31 January 2018

Wanted: Parachute Spies - No Training Provided

Seventy-seven years ago, in the evening of January 31, 1941, Josef Jakobs left Schipol Aerodrome on the Continent in the belly of a matte-black HE-111 aircraft. Less than two hours later, he parachuted into England with a wireless transmitter strapped to his chest. He injured his right leg during his exit from the aircraft, smashing it against the side of the trapdoor opening. His right leg was further damaged when he landed in a freshly ploughed potato field near Ramsey. Unable to move, he hunkered under the thin silk of his camouflaged parachute, awaiting the light of day.

Josef had never parachuted before that fateful day in 1941. In fact, he had never even practiced a parachute jump. His spy handlers with the German Abwehr didn't even give him any ground training. They told him that a practice jump would make him more nervous the second time around, and that the first jump was often "lucky". One could wonder if those handlers had ever experienced a parachute jump.

In 1984, I took parachute training and jumped out of an aircraft. It was the most terrifying experience of my life, and the most exhilarating. It also came with a fair degree of preparation.

My parachute jump would be with a static line. The rip-cord of the main parachute is attached to the aircraft with a static line which deploys the parachute. During 6 hours of Ground School, we learned: how to exit the aircraft safely by arching our body, how to check if our main chute had deployed, how to release the main parachute (in case it deployed incorrectly or in case we landed in the river), how to pull our emergency parachute ripcord, how to use the steering toggles on the parachute (mostly for rotation) and, most importantly, how to land correctly. Watching YouTube videos, one might be tempted to think that landing via parachute is a light and easy thing. It is not.

Here's an example of a soft landing with a RAM parachute.

Expert parachutists can use the toggles to flare just before landing, which reduces their speed, and allows for an elegant and light touchdown. It is a tricky procedure to perform correctly and only works with RAM parachutes (square/rectangular parachutes), which were only developed in the late 1960s. During World War 2, paratroopers and espionage agents like Josef used round parachutes, which are much less maneuverable than RAM parachutes. The landing is also much trickier.

Here's an example of a bad landing...

Here's an example of a better landing...



In order to land safely with a round parachute, one must practice the five point parachute landing fall. As you approach the ground, feet are together, knees slightly bent, grasping the risers with your hands. As you land, you tuck your elbows along the side of your body, throw your body sideways and roll so that your body contacts the ground in the following order: balls of feet,side of the calf, side of the thigh, side of the hip/buttocks, side of the back. Basically, you're trying to land on your major muscle groups - your soft, padded bits. It doesn't look elegant but executing a correct parachute landing fall helps to prevent injuries to feet, ankles, legs, hips, or upper body. It is actually quite counter-intuitive. Often, when we trip or fall, we instinctively react by trying to reach out and brace ourselves with our arms or legs. Hence the number of broken wrists and elbows in the winter when icy sidewalks make their presence known.

During my Ground Training, we spent quite of time practicing how to throw ourselves from a level standing position to the ground, practicing the five point contact rule. Once we were comfortable with that, we stood on the tail-gate of a pick-up truck (about 3 feet off the ground) and jumped onto the ground as if we were landing with our parachute. In actual fact, landing with a round parachute is more like jumping from shoulder height onto the ground. Still, it gave us a sense of the jarring force of contact with the ground and the importance of the five point throw and roll maneuver.

After Ground Training, we were loaded into a small aircraft, something like a Piper Super Cub. Once we reached the drop altitude (about 5000 feet), the instructor opened the modified door and called each of us forward. In order to exit the aircraft, a static line was connected to the main ripcord on my parachute, I then braced myself in the doorway, leaned forward and grasped the wing strut and let my feet leave the safety of the aircraft. I was essentially hanging off the wing strut, floating horizontally in the slipstream. My instructor gave me the thumbs up and I let go of the wing strut. The static line deployed the canopy very quickly and a quick glance convinced me that it had deployed properly. I swore the whole way down. As I saw the ground approaching, I got into the landing position: legs tight together, knees slightly bent, hands holding the risers. The landing was much more jarring than jumping off the pick-up tailgate! But I managed a safe five point landing and broke no bones, although I did have some bruising.

This video of a round parachute landing gives a bit of a sense of what it's like. The landing piece starts around 2:20 into the video and gives a good sense of the speed with which one approaches the ground.


Now... here's the thing. The German Abwehr somehow seemed to believe that their espionage agents could be successfully parachuted into England despite the fact that they:
  1. Had no parachute Ground Training
  2. Practiced no parachute jumps or landings
  3. Were expected to land at night
  4. Were dropped over unseen and unfamiliar territory
  How did the parachute spies from 1940/41 make out?
  • Wulf Schmidt - injured his ankle and wrist during his jump
  • Gosta Caroli - was knocked out upon landing when the wireless transmitter strapped to his chest hit him on the chin
  • Hans Reysen - a member of the Lehr Regiment - landed successfully
  • Engelbertus Fukken (a.k.a. Jan Willem ter Braak) - apparently landed successfully
  • Josef Jakobs - injured his leg leaving the aircraft and ended up with a broken leg
  • Karel Richter - almost landed on some houses - landed successfully
After Richter's arrival in May 1941, the Abwehr turned to other avenues to send spies to England, with one exception. In October of 1943, Nicolai Hansen parachuted into the Scottish Highlands from Norway. He eventually ended up at Camp 020 and told the MI5 officers that, in preparation for his mission, he had been taken to an airfield where he dressed up in full parachute gear and made several practice jumps from two tables stacked on top of each other. According to Hansen, his arrival in Scotland was a "perfect landing". It would seem that Abwehr handlers in Norway were more mindful of the benefits of parachute Ground Training for their agents.




Sources
National Archives - KV 2/1936 - file of Nicolai Hansen

26 January 2018

Josef Jakobs - Agent of the Abwehr or the Gestapo?

In March 2013, Alison Vale wrote an article for The Independent, which connected German cabaret singer Clara Bauerle with Bella in the Wych Elm. The article noted that Josef Jakobs was a "Czech-born Gestapo agent". Since then, numerous web articles, blogs and news articles have propagated that information. Unfortunately, that statement is not accurate.

Czech or German?
Josef Jakobs was born in Luxembourg of German parents. He was of German nationality and there is absolutely nothing within his files that would indicate any Czech-origins or familial connections. All of the information on Josef within the declassified MI5 files points to his German nationality.
National Archives - KV 2/24 - 9a - extract from the Personal Particulars of Josef Jakobs
National Archives - KV 2/24 - 9a - extract from the Personal Particulars of Josef Jakobs
The author of the Independent article may have confused Josef Jakobs with Karel Richard Richter, another Abwehr agent who landed via parachute in May 1941 near London Colney. Richter was born in the Sudetenland, a German-speaking area of Czechoslovakia. After the Sudentenland was "appropriated" by the Germans, his nationality became German. The declassified MI5 files on Richter make this very clear.
National Archives - KV 2/30 - 29a - extract from Personal particulars of Karel Richard Richter
National Archives - KV 2/30 - 29a - extract from Personal particulars of Karel Richard Richter
Abwehr or Gestapo?
The policies of the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi Party) were quite hideous. There is no question about that. But, it is sloppy logic to state that every German was a Nazi - i.e. a member of the Nazi political party. It is even sloppier to suggest that the Gestapo were behind the espionage missions of the spies who landed in England in 1940 and 1941.

