan, just south of the 10025 area code in which Odette resided. This would suggest that he and Odette were not living together, but also had not moved far from each other. A bit more digging has revealed that his address was 225 West 80th Street (Apt 9c), New York, 10024-7007.

Final Resting Place?
We don't know much about what happened to Julian after 1997, but on 16 October 1998, a Julian Mossop, aged 65 (born 1932) died in New York. He was buried on 12 November 1998 in Potter's Field on Hart Island, New York - Plot 270, Section I, Grave 8. His place of death was redacted from the records.

Entry for Julian Mossop from Hart Island Project
(from Hart Island Project site)
The Potter's Field mass graves have quite a history and are a controversial topic, even today. Individuals were buried in the unmarked graves for a variety of reasons, but mostly because their bodies were unclaimed and became the property of the state. Perhaps they died in prison, or a mental institution, or a hospital, or a long-term care facility. Perhaps their bodies were not claimed within 48 hours of death, or family could not be found, or the family did not have the funds for a burial, or the deceased was homeless. The reasons were many but the final result was the same and profoundly sad. Their bodies were offered to medical schools as cadavers and/or to mortuary schools for embalming training after which the remains were consigned to mass graves on Hart Island. Since 1868, thousands of individuals have been buried in mass graves with no gravestone and no history. The New York Times has an interesting article on Hart Island the mass graves.

Is the Julian buried on Hart Island our Julian Mossop? Given the age, the location, the name, it is very likely.

I had hoped that the Julian Mossop/Odette Monplaisir line of enquiry might have resulted in some surviving relations but... it seems to be a dead end. Odette Monplaisir passed away in 2008 but I haven't been able to find an obituary for her. But perhaps, some day, someone with a distant connection to the Mossop/Monplaisir family will find this blog and reach out.

Ancestry genealogy site - birth, marriage & death records, US Social Security Death indexes, US Public Records, US Naturalization records, ship manifests

Coventry Street Corner House - apparently quite the place in its day

Lyon's Corner House - the corner houses have an association with gay/lesbian culture

The Hart Island Project - an attempt to document the 67,000+ individuals interned on Hart Island since 1980.

New York Times - article on Hart Island graves that tells the sad stories of some of the individuals

Capital Punishment UK - Borstal Institution at Usk, Monmouthshire 

West Mercia Police Files as released to the Worcestershire Archives- Bella in the Wych Elm case - I received permission to use images from the Bella files on my blog through Lin Allkins, Records and Data Manager, Information Management Department, Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police. Copyright still resides with the West Mercia Police.

25 April 2018

Not so Incognito - German Spies and their Clothing

Diagram of Bella's clothing (original source unknown)
Diagram of Bella's clothing
(original source unknown)
In researching the Bella in the Wych Elm case, I've noticed that several commentators make much of the fact that the tags had been removed from her clothing. Some have suggested that her clothing may have been "seconds" from a market, while others have gone so far as to say that the absence of tags lends weight to the theory that she was a German spy. After all, spies cut the tags out of their clothing as part of their under-cover modus operandi. Didn't they? It's a nice theory, but does it really hold up in the case of Second World War espionage in the United Kingdom?

What many fail to realize is that most of the spies thrown at Britain in late 1940 and early 1941 were poorly trained and poorly prepared. Even MI5 was perplexed that the oh-so-organized Germans could be sending over agents of such poor caliber. But Germany was desperate... and the agents who came over were often sent at bayonet point, so-to-speak. Leaving aside all of the espionage equipment, identity papers and ration cards, which had their own potential flaws that could expose an agent, let's take a look at the personal items of a couple of agents - Josef Jakobs and Karel Richter.

Josef Jakobs landed near Ramsey on the evening of 31 January, 1941. He had broken his ankle during his exit from the aircraft and lay in agony all night. Upon being discovered the following morning by a couple of farm workers, Josef was taken to the Ramsey Police Station where his possessions were itemized. Detective Sergeant Thomas Olive Mills of the Huntingdonshire Constabulary noted in his report:
I subjected the man's clothing to a thorough search and appended hereto is a list of his property - it is significant to note that all his clothing (which were of continental cut), his property, etc., all bore tabs or markings denoting they were made either in Germany proper or in German occupied country. (KV 2/24 - 20b)
Report by Detective Sergeant Thomas Oliver Mills regarding the capture of Josef Jakobs  (National Archives KV 2/24 - 20b)
Report by Detective Sergeant Thomas Oliver Mills regarding the capture of Josef Jakobs
(National Archives KV 2/24 - 20b)

Not only did Josef's clothing bear the clothing tags and markings of Germany and/or German occupied countries, his clothing itself was a dead giveaway as it was of a continental cut. The itemized list of his possessions had a few other key items:
An advertisement for De Jonker chocolate
(SROK Ads website)
  • Spectacles - case marked Optiker Ruhnke (German)
  • Two packets of Orange Fin Jonker product chocolate. "Lekkere chocolate van Cacaofabriek De Jonker Zaandijk" (Dutch)
  • Leather cigarette case marked Zeka Wettig Gedder (Dutch)
  • Dictionary - Metoula Sprachfuhrer (German)
  • Tie - Hemdenplatz - Berlin (German)
  • Trilby Hat - Helium (unknown)
  • Black shoes - Medicus, Dresden (German)
Josef was equipped with German spectacles, Dutch chocolate, a Dutch cigarette case and German shoes - all clearly marked. Not so incognito.

As for Karel Richter, he didn't fare much better. Richter landed via parachute in May 1941 and was swiftly captured. He wore a black serge suit with the name "Grafton" on the tab near the inside breast pocket. On top of that he wore a brownish tweed overcoat with the maker's name and an address in Holland on the tab. His brown trilby hat, surprisingly, was marked "Noble & Sons Old Bailey, London E.C." Richter's career as a merchant seaman prior to the war may have provided him with access to some American and/or British clothing.

