17 October 2018

Robin W.G. Stephens - Some more leads

I had emailed Christopher Andrew (author of the authorized history of MI5 - Defend the Realm/Defence of the Realm) a few weeks back asking if he had any further information on Robin W.G. Stephens, commandant of MI5's secret interrogation centre, Camp 020. Specifically, I was interested in any information on Stephens' death.

Andrew replied back promptly with the following:

  1. Most sources in National Archives KV series
  2. See Defence of Realm
  3. See further sources mentioned in Andrew and Tonia, Interrogation (this is Andrew and Tobia)
  4. Note correspondence a few years ago in TLS by Calder Walton
Some thoughts on the above:
Cover - Interrogation in War and Conflict Edited by Christopher Andrew & Simona Tobia
Cover - Interrogation in War and Conflict
Edited by Christopher Andrew &
Simona Tobia
  1. I haven't actually looked at the original KV folders that were used as the source for the Camp 020 book by Oliver Hoare. Perhaps there is more in there than I had thought?
  2. Defence of the Realm - has some tidbits on Stephens, but nothing on his death
  3. Andrew & Tobia - this is a 2014 publication: Interrogation in War and Conflict: A Comparative and Interdisciplinary Analysis - It definitely looks interesting and it's been on my radar for a while. Unfortunately it comes it with a rather exorbitant price tag on Amazon - $157 (even the Kindle edition is $80). There don't appear to be any Canadian libraries that carry it... so it may have to go onto my "next-time-I'm-in-London" list at the British Library.
  4. TLS - this is the Times Literary Supplement - apparently in 2013 Calder Walton wrote a rebuttal to Ian Cobain's book, Cruel Britannia. Calder Walton worked as the lead researcher when Christopher Andrew was writing his authorized history of MI5. There would appear to be a back and forth that took place between Walton and Cobain but, without being a subscriber to TLS, my access is limited.
So there are a few leads here... most of which need a visit to London. On the other hand, I may email Calder Walton, as he was the lead researcher on Defend the Realm/Defence of the Realm and might have some helpful insights.

12 October 2018

Bella in the Wych Elm Website

Bella in the Wych Elm: A New Look at the Mystery (website header)
Bella in the Wych Elm: A New Look at the Mystery
(website header)
Andrew Sparke, from APS Publishing, has set up a website for all things Bella-related. He admits it's a bit "content light" at the moment, but hopes to have more content as things move along. There seem to be some broken links at the moment, but I imagine they'll get fixed soon.

Of interest are the airing dates for the Yesterday TV series on Nazi Murder Mysteries:

1. Hitler's Niece - 15 November 2018
2. Duke of Windsor - 22 November 2018
3. Serial Killer in Berlin (The S-Bahn Murderer) - 29 November 2018
4. Bella in the Wych Elm - 6 December 2018 (8 pm)
5. Hermann Goering - 13 December 2018
6. Rudolf Hess - 20 December 2018

 I was in London in February 2018 for a spot of filming for the Bella episode. Looking forward to seeing the final production!

08 October 2018

Robin W.G. Stephens and the Estrangement wrought by War

A few years ago, I received an email from a cousin of Robin W.G. Stephens (commandant of Camp 020). Robin had an aunt... and this cousin is the grandson of the aunt. I think.

Julia Elizabeth (Howell) Stephens (Jersey 1940 Registration
Julia Elizabeth (Howell) Stephens
(Jersey 1940 Registration
I had applied for Stephens' army records in 2016 but, without a family connection, I received the sanitized version of his file. With his cousin's signature, however, we were able to get the entire file released. One of the most interesting things was a letter written to the War Office in February 1946 by Robin's father, William Henry Stephens.

I knew that Robin's parents had been caught on the Bailiwick of Jersey when the Germans invaded and had remained there during the German occupation. I also knew that Robin's mother, Julia Elizabeth (Howell) Stephens had passed away on 13 September 1949 in Cheltenham. Robin's father passed away in Cheltenham in 1962 and his will listed his sister as beneficiary. This was perplexing. While Robin's brother had been killed during the First World War, Robin was still alive. What had happened between Robin and his father? William's letter to the War Office answers some of those questions.