Alison Vale claimed that Josef Jakobs was a "Gestapo-agent". This is inaccurate. The simple answer is that Josef Jakobs, Karel Richter and all of the Operation LENA spies who landed on the green shores of England were agents of the Abwehr, the military intelligence arm of the German Army. To claim that Josef Jakobs was a "Gestapo agent" is to fail to understand the difference between the Secret State Police and the Army. Let's dive into the complexities...

British Military Intelligence
Let's start with the United Kingdom in World War 2. Most everyone has heard of MI5, if only because of the TV show. MI5 was/is a branch of Military Intelligence that deals with counter-espionage. It is also known as the British Security Service or the British SS - and despite using SS as an abbreviation, there is no connection between the British SS and the infamous paramilitary SS (Schutzstaffel or Protection Squadron) of the Nazi Party. This may seem obvious but... sometimes the obvious is not so obvious. More on that later. During World War 2, MI5 dealt with spies against Britain, hence its involvement with the Abwehr agents who landed in England. MI5 also ran the Double-Cross system in partnership with other British intelligence agencies. Yep... there was many more... Naval Intelligence... Air Intelligence... Special Operations Executive (SOE)... MI19... and many more. Let's not complicated matters. Only one is important for our current discussion, MI6.

MI6 was/is the British Secret Intelligence Service, also known as SIS. MI6 essentially conducted/conducts espionage activities against other countries (mostly enemy countries but sometimes neutral or friendly ones).

The British Union of Fascists and an Alternate History
British Union Fascists - Sir Oswald Mosley (pulled from Pinterest - no other web reference found)
British Union Fascists - Sir Oswald Mosley
(pulled from Pinterest - no other web reference found)
Now, let's imagine that during WW2, in England, one of the political parties (let's say... the British Union of Fascists (BUF)) had created a paramilitary organization to provide "security" at political rallies. This paramilitary organization created its own intelligence gathering arm, its own policing arm, its own security arm... all designed to protect the BUF Party and identify enemies of the Party. Now let's imagine that this political party actually became the ruling party. Scary thought? Yep. Now imagine that, over time, the intelligence, police and security arms of the BUF Party began to come into conflict with the existing intelligence, police and security departments of England. Maybe the BUF would have absorbed the Special Branch of the Metropolitan Police into their own policing arm. Maybe they would have created a Secret State Police to keep watch over their political adversaries. And maybe... eventually... they would have come into conflict with MI5 and MI6. Because not everu English citizen or employee of the government was a member of the BUF Party. In fact, some citizens actually disagreed with the racist and fascist direction of the BUF. But it was dangerous to stand up to the BUF... people just disappeared from one day to the next.

Could never happen? It happened in Germany. And one can see flickers of it in some First World countries today. And the BUF Party really did exist in England and freaked out the authorities so much that many of the them were locked up. Civil liberties tend to wear a little thin when national survival is at stake.

So, back to Germany... the Nazi Party was a political party with its own paramilitary arm that had many security and intelligence departments operating in parallel to existing structures. Let's begin with the German Military.

German Military Intelligence
Admiral Wilhelm Canaris (from Wikipedia)
Admiral Wilhelm Canaris
(from Wikipedia)
After the Treaty of Versailles, the Germans were allowed a limited army and intelligence service, purely for "defence" purposes. So within Armed Forces High Command, we see a department called the Abwehr (to ward off). It had a fancy name, but the Abwehr was originally designed to "ward off" the espionage activities of other countries. So, essentially for counter-espionage purposes. Once the Nazis came to power in 1933, its focus changed and expanded to include espionage and sabotage.

From 1934 onward, the Abwehr was under the command of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris. He had been a naval officer during World War I and had a deep appreciation for the threat posed by Communism. Thus, when he took control of the Abwehr, he was favourably disposed to the Nazi Party to offset the threat of Communism. He very quickly began to see that the Nazi Party and its brutal methods ran counter to the honour of a Prussian officer and the code of military conduct. In 1944, he was removed as chief of the Abwehr and placed under house arrest. The Nazis suspected that he had been involved in the assassination attempt against Hitler. Canaris was hanged by the Nazis shortly before the end of the war.

Several authors have written recent histories of the Abwehr and Canaris which suggest that anti-Nazi sentiment ran high behind the doors of the Abwehr. The parallel intelligence gathering arm of the Nazi Party - the RSHA under Nazi SS officer Richard Heydrich (later Nazi SS officer Ernst Kaltenbrunner) - considered much of the Abwehr intelligence to be of limited value. In early 1944, the Abwehr was absorbed into the RSHA.

So, what of Josef Jakobs? He was recruited as an espionage agent by an Abwehr officer from the Hamburg Abwehr office. His training and mission were directed by the Hamburg Abwehr office. Technically, he was a member of the German military. The Abwehr I section was essentially the equivalent of Britain's MI6 - the British Secret Intelligence Service. And the Abwehr III section was essentially the equivalent of Britain's MI5 - the British Security Service.

OKW - Oberkommando der Wehrmachts (Armed Forces High Command) - General Wilhelm Keitel
     Abwehr - Amtsgruppe Ausland - Foreign Intelligence Branch - Admiral Wilhelm Canaris
          Abwehr I - espionage (foreign intelligence collection) - Colonel Hans Piepenbrock
               Gruppe I L (Luft) - espionage against foreign air forces
                    Ast X - Abwehr office in Hamburg within Wehrkreis X (military district X (10))
          Abwehr II - sabotage
          Abwehr III - counter-espionage

Paramilitary Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS)
So, what the heck is the Gestapo? The word is an abbreviation of Geheime Staatspolizei - Secret State Police. The Gestapo fell under the umbrella of the paramilitary Nazi Schutzstaffel... the infamous Nazi SS. Most members of the Gestapo were police officers or investigators and not necessarily members of the Nazi Party. However, over time, officers within the Gestapo were shaped by the cultural and political milieu. Generally, the Gestapo were involved in tracking down and breaking up resistance to the Nazi regime - trade unions, political parties, religious groups, student groups, etc - both within the borders of Germany and within the occupied territories.


SS - Schutzstaffel (Protection Squadron) - Heinrich Himmler - Reichsführer-SS
   RSHA - Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Office) - Reinhard Heydrich (until 1942)
      SD - Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS - Intelligence Agency of the SS & Nazi Party
           Inland-SD - interior intelligence agency of the SS
           Ausland-SD - civilian foreign intelligence agency of the SS
      SiPo - Sicherheitspolizei - Security Police
           Gestapo - Geheime Staatspolizei - Secret State Police
           Kripo - Kriminal Polizei - Criminal Police

SUMMARY
So, back to Josef Jakobs and Alison Vale's statement that he was a "Gestapo agent". I am not sure where she came across information in the declassified MI5 files that would indicate Josef was a member of any police force or that he was a member of the Gestapo. I have studied these files for 15 years and have to come across such a reference.

On the other hand, Josef's MI5 files are full of his account of how he was arrested in October 1938 by the Gestapo for his involvement in black market passport activities.