List of clothing articles found on Karel Richter (National Archives - KV 2/31 - 77a)
List of clothing articles found on Karel Richter
(National Archives - KV 2/31 - 77a)

Clearly, it would have been best if the spies had been dressed in clothing sourced from Britain. But the German Abwehr had limited access to such articles. Given the large number of German-Jewish, Dutch and Belgian refugees in England, it would not have been remarkable for a legitimate individual to have such items of clothing. It might even have been more suspicious if all the clothing tags had been removed from items with a "continental cut". Better to leave the tags in and hope that the poor wearer would pass as a refugee.

While the German Abwehr appeared to be sending quite incompetent and poorly prepared agents to England, on the other side of the Atlantic, they were doing faring slightly better. Two German agents were landed on the coast of Canada in 1942. Both spies were well-prepared, well-equipped and had spent time in Canada before the war. They were both familiar with the country, the language and the customs. Perfect spy material.

Werner Alfred Waldemar von Janowski, was landed on the coast of Quebec near New Carlisle and captured the next morning. Janowski stopped in a hotel while waiting for a train heading in the direction of Montreal. The eagle-eyed son of the hotel proprietor noticed that the man's clothing was a little odd.
"His shoes were quite different from anything I had ever seen. They were a brown-colored summer type with a thick, light-colored sole, which appeared to be rubber, and had an odd-looking welt around the toes. His dark gabardine topcoat was not quite like the Canadian style. It had patch pockets instead of the slip-in type." (Earle Annett Jr)
Box of Camp Safety Matches of the style found on Janowski (National Education Network Gallery website)
Box of Camp Safety Matches of the style found on Janowski
(National Education Network Gallery website)
On top of that, the young man noticed that Janowski had a packet of Belgian matches which were lacking the excise label. Several tiny slip-ups and yet enough arouse the suspicions of the locals and quickly end the career of would-be-spy Janowski.

The second spy, Alfred Langbein, landed on the rugged coast of the Bay of Fundy in May 1942. He managed to escape detection for over two years before turning himself in to the police. During his first week in Canada, he bought a new hat, visited a barbershop to "rid himself of his distinctive German haircut" (as his German spymaster had suggested) and bought several clothing items at a second-hand clothing shop.

The perfect spy would be equipped with local clothing, speak the language impeccably and be familiar with the local culture, customs and currency.... but the German spies sent to Britain were not perfect spies. Their spy masters were new to the espionage game and mistakes were made. Poor planning and desperation combined to send men off on suicide missions to a country where inhabitants were on high alert for anything out of the ordinary. Clothing tags or no clothing tags, there was more than enough other indicators to give away the enemy agents who came to Britain.

National Archives - Security Service files on Josef Jakobs - KV 2/24
National Archives - Security Service files on Karel Richter - KV 2/31
Beeby, Dean - Cargo of Lies: The True Story of a Nazi Double Agent in Canada - 1996.

20 April 2018

Enemy Property Act 1953

Envelope that contained Johannes M. Dronkers' farewell
letter to his wife, Elisa A. E. Seignette in Holland.
(National Archives - KV 2/46)
A few years ago, I wrote a blog about the farewell letters of the executed spies in England.

Those letters, written by condemned men on the day/night preceding their execution, were to have been delivered to their families after the Second World War. They never were. The letters sat in the files of MI5 and, when these files were declassified in the late 1990s, most of the letters were included in the release of documents to the National Archives.

That has always perplexed me. Why could the letters not have been delivered? I might have found an answer.

I was poking around the Imperial War Museum website and came across this note on enemy property.

The Enemy Property Act extinguished all German interests, both copyright and ownership, in all material belonging to former German enemies (whether individuals or businesses) which was brought into the UK from certain territories between 3 September 1939 and 9 July 1951.
Enemy Property Act - Summary
(from www.legislation.gov.uk)
The blurb refers to the Enemy Property Act 1953, a rather dense piece of legal jargon that is available on the internet in its entirety.

The Imperial War Museum's blurb is far more readable and sums it up nicely. I had a peek in the original document to get clear on a few definitions.

The term "German enemies" can refer to the German state, a individual who is a German national, someone who is resident in Germany or in enemy territory or someone who for the time being is deemed to be an enemy for the purpose of the Act of 1939.

The term "enemy property" means "any property for the time being belonging to or held or managed on behalf of an enemy or an enemy subject, and for the purposes of this definition the expressions "enemy" and "enemy subject" have the same meanings as for the purposes of the Act of 1939.

Sooo... basically, any property that the spies brought over with them, whether personal items or espionage equipment, belongs to the United Kingdom. Whether this material sits in government files or museum archives, ownership by the individual was relinquished. I'm going to suggest that this likely also applies to the farewell letters. The letters were held on behalf of the enemy agents and as such technically qualify as "enemy property". Legally, the government was quite within its rights to hold onto those farewell letters and release them to the National Archives. Morally... I'm not so sure.

The farewell letter of Josef Jakobs is an exception as it was offered back to our family in the mid 1990s, but only because I had been searching for information on my grandfather. Perhaps if other families had searched, they too would have received their letters... at least before they were released to Kew.

16 April 2018

Book Review - Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi German - Norman Ohler (2016)

Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany by Norman Ohler (cover from Amazon)
Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany
by Norman Ohler
(cover from Amazon)
The Book
Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany. Norman Ohler. Penguin Books. 2016.

This book was originally published in German in 2015, translated into English for 2016, and I got my hands on a copy a few weeks ago. It's been translated into 25 languages and received rave reviews by numerous journalists. On the other hand, a fair degree of controversy has also swirled around the book. Some argue that the author, a novelist by trade, has taken some liberties with history and fictionalized it to such an extent that it is no longer accurate.

The book examines the use of opioids, methamphetamines and other stimulants by the Germans during the Second World War. Pervitin, a methamphetamine, has a starring role, particularly during the Blitzkrieg invasion of France and the Lowland Countries in May 1940. Most of the author's focus lies with Hitler and his personal physician, Theo Morrell. Was Hitler a drug addict? Did Morrell prescribe him a potent cocktail that included cocaine, oxycodone, methamphetamines and others? There is no doubt that Hitler did receive all of these drugs, but the question seems to be "how much". The author notes that some researchers believe Hitler was a victim of Parkinson's disease but critics have noted that he fails to really engage with the other literature. His sole focus is on the drugs that were administered to Hitler.