Sitting in the Sunrays Hotel in Droitwich on 24 February 1949, William wrote to the Under-Secretary of State for War:
William Henry Stephens (Jersey 1940 Registration)
William Henry Stephens
(Jersey 1940 Registration)
Dear Sir,
   I shall be grateful if you can send me any trace of my son, Captain R.W.G. Stephens, I.A. Retired. I have written to the Military Secretary, The India Office, Whitehall, who states that he has no information; so in case my son was engaged in any of the other expeditions of this last War I venture to appeal to you for help in tracing him; and I enclose a note on his career which may suggest possible clues.
   I am now 80 years of age; my Wife is 75, broken in health since her collapse under the German Occupation of Jersey, where we were marooned from 1940 to 1945: she has been unable to walk unaided since. We had lost our only other offspring, 2nd. Lieut. Howell C. Stephens, of the 1st. Worcesters, who was killed at Ypres (Hooge) in 1917, at the age of 19.
   We saw little of our sons, as I was in the Egyptian Civil Service from 1890-1926. Robin married in India, a Mrs. Fletcher, who had divorced her husband; and her extravagance estranged us. We have no news of her; but we long to get into touch with our son. He was known personally to Field Marshall Sir Claude Jacob, who wrote a preface to one of my son's Legal Books.
   We should love to be of help to our son in case he has need of us. Can you help us to find him?
                           Yours faithfully
It is rather a poignant letter and William included a brief career synopsis of his son, along with a reference letter regarding his service in Ethiopia with the Red Cross in 1936.

Someone at the War Office made a note on the letter: Address 1940 - R. Stephens, Box No. 500, Parliament Street. Given that this letter is in Stephens' army file, someone clearly made the connection with him. In 1946, however, Stephens was commandant of the CSDIC interrogation centre at Bad Nenndorf, Germany which would ultimately end with his court-martial and subsequent acquittal.

The real question is... did Robin and his parents reconnect? I guess we'll never really know, although the very fact that William's will made no mention of Robin could lead us to believe that the estrangement continued.

03 October 2018

Gösta Caroli - Double Agent and Fox Farmer

I recently heard about a book by Leonard Mosley entitled "The Druid". Written in 1981, it tells the tale of Welshman Gwyn Evans who, as an undetected spy of the German Abwehr, apparently betrayed the Dieppe Raid in 1942. In his book, Mosley also claims that double-agent Gösta Caroli was condemned to death and executed.

I know that Caroli's MI5 file says that he was repatriated back to Sweden at the end of the war, but... one always wonders with MI5. I had a vague recollection of reading something about Caroli's death in Sweden in the 1970s... so I did a bit of digging...

I came across a 2009 forum discussion on ScanGen (Genealogy in Scandinavia) which mentioned Gösta Caroli and, after heavy use of Google Translate, along with some reference to the Swedish Ancestry site, I've stitched together the following.

Birth of Gösta Caroli
Church (Kyrke) in Norra Vram where Gösta Caroli was born and his father, Claes Alfred Caroli was Vicar from 1901. (Swedish National Heritage Board [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Church (Kyrke) in Norra Vram where Gösta Caroli was born
and his father, Claes Alfred Caroli was Vicar from 1901.
(Swedish National Heritage Board [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons)
In the late 1800s, in Sweden, one Claes Alfred Caroli (born 2 May 1862 in Fellinsbro - died 15 June 1933 in Norra Vram) married Anna Berg (born 11 May, 1865 in Tärby).

Claes was vicar of the church in Norra Vram from 1901 onwards. The couple had several children:
  • Ingrid (born 17 March 1896 in Uppsala - died 25 October 1983 in Farsta, Sweden)
  • Gunnar (born 1898 in Uppsala - became a clergyman - died 6 August 1975)
  • Gerda (born 29 December 1900 in Uppsala - became a Gymnastikdirektör (could be a school principal if it is comparable to "Gymnasium" in German))
  • Gösta (born 6 November 1902 in Norra Vram - this is our guy)
  • Claes Tryggve (born April 7 1905 in Norra Vram - died 6 May 1968 in Ekenäs Varnum Hökenäs Municipality)
The Fox Farmer
In researching this article, I was really only trying to establish what became of Caroli after the war but... his pre-war activity was just too fascinating to pass up! Particularly as it involves trips to Canada... and my own home province of British Columbia.

It would appear that Caroli, between 1924 and 1929, spent a lot of time shuttling back and forth between Sweden, Canada and the United States. He may even have become a Canadian (perhaps landed immigrant), although the evidence is not 100% clear. The following is based primarily on passenger lists and immigration records, which are fragmentary.