I also know that the MI5 case officers sometimes referred to the German spies who arrived on the shores of England as belonging to the German Secret Intelligence Service, German Intelligence Service or simply the German Secret Service. In some cases, the MI5 reports abbreviate these phrases to GIS (German Intelligence Service) or the German SS (Secret Service). It is easy to see how a cursory glance at such a document could lead some to believe that "German SS" was identical with the infamous "Nazi SS". Even then, as noted above, the Nazi SS is not synonymous with the Gestapo.

I have recently come across articles, blogs, podcasts and films that propagate and expand on the "Gestapo" and "Nazi" inaccuracies. Let's be clear, Clara Bauerle was not well-known to "high-ranking Nazi officers". She MAY have been known to low-level officers at the Abwehr's office in Hamburg. The terms "German", "Nazi", "Gestapo" and "Abwehr" cannot be used interchangeably. That would be kind of like using "American", "Republican", "FBI" and "CIA" interchangeably.

Disclaimer
The history of the Abwehr and the intricacies of the Nazi SS hierarchy are far more complex than presented here. I have necessarily focused on a narrow slice in time as it relates to Josef Jakobs and the Abwehr spies sent over as part of Operation LENA in 1940 and 1941. There are numerous books that document the history of either organization in far more detail than can be touched upon within this blog post. I hope that I haven't summarized to the point of error. Please let me know if I have!


Sources
Feldgrau - great series of posts on the organization of the Abwehr
Wikipedia - Oberkommando der Wehrmachts - gives an overview of the 4 OKW departments, of which the Abwehr was one
Wikipedia - Schutzstaffel - overview of the Nazi paramilitary organization which later absorbed many policing and security functions within Germany
Fighting to Lose: How the German Secret Intelligence Service Helped the Allies win the Second World War - John Bryden - 2014. 

22 January 2018

An Intriguing Stage Production of Bella in the Wych Elm

Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm - cover image from Pregnant Fish Theatre Facebook page
Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm - cover image from Pregnant Fish Theatre Facebook page

Back in December 2017, I received a fascinating email from Tom Drayton, Director of Pregnant Fish Theatre and lecturer at the Universities of East London and Worcester. Tom teaches archival performance which sounds kind of strange until you learn that he basically "teaches students how to engage with archival material and research through performance experiments whilst also adhering to ethical and moral complications that arise when theatre meets real people’s lives and histories". A different style of theatre!


For the past year, Tom, his students and the theatre company have been "obsessed with the ‘Bella’ case and the complex connections it has with a great many different topics both in Britain and beyond". Not surprising... Bella is a mystery rooted in obsession! Tom's intention for the project is to "explore theatre’s role in our current cultural fascination with True Crime, and find a way of ethically interpreting archival and historical sources".

Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm - cover poster
Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm - cover poster
Tom and his students have been exploring the case through material from the Worcestershire Archives, published books and internet resources – including my own blog on Josef Jakobs. My own interest in the Bella case stems from the fact that Josef's mistress, German cabaret singer Clara Bauerle, has been posited to be a candidate for Bella in the Wych Elm.

Tom and his group are going to create a stage production by only using text available within archival, published and online material. It sounds like an intriguing project in which there is no traditional script but simply quotes from published texts.

The show is going to have a run at The Space, a theatre in London, from March 13-17, 2018. The show will run about 60 minutes and tickets are available...

Check the Pregnant Fish Theatre Facebook page for more info...
Or visit their web page...
Or check out their project trailer on YouTube...
Or read their blog to get a sense of the background work that has gone into this piece...

Wish I could see it!

(They're doing a great job on promotion!)

17 January 2018

Book Review - The London Cage: The Secret History of Britain's World War II Interrogation Centre (2017)

The London Cage by Helen Fry (2017)
The London Cage by Helen Fry (2017)
The Book
The London Cage: The Secret History of Britain's World War II Interrogation Centre. Helen Fry. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2017.

Summary
The London Cage stormed into public view over 10 years ago (2005) when Ian Cobain published a provocative article in The Guardian - The Secrets of the London Cage. The article took the lid off and established that torture had been used at the London Cage. Cobain's follow-up book, Cruel Britannia (reviewed on my blog) pretty much put a nail in the coffin. Without a doubt, the London Cage, under the command of Lt. Col. Alexander Scotland, had been the scene of hideous events against members of the German Army as well as Nazi officers. What more could be said about it?

This past year, Helen Fry tackled the subject in a full-length book. The write-up sounded promising. An excerpt from the inside cover of the book jacket tell us that:
Until now, what has happened at the London Cage has remained a secret closely guarded by the Home Office. This riveting book reveals the full details of operations there as well as the subsequent efforts to hide them.

Helen Fry's extraordinary original research paints rich portraits of the interrogators and their prisoners, and gives disturbing, compelling accounts of daily life revolving around systemic Soviet-style mistreatment. Fry also provides sensational evidence to counter official denials concerning the use of 'truth drugs' and 'enhanced interrogation' techniques.

Bringing dark secrets to light, this groundbreaking book at last provides an objective and complete history of the London Cage.
The author devotes various chapters to such diverse topics as: Lt. Col. Scotland, interrogators, "guests", interrogation methods, truth drugs and various war crimes carried out against Allied forces by the Nazis. The book is not arranged chronologically, so each chapter tends to jump around a fair bit in time and space, with the exception of the war crimes chapters which are relatively coherent. The author takes great pains to point out how the information gathered at the London Cage between 1940 and 1945 helped Allied forces defeat the Nazis.


Review
I've read Lt. Col. Scotland's own memoir on the London Cage (reviewed on my blog) and I've read Ian Cobain's book on Cruel Britannia. I've read Lt. Col. R.W.G. Stephens' report on MI5's secret interrogation centre (Camp 020) where violence was ostensibly verboten. Stephens was working on the Camp 020 report while his subordinates were abusing prisoners at the Bad Nenndorf interrogation centre. I have to admit that Helen Fry's book was a bit of a challenge.

While the book is extremely well-researched, the presentation of the material, particularly in the first half of the book made me question the editorial process. In a nutshell, the material is poorly organized and disjointed. Space is devoted to introducing the well-researched background of minor individuals but these people are never referred to again. At times it feels as if material has been cut from the book, thereby affecting the continuity and flow of the narrative. The war crimes chapters were very familiar as they are described at some length in Scotland's own book. Without referring to the footnotes, it was difficult to tell what material was drawn from Scotland's unpublished memoirs (confiscated by the authorities before the abridged version was published) and what material was drawn from his published book. One chapter dealt with truth drugs but, other than the first and last paragraphs, made no mention of how truth drugs related to the London Cage. The only concrete evidence of truth drugs being used by Lt. Col. Scotland was when he showed up at Camp 020 with a syringe that he promised would make a prisoner talk (as noted in Guy Liddell's diaries).

Scotland is also quoted in various places as stating under oath:
...he [Scotland] permitted no violence during interrogation and nor were prisoners beaten to extract information. (p.205)

No physical force was ever used during our interrogations to obtain information, no cold water treatment, no third degrees, nor any other refinements. (p. 206)
I would have liked to see the author dissect these statements with a view to identifying any possible prevarications within them. Perhaps physical force was not used "during" interrogations but does that mean it wasn't used before interrogations or between interrogation sessions? Perhaps prisoners were not beaten "to extract information" but were simply beaten to soften them up prior to interrogation?

The book leaves a lot of questions unanswered but the author does note that "in times of war and extreme tension, moral boundaries can often become blurred". While there is no doubt that the interrogation results from the London Cage helped the Allies win the war against the Nazis and brought many war criminals to justice, one is left wondering... do the ends justify the means?