The main concern of critics is that Ohler lets Germans and Hitler off the hook for the crimes of the Second World War. Ohler does note in one paragraph that "[Hitler's] drug use did not impinge on his freedom to make decisions. Hitler was always the master of his senses and he knew exactly what he was doing.... He was anything but insane." Critics note that this one paragraph does not negate the general trend of the rest of the book, in which Hitler can be seen as being a victim of drug addiction and his drug dealer (Morrell). Some go so far as to dismiss Ohler's book as "revisionist" history. Given that history is generally written by the victors, and is therefore necessarily one-sided, I wonder if there isn't a lot more to be uncovered that will rewrite the history books. Maybe history isn't as black and white as we like to think? I sometimes wonder if the "serious" historians have a tendency to dismiss the "amateurs" and their theories. Ohler's book gives us a new lens through which to view the events of the Second World War. Is it accurate? Only time will tell.

I found this book eminently readable, despite some of the pharmaceutical language. Ohler writes in a style that is very approachable. It helps that the story is quite fascinating. I was initially interested in reading the book because Josef Jakobs had a capsule of Pervitin (methamphetamine) in his pocket when he was captured by the British. I wanted to know more about the use of Pervitin in the German system, and this book has definitely answered a lot of my questions.

As for the whole Hitler issue - I would say that the issue is a complex one. Some researchers have concluded that Hitler suffered from Parkinsons Disease. Ohler suggests that Hitler was a drug addict. Perhaps both are true. New theories are always helpful, to my mind. Whether they stand the test of time is another thing.

Review Score
4.5 out of 5 - this book sheds a different light on some aspects of the Second World War

Other Reviews
The Guardian - Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany by Norman Ohler review – a crass and dangerously inaccurate account
The Guardian - Interview with Norman Ohler
New York Times - High on Hitler and Meth: Book says Nazis were fueled by Drugs
National Post - Hitler was on cocaine and his troops were on meth: Author reveals deep influence of drugs in Nazi Germany

11 April 2018

Adventures in Publishing - Rapid Expansion of the To-Do List

Goodness... I had a sense that publishing a book was an endeavour but... to be frank, it does seem a bit overwhelming! So, I am getting organized. Here's the plan of attack and some aspects of the book publishing obstacle course.

Sign Publishing Contract
This feels a bit like I'm signing away my first born... which in a way... I am. The publisher has already rejigged my title from "Shoot Straight, Tommies!" The Untold Story of Josef Jakobs, last person executed in the Tower of London... to... The Spy in the Tower. More marketable. The final title will likely be something different and, while I'm not attached to my title, I trust that we'll agree on something that works for both parties. I personally like Shot in the Tower: The Untold Story of Josef Jakobs, last person executed in the Tower of London but... that Shot in the Tower was used in 1997 when Leonard Sellers wrote a book on the WWI... (oops... that is a formatting/style issue - see below)... First World War spies executed in the Tower. Mine would have a different subtitle and... there are other books that have the same primary title sooo... we'll see.

Guidelines for Authors
Get clear on the format/style in which the publisher wants the manuscript. I've dealt with various "guidelines for authors" during my career, and each one is a bit different. But it's critical that I have a good sense of how they want the manuscript and get it right. I've already had a trot through my manuscript altering date formats from the North American style to the European style, altering % to "percent", changing any references to World War I or World War II to First World War and Second World War... and a variety of other easy, but tedious tidy-ups. Thank goodness for <ctrl-H> in Microsoft Word.

On Writing Well William Zinsser (from Amazon)
On Writing Well
William Zinsser
(from Amazon)
Lose Weight (the manuscript... not me... although, on second thought...)
My manuscript is a bit of a beast right now. We're aiming for 110,000-130,000 words and I'm a bit over that. So I need to put on my editing hat and go at it with a vengeance. The total word count includes things like foreword, bibliography, end notes, etc. sooo... I need to get ruthless.

I know that there are some bloated sections, particularly where I go into the personal stories of some of the fringe characters. Those will be the easy cuts I think. I also need to tighten things up a bit. I read a book a few years back... On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Non-Fiction by William Zinsser. I have the 5th edition and I think it's into its 30th edition right now. The book was brilliant and I could probably do with a quick refresher. Every word needs to carry its load and if it's not... it gets the big "delete" button.

Get Feedback
Excerpt from a document by Scott Pack entitled "Before You Send Anything" (originally from Unbound)
Excerpt from a document by Scott Pack entitled "Before You Send Anything"
(originally from Unbound)
While several people have read my manuscript and offered feedback, I received a bit of a jolt a few weeks back. A friend sent me a document written by Scott Pack, from the Unbound crowdfunding site. It made me laugh and wince at the same time.

Right then... I know that the publisher doesn't really provide editorial feedback, short of spelling errors, etc. So I need to get some serious feedback and I have just the person in mind. The manuscript is currently being read by my former advisor who supervised my doctorate. I know that I'll get some honest feedback (gulp) and that he won't skimp with the red pen. Which is probably exactly what the manuscript needs right now. This will likely also help with the weight loss (manuscript... not me).

Make Revisions
This will be the big one. I've been stuck with the manuscript for a while as it contains some duplication and the aforementioned bloating. After getting an objective perspective courtesy of the feedback, I'll be able to move forward and carve the thing into its final form. I'll likely have to do several go-arounds to get to that point and am already clearing my calendar for the next few months.

In Canada, we talk about "hockey-widows" when the National Hockey League playoffs are on the television. Husbands disappear for the duration of the playoffs... at least mentally. Their bodies are there... in front of the television, but for all intents and purposes, they are gone. I'm thinking that something similar will happen for my partner during this phase...I'll be squirreled away in front of my computer, oblivious to everything else...

