26 September 2014

Article Review - Express & Star Newspaper - Punt P.I. Investigates Midlands Riddle

Last month, I reviewed a radio show in which Punt P.I. (a gumshoe of the British airwaves) investigated the story of Bella in the Wych Elm. The radio show was quite good, but a newspaper article that preceded it had a few errors, some more glaring than others.

Article Review - Express & Star Newspaper - Punt P.I. Investigates Midlands RiddleThe article, entitled Punt P.I. Investigates Midlands Riddle, was published in the Express and Star, a regional British newspaper based in Wolverhampton, West Midlands. The article has several errors but the most glaring is a reference to "Czech-born Gestapo agent Josef Jakobs".

Josef Jakobs was not born in Czechoslovakia - he was born in Luxembourg to German parents, and was a German citizen. Karel Richter, a German spy who landed by parachute in England in May 1941, was born in the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia.

Josef Jakobs was not an agent of the Gestapo, but of the Abwehr. The two organizations were very, very different. The Gestapo were the German Secret State Police, or the Geheime Staatspolizei. It was a Nazi organization. The Abwehr was the German Intelligence Service. It was a military organization. The Abwehr, under Admiral Canaris did not get along with the Gestapo or its umbrella organization, the Sicherheitsdienst (SD). In fact, there is evidence to suggest that Canaris used his organization to protect people from the Gestapo. There is absolutely no evidence that Josef Jakobs was a member of the Gestapo and such a comment in the article is indicative of poor research and/or poor understanding of Germany military history.

Finally, the article used a photograph of Josef Jakobs without citing the source of the photograph.

Review Score
2 out of 5 - poorly researched

Express & Star (online newspaper) - Punt P.I. Investigates Midlands Riddle - accessed September 26, 2014.

22 September 2014

Language Skills of a German Spy

One would naturally expect that any German spy who arrived in England during World War 2 would have been relatively fluent in English. If a spy wanted to blend into English society, language would have formed an important part of their disguise.

Unfortunately, most of the German spies who arrived in England were less than fluent in English. Those who could speak the language passably had obvious foreign accents. For example, of the four spies who landed along the coast of Kent in early September 1940, only one, Carl Meier, could speak a bit of English, and his was heavily accented.

Logo of Berlitz Language Schools
Logo of Berlitz Language Schools
The Language Skills of Josef Jakobs

Josef Jakobs didn't speak English very well. According to his own admission, he had only taken a few English classes at the Berlitz language school in Hamburg in the fall of 1940. He did have a smattering of French, a bit of Spanish and had even learned Latin and Greek in school. But English had never been part of his repertoire.

German-English Metoula Sprachführer - similar to the one Josef had.
German-English Metoula
Sprachführer - similar to
the one Josef Jakobs had.
Some of the MI5 officers thought that Josef was pretending to have a poor comprehension of English. They couldn't understand why the German Abwehr would send poorly prepared spies to England. But with a bit of French, Spanish and Latin in his background, plus German, Josef would have been able to identify and perhaps use various English words with the same linguistic roots

When Josef landed in the farmer's field near Ramsey on 31 January, 1941, he had a blue English-Germany Metoula dictionary in his possession (similar to the one at left). After his convalescence at Dulwich Hospital, Josef was taken to Camp 020 in April, 1941, where the dictionary was eventually returned to him. He was given English newspapers to read, and probably improved his English skills during that time.

Josef's little blue dictionary disappeared into the mists of time, possibly taken by the officers of MI5 or thrown into the trash.

17 September 2014

The Tenuous Thread of Communication

In July 1940, Hitler ordered that preparations be made for Operation Sealion, the planned invasion of Great Britain. The German Intelligence Service (Abwehr) scrambled to place some spies in Britain who could report on coastal defenses, troop movements and the weather. Naturally the spies would need to be able to report their findings back to the Abwehr headquarters. Letters written with secret ink would have taken too long to arrive, so the spies were equipped with wireless radio transmitters.

The Kentish Spies
Officers displaying the S 88/5 transmitter  of Kieboom & Pons.
Officers displaying the S 88/5 transmitter
of Kieboom & Pons. (Notice the narrow
morse key in the hand of the soldier).
In early September 1940, four German spies (three of whom were Dutch nationals) landed from two small boats along the shore of Kent. The four men were caught within 24 hours and were found to be carrying wireless transmitters. One of them had even managed to send a few radio messages to Germany reporting their successful landing.

The S 88/5 transmitter of Kieboom & Pons, although  the morse key is different from that in the photo above.  (Imperial War Museum - COM 1501)
The S 88/5 transmitter of Kieboom & Pons, although
the morse key is different from that in the photo above.
(Imperial War Museum - COM 1501)
Kieboom and Pons, who had landed several miles away from Waldberg and Meier, were equipped with an S 88/5 transmitter ("S" stands for "Sender" or "Transmitter" in German) but had no receiver. They could send messages to Germany but would have been unable to receive any messages. Their radio and the associated batteries were contained within two leather camera cases.