Or is justice a one-way street? High-ranking German army commanders were tried and found guilty for the crimes of their subordinates. And yet, in the face of overwhelming evidence that their subordinates brutalized prisoners in their charge, Lt. Col. Scotland and Lt. Col. Stephens were either not tried (Scotland) or were tried and acquitted (Stephens re: Bad Nenndorf).

As A.W. Brian Simpson noted in his book In the Highest Degree Odious (1992) - all power corrupts - particularly power exercised in secret (p. 412).


Review Score
3 out of 5 - well researched but disjointed narrative

12 January 2018

Bella in the Wych Elm - The Mysterious Anna from Claverley (a.k.a. Una Hainsworth)

Sherlock equipment
Sherlock equipment
What would Sherlock Holmes do with the Bella in the Wych Elm case? Had he handled the case in 1943 when the body was first discovered, I am confident he would have used his exquisite powers of deduction to eliminate the impossible and identify the solution, no matter how improbable it seemed. Alas... Sherlock Holmes is a mere fictional character but... knowing his modus operandi, I would tend to think that he would have tracked down the facts of the case. But, at this point, almost 75 years after the discovery of Bella's skeleton in the Wych Elm, the facts of the case are clouded by rumours, innuendos, assumptions, fallacies, inaccuracies and errors. I am no Sherlock but... I do tend to find it most annoying when people ignore the obvious facts, add to the rumours or perpetuate the inaccuracies. Is the mystery of Bella solvable? Perhaps not... but I do believe that some theories can be explored in more detail with a view to determining if they are "impossible" or simply "improbable".

With that in mind, let us put on our collective deerstalker hats, clench our meerschaum pipes in our teeth and have a closer look at a few of the pivotal clues in the case. Before we begin, much of what is to follow is based on the West Mercia Police files that deal with the Hagley Wood murder (a.k.a. Bella in the Wych Elm). The files were released to the Worcestershire Archives and are available for purchase. The conditions of release are rather narrow and I am therefore not going to be able to share full document images. We are therefore stuck with my own transcripts of the relevant documents. I have included the document references as provided by the Worcestershire Archives.

Anna of Claverley
Express & Star building Wolverhampton (www.historywebsite.co.uk)
Express & Star building
Wolverhampton
(www.historywebsite.co.uk)
Anyone familiar with the case knows that in the fall of 1953, an Express and Star columnist, Lt. Col. Wilfred Byford-Jones, using the nom-de-plume of Quaestor, wrote a series of sensationalist articles about the Hagley Wood murder.

A woman calling herself Anna, with a return address in Claverley, wrote a letter to Quaestor on November 18, 1953. The contents of the letter have been reprinted numerous times and run thusly:
Nov 18, 1953
My dear Quaestor,
Finish your articles re: the Wych Elm crime by all mean, they are interesting to your readers, but you will never solve the mystery.
The one person who could give the answer is now beyond the jurisdiction of earthly courts, the affair is closed and involves no witches, black magic or moon light rites.

Much as I hate having to use a nom-de-plume I think you would appreciate if you knew me.

The only clues I can give you are that the person responsible for the crime died insane in 1942 and the victim was Dutch and arrived illegally in England about 1941. I have no wish to recall any more.

(there is a last paragraph which references a "mutual friend" that, according to the police files and Quaestor, has nothing to do with the Hagley Wood murder. It has been scribbled out by pencil and is difficult to decipher. The Worcestesrshire Archives blog has images of both pages of this letter, for those interested in deciphering the last paragraph.)

Anna
On November 21, the editor of the Express & Star, B.E. Whiteaker sent Anna's letter to S. Inight, the Asst. Chief Constable, Count Police Headquarters, Worcester. The police were naturally quite interested in the letter and appealed to Anna to step forward. On December 3, 1953, Anna finally sent another letter to Quaestor, which read as follows:
3-XII-53
Dear Quaestor,

Had so much publicity not been given to 'Anna' I would have contacted you before.
I will meet you and officers of the Worcestershire C.I.D. at the Dick Whittington (it is beyond The "Stewponey" from Wolverhampton) tomorrow night (Friday) at about 8:30 p.m. and maybe I can help them with their investigations if they are still interested, subject to my conditions to which I think they will agree. You of course, will not advertise this meeting in your press.

You have had many wild goose chases during the last few days maybe this will be the last or the beginning of many who knows?

At the Whittington they have a bar on the left of the entrance called the "priest's hole".
Sincerely,
Anna
Anna meets the Police
Whittington Pub (now The Manor House of Whittington) Horse Bridge Lane, Whittington, Kinver, Stourbridge, West Midlands  DY7 6NY (www.pub-explorer.com)
Whittington Pub (now The Manor House of Whittington)
Horse Bridge Lane, Whittington, Kinver, Stourbridge,
West Midlands  DY7 6NY
(www.pub-explorer.com)
There is, unfortunately, no clear record in the West Mercia Police files of what transpired in the Whittington Pub on the night of December 4, 1953. All we have to go on is a newspaper article written by Quaestor on January 16, 1958. He had been sworn to secrecy by the police but, after seeing an interview with the pathologist on ITV, who stated that the woman had been identified, Quaestor felt free to tell the tale of the meeting with Anna from Claverley.

I have made a few notes [italics in square brackets] where the errors are too glaringly obvious not to mention.
It was late in April 1943, that the remains of Bella were found by three youths [there were four youth] in a hollow tree in Hagley Wood. A picture of what the girl had been like was soon built up by a pathologist and the robot figure he created told the police much—but not her name and address and the secret of her death.

No indication that either of these mysteries had been solved was given until recently, when a pathologist said of Bella in an I.T.V. programme: “After extensive inquiries by the superintendent (Detective Superintendent T. Williams, of Worcestershire C.I.D.) he was able to identify her. It was a classic piece of detection.”

So now a pledge I made to keep secret further facts of the death of Bella in the Wych Elm is purged, I can tell of my dramatic meeting with a woman who claimed to know how Bella died. It began with the receipt by me of a letter from a writer who signed herself Anna. It was marked urgent and gave what purported to be some of the facts of the murder. It is to these facts that the pathologist referred as the solution.

After the first I appealed to her through the Express and Star to meet me to discuss the crime.

It was obvious that she was afraid to do this since the facts she had given involved a relative. She said he was present when Bella, or to give her her full name, Lubella, died in what the writer knew as a bluebell wood. It was not until ten days later that “Anna” wrote again. She fixed a rendezvous in a way that could not have been more melodramatic if it had been written in a Dorothy L. Sayers detective story.

The place of the meeting was arranged in the Monk’s room at the Dick Whittington Inn, Kinver, at 8 o’clock one dark rainy night. No clue was given in the letter of how I should know “Anna”. She did not describe herself. All she said was “You will know me when you see me.”

Outside the inn I met Detective Superintendent Williams, a girl detective and a male detective shorthand writer. Singly we went into the Monk’s room, a quiet cell like place off the left of the corridor that led from the mitred back door.

Then a girl entered. She was tall and curvaceous and blonde. Her clothes were fashionable. She looked in astonishment when she saw three people [not four? three detectives and Quaestor] sitting expectantly, and without a word between them, in a quiet corner of the otherwise empty chamber.