Identify Images for Publication
Josef Jakobs
Josef Jakobs
The contract says I can have 10 to 20 images in the book. I'm aiming for 20. I have a bunch of family photos to include, as well as some documents. I'm figuring about 10 images that I can source locally. That leaves 10 images from elsewhere - either photographs or documents. Here's the thing... I, as the author, need to get permission to use images from other sources and pay any royalty fees. Gotta think about this... which images are REALLY crucial. Because the National Archives at Kew charges a pretty penny for (a) producing a print of a photograph and (b) usage rights.

Source Images, Arrange Permission & Get Copies
Once I've figured out which images I want, I need to reach out and contact the various sources - private individuals, archives, etc. The publisher wants images in a very specific format which requires a bit of tech savvy - 400 dpi as TIFF and a few other scanning parameters.

After I've finalized my list and received or produced scanned copies of all the images, it's time for creating captions with attributions. Short and sweet, without too much verbiage is my goal.
The Bread
Indexing Books by Nancy C. Mulvany (from Amazon)
Indexing Books by Nancy C. Mulvany
(from Amazon)
Front & End Matter
This is the stuff that brackets the guts or meat of the book. Things like footnotes, endnotes, references, bibliography, appendices, foreword, acknowledgements, abbreviations, cast of characters - and all sorts of other things. The publisher wants end notes, not footnotes, and in a specific format as well, that does not use MS Word's automatic foot/end note feature. I'm leaving that until after the big revision. Most of these need to be included with the manuscript when it is submitted.

This is the not-fun part. I know that MS Word has an indexing feature but it is cumbersome and it won't work for the manuscript. The index will be created after I get the final proof from the publisher as a pdf. Whole books are written on how to create an index. It would seem that I basically have two choices. I can pay a professional indexer to do the book ($$$) or... I can do it myself. A friend and fellow author has shared his method for generating an index. It involves, not surprisingly... index cards! It'll take a couple of days... I think.
After I've massaged the manuscript into something approaching its final form, I want to reach out to a few key contacts in the Second World War and/or historical espionage world and get some endorsements that we can use on the book cover and in other promotions. I have a few names on my list.

Written by someone other than the author, but who knows the author and the history of the book. I've got a few people in mind...

Social Media & Blog
I seem to be ahead of the curve on this one, as I've been blogging about my grandfather for a few years. I also have a Facebook page and a website. Three thumbs up. All I need to do is keep up a posting schedule while doing all of the above. Hence this blog, which amalgamates the two!

The Future 
I do know that there will also be a book launch in the UK at which I will be present, possible interviews with the media, etc.

Publishing a book is not for the faint of heart it would seem.  And it's a marathon... not a sprint... I just have to keep chipping away at things.

06 April 2018

Hangmen at War - new book published online

Hangmen at War - Richard Clark &
Traugott Vitz - 2018
(from Traugott Vitz site)
A year ago, I reviewed an article by Traugott Vitz posted on Kriminalia Magazine online. The article, The Executioner at War: Soldiers, Spies, and Traitors, was an English translation of a chapter from Vitz's book Langes Seil Schneller Tod: Wie Grossbritannien seine Moerder haengte (Long Rope Quick Death: How Great Britain hanged its Murders). It was a fascinating article and I am halfway through Langes Seil; a slow read due to my rusty German. It's a fascinating book so far.

This past week, Vitz let me know that he has published another book, this one in partnership with Richard Clark, the man behind the Captial Punishment UK site. Hangmen at War has been published in English (yay!) and is available online in its entirety.

There is a chapter dedicated to Spies, Traitors and Saboteurs, in which Josef receives some attention. The following chapter addresses the issue of murdered Allied Airmen and, although I have only skimmed it, looks to be very intriguing.

I am definitely adding this book to my "to-read" list.

02 April 2018

A Publishing Deal for "Shoot Straight Tommies! - The untold story of Josef Jakobs, last person executed in the Tower of London

The History Press (UK)
Great news! The History Press has agreed to publish my manuscript on Josef Jakobs! It's been a very long journey to reach this point, and it's not over yet.

The manuscript is a bit of a ragtag thing at the moment with dangling footnotes, unincorporated notes and formatting issues. It needs an index, a table of contents, images, image captions and a few other things.

Luckily, a friend and fellow author has been through the process twice - once with Amberley Press and once with The History Press, so I have a solid guide who is providing very (VERY) helpful advice as I begin this publication marathon. I am reminding myself that it is a marathon... not a sprint... so I need to pace myself and plug away at resolving the manuscript issues noted above.

As I look farther down the road, I also see a fair bit of promotion and marketing in my future. But again... it's a marathon... not a sprint... and I need to keep my attention focused on the immediate journey. Tidying up the manuscript, tracking down images... and the rest will unfold.

28 March 2018

Reviews of Pregnant Fish Theatre - Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?

Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm? - Pregnant Fish Theatre
An intriguing production of the Bella in the Wych Elm story was performed on stage at The Space in London, March 13-13, 2018.

The production didn't have a traditional script based on dialogue, but rather was narrated by the cast using original archival and published sources.

It sounds like a really intriguing way of doing theatre, mimicking, in some ways, the true-crime shows that have proliferated on television.

I'm hoping to get a video of the production at some point, but I thought I'd list a few review links.

Most reviewers acknowledge that the piece was exquisitely well-researched but suggest that trying to cram all that information into 60 minutes, might have been a bit ambitious.

London Theatre 1 - "What is particularly impressive here is how different elements of the production come together."

Pregnant Fish Theatre - Facebook post
The Upcoming - "The movements the cast create are arresting, but not enough to completely pull the whole act together seamlessly; there are highlights as with most productions, but the biggest contributing factor that lets this down is the verbosity of the script."

A Younger Theatre - "With the cast all donning similar navy overalls, the attention is not on any flamboyant showmanship but is instead on the evidence itself."

Act Drop - "The central case is fascinating and more than worthy of dramatising - it certainly seemed to keep the audience 'hooked' throughout."