On 4 March 1926, Caroli boarded the RMS Ausonia (Cunard Lines) in Southampton, England bound for Halifax, Canada.

Silver Fox Pelts (from wikipedia)
Silver Fox Pelts
(from wikipedia)
A couple of years later, he was again traveling from Europe to Canada. This time he arrived in Halifax on 12 March 1928 aboard the SS Thuringin. In response to the Canadian authorities, he stated that he had been in Canada before, from March 1924-November 1927 at Quilchena, British Columbia. He could speak Swedish, German and English and, while his nationality was Swedish, the form listed him as a "Returned Canadian" and noted that his passport had been issued in Montreal, Quebec. He gave his occupation as farmer and stated that his final destination was Lake View Fox Farm at Quilchena, B.C. He may have taken a circuitous route to Quilchena via the United States. There is a record of him crossing from Canada into the United States in 1928 (but no details). Several months later, on 6 June 1928, he crossed back into Canada, this time from Oroville, WA, bound for Quilchena. He stated that he was visiting his friend, W. Crompton, and that he was enroute back to Sweden.

He must have returned to Sweden quickly. By 28 October 1928, he boarded the SS Albert Ballin in Sweden, bound for Canada (with a stop in Hamburg along the way).

By 27 February, 1929, he was back on the Continent once again bound for the Americas. This time, he boarded the SS Berengaria in Cherbourg, France, bound for New York. In May 1929, he departed New York (having been in Winnipeg, Manitoba) for Sweden (Gothenburg). His ultimate destination was Helsingfors in Sweden.

On 7 December 1929, he boarded the SS Kungsholm in Gothenburg and arrived in Halifax on 14 December 1929. To the Canadian authorities, he stated that he had been in Canada between 1926 and 1927. He was a director and owner of the Fox Farm "Stora Vreta" in Uppsala, Sweden. He gave his occupation as "Fox Buyer". His destination is difficult to read as handwriting has been superimposed on the typewritten information. It is in Winnipeg and looks like "Alisted Ranch, Somerset ^Block
Room^ 846. It's likely meant to be: "Somerset Block, Room 846". Somerset Block was a multi-story building in downtown Winnipeg (294 Portage) that housed offices. Caroli was traveling inland on the CNR (Canadian National Railway).
Extract from Canadian arrival record of Gösta Caroli on 14 December 1929 in Halifax (from Ancestry)
Extract from Canadian arrival record of Gösta Caroli on 14 December 1929 in Halifax
(from Ancestry)

It's pretty clear that Caroli traveled back and forth between Sweden and Canada. Whether he took on Canadian citizenship is unknown. He would appear to have been a dealer in foxes and fox fur pelts. He may have brought breeding pairs from Sweden to Canada, or vice versa.

Within Canada, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and the Nicola Valley (British Columbia) all had a thriving fox fur industry in the 1920s and 1930s. I found numerous online references to fox farms in the Nicola Valley (in which Quilchena was located). I even found a reference to William Crompton, a well-known fur farmer in the area who passed away in 1947. Crompton was likely the "friend" that Caroli was visiting in Quilchena in 1928.

A web page about mink farming history in British Columbia noted that:
W. Crompton of Quilchena had an advertisement in the May 1925 issue of the Fur Trade Journal, offering to buy live wild mink, marten and fisher
 A book about the History of the Church in Merritt (a few miles from Quilchena) noted that:
Another industry that is fast becoming an important factor in the economic life of the valley is that of Fox Farming. Starting on a small scale in 1921 with sixteen pairs of the best variety of silver foxes the "Merit Fox Ranch" operated by J. J. Gillis has now in the neighbourhood of three hundred animals in pens that cover almost two acres of ground. The farm is ideally located in the foothills two miles east of the city at an altitude where the winter temperature is just right ofr the production of the finest fur. Plant and animals together represent about sixty thousand dollars in value. Messrs. Charles and Edgar Collett are in charge of the farm. The other breeders in the district are A.E. Axton, W. Crompton [emphasis added], J. Guichon, Mrs. Marshall, Isaac Millar, Mrs. Eric Gavelin, all of whom are having good success. Merritt is headquarters of the B.C. Fox Breeders Association.
 By 1929, there were apparently 1200 foxes being farmed in the area and the industry was worth in the hundreds of thousands of dollars (quite an amount back then). In 1928, the Summerland Review noted that:
One fox farmer near Merritt is realizing $20,000 from a twenty-pair shipment to Sweden. Another fox breeder, the mayor of Merritt and M.L.A. for Yale, is shortly to ship thirty pair to France. It is evident that the market is world wide.
Caroli was obviously involved in a profitable industry although, one wonders what happened when the bottom fell out of the stock market ushering in the Great Depression.