She mounted a staircase, still looking at us curiously, but without a word or sign.

In ten minutes at least 20 girls entered, mounted the staircase, then descended and left.

All of them looked at us, it seemed, with apprehension and bewilderment.

Then I set off to investigate and I found that the stairs led to the ladies’ toilet.

The little earnest group of sleuths were too tense to see the humour of the situation.

All we knew was that one of the dozen girls had been Anna. The question was which?

Taking separate routes, the chief, the girl detective and I converged on the long bar in a room reached by descending several steps at the end of the corridor outside.

Here we searched among the female faces for a  guilty or a knowing look.

Chief Detective Williams, one of the smartest men in his line, found that he was converging on the same woman as I. She looked quickly first at me, then at him. Then she began to talk rapidly to a well dressed man who accompanied her. I did not hesitate.

The chief heard me say “Anna, I believe?” She caught her breath, nodded to her companion. “I’ll follow you back to the monk’s room,” she said. She and her companions [more than one? we only know of the well-dressed man] joined us five minutes later.

There followed for me, and I think, for the detectives, a fascinating half hour.

Anna gave us her name and address.

Speaking with great solemnity she told us that she had for ten years guarded her story with great secrecy. Only one person, her husband, who accompanied her, knew the story she was about to tell. No one else would ever have heard of it but for the fact that I had reopened the case. The details given, the new revelations made, had deprived her of sleep.

Then she told us her dramatic story, answering satisfactorily questions asked her without warning to check her grip on the facts. She gave us the name and address of an officer.

He had come to her one night in late April, 1943 [Bella was discovered in April 1943, not killed on that date]—in fact, on a day which was consistent with the expert assessment of the day of Bella’s death—and told her that something terrible had happened to him.

He confessed to her under secrecy that he had been with a friend, a male trapeze artist then appearing at [indecipherable word] Hippodrome, and a Dutchman, in a car.

The officer was driving it. Between the other two men in the back was Bella. Suddenly as the car was descending Mucklow-hill, Halesowen, something happened. The girl seemed to have collapsed. The officer stopped the car. The two men then told him to drive on. “She’s dead,” they told him curtly. The order to drive on was repeated, far more peremptorily than before.

The car was driven through the blacked out town of Halesowen, then Hasbury. Finally, after several tentative halts, he was told to turn to the right off the main Bromsgrove road. He found himself in Hagley Wood. [Looking at the map, the geography mentioned would indicate that the car was being driven from the northeast (from Birmingham) towards the southwest/west - through Mucklow Hill and Halesowen, then Hasbury to Hagley Wood. This does not naturally align with an assignation at the Lyttleton Arms pub just outside Hagley, followed by a body dump in Hagley Wood.]

Here the body of the girl known now as Bella, was carried out and the officer was called on to help stuff it into the hollow trunk of the Wych Elm.

“Anna” told us in a broken voice that the officer was terrified. Next night he went again to Hagley Wood to make sure he had not been suffering from hallucinations.

He came back late at night. “There’s no mistake,” he told Anna, “the body is there all right, just as we left it.” She said he had given the details exactly as I had done. She told her husband long ago.

Anna then said that the officer told her that he did not trust his two male companions of that tragic night. He said that he believed that the Dutchman was actually a Germany [sic] spy and he could not understand why the police did not pick him up. He and the trapeze artist asked him if he could give them details of the location of certain munitions factories. All these were concerned with the manufacture either of aircraft engines or aircraft accessories. Anna said the officer came home at times with large sums of money and he could not explain where he got it. One of these factories—he had not given the location of it—was later heavily bombed. The officer said that Bella or Lubella had entered this country illegally in 1941 “after Dunkirk.” He thought she worked for the spy as an emissary and had fallen foul of them or become dangerous. He said the girl was murdered.

Anna then said that the incident connected with Bella had such an effect on the life of the officer that he had had a nervous breakdown. He was taken to a mental home which she named, where he died.

Inquiries proved that such an officer had in fact died on the date and at the place stated.
Other facts were also verified, but the Dutchman could not be found although efforts to locate him were made in Holland.

It is impossible for me to say if the police ever discovered the whereabouts of the trapeze artist but M.I.5 was brought into the case. [This appears to be the first time that MI5 is referenced with regard to this case.]

Detective Superintendent T. Williams, when asked last year to comment on the case added to the air of prevailing mystery by saying: “I can’t make any comment about it at the moment. The case is still not closed. I do not think it would be advisable to say anything at the present time.”

But the pathologist who appeared on I.T.V. said about Bella: “But after extensive inquires by the superintendent he was able to identify her. It was a classic piece of detection.”
That is the tale that Quaestor, a journalist with a dramatic flair, preserved for posterity in a newspaper (likely the Express and Star, although this is not made clear in the West Mercia Police files). The question is... how much of what he said is actually accurate? Journalists generally tend to take a bit of poetic license with the facts in order to "make a good story". What sort of a journalist/writer was Quaestor?

The Lightening War - Wilfred Byford-Jones
The Lightening War -
Wilfred Byford-Jones
As it turns out, Wilfred Byford-Jones was a man of many talents: author, soldier and journalist. His published books span the 1930s to the mid 1960s and cover such varied topics as Middle Eastern conflicts, the liberation of Greece, Midlands stories, travelogues, oil production, and the Holy Land. Having never read any of Byford-Jones' books, it is difficult to determine how accurate and well-researched they were. In 1946, the Spectator Archive published a review of "The Resisting Greeks" and noted that it was descriptive and unprejudiced and based on Byford-Jones' own experiences in Greece. On the other hand, a 1967 Kirkus Review of Quest in the Holy Land, concluded that "As Biblical scholarship, the work is uninformed. As report of a journey, entertaining and instructive." Based on my review of Quaestor's articles on the Hagley Wood murder, I would suggest that a similar assessment can be leveled against Byford-Jones. His articles are entertaining and descriptive but not all that accurate or well informed. Quaestor's account of the meeting with Anna of Claverley, and the tale that she told is quite fantastic, but how much is fact and how much is fancy?

Police Statement by Una Hainsworth
Luckily, the police took a statement from Una Hainsworth, one that she signed as being accurate and truthful. Although it is unclear when this statement was made to police, other documents in the same file would suggest it took place in December 1953. The statement reads as follows:
Name: Una Ella Hainsworth
Address: Four Acres, Long Common, Claverley.
STATES:

I was married to Jack Mossop in 1932 and we went to live at the Bridge House, Wombourne. At that time he was studying to be a surveyor. 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.

My husband joined the A.S.T. in 1937 as a Pilot Officer and was stationed at Hamble, near Southampton.

In 1938 he commenced work for the Armstrong Siddeley Works Coventry and subsequently he went to work at the Standard Aero Works at Coventry (Banner Lane).

It was in 1940 that a man named ‘VAN RALT’ came to our house No. 39 Barrow Road, Kenilworth. I believe this man was Dutch and as far as I know he had no particular job, and I have a suspicion that he was engaged on some work that he did not wish to talk about, but in my opinion it might have been that he was a spy for he had plenty of money and there were times that my husband appeared to have plenty of money after meeting him.