View from the Cheap Seat - "Although it doesn’t advertise itself as such, it’s an example of ‘verbatim’ theatre – every word spoken is drawn from existing texts about the case, from police files to newspaper reports, books to personal letters"

West End Wilma - "Cramming all of the evidence into the available sixty minutes is no mean feat, especially so as at least ten minutes are dedicated to telling the story of Josef Jakobs, the last man executed – by firing squad – at the Tower of London."

Theatre Weekly -  "There’s definite potential in the concept of a staged documentary, and the detailed research in Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm? means that it’s compelling enough to keep the audience’s attention, although aspects of the presentation need some work to help guide the audience through this complex case."

I'm actually kind of surprised at the number of reviewers who had never heard of the Bella case. In that respect, the production has done a good job of bringing the story to the realm of theatre. And 10 minutes of the production were dedicated to Josef Jakobs, in part because his mistress, Clara Bauerle, is considered, by some, to be Victim Suspect #1. As noted elsewhere on my blog, Clara Bauerle passed away 16 December 1942 in Berlin of veronal poisoning.

23 March 2018

Article Review - Fortean Times - Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm - 2018

Fortean Times - cover image
(March 1, 2018)
Article Review - Fortean Times - Bella in the Wych Elm - 2018 03 01

An article on Bella in the Wych Elm was published a few weeks ago by the Fortean Times. Written by Cathi Unsworth, the article seems to be primarily based on interviews with HD Paranormal's Jayne Harris.

The author does manage to dodge a few of the most repeated errors (she doesn't say that Josef Jakobs was Czech) but does include a few (that Clara Bauerle had been a singer in the West Midlands music halls).

Fortean times - Bella in the Wych Elm
(Footnote 12 re: Margaret Murray)
It's a fairly well-written article and the author did attempt to track down some of the lingering anomalies about the Bella case.

For example, many Bella stories quote Margaret Murray and her "Hand of Glory" theory, but no one has ever been able to point to primary source material for that story. The author adds a footnote which sheds some light on the issue... but doesn't solve the problem.

The article used a photograph of Josef Jakobs without acknowledgement or provenance, a bit of an annoyance. For the record, other than the photographs from Josef's declassified MI5 files, all photographs of Josef Jakobs on the internet originate with either my website/blog or my contribution of a low-resolution photograph to Find-a-Grave.

I have had others request permission to use the photograph, which I have happily granted.

When I reached out to the editor of the Fortean Times, he was quite gracious and acknowledged the oversight. They are printing an addendum in the next issue:
We would like to apologise for not providing correct attribution for the photograph of Josef Jakobs, which should have been as follows: Copyright GK Jakobs / www.josefjakobs.com. Giselle Jakobs is one of Josef’s granddaughters and has been researching his life for the last 30 years; her website is an excellent resource for information about Josef’s life and times.
 Much appreciated.

4/5 - moderately well-researched

19 March 2018

Bella in the Wych Elm - The Story of Jack Mossop

Who was Jack Mossop? Did he and an accomplice murder a woman after a night of drinking at the Lyttleton Arms near Hagley? Did they stuff her still warm body into a wych elm in Hagley Wood? Did the memory of this traumatic event drive Jack mad? Did he die of an overdose in a mental hospital in 1942?

So many questions. So many suppositions and rumours. It's hard to tease apart fact and fiction. But let's give it a try. Before we get started, I am deeply indebted to Duncan Honeybourne. for sharing his information on the Mossop clan. Duncan's grandmother was a first cousin of Jack Mossop and he has conducted extensive interviews with the elders in the Mossop-Crump family.

It all begins in Ireland, as most great stories do. Maurice Mossop and his wife Mary, both born in County Mayo, emigrated to England with their three young sons, sometime between 1847 and 1851. The family settled in Eccleshall, Staffordshire and Maurice worked at various jobs including agricultural labourer and Licensed Lodging House Keeper. One of their sons was Edward Mossop - Jack's grandfather.

Edward Mossop, a bricklayer, married Ellen Hall in 1869. The couple moved to the United States where they had three daughters, but by 1878, the young family had moved back to Eccleshall. Edward continued to work in the building trade and was well known in Eccleshall. Unfortunately, in the 1890s, Edward declared bankruptcy and the family fell on hard times. From rural Eccleshall they moved south to the booming industrial town of Smethwick, a few miles from Birmingham. Here they reinvented themselves as steeplejacks (craftsmen who scale buildings, chimneys and church steeples to carry out repairs or maintenance). Edward's sons worked as steeplejacks and the family developed a flourishing business. Edward and Ellen eventually had 13 children, not all of whom survived childhood. One of their sons was Edward Percy (or simply Percy) Mossop - Jack's father (we're getting closer).

Percy Mossop was born in 1881 in Eccleshall, Staffordshire. He and his surviving brothers were apparently quite a crew and known locally as the "Seven Sods" on account of their drinking and wild behaviour. Percy showed signs of settling down when he married Charlotte Crump around 1911. Charlotte was the daughter of Mary Anne Smith and George Crump, a publican in the village of Claverley (Boycott Arms pub). Lolla, as Charlotte was called, was exceptionally beautiful, said to have been "the most beautiful girl in Claverley".

Four of Percy's brothers served in World War I but it would appear that Percy himself managed to avoid military service. Of the four, two came home from the war and two gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Edward Percy Mossop - later in life  (photo courtesy of Duncan H. - used with permission)
Edward Percy Mossop - later in life
(photo courtesy of
Duncan Honeybourne
- used with permission)
  • Corporal (A/Sgt) George Mossop joined the Warwickshire Regiment before the war (1902-1903?) and served as a stretcher bearer with 14th Field Ambulance of the Royal Army Medical Corps during World War I. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal with bar. 
  •  Private Vincent Mossop joined the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) in 1915 and served in France from 1916 to 1917 as a lorry driver.

As for Percy, he and Charlotte had two children before the war broke out, Jack and Louis. In 1918, Percy's wife, Charlotte, passed away during the Spanish Flu epidemic and her parents, displeased with Percy's attention (or lack thereof) to his two sons (Jack and Louis) stepped into the gap. Jack was raised by Charlotte's mother, Mary Anne (Smith) Crump while Louis was sent elsewhere.

