08 November 2019

The Mystery of Le Touquet Syndicate and Josef Jakobs

There are a few mysteries in Josef's MI5 files, and one of them lies in folder KV 2/25, folio 87a - a memo on 30 May 1941 from H.P. Milmo (B2c) to Mr. Hunter (B6)
Memo from Milmo to Hunter re: Le Touquet Syndicate Ltd. (National Archives - Security Service file - KV 2/25, folio 87a)
Memo from Milmo to Hunter re: Le Touquet Syndicate Ltd.
(National Archives - Security Service file - KV 2/25, folio 87a)
First off, it's important to note that the memo has Josef's Personal File number on it (P.F. 55039), which means it is definitely connected to his case file.

In the memo, Milmo requests particulars of the directors of the "Le Touquet Syndicate Limited". On 4 June 1941, Hunter sends the memo back with an added note to see the attached particulars from Somerset House.

The particulars comprise two pages of information on Le Touquet Syndicate, although the official scanned pdf from the National Archives only includes the first page. The photocopy of the file I obtained in 2003 has the second page, see below.

Briefly. Le Touquet Syndicate Ltd. was a company registered on 9 May 1903 with a nominal capital of £50,000 divided into £1 shares. The object of the company was to acquire the land known as Le Touquet near Calais in France. The first page lists the directors of the company while the second page outlines the distribution of shares.
Le Touquet Syndicate directors - page 1 of Hunter's report (from National Archives - Security Service file KV 2/25, folio 87a)
Le Touquet Syndicate directors - page 1 of Hunter's report
(from National Archives - Security Service file KV 2/25, folio 87a)
Le Touquet Syndicate shares and shareholders - page 2 of Hunters report (from National Archives - Security Service file KV 2/25, folio 87a)
Le Touquet Syndicate shares and shareholders - page 2 of Hunters report
(from National Archives - Security Service file KV 2/25, folio 87a)
They mystery lies in the fact that at no point in his interrogations does Josef mention Le Touquet Syndicate. In terms of its placement in the list of folios, this memo falls in that period when MI5 was investigating Niska, Roos, Wolpe and Lincoln Allan Smith. Is there a connection? It's not clear. But let's delve into Le Touquet Syndicate and see what we can find.

Le Touquet History
Allen & Florence Stoneham ca. 1915 at  Étaples, France (Flickr - Library of Congress - no known copyright restrictions)
Allen & Florence Stoneham ca. 1915
at  Étaples, France
(Flickr - Library of Congress - no known
copyright restrictions)
Le Touquet started off as an isolated moor inhabited only by wild animals. In 1837 , Alphonse Daloz and Alyon bought 1,600 hectares of land and tried to set up a distillery and potato industry. In 1855, after many failed attempts, Daloz succeeded in planting a pine forest on some of the land. In 1875, the owner of "Le Figaro" newspaper realised that the Le Touquet area would make a perfect seaside resort and the first villas were built in 1882, the beginnings of Le Touquet - Paris Plage (Paris by the Sea). It served mostly as a summer retreat and was deserted in the winter months, but that all changed when John Whitley and Allen Stoneham bought the land in 1902.

Whitley and Stoneham decided to base the resort on sports and the area acquired a casino, golf course, hippodrome and tennis courts

After the outbreak of World War I, Allen Stoneham offered the area of Le Touquet for the use of the British Armed Forces. Le Touquet, and its glamourous hotels, hosted several military hospitals for wounded British and Canadian troops.  After the war, Stoneham was awarded the Order of the British Empire. His business partner, John Robinson Whitley passed away in 1922.

Canadian Hospital at Le Touquet ca. 1915 (Flickr - Library of Congress - no known copyright restrictions)
Canadian Hospital at Le Touquet ca. 1915
(Flickr - Library of Congress - no known
copyright restrictions)
In the 1920s, Le Touquet reached its nadir and hosted princes and politicians, as well as the likes of Noël Coward and the smart set from England. Le Touqet's gaiety vanished with the outbreak of war and it achieved notoriety as the most mined town in France (130,000 mines). After the war, Le Touquet revived some of its liveliness with the creation of a small port. It was once again known as a year round resort and seaside destination of the Opal Coast.

Today, Le Touquet is still a thriving resort with a year-round population of 5,355 that welcomes up to 250,000 people during the summer. It has a reputation as the most elegant holiday resort in northern France, the favourite haunt of rich Parisians. Today, Le Touquet offers guests sand yachting, sailing, riding, three golf courses, a thalassotherapty spa, water park, discotheques, night clubs and casinos.

Le Touquet and the company founded by Stoneham and Whitley seem quite straightforward and benign, but clearly something about the company, or its directors, piqued the interest of MI5. The information that Mr. Hunter tracked down on Le Touquet Syndicate doesn't tell us much, but let's take a look at it.

Company Directors of Le Touquet Syndicate in 1941
On the 3rd of May 1941 the directors and shareholders were:
  • Mrs Florence Maine [sic] Louise Stoneham. British. Director of - St. Swithens Syndicate Ltd. [also connected with Le Touquet] (Appointed June 1916)
  • Donald Skyring Allen Stoneham. British. Director of - Tramways Syndicate Ltd. [Allen Henry Philip Stoneham had introduced electric trams to Western Australia] (Appointed May 1927)
  • Mrs Jean Monica Stoneham. British. No other occupation. (Appointed December 1939)
    • All the above are shown as, c/o Gordon Reid. St. Sauriur des Monts, P.Q. Canada
  • Vincent Allen Stoneham. British. RAF Station. Coventry. Air Force Officer. (Appointed April 1928)
  • Henry Cooke McAlister [sic]. British. 159 Nether Street, N. 12. Chartered Accountant. Partner - Monkhouse Stoneham & Co. (Appointed 5 August 1940)
It is clear that the Stoneham family was still involved with Le Touquet in 1941, although three of the directors would appear to have weathered part of the war in Canada. If we then look at the shareholders of the company, we see the same Stoneham family names pop up, as well as one more.

