Showing posts from April, 2014

Was Josef Jakobs held as a prisoner of the Tower of London?

It is a well-established fact that Josef Jakobs was executed at the Tower of London on 15 August 1941. What is not so clear is this: was Jakobs held at the Tower prior to his execution? Several stories variously suggest that he was held at the Tower (a) for the night prior to his death, (b) for the period from August 5 to August 15 (between his court- martial and his execution), (c) for several months prior to his execution.

Most stories agree that Jakobs was held in a room on the top floor of the east tower of the Waterloo Barracks within the Tower precinct. Recently, however, some other information has come to light which calls this long-standing story into question.

Wandsworth Prison
In 1958, the former Governor of Wandsworth Prison, Major B.D. Grew, wrote a memoir in which he mentioned Josef Jakobs and the morning of his execution. [Josef Jakobs] spent his last night at Wandsworth before being taken to the Tower to face the firing squad.

As dawn came I stood at the entrance to my …

W.R.H. Heddy - Coroner at the Post-Mortem of German Spy Josef Jakobs

William Reginald Huleatt Heddy was born on 30 December 1890 in London His parents were William Jackson Heddy and Laura Mary Latter. The family lived in Kensington with their servants and were quite well to-do as William Sr. was a surgical physician.

While career options for William's three sisters were limited, young William was destined to follow in his father's footsteps. In 1906 attended Dover College where he presumably studied Natural Science. In 1908 he entered Middlesex Hospital to study medicine, eventually becoming an anaesthetist. In 1911, William was still a medical student and living with his parents and sisters in Hampstead.On 29 January 1914, William received the medical diploma of L.R.C.P. (Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians) and on 12 February 1914, the surgical diploma of M.R.C.S. (Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons).

With the outbreak of war, William joined the London (City of London) Field Ambulance. He landed in France on 25 October 191…

Who performed the post-mortem on executed German spy Josef Jakobs?

Josef Jakobs was executed by firing squad at 7:12 am on Friday 15 August 1941, at the Tower of London. After the execution, a post-mortem was conducted and on Monday 18 August 1941, Jakobs was buried at St. Mary's Cemetery in Kensal Green.

There is some uncertainty as to who conducted the post-mortem on Jakobs. Several sources mentioned that the famous pathologist, Sir Bernard Spilsbury, conducted the post-mortem, while other sources indicated that East London Coroner W.R.H. Heddy did the honours.

Update 2017 03 05 - I've since learned that the pathologist would have conducted the post-mortem while the coroner oversaw the legalities of an inquest (was it a legal execution, etc.). So the answer to the questions is: Spilsbury did the post-mortem, Heddy oversaw the inquest into the death.

The Case for Sir Bernard Spilsbury
In 1976, After the Battle Magazine published one of the first substantial articles on Jakobs. The editor, while not having access to the classified MI5 documents, …

Major P.D.J. Waters - Commander of the Firing Squad that Executed Josef Jakobs

In the early morning hours of August 15, 1941, Josef Jakobs was escorted to the Tower of London for his execution. The firing squad that carried out the execution was drawn from members of the Scots Guards Holding Battalion. The commander of the firing squad was Major P.D.J. Waters.

Philip Duncan Joseph Waters
Philip Duncan Joseph Waters was born in the late summer of 1897 in Kensington, London. His father, John Michael Waters was an Irish Catholic wine merchant. His mother, Helen Frances Dallas, had been born in the wilds of Bombay, India, although her father also came from Ireland. Philip was the youngest of five children, and the well-to-do family had a series of domestic servants to assist with the children and the household.

Philip joined the City of London Yeomanry (British Territorial Army) and, when war was declared, volunteered for overseas service.

Philip was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards) on 12 March 1915 and was sent to France o…

Dr. Harold Dearden - Psychiatrist at Camp 020

On the afternoon of February 2, having spent the night in Brixton Prixon Infirmary, Josef Jakobs was brought to Latchmere House (Camp 020) for a preliminary interrogation. Dr. Harold Dearden, the camp doctor and psychiatrist took note of Jakobs' physical attributes (height, weight, etc.) and formed part of the panel that questioned Jakobs. The interrogation session was necessarily short, due to Jakobs' ankle injury and after a couple of hours Jakobs was returned to Brixton Prison.

On February 3, owing to the seriousness of his injury, Jakobs was transferred to Dulwich Hospital, where he remained for almost two months. Dr. Dearden telephoned Jakobs' physician, Dr. Roberts for periodic updates. As Jakobs' condition deteriorated (sepsis at the site of the break and broncho-pneumonia), the interrogators at Camp 020 chafed at the bit, eager to question this newly arrived German spy. Colonel Stephens declared himself frustrated by the humanitarian motives of the medical pro…

Website Review - World War II Today

World War II Today is an interesting site with stories from the war, updated 70 years after the event. The site is currently posting events from 1944 but the site also has articles from previous years. One article entitled the Last Execution in the Tower of London appears for 15 August 1941.

The article is rather brief and makes note of Jakobs' landing near Ramsey, the charge of Treachery and the death warrant sent to the Constable of the Tower of London. While brief, the article is generally accurate.

4/5 - brief but accurate.

Website Review - Historic Ramsey in Pictures

Tidbits of information about Josef abound on the internet, usually in the context of trivia questions such as "Who was the last person executed in the Tower of London". There are other websites which contain a bit more information and one of those is Historic Ramsey in Pictures.

This project by the Sisman Family includes various pictures of Ramsey, including a common postcard photo of the Ramsey Police Station.

The site doesn't have much information on Josef, but most of what is included is accurate. Some corrections and comments are included in square brackets.

What follows is the unfortunate tale of Josef Jakobs; the last person to be executed (by firing squad) at the Tower of London. Jakobs was held at the Police Station after being arrested by the sergeant. [Acting Inspector Horace Jaikens]

The charge -  "Committing treachery in that you at Ramsey in Huntingdonshire on the night of 31 January 1941/1 February 1941 descended by parachute with intent to help the enem…