Percy then had another five children with Violet Catherine Vant but apparently never married her, swearing there'd "never be a second Mrs. Mossop". Percy passed away on 15 March 1936 in Birmingham with effects totaling £425 1s. 6d. It would appear that Percy never had much to do with his first two sons. Louis, in particular, was heard to say that he had "no time for his father", saying that his father hadn't bothered with him. Louis later kept a pub on the Birmingham New Road in Oldbury/Dudley and passed away in 1982.

And now, finally, we reach the infamous Jack Mossop! Jack was born 29 August 1912 and, as we've seen above, lost his mother in 1918 when he was only six years old. Taken in by his maternal grandmother, Jack was said to have been a very intelligent child, always building things. We then lose Jack's trail and pick him up again 14 years later.

Marriage to Una Ella Abel
 In 1932, Jack married Una Ella Abel in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire. The marriage was registered in the third quarter of the year (July/August/September) thus the birth of their son, Julian Michael Mossop, on 3 August 1932, would suggest a hasty wedding. Jack and Una lived at Bridge House, Wombourne, near Wolverhampton for several years while Jack studied to be a surveyor. It would appear, however, that Julian did not live with his parents. A workmate of Jacks' from the late 1930s/early 1940s, Bill Wilson, said that he never saw the boy and understood that Julian had been farmed out to the grandmother. Given that Julian's paternal grandmother (Charlotte Crump) had passed away in 1918, this could be a reference to his maternal grandmother, Una's own mother. Or, it could be a reference Jack's grandmother, Mary Anne (Smith) Crump who raised Jack and possibly Julian. Hard to tell.

Work Career
In 1936, Jack was working for Lockheed in Leamington, an automotive parts manufacturer (brakes, hydraulic components, clutches, etc.) who eventually manufactured aircraft parts as well. The following year, in 1937, Jack joined the A.S.T. as a Pilot Officer and was stationed at Hamble, near Southampton.

A bit of digging suggests that this was Airwork Services Training (later Air Services Training). There is some evidence that indicates A.S.T. was involved in training reserve pilots for the RAF.
Air Service Training Limited, part of Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft, appeared in 1931 to instruct reserve pilots; more facilities were created at the southern end of the airfield for No 3 Elementary & Reserve Flying Training School which formed in 1933. So began a long career in this aviation capacity for Hamble over several decades, the training syllabus being gradually expanded, although aircraft flight testing in the 1930s was not absent either with development of the large four-engined Armstrong Whitworth Ensign airliner. (Hamble - Airfields)
There have been many rumours that Jack was a member of the RAF or wore an RAF uniform around town, even though he was not an active member of the RAF. The truth may simply be that he did train as a reserve pilot and later wore his A.S.T. uniform around town. There is no mention whether Jack received flight training elsewhere prior to 1937. By 1938, however, Jack had moved on and was working at Armstrong Siddeley Works and then moved over to Standard Aero Works, both in Coventry.

Banner Lane Factory - Standard Aero Works  (The Ferguson Club)
Banner Lane Factory - Standard Aero Works
(From The Ferguson Club)
On 3 November 1939, Jack started work as a fitter at #1 Factory, Fletchamstead (Standard Aero Works) and the following November was transferred to #2 Factory at Banner Lane where he worked in the assembly shop.

Standard Aero Works was part of Standard Motor Works, and the factory at Banner Lane apparently manufactured Bristol Hercules aero engines. It was at the Banner Lane location, that Jack became friendly with a co-worker, Bill Wilson. Jack's co-worker understood that Jack had been invalided out of the "RAF" before he met him. Jack would "say laughingly that he crash landed a plane too often and make a joke about it. Said he had head injuries."

Bill also said that he stayed with the Mossops for a time while they lived at 39 Barrow Road, Kenilworth, just southwest of Coventry. Interestingly, there was a Jack Hainsworth who also worked at #2 Factory at Banner Lane at the same time that Jack Mossop worked there. Jack Hainsworth also resided at 39 Barrow Road at one point. The Coventry Police speculated that this person could be identical with Alfred James Hainsworth who later married Una (Abel) Mossop after her separation from Jack Mossop.

The possibility of head injuries and repeated concussions from Jack's test pilot career begins to make sense of Jack's deteriorating mental health over the next few years.

Van Raalt & the Dutch Piece
Much of the following information comes from Bill Wilson's and Una Hainsworth's statements to police in late 1953. Given the notorious fallibility of human memory, we would probably do well to take what follows with a grain of salt. Bill's recollection do, however, add a bit of a balance to Una's memories.

According to Una, Jack met a Dutchman named Van Raalt in 1940. The Dutchman didn't seem to work at any particular job and came round to their house at 39 Barrow Road on occasion. Una got the impression that Van Raalt was "engaged on some work that he did not wish to talk about". It could have been a secret wartime occupation but in Una's opinion "it might have been that he was a spy for he had plenty of money and there were times that [Jack] appeared to have plenty of money after meeting him." Apparently being taciturn and flush with money = espionage in Una's mind. It could equally well have been due to the two men being involved in the black market.

Advertisement for firm of E. Mossop & Sons  (courtesy of Duncan H. - used with permission)
Advertisement for firm of E. Mossop & Sons
(courtesy of Duncan Honeybourne
- used with permission)
On the other hand, Bill Wilson said that while Jack knew a lot of people, he had no recollection of any foreigners. Bill did say that Jack's father (presumably Percy) was "in quite a good way at business" with "steeplejacks" and that Jack was always talking about having some money left. This may have simply been Jack's way of covering an influx of cash acquired by less than legal means. Or it may have been accurate. Jack's grandfather (Edward) and father (Percy) had developed a flourishing steeplejack business. Whether Jack had received significant funds upon his father's death is another matter.