The Nebulous 1930s
I had a look in Caroli's MI5 file, a severely redacted file of "selected historical papers". There isn't much in there and Caroli's name is always blanked out.

Gösta Caroli (From Danish website on Wulf Schmidt)
Gösta Caroli
(From Danish website on Wulf Schmidt)
He apparently told one MI5 officer (KV 2/30, no. 45b) that he had had rheumatic fever as a child and been bed-ridden for two years. The officer therefore considered it unlikely that Caroli could have subsequently lead the active life that he claimed: trekked across the "Eukon" (probably the Yukon, one of Canada's northern territories) in the middle of winter during a meteorological survey; participated in an expedition across Greenland and been part of an arduous Himalayan expedition. Caroli also claimed that he had been arrested in Russia and accused of spying, but proved not guilty and released. Quite the story. Whether any of this is true or not is debatable.

In the late 1930s Caroli claimed to have worked as a journalist, even spending time in Birmingham and spying for the Abwehr before the war. He also apparently worked as a seaman and was found with a seaman's book in 1940.

After agreeing to work as a double-agent for MI5 (in exchange for the life of his friend and fellow spy Wulf Schmidt (double agent TATE), Caroli (now double agent SUMMER) sent doctored wireless transmissions to Germany. He did not, however, handle his captivity well and in November 1940 severed both radial arteries in his wrists with a razor. He survived and was continued to be employed as a double agent by MI5. In mid-January 1941, however, he cracked again when he over-powered his guard and escaped on a stolen motorcycle. He didn't get far and was interned for the duration of the war.

I also remember reading (somewhere) that Caroli had ongoing issues with his neck due to the wireless case smashing him on the chin when he landed by parachute in September 1940. Even after the war, he was trying to seek compensation (from the Germans or the Swedes?) for his injury.

A Repatriated Double Agent
According to the MI5 files, Caroli was repatriated to Sweden on 25 August 1945 (KV 2/2593). On 24 November 1946, Gösta Caroli married Greyta (Greta) Bergmann (born 15 March 1914 in Bro, Stockholm) in Landskrona.

Marriage registration of Gösta Caroli and Greta Bergmann - 1946 November 24 (from Ancestry)
Marriage registration of Gösta Caroli and Greta Bergmann - 1946 November 24
(from Ancestry)
A couple of years later, on 21 May 1948, the couple had a son in Landskrona: Claes Caroli (still alive).

Claes married Kerstin Margareta Elisabet Larsson and the couple had two sons: Christian Nils Peter Caroli (born 1981) and Stefan Claes Gösta Caroli (born 1983). Stefan runs Camp Caroli, a lodge in Swedish Lapland which offers wilderness tours.

According to the Swedish Death Book (Sveriges död bok), Gösta died in Asmundtorp, Sweden on 8 May 1975. His wife, Gretya died 22 July 1975 in Asmundtrop, Sweden.

Family Chart of Gösta Caroli and his son (Claes Caroli) and grandsons (Christian Nils Peter Caroli & Stefan Claes Gösta Caroli) (from Ancestry tree of hschneidau1)
Family Chart of Gösta Caroli, his son (Claes Caroli) and grandsons (Christian Nils Peter Caroli &
Stefan Claes Gösta Caroli) (from Ancestry tree of hschneidau1)
There would seem to be incontrovertible evidence that Gösta Caroli was indeed sent back to Sweden, where he married, raised a son, and died in 1975. His son, Claes is still alive and apparently provided photographs of his father (Claes Caroli) to Tommy Jonason & Simon Olsson, the authors of Agent TATE: The Wartime Story of Harry Williamson.

Cover of 2015 book by Simon Olsson and Tommy Jonason "Gösta Caroli - Dubbelagent SUMMER"
Cover of 2015 book by Simon Olsson
and Tommy Jonason "Gösta Caroli -
Dubbelagent SUMMER"
In their book on TATE, Jonason and Olsson reference an unpublished manuscript: "Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer". It would appear that this manuscript was published in 2015 by Vulkan press, unfortunately in Swedish.