Shareholders & Shares in Le Touquet in 1941
According to the MI5 document on Le Touquet, there were some "dozens of shareholders in this company". The following were the largest holdings at the time of the last return prior to the MI5 report. A total of 50,000 shares were issued of which:
  • 15,000 shares split between
    • Donald Skyring Allen Stoneham. Address as above.
    • Henry Tudor Crosthwaite. Stockbroker - 10/11 Copthall Avenue. EC.2.
  • 13,484 shares split between
    • Donald Skyring Allen Stoneham. Address as above
    • Florence Maine [sic] Louise Stoneham. Address as above
    • Henry Tudor Crosthwaite. Address as above
  • 11,000 shares to Florence Maine Louise Stoneham
  • 3350 shares to Donald Skyring Allen Stoneham
  • 3400 shares to Vincent Allen Stoneham
  • 250 shares to Jean Monica Stoneham
  • 100 shares to Henry Cooke McAlister [sic]
That totals 46,584 shares leaving 3416 shares to be distributed between lesser shareholders. We now need to take a look at the Stoneham clan where we begin to see the relationships between the company directors and shareholders.

Stoneham Family
With one exception, all of the directors and major shareholders are members of the Stoneham clan, either by birth or marriage. The original co-founder of the company, Allen Henry Philip Stoneham, passed away in 1927 but his second wife, two children and two children-in-law were still involved in the company in 1941.

Allen Henry Philip Stoneham - 1856-1927 (co-founder of the company)
  • married 1882 - Jane Harley Cowie - 1853-1899
        • Irene Maude Stoneham - 1884-1947
          • m1905 - Henry Tudor Crosthwaite - 1871-1956  (major shareholder)
        • Linda Harley Stoneham - 1886-1965
          • m1911 - Bernard Cyril Windeler - 1887-1961
        • Phyllis Marjorie Stoneham - 1889-1958
          • m1912 - Roland Clive Wallace Burn - 1882-1955
  • married ???? - Florence Marie Louise [maiden name unknown] Stoneham - 1875-1950 (founder's second wife as well as director and major shareholder) 
        • Donald Skyring Allen Stoneham - 1903-1969 (director and major shareholder)
          • m1932 - Jean Monica McLean - 1908-1985 (minor shareholder)
        • Vincent Allen Stoneham - 1906-1982 (director and major shareholder)
          • m1946 - Jean M. (nee White) Hosken - 1916-?
That leaves us with Henry Cooke McAllister (1882-?) as director and chartered accountant, as well as a minor shareholder. He does not appear to be related to the Stoneham clan by birth or marriage. McAllister was born in Belfast Ireland in 1882 and by 1901 was already a chartered accountant in Ireland. In 1912, he married Eveline Emelie Kydd (1890-1974) in north London. McAllister served with the Army Service Corps during World War I and, given his background, he might have served as an accountant. After the war, his named appears in relation to the liquidation and bankruptcy of numerous companies, always as a chartered accountant.

I'm not going to delve into the Stoneham clan in any great detail but one item is of note. The co-founder's second wife, Florence Marie Louise Stoneham was born in Montreal, Canada around 1875-1880. This may explain why Florence, her son Donald and Donald's wife Jean (all directors) were apparently living in Canada (or the USA) in 1941.

MI5's Interest in Le Touquet Syndicate
On 11 June 1941, H.P. Milmo of MI5's B2c wrote a letter to Henry Cooke McAllister in which he stated:
Dear Mr. McAlister [sic],

I would very much like to have an early opportunity of talking to you about a confidential matter upon which I think you may be in a position to supply us with some helpful information.

Would it be possible for you to arrange a meeting either at the War Office or at any other address which would be convenient to you?

I will be most grateful if you will telephone me at the above number some time in the course of the next few days.
There is no further reference to Le Touquet Syndicate, the Stoneham's or McAllister in the MI5 documents in Josef's file. We are left with several mysteries:
  • What did Josef say that triggered this investigation into Le Touquet Syndicate?
  • Given the chronology of the investigation, did it have anything to do with Lincoln Allen Smith?
  • What became of Milmo's meeting with McAllister?
Conclusion
On the face of it, Le Touquet Syndicate seems like a completely innocent bystander in the espionage game. Somehow, their name got dragged into Josef's case, but the exact connection is still a mystery. My best guess is that something in the Roos/Wolpe and Lincoln Allen Smith investigation caused MI5 to look at Le Touquet with more interest. It is clear from marginal notes in Josef's case file that Lincoln Allen Smith had his own Personal File (P.F.) in the MI5 registry. What lay therein is unknown.

As an aside, the village/town of Le Touquet does get one another mention in relation to espionage matters. The four hapless spies who landed on the coast of Kent in late September 1940 (Waldberg, Meier, Kieboom and Pons) had apparently celebrated a last meal in Le Touquet and set sail from there.

Sources
Information France - article on Le Touquet
France Today - article on Le Touquet
Le Touquet History - on Web Archive
Wikipedia (French) - Allen Stoneham
Fracedemic - French - history section
National Archives - Security Service file on Josef Jakobs - KV 2/25
Ancestry - genealogy information
Flickr - Library of Congress - pics of Allen Stoneham and Le Touquet

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