According to Bill, Jack and Una "didn't hit it off too well" and they were having "trouble". Even Una admitted that Jack did not treat her very well. The couple were "not living a normal life" and Bill got the impression that something was worrying him. Jack could be "very moody and suffered from headaches and nightmares". He was also a "very heavy drinker" and Bill said that Jack took a lot of time off work. Jack was also quite friendly with the opposite sex and liked to hang around them and buy them drinks. Bill figured that these women "felt sorry for him".

So, we have a picture of Jack Mossop, an unhappily married man who had, by his own admission, suffered repeated head injuries during his time as a pilot. Even though he had a job, he took a lot of time off of work. He could be very moody and often suffered from headaches and nightmares. On top of that, he was a heavy drinker.

Lyttleton Arms - 1900s  (Hagley Historical & Field Society)
Lyttleton Arms - 1900s
(From Hagley Historical & Field Society)
We now come to Una's story about Jack and Van Raalt. In March or April 1941, Jack came home at around 1:00 am, all white and agitated. He asked Una for a drink and she retorted that, in her opinion, he had had quite enough to drink as he had been out all day but, she made him a drink. Jack told Una that he had been at the Lyttleton Arms (a pub) with Van Raalt and the "Dutch piece" and that the woman had got "awkward". It would appear that the trio then decided to leave. Jack was driving Van Raalt's Rover car and the woman got into the front passenger seat while Van Raalt sat in the back. At one point, the woman passed out and slumped towards Jack. Van Raalt told Jack to drive to a wood where they stuck her in a hollow tree. Van Raalt figured that she would come to her senses the following morning. Interestingly, there is absolutely no mention in Una's police statement that Jack made a follow-up visit to the hollow tree as appears in Quaestor's 1958 newspaper account.

Between April and December, 1941, Una says that Jack was very jumpy. He drank more than usual, was nearly always away from work and seemed to have more money to spend. Jack would take his old Standard car and go off for days on end without informing her. All of this led Una to suspect that he was obtaining money somehow and that Jack may have been meeting Van Raalt.

Bill Wilson confirmed that he and Jack owned a 1934 Standard black saloon car jointly, sharing the running expenses. In Bill's opinion, however, Jack "was the type of fellow that would not harm anyone" and he "did not have much back bone". In Bill's opinion, the story about the "Dutch piece" and the hollow tree might have been something that Jack imagined he had done or that he dreamt about when "he was full of drink".

By December 1941, Una had had enough of Jack Mossop. She too noted that he was very fond of women and that women's clothes appeared in their house. On 13 December, she left Jack and moved to Henley in Arden, presumably in the company of James Hainsworth. She did visit the house at 39 Barrow Road on three occasions after December 1941, trying to retrieve her possessions, including furniture. On one of those occasions, she saw Jack and he told her "that he thought he was losing his mind as he kept seeing the woman in the tree and she was leering at him". Jack held his head in his hands and said "it is getting on my nerves, I am going crazy". That was the last time Una saw her ex-husband, Jack Mossop.

Slow Descent into Madness
Head injuries, nightmares, headaches, moodiness, heavy drinking and now an admission that he thought he was "losing his mind". Jack Mossop was not in a good way. This is confirmed by a police report from 4 February 1942. Jack Mossop reported to the Coventry Police that his car and driver were missing. Bill Wilson said that this was "a new one on me". He didn't know anything about that. Given that Bill was part owner of the car, one would think he would have known if his asset had been stolen or declared missing.

Stafford County Mental Hospital - St. George's Hospital  (County Asylums site - has a good history of the place)
Stafford County Mental Hospital - St. George's Hospital
(From County Asylums site - has a good history of the place)
By June 1942, Jack's condition had deteriorated significantly. According to Bill Wilson, Jack suffered some sort of "mental delusion" while at work and a co-worker named Terry Mitchell took Jack home to his people (family) in Claverley. From there, he was quickly admitted to the Stafford County Mental Hospital and declared insane. Bill never saw Jack again and one of Jack's Claverley relations said that only family could visit him. According to Bill, a doctor had said that if Jack had come in sooner, they could have operated on him, but that he had left it too late. This was clearly not a sudden descent into insanity, but something that had been building for a while.

Una also heard that Jack had been admitted to the Mental Hospital at Stafford. Several months later, she learned of Jack's death when James Hainsworth told her than an application had been made at Standard Aero Works claiming money that was due to Jack. This tidbit seems to confirm that the "Jack Hainsworth" noted earlier could be the same as Una's James Hainsworth. From James' information, Una learned that Jack had died in August 1942 at the Mental Hospital. In her closing words to the police, Una noted that "I, of course, have no proof, that what I have told you now is the truth, but bearing in mind my husband’s condition and what he said to me at the time, I have done my best to recall it to help in the enquiry."

There were several scribbled police notes, in addition to Una's official statement, that mention a few odds and ends.

Van Raalt apparently had a Rover car which Jack used to drive for him. When asked about a Rover car, Bill Wilson said that he and Jack had bought an old Rover from a scrap merchant but never got it working.

There is also a note that a man with the stage name of Frack appeared at the Coventry Hippodrome in 1938. Another note stated that Jack stayed at a back house in Grosvenor Road, Coventry. This was a boarding house about a mile from the theatre. Bill Wilson confirmed that he and Jack had stayed at 9 Grosvenor Road in Coventry, at the house of Mrs. Galbraith for a short while. He denied that they had ever met any theatre folk.

Finally, a note on 28 December 1953, from Inspector Morgan at Kenilworth, who stated that "Una Hainsworth alias Anna is well known and when she left Kenilworth she was in debt to all and sundry and they would like to get their hands on her."

Death Certificate
There have been several rumours around the death of Jack Mossop. One of the most recent, first mentioned in the HD Paranormal film suggests that Jack died of an overdose at the Stafford County Mental Hospital. Let's clear that up right away by taking a look at Jack's official death registration.

Death registration for Jack Mossop - part 1
Death registration for Jack Mossop - part 1
Jack passed away on 15 August, 1942 at the County Mental Hospital.

He was 29 years old and a resident of 39 Barron Road, Kenilworth.