Ancestry.se - family tree from hschneidau1
Ancestry.ca - passenger and immigration lists
ScanGen forum
Rootschat - discussion about W. Crompton
Merritt Morning Market - has a brief synopsis from the Nicola Valley Museum
Summerland Review -  news article about fur farming in the Nicola Valley
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church - Souvenir Book - December 1923 - details the history of the churches in Merritt BC and a bit on the area's industry
Denton History - The Spy from the Sky - story of Gösta Caroli's landing and capture
Agent TATE: The Wartime Story of Harry Williamson by Tommy Jonason & Simon Olsson (2011).

P.S. The Nicola Valley Museum used to have a blog which had an article entitled: "Fox Farming: A Once Booming Industry in the Nicola Valley" (2013 02 20). Unfortunately, they have changed the hosting provider of their website and blog and the link no longer works. The Internet Archive Wayback Machine only archived the stub of the article, not the "Read More" part.

28 September 2018

The German Spy and the Russian-Jewish Chessmaster

Café Trumpf in Berlin circa 1936
Café Trumpf in Berlin circa 1936
It always amazes me, the tangential relationships I discover that touch on the Josef Jakobs story.

On 13 June 1941, during an interrogation with Camp 020 officer, Lt. George F. Sampson, Josef mentioned that:
Dr. Paul List, a Russian Jew who immigrated to Germany, can confirm that I am anti-Nazi. List is a professional chess player and owned a club in the Café Berlin in the Kurfürstendamm in 1931 and then later a club in the Café Trumpf. (The National Archives, KV 2/25, no. 94b)
A few months ago, I did a bit more digging on the mystery Dr. Paul List, just to see if the guy existed and if there was any truth to Josef's story. Here's what I found...

Dr. Paul List
Paul List - from CHESS, 24 December 1954.
Paul List - from CHESS, 24 December 1954.
Paul (Pavel) M. (Odes) List was born 6 December 1887 to Jewish parents in Memel (Klaipeda) Lithuania. Paul lived in Lithuania and apparently studied at the Wilna University until 1908, when he moved to Odessa, Ukraine to study at Odessa University.

Paul was already a respected chess player and contributed to the revival of chess in Ukraine. In 1908, he took first place in the Odessa championship, qualifying for the All-Russian Amateurs tournament.

His real family name was Odes but because letters address to Odes in Odessa was confusing, he changed his family name to List.

From 1911 to 1918, List played in several Russian tournaments. By 1920, the Soviet Red Army had invaded Ukraine and taken possession of Odessa. In the face of political unrest, many Ukrainians fled abroad. Given List's birth in Memel, where German was one of the two main languages, List decided to flee to Germany.

Café Wien, Kurfüstendamm, Berlin
(Phot. E. Leitner, Berlin-Charlottenburg [Public domain]
via Wikimedia Commons)
By 1926, List had settled in Berlin and with the help of friends, built up a chess centre which soon became famous. He gave lectures, played in chess tournaments and published a weekly chess column.

In 1929, List was working as a  chess room manager in Café Wien at 26 Kurfürstendamm, owned owned by Hungarian-born Jewish businessman Karl Kutschera. Albert Einstein apparently spent time in the chess room at the Café Wien.

By 1932, List had moved a few buildings over and was the director of the chess room in Café Trumpf at 10 Kurfürstendamm. At the opening of the chess room on 14 November 1932, List and another player (Saemisch) played 38 simultaneous games.

The rise of Nazism soon put a damper on List's activities in Germany. In early August 1936, List visited Kaunas (Lithuania) and helped prepare the Lithuanian chess team for the unofficial Olympiad in Munich. From Kaunas, List traveled to England and played in the 1936 Nottingham Chess Congress).

Erstes Romanisches Haus - housed a cinema
and Café Trumpf from 1923-1943 (postcard circa 1940)
In October 1937, List restored his Lithuanian citizenship and received a Lithuanian passport. By the end of the year, he had settled in London, England, although he kept his Lithuanian citizenship.In 1939, List was living in Belsize Square in Hampstead with his wife Stephanie. His family name was noted as: List-Odess.

List became an art dealer in England, but chess remained one of his foremost activities. List played in many chess tournaments over the coming years but didn't place first often, although he was a great defensive player.