It was either in March or April, 1941 that my husband came home and was noticeably white and agitated. This was at about 1 a.m. in the morning and he asked me for a drink. I made a comment that I thought he had had enough as he had been out all day but I gave him a drink. He then said he had been to the Lyttleton Arms with ‘VAN RALT’ and the ‘Dutch piece’ and that she had got awkward. My husband was driving the car, which belonged to ‘VAN RALT’, she got in beside him, ‘VAN RALT’ was in the back and then she fell over towards my husband, and he said to ‘VAN RALT’ that she had passed out. ‘VAN RALT’ told him where to drive to and they went to a wood, stuck her in a hollow tree. ‘VAN RALT’ said she would come to her senses the following morning, and as far as I know, my husband came home. He came home in ‘VAN RALT’S’ car which was a Rover.

I lived at Kenilworth until December 1941 and between April and December, my husband appeared very jumpy and it was noticeable that he had more drink than usual, and appeared to have more money to spend. He was nearly always away from work and this led to my suspicion that in some way, he was obtaining money and may have been meeting ‘VAN RALT’. I should mention that my husband had an old Standard Car of his own and he used to go off for days on end and I did not know where he was.

When I left my husband in December 1941 I went to Henley in Arden, and we lived there for ten years. We lived at Nuthurst House, Shrewley, near Henley in Arden, and we finally returned in 1951 to Kenilworth and came to our present address in August, 1953.

I saw my first husband Jack MOSSOP at Kenilworth on three occasions after I was forced to leave him in December 1941 and tried to get my possessions including furniture from the house and on one of these occasions, it would be the last time I saw him, he told me what I thought at first, was a further story to put me off and it was as follows: - That he thought he was losing his mind as he kept seeing the woman in the tree and she was leering at him. He held his head in his hands and said “it is getting on my nerves, I am going crazy”. It was about June 1942 when I heard that he had been taken to the Mental Hospital at Stafford where he died in August 1942. I was not informed of his death at the time and I did not attend the funeral because of this. The first I knew was when my present husband told me that an application had been made at the works claiming money that was due to him and sending a doctor’s certificate.

I had no knowledge whatever of the Hagley Murder until an article appeared in the Express and Star newspaper, neither had I read anything before which could in any way be connected with the incident I have told you about. I have not discussed the matter with anyone and it was not until I was reading the details and bearing in mind the possible date when the woman met her death that I, in any way, connected this with my husband’s statement to me in March or April, 1941, and because of the articles referring to witchcraft etc., I decided in the first place to write a letter and sign it ‘Anna’. I put sufficient clues in the letter which should have helped to have identified me and it was only because of a subsequent appeal in the newspaper and because I felt I ought to say what I know of this matter that I decided to arrange to meet you. I cannot add anything further and because I am now married again with three small children I hope that what I have said to you will only be used to aid the course of justice and it is this which has prompted me to take the action I have. I was not treated too well by my husband and do not wish in any way to rake up the past but if what I have told you will help you in this matter, then the foregoing statement has been made by me voluntarily and with that end in view.

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.

(signed) Una Hainsworth
No mention of trapeze artists... no mention of munitions locations passed on to suspicious folk... no mention of a Dutch woman who arrived illegally in 1941... no mention of a second visit to Hagley Wood... no mention of murder. Rather disappointing in fact when one compares it with Quaestor's fantastic recreation from 1958.

Police Notes on Una Hainsworth
Coventry Hippodrome (www.cinematreasures.org)
Coventry Hippodrome
(www.cinematreasures.org)
There are, however, some handwritten police notes which add a little bit of extra information to the official typewritten statement of Una Hainsworth. Some of the notes match information in the Quaestor article from 1958.  The notes are rather cryptic in places and generally point form, rather than complete sentences. Only the last item noted below has a date associated with it and while the green pen colour, paper and handwriting are all the same, it might be a bit of a stretch to assume that all of the notes were written on the same day. I am including only the notes that are relevant to the espionage theory.
  • met Van Ralt/Raalt twice in 1940 - did not work as far as she knows - plenty of money - Rover car which her husband used to drive
  • Coventry Hippodrome - man stage name Frack appeared there in 1938
  • Stayed at back house on left in Grosvenor R. Coventry - was a boarding house mile from theatre - after Mossop stayed at the house
  • finally left her husband Mossop in 13 Dec 1941 - he remained at Barrow Road, Kenilworth - fond of women. Women clothes in house. He was certified insane in June 1942.
  • Mossop was reared by his mother's mother - grandmother reared.
  • December 28, 1953 - Enquiries with Insp Morgan, Kenilworth reveal 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.
Summary
These then are the facts that we have. Much as Quaestor has a flair for the dramatic, I'm not entirely sure that we can rely on him for facts. It would appear that he is the source of the claim that "MI5 was brought into the case". At this point, having scanned all of the West Mercia Police files, I have found no indication that MI5 was involved. The police summary of the case, compiled in 2005, and accompanying the files released to the Worcestershire Archives also makes no mention of MI5's involvement. Despite the fact that many people/blogs/articles/stories have repeatedly stated that MI5 became involved after Una/Anna shared her information, no concrete reference to an MI5 case file has ever been produced. To date, it would appear that IF MI5 was involved (a very big "if"), then those files have not yet been released to the National Archives. All we have to go on is Quaestor's assertion which, given his ability to stretch the truth in other ways, might be a bit of a leap of faith.

Una's statement and the police notes (in green ink) have left us with a few other questions:
  • Van Raalt - was there such a person? What did the police discover about him?
  • Jack Mossop - various rumours state that he was an officer, wore an RAF uniform, died of an overdose at the insane asylum, etc. What is truth? What is fiction?
  • Julian Mossop - the son of Una and Jack - what became of him? Why is he listed in the West Mercia Police files as a "possible suspect"?
  • Frack - who the heck is Frack? The trapeze artist? Did the police track down any information?
West Mercia Police files - Hagley Wood Murder (Worcestershire Archives)
West Mercia Police files - Hagley Wood Murder
(Worcestershire Archives)
My own interest in this case lies in the direction of espionage and the manner in which Clara Bauerle has been conscripted as a possible victim. The story that Una tells, and her suspicions of espionage, seem to be at the root of the rumours that swirl around a "West Midlands espionage ring". In upcoming blog posts, I plan to tackle the four questions/characters noted above with reference to the West Mercia Police files on the case. Eventually, we will address the issue of a West Midlands espionage ring.



Sources
The West Mercia Police files were released to the Worcestershire Archvies and made available in 2016. The individual pieces of paper in each of the files were scanned in the order that they came out of the boxes and files. The jpg images are simply numbered sequentially, sometimes in batches/bunches, sometimes not. I have stuck with their system and reference it below. It is not clear why File 4 has a title of "Possible Victim Una Hainsworth".

Worcestershire Archives - West Mercia Police files - Original Documents:
  • Plastic Wallets - Anna's Letter - page 3b & 3a - Anna's first letter to Quaestor - Nov 1953
  • Plastic Wallets - Anna's Letter - page 4c & 4b - Anna's second letter to Quaestor - Dec 1953
  • File 4 - Possible Victim Una Hainsworth - pages 3a-3f - handwritten police notes (green ink)
  • File 4 - Possible Victim Una Hainsworth - pages 4a & 4b - Una's statement to police (Dec 1953)
  • File 9 - Press Cuttings 1943-1993 - Item 29 - 16 January 1958 newspaper article by Quaestor - newspaper is not named and title is truncated: "Kinver Inn Meeting sh... on mystery of... Bella" (Likely was something along the lines of "Kinver Inn meeting sheds light on mystery of Bella".