He was working as an assembler at Motor Engine Works (not sure if this is a company name or just a general description of the factory or perhaps a variation on Standard Motor Works.

Now we come to the interesting part - Cause of Death.

Death registration for Jack Mossop - part 2
Death registration for Jack Mossop - part 2
Jack died of:

(a) cerebral softening
(b) myocardial degeneration
(c) chronic nephritis
(d) acute confusional insanity

The cause of death on a death registration generally includes four items:
  1. the immediate cause of death - in this case cerebral softening
  2. the intermediate causes, which triggered the immediate cause - in this case myocardial degeneration
  3. the underlying causes, which triggered the chain of events leading to death - in this case chronic nephritis
  4. any other diseases and disorders the person had at the time of death, even though they did not directly cause the death - in this case, acute confusional insanity
The terms used on Jack's death registration are rather dated but seem to be associated with the following.

Cerebral softening is a rather broad term but generally seems to be ascribed to:
  1. Cerebral Infarction and Ischemia - different types of strokes
  2. Infection
  3. Traumatic Brain Injury - car accidents, bad falls, etc
Myocardial degeneration indicates that Jack's heart wasn't doing so well. One of the contributing factors can be alcohol abuse, which would seem to fit in Jack's case.

Chronic nephritis would indicate that he had chronic kidney disease. It can run in the family and, in young men, can be associated with vision and hearing loss.

Acute confusional insanity was a term in common use in the late 19th and early to mid-20th centuries. It can be described as having an early stage during which there was "confusion of thought, restlessness, sleeplessness, some disorder of the action of the heart and the stomach, and then the acute condition came on suddenly, with acute confusion, vivid hallucinations of sight and hearing, disorder of function, and great lessening of the common sensibility of the body" - Physical Sympoms of Acute Confusional Insanity - Br. Med. J. 1935, Mar 9 (3870) 487-488

Claverley churchyard cemetery  (Copyright 2018 Duncan Honeybourne  - used with permission)
Claverley churchyard cemetery
(Copyright 2018 Duncan Honeybourne
 - used with permission)
I think we can safely say that Jack Mossop was not a healthy man, either physically or mentally. It is also pretty clear that his descent into madness had several contributing factors - head injuries suffered during his career as a pilot and chronic alcohol abuse. There may also have been some genetics involved but, for a 29 year old man, Jack was in a really poor state.

There is no evidence that Jack died of an overdose (as per HD Paranormal) although I suppose conspiracy-minded theorists can always rely on the idea that someone falsified Jack's death registration. In which case, we can leave the realm of facts behind us, and just wander off into a dream world of rumours, suppositions and theories.

The one intriguing aspect that remains is this: was the story about Jack, Van Raalt and a woman being placed in a tree actually accurate? Did Jack perhaps hear a story about a woman being placed in a tree? Or was Una's account of Jack's story coloured by news reports that she had read about Bella in the Wych Elm? Or was the entire story simply a nightmare of Jack's tortured and delusional mind? It is interesting to note that, in Una's recollection, Jack never said that he and Van Raalt killed the woman. They just placed her living, breathing body into a tree to teach her a lesson.

Final Resting Place
Jack Mossop is buried in the churchyard cemetery in Claverley.

Many thanks again to Duncan Honeybourne for tracking down the final resting place of Jack Mossop and graciously sharing his photographs with me. Jack Mossop is buried in a plot with his mother, Charlotte (Crump) Mossop. She's the one who married Jack's father, Percy Mossop, and then died in 1918 of the Spanish Flu.
Gravestone for Charlotte (Crump) Mossop  and her son, Jack Mossop - Claverley churchyard.  (Copyright 2018 Duncan Honeybourne - used with permission)
Gravestone for Charlotte (Crump) Mossop
and her son, Jack Mossop - Claverley churchyard.
(Copyright 2018 Duncan Honeybourne
- used with permission)
The top plate of the gravestone reads "Lolla Mossop".

An inscription along the left edge of the gravestone reads:
"In loving memory of Charlotte Mossop who died Nov 2nd 1918 aged 27 years"

And on the other side of the plot...

"Also of her beloved son Jack who died Aug 15th 1942 aged 29 years"
Gravestone for Charlotte (Crump) Mossop and her son, Jack Mossop - Claverley churchyard.  (Copyright 2018 Duncan Honeybourne - used with permission)
Gravestone for Charlotte (Crump) Mossop and her son, Jack Mossop - Claverley churchyard.
(Copyright 2018 Duncan Honeybourne - used with permission)
There is also a gravestone for George Crump and his wife Mary Anne Smith, Jack's grandparents. The inscription reads:

Gravestone for George Crump and his wife  Mary Ann Smith - Claverley churchyard.  (Copyright 2018 Duncan Honeybourne  - used with permission)
Gravestone for George Crump and his wife
Mary Ann Smith - Claverley churchyard.
(Copyright 2018 Duncan Honeybourne
 - used with permission)
"In loving memory of
George Crump
of Claverley
who died Jan 14th 1913
aged 52 years

If love and care should death prevent
thy days would not soon be spent
life was desired but God did see
eternal life was best for thee

Gone but not forgotten
Also of his beloved wife
Mary Ann
Died Feb 29th 1948
Aged 84 years"

West Mercia Police Files on the Hagley Wood Mystery - specifically Original Documents/Folder 4 which deals with Una Hainsworth and has her statement to the police and the statement of Jack's co-worker Bill Wilson. The file also has some records from the Standard Aero Works company regarding Jack's employment history.

Ancestry.co.uk - birth, marriage, death and census records for various members of Jack's family

Mossop Family records - I am deeply indebted to Duncan Honeybourne for sharing his information freely and for the photographs of Percy Mossop and the Claverley churchyard photographs.

Eccleshall Great War Project - great stories on all four Mossop brothers who served in WWI with a downloadable document that provides more information on the Mossop clan (starting in Ireland, as all great stories do). The document is primarily the work of Duncan Honeybourne, with contributions from his cousin Rod.