On 22-25 May 1953, the 65 year-old List, who was also ill, finished first in the British Lightning Chess Championship (10 seconds per move). He was, however, not awarded the champion title, since he was not a naturalized Briton.

List died on 9 September 1954, at the age of 66 in London.

The German Spy and the Jewish Chessmaster
It would appear that Josef was telling the truth when he told Lt. Sampson about Dr. Paul List and the Café Trumpf. There is some discrepancy as Josef mentions that List ran a chess room at the Café Berlin while chess history sources mention a Café Wien. This could simply be a faulty memory on Josef's part. Or perhaps, there was a Café Berlin at which List also spent time.

There is no evidence in the MI5 files that the interrogation officers visited Paul List and questioned him about Josef Jakobs. They did question Frau Lily Knips, a German-Jewish refugee in London, whom Josef had known in Berlin. They also questioned Frau Clara Gronau, another German-Jewish refugee from Berlin whom Knips suggested might know Josef. It's not clear why they never questioned the Russian-Jewish chessmaster about Josef Jakobs.

Paul List Biography - wonderfully detailed with many references
Photograph of Paul List in 1946
Bio Bits and Photographs of Paul List
British 1939 National Registration
Memorial Plaque site for Cafe Wien - has a pdf that gives a bit of Karl Kutschera's history (German)
Final Sale: The End of Jewish-owned Business in Nazi Berlin - has a couple of pages on Kutschera

24 September 2018

Robin W.G. Stephens and the Wana Column (1920-1921)

I have written a series of blog posts about Robin W. G. Stephens as he played a pivotal role in the Josef Jakobs story as commandant of Camp 020 interrogation centre. A couple of months ago I had a fascinating email exchange with Nick Hinton, a former commander of the 2nd Gurkha Regiment, and now involved with The Royal Gurkha Rifles Regimental Association (RGRRA). Hinton has been researching the story of Robin W.G. Stephens who, before becoming involved with Camp 020 during World War 2, served with the Gurkhas the late 1910s and early 1920s.

From Stephens' biography on the Frontier Medals site, we know that, on 15 April 1919, he was commissioned into the the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Gurkha Rifles as a Second Lieutenant. That same bio notes that on 12 June 1920 (after being promoted to Lieutenant), Stephens was detached from his regiment and served as General Staff Officer 3 with the Wana Column until 15 October 1921, and again from 3 November 1921 to 27 December 1921. The Wana Column was a reinforced brigade that was sent to reoccupy the town of Wana (Waziristan - now part of Pakistan) in 1921. Stephens was even Mentioned-in-Dispatches "for distinguished service during the operations in Waziristan (April 1921 to December 1921) (London Gazette - 12 June 1923).

In compiling information on Stephens for a regimental magazine article, Hinton researched the Wana Column and discovered that the Peter Harrington Gallery in London had a photograph album of the column for sale (£2250). According to the gallery's website:
Wana Column - album of photographs  (from Peter Harrington Gallery website)
Wana Column - album of photographs
(from Peter Harrington Gallery website)
Superb photograph album documenting the British reoccupation of Wana and the end of the 1919-20 Waziristan campaign in over 80 intimate original snapshots, supplemented by a run of atmospheric professional photographs from Holmes's souvenir series, "With the Wana Column", and several group officer portraits, all meticulously captioned and forming an exceptionally rich portrayal of British operations in the region which from the First World War to Independence "dominated events on the North West Frontier, politically and military" (National Army Museum, online).
The photographs were taken by Randolph Bezzant Holmes (1888-1973), a British photographer who appears to have served as  a semi-official photographer for the British Army in India. The gallery website notes that:
His impressive photographs depict the progression of the Wana Column from Jandola, through the Shahur Tangi gorge to Haidiar Kach and Sarwekai camps, thence to Dargai Oba, Rogha Kot, and finally Wana, with photographs of the fort, environs, Wazir hostages, and three group officer portraits; the captions include informative details regarding the landscape, conditions, British engagements with the Wazirs, and indicate the neighbouring stations in each direction en route.
 Hinton visited the Peter Harrington Gallery in Chelsea and was able to take pictures of some of the well-captioned photographs in the album and discovered that a few included a young Robin Stephens. The lighting in the shop was not great, but Hinton was still able to get some pretty good images. Stephens would have been 21 years old in these photographs.
Photograph of officers from the Wana Column circa - Robin W.G. Stephens is at far left. (photograph courtesy of Nick Hinton)
Photograph of officers from the Wana Column circa - Robin W.G. Stephens is at far left.
(photograph courtesy of Nick Hinton)

Photograph of officers from the Wana Column circa 1921 - Robin W.G. Stephens is standing at right. (photograph courtesy of Nick Hinton)
Photograph of officers from the Wana Column circa 1921 - Robin W.G. Stephens is standing at right.
(photograph courtesy of Nick Hinton)
These are amazing photographs and I am grateful to Hinton for tracking them down and graciously sharing copies of them. On the other hand, both Hinton and I are still stymied by Stephen's ultimate demise. It is still a mystery.