08 January 2018

Book Review - Cargo of Lies: The True Story of a Nazi Double Agent in Canada - Dean Beeby (1995)

The Book
Cargo of Lies: The True Story of a Nazi Double Agent in Canada. Dean Beeby. Toronto University Press, Toronto, 1995.

Summary
You know that saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover"? Well... that saying applies to this book! Looking at the cover, you might expect some semi-fictionalized fantastical pseudo-historical story but... the cover is misleading. Cargo of Lies is exquisitely well-researched and was a real pleasure to read.

Beeby, a Canadian journalist, managed to obtain the original police files on the case through Freedom of Information requests. Published in 1995, before the MI5 files were declassified, the book does have a few gaps, which the author freely acknowledges. A quick search on the National Archives website, however, reveals no files for the case. Interesting

Werner Alfred Waldemar Janowski
(from wikimedia)
As for the book itself, it tells the tale of two German espionage agents who were separately deposited on the coast of Canada from submarines in 1942.

Most of the book deals with Werner Alfred Waldemar von Janowski who landed near New Carlisle, QC, on November 9, 1942. Janowski aroused suspicions in the small community and was arrested the next day. A bit of a turf battle ensued between various agencies (Quebec Provincial Police, RCMP, Naval Intelligence) but when the dust had settled, Janowski was nestled in the firm, if tentative, embrace of the RCMP.

Despite having no espionage or double-cross system experience, the RCMP decided to try and run Janowski as a double agent (WATCHDOG). Even though there were numerous leaks in the press about the capture of a German solider/sailor/spy along the coast of Quebec, the authorities believed it unlikely that this would affect their double-cross plans. The naive Canadian intelligence amateurs eventually received some assistance from Cyril Mills, the MI5 case officer for double-agent GARBO. But... by August 1943, the case was dead in the water as it became clear that Janowski was likely a triple-cross agent.

He was quietly shipped off to Camp 020 in England where Major Robin W.G. Stephens and his team had a go at the hapless agent. Janowski was variously described as a "fluent and fertile liar" and a "loyal dissembling Nazi". He told the authorities several different versions of his history but, in the end, it was quite clear that he had been involved in the Nazi Party and that he was a well-trained and experienced sabotage expert. He remained at Camp 020 until the end of the war and was then shipped back to Germany.

Alfred Langbein (a.k.a. Alfred Haskins)
(on display at Canadian War Museum)
One chapter in the book is devoted to the tale of Alfred Langbein (alias Alfred Haskins). He was landed from a submarine in the Bay of Fundy in May 1942. Langbein was cut from very different cloth than Janowski however. Langbein had become disillusioned with the political situation in Germany and saw his mission to Canada as a way to escape the Nazis and, at war's end, bring his wife and children to a new country.

Upon landing, Langbein buried his uniform and radio transmitter. Despite his accent and out-of-date Canadian bills, he was able to make his way to Montreal and then Ottawa where he lived an unassuming life, attracting no attention.

On November 1, 1944, Langbein gave himself up to a Naval Intelligence officer and was passed along to the RCMP. Cyril Mills from MI5 was involved in the initial interrogation of Langbein. It quickly became clear that the poor German was being "straightforward and honesty throughout" as he recounted his story. Too stale to serve as a double-cross agent, Langbein was sent to an internment camp near Fredericton, NB and repatriated at the end of the war.

Review
What I found most interesting in both of these stories, was the stories that lay behind both men. They had both spend several years in Canada in the 1920/1930s and were familiar with the country. In that respect, they were both good choices for espionage missions to Canada. Janowski was also relatively experienced as he had participated in a sabotage mission in French Morocco and been involved in the invasion of the Lowlands in May 1940. Langbein, on the other hand, had apparently joined the Abwehr in an attempt to avoid being conscripted into the German Army. He was originally trained as an agent to be dispatched to England as part of Operation LENA in August 1940. On his way to Brussels, and with his third child about to be born, Langbein changed his mind and refused the mission. The Abwehr apparently handled his refusal quite well. Langbein recounted a conversation he had had with Karl Gartenfeld, the Heinkel 111 pilot involved in Operation LENA:
"On one occasion [Gartenfeld] told me that he considered his business of dropping parachute agents in England was the profession of a butcher."
Beeby's book provides quite a bit of information on how both Janowski and Langbein were prepared for their missions. Langbein's story in particular is of interest because of his tangential connection with Operation LENA. His list of equipment, identification papers, training, etc. are all of interest in comparison with the LENA spies. Interestingly, Langbein was told by his Abwehr superiors to get a haircut as soon as he arrived in Canada to eliminate the distinctive German hairstyle. Fascinating.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it very well researched and quite helpful. I found Beeby's writing style to be engaging. It isn't all "dry facts" and he weaves in the stories of various characters quite seamlessly. Given that news reports of the day, and even after the war, contained a lot of rumours and exaggerations, it is nice to see an account of the story that relies on original source documentation.

I do have to admit that Janowski has an unfortunate face and does rather fit the image of a "loyal dissembling Nazi"! I also find it interesting to read Stephens' description of the Janowski case from the Camp 020 book (edited by Oliver Hoare). Stephens' penchant for exaggeration and flamboyancy tends to shine through. According to Stephens, Janowski "attracted immediate attention by ordering a bath in his hotel, for in those northern regions no one bathed at that time of year". (FYI - latitude of New Carlisle QC is 48°N and the latitude of London/Camp 020 is 51°N.) It would appear that Stephens' well-documented xenophobia towards other nationalities may need to be expanded to encompass his disparaging comments about the hygiene habits of (filthy) colonial Canadians.

Review Score
5 out of 5 - well-researched and yet an easy, enjoyable and informative read.

03 January 2018

Book Review - Airborne Espionage - David Oliver - 2005

The Book
Airborne Espionage: International Special Duties Operations in the World Wars; David Oliver; The History Press; Stroud, Gloucestershire; 2005.

Summary
I came across this book last year and it has been on my "to-read" list for quite a while. Unfortunately, after reading several sections via Google Books, I have decided to take a pass on purchasing this book.

The book tells the tale of "Special Duties" air units that transported agents across enemy lines, both Allied and German. The focus does seem to lean more towards the air units than the espionage agents. I dug out the pieces on Josef Jakobs and Karel Richter, as those are the ones with which I am most familiar. They are, unfortunately, rife with errors and old information. The book was published in 2005, several years after the declassified MI5 files were released to the National Archives. It would appear, however, that the author is relying on pre-declassification information, much of which is inaccurate.

The propagation of the inaccuracies is one thing, but there are also spelling and continuity errors that annoy the reader. Below is the section on Karel Richter, transcribed from Google Books.