20 September 2018

New Fiction Book - Traitor, Lodger, German Spy by Tony Rowland (2018)

The Book
Traitor, Lodger, German Spy, Tony Rowland. APS Publications, 2018. 

You can't spend years researching one of the WW2 spies (Josef Jakobs) without getting sucked into the stories of the other spies! One of the most fascinating stories is that of Jan Willem ter Braak, the alias of Dutchman Engelbertus Fukken

He landed via parachute in early November 1940, near Bletchley Park. He made his way to Cambridge where he managed to fly under the radar of the authorities for several months. In late March, 1941, likely after running out of funds, Ter Braak shot himself in a Cambridge air raid shelter.

At least that's the official story. There are many unanswered questions about Ter Braak: did he manage to contact the German Abwehr using his wireless transmitter, what was his mission, were other spies dispatched to England to supply him with funds, was it really suicide, how could he have escaped MI5s watchful eyes?

While non-fiction writers are left to piece together very flimsy fragments of fact... fiction writers can develop the story in strange, wonderful and intriguing directions. Such is the case with a new fiction book by Tony Rowland entitled Traitor, Lodger, German Spy. Tony takes the factual framework of the Ter Braak case and then runs with it. I've had the privilege of reading an early draft version of the manuscript and the story has only gotten better since then!

You can check it out on Amazon.co.uk here... ebook is only £1.99!

15 September 2018

Adventures in Publishing - Manuscript Submitted to The History Press

Tower of London (copyright G.K. Jakobs)
Tower of London (copyright G.K. Jakobs)
Today was D-Day... submission day of the manuscript. The last few weeks have been serious nose-to-the-grindstone... tidying up all the loose ends and doing multiple re-reads and corrections. After all that activity, it was kind of anti-climactic to hit the "Send" button with two documents (manuscript and photo captions) and twenty photographs. There were no sparklers or choirs singing at 5:55 am but it felt good.

I have a strong suspicion that this is simply the eye of the hurricane and that there will still be much work before a hold an actual book in my hands. But for the moment, I will relish this moment of accomplishment and a sense of completion.

I did have a heck of a time paring down the photographs to a mere twenty. I had so many options and had to prune ruthlessly, which was hard.

The same could be said of the manuscript. I had incorporated many lovely mini-bios of the interesting characters I have encountered in researching Josef's story (and published on this blog). Most of those ended up on the cutting room floor with the exception of a few key ones. That too was not an easy decision. On the other hand, I have a lot of anecdotal stories to share during interviews.

Another ongoing challenge has been my seemingly insatiable need to do more research. Just a bit more research... At some point though, I needed to draw a line... otherwise this book would never see the light of day!

One thing I've learned is that it is always (ALWAYS) better to have too much detail rather than not enough. Case-in-point... footnotes/end notes. Ninety percent of my sources were from The National Archives. A source might look like: KV 2/25, no. 65a, 15/04/1941, report by Stephens. File, folio, date, description. That's how I've run with it in the manuscript. For a while though, I was not the most consistent kitten in the litter... and that has been a major headache. I could have just gone minimalist and left it as: KV 2/25. But... I realized quickly that documenting the sources as precisely as I could really, seriously helped me as I did my fact-checking run through the manuscript. Which meant I needed to fill in the gaps on some of the sources. So... better to over-document a source than not. Word to the wise for next time.

Finally, working on the Acknowledgements really brought home how many people have helped me over the years. It's a long list. From the pharmacist who helped me decipher Josef's prescription at the Tower of London to the brave souls who read various iterations of the manuscript to Nigel West and Winston Ramsey who opened the door. Gratefulness to all involved.

I intent to resume my regular blog posts. I have a backlogged series of post ideas that have been yammering to get written.

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.