While 'Z' Flight was starting its clandestine operations in the Mediterranean, other German agents were continuing to be parachuted into England. SS Oberst [not sure where the author got this information, I have never come across an references that indicated Karl was a Colonel in the S.S.] Karl Richard Richter [His name is Karel, not Karl.] was dropped by a Kommando Rowehl [this would have been the German Luftwaffe unit that dropped the spies. I have only ever heard of Karl Gartenfeld.] He 111 from Chartres [Richter was sent from Schipol aerodrome near Amsterdarm] on 14 May [he actually landed on May 12] and landed near Tyttenhangar Park in Hertfordshire [I have not come across any references that mention this name], close to Salisbury Hall at London Colney where the ultra-secret prototype DH Mosquito was being built. A local reserve constable found him in a telephone booth, after a lorry driver had reported that he had been stopped by a man who had asked him directions in a foreign accent [nope, the lorry driver asked for directions and got suspicious when he got only mumbles in response]. Constable Alex Scott was shown an Alien's Registration Card in the name of Fred Snyder [actually, Richter showed him both the Alien's Registration Card and his passport] and suggested that the man accompany him to the police station, as it was approaching 2300 hours, when all aliens were required to be at their registered addresses.

Twenty-nine year old Snyder was searched at the police station and found to be carrying a Swedish passport [no, it was always a Czech passport] in the name of Karl Richter. MI5 was alerted and the next day Richter was taken to Hatfield police station to be interviewed by several MI5 officers, including Col. Stephens [No, Stephens never came to Hatfield - that was Dixon and Robertson. Richter was taken to Camp 020 where he was questioned by Stephens]. He soon caved in [Both Stephens and Sampson note that Richter was one of the most obstinate agents to pass through their hands and was only broken with the assistance of Josef Jakobs. This took several days.], admitted his real name and offered to show them where he had hidden his parachute and other items. Accompanied by policemen and MI5 personnel, Richter took them to the hedge in Tyttenhangar Park [not in Tyttenhangar Park]. Apart from the parachute they found a loaded Mauser pistol [Browning pistol, not Mauser], a quantity of money, documents, a wireless transmitter, batteries [I believe he was to buy batteries in England] and some spare valves. Also a Czech passport [correct, but was this in addition to the Swedish passport mentioned above, or is this just a continuity error?] in the name of Karl Richter was discovered. His story was that he had been trying to make his way to the United States, but was captured in Sweden and deported to Germany, where he was recruited by the Abwehr and sent to England as a courier. The tall, thin, red-headed Richter was tried at the Old Bailey on 21 October 1941 and executed at Wandsworth Prison on 10 December, without ever having revealed the true nature of his mission. [He did reveal his mission - deliver money to TATE and check up on his integrity.]
The section on Josef Jakobs follows:
While dedicated air support for SOE was slowly expanding, the insertion of German agents into the British Isles had virtually ground to a halt. [There were a slew of them deposited in the UK in the Fall of 1940.] Since the outbreak of war, this had been the responsibility of the Aufklärungsgruppe der Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe, a reconnaissance wing equipped with Dornier Do17s, Do 215s and He 111s. It was commanded by Oberstleutnant Theodor Rowehl, who was the Luftwaffe's equivalent of Sidney Cotton. His Gruppe which became known as the Kommando Rowehl, [again, I've only heard of the Gartenfeld group] dropped one of the few German agents into England in 1941, Josef Jakobs.

On the morning of 1 February two farm workers near Ramsey, in Huntingdonshire, heard a shot. [Several shots] They dropped to the ground. [They remained standing.] Earlier they had heard a low-flying aircraft [maybe during the night, although this is never mentioned in the files] and had recognised the distinctive desynchronized engine sounds peculiar to German twin-engine bombers. Another shot [several shots] rang out and a figure was spotted lying in a field nearby. As they approached, the man began to wave but remained lying down, obviously injured. When challenged he said he was a parachutist from Germany, had hurt his leg on landing and had fired his gun to attract help. Harry Coulson volunteered to stay with him [Charles Baldock stayed, Coulson went for help] while his friend went for help. The man told him that he was from Luxembourg and that under his Luftwaffe flying suit he was wearing civilian clothes, a smart suit of Continental cut, as was the felt hat which lay nearby. [It was on his head.] While  looking through the man's pockets [he did no such thing] Coulson found an identity card in the name of George Rymer [James Rymer] and an unused ration book; both proved to be forged. [These were only found when the Home Guard officers arrived and Josef was searched under their supervision.]

Coulson soon led a policeman and a member of the Home Guard to the field [Not sure how he could have done this since, according to the author, he had stayed with Josef. No mention of Harry Godfrey. A policeman did not accompany the Home Guard officers.] and the German was taken to the police station on a farm cart, along with his suitcase containing a wireless transmitter and batteries. At Ramsey police station the German was thoroughly searched; £500 in sterling banknotes was discovered, along with other items that indicated he was certainly not a refugee. He was taken to MI5s Camp 020 [actually Cannon Row Police Station, then Brixton Prison Infirmary, then an afternoon at Camp 020, then several weeks at Dulwich Hospital, then Camp 020 for a few hours, then Brixton Prison Infirmary, then Camp 020 for several months], where he told Col Stephens that his name was Josef Jakobs [he told this to the Ramsey police too], born in Luxembourg on 30 June 1898 and, although well over service age, he had been called up by the Wehrmacht as he had been on the reserve lists. In September 1940 he was transferred to the Abwehr for training in receiving and sending Morse code. Moved to Holland early the following year, Jakobs awaited news of a mission. He told his interrogators that all he had wanted to do was to get to England and contact the Jews, so as to organise a resistance movement against the Nazis. [He told them a number of stories at various points. This was not his initial story in early February.]

He was committed for trial as a spy, but as a member of the German Army he was entitled to a military hearing [court martial], which took place the Duke of York's Headquarters in Chelsea. The hearing [court martial] lasted two days; Jakobs was found guilty of espionage and sentenced to death. In his defence he mentioned that a Dr. Burgos had suggested he join the Abwehr as an agent for a secret Jewish society, but had not given him any further details. As his story could not be substantiated, the verdict stood. Josef Jakobs was taken to the Tower of London, where he was incarcerated in a cell at Waterloo Barracks [No, he was held at Wandsworth Prison until the morning of his execution.] while his appeal was heard by HM King George VI. It was unsuccessful, and on 14 August, [15 August] Jakobs was taken out to the small courtyard [rifle range] and seated in a chair, blindfolded, to face a firing squad. He was the only spy to be executed at the Tower during the Second World War.

Review
I haven't read this entire book. I did have a glance at some of the other spy cases - Wulf Schmidt, Gosta Caroli and Hans Reysen. They are similarly a mixture of fact and inaccuracies. The author seems to have focused more on the airborne aspects of World War 2, and he apparently relied on second-hand sources rather than checking the declassified MI5 files.

I cannot speak to the accuracy of the airborne sections other than to note that I have never heard of Kommando Rowehl in connection with the insertion of spies into England, only of Karl Gartenfeld. I searched for information on Kommando Rowehl and the German Wikipedia would seem to indicate that Rowehl primarily flew aerial reconnaissance (aerial photography) missions against the Soviet Union between 1939 and June 1941. A forum on AxisHistory notes that Rowehl also flew reconnaissance over Bulgaria, Egypt, Syria, the Caucasus and possibly high-altitude missions over Britain in July 1940. The forum contributers reference another book - KG200 - The Luftwaffe's Most Secret Unit by  Barry Ketley and Geoffrey J. Thomas - which looks interesting. A HistoryNet post also speaks of KG 200 and does note that Gartenfeld's unit was, up until 1942, part of Kommando Rowehl.Given a choice, I rather think I would read the KG 200 book than Airborne Espionage.