Waldberg transmitter set (SE 92/3)  (Imperial War Museum - COM 1500)
Waldberg transmitter set (SE 92/3)
(Imperial War Museum - COM 1500)
Waldberg and Meier, who had landed farther down the beach were also equipped with a radio but apparently theirs could receive as well as transmit messages.

As these were the first confirmed German spies to be captured on British soil since the start of the war, there was quite a bit of excitement about their capture, which was widely publicized.

All four men were tried under the Treachery Act (1940) in November and all were found guilty with the exception of Pons. He convinced the jury that he had acted under duress because of threats from the Gestapo. Waldberg, Meier and Kieboom were hanged at Pentonville Prison in December 1940.

British Pathé video from 1940 showing the equipment
of Kieboom and Pons. (Youtube)

The Scottish Spies
At the end of September, three spies climbed out of a flying boat off the coast of Banffshire, Scotland. The two men and three women struggled to transfer their bicycles from the aircraft into their rubber dinghy. Eventually the bikes fell overboard and quietly sank to the bottom of the ocean. Undeterred, the three rowed for shore and landed between the villages of Port Gordon and Buckie.

After a hurried conference, the trio split into a pair which headed for Port Gordon and a lone man who headed for Buckie. Within 24 hours, all three were in the hands of the Scottish police. Robert Petter (alias Werner Heinrich Walti), Vera de Cottani de Chalbur (alias Vera Erikson) and Karl Theo Drücke (alias Francois de Deeker) were relieved of their possessions which included two wireless transmitter/receivers.

Karl Drucke's SE 88/5 transmitter/receiver.  In 1976 it was in the possession of William Merrilees  (former Chief Constable of Edinburgh).  (Photo from After the Battle Magazine, volume 11)
Karl Drucke's SE 88/5 transmitter/receiver.
In 1976 it was in the possession of William Merrilees
(former Chief Constable of Edinburgh).
(Photo from After the Battle Magazine, volume 11)
Karl Drücke's transmitter/receiver was an SE 88/5 packed within a sturdy wooden box ("SE" stands for "Sender/Emfanger" or "Transmitter/Receiver" in German).

He and Vera Erikson also had a couple of circular cardboard code discs, several batteries, two radio valves, a voltmeter, a set of headphones and a Morse tapping key.

Robert Petter's  (SE 92/3) transmitter  & receiver in a fibre-board suitcase.  (Location unknown)  (Photo from After the Battle, Vol. 11)
Robert Petter's  (SE 92/3) transmitter
& receiver in a fibre-board suitcase.
(Location unknown)
(Photo from After the Battle, Vol. 11)
Robert Petter also had a wireless transmitter/receiver, this one contained within a black fibre-board suitcase. It contained a similar transmitter/receiver (SE 92/3) with a several aerial wires.

Josef Jakobs
When Josef landed in the fields near Ramsey on the evening of January 31, 1941, he too was equipped with a radio transmitter/receiver.

Suitcase containing Waldberg's transmitter/receiver.  Josef's set would have been housed in a similar attaché case.  (Imperial War Museum - COM 1500)
Suitcase containing Waldberg's transmitter/receiver.
Josef's set would have been housed in a similar attaché case.

(Imperial War Museum - COM 1500)
His set was also contained within a black (or blue) imitation crocodile (fibre-board) attaché case. The case measured 16" x 11.5" x 5.5" and the two clasp locks were marked 155. MI5 requested a detailed analysis of Josef's set from L.W. Humphreys of the Radio Security Service.

Based on that description, Ben Nock of the Military Wireless Museum has helpfully identified Josef's set as an SE 88/5 - identical with the sets carried by Karl Drücke and Jose Waldberg.

Image of a quartz crystal holder similar to Josef's (from Ebay)
Image of a quartz crystal
holder similar to Josef's
(from Ebay)
Humphreys noted that Josef's set was equipped
with two quartz crystals. The first was marked "T" (for "Tag" or daytime) and was placed in the working position in the transmitter. It would have been used for Josef's daytime transmissions between the hours of 8 am and 10 am.

The spare crystal was marked "N" (for "Nacht" or nighttime) and would have been used by Josef during the hours of 8 pm and 9 pm. The spare crystal was plugged into the morse key sockets. Humphreys noted that had the set been inadvertently turned on, the spare crystal would have fractured. Other than that, Humphreys said the set worked very well and the controls were smooth and stable. The set was powered by three Piggi-Pertrix batteries connected in series.

Theoretically, if Josef had used his set for 15 minutes a day, the batteries would have lasted for about a year. Shorter transmissions were the best for longer transmissions increased the risk of detection. Amateur radio operators (and official ones) were listening for illicit transmissions. Upon hearing one, they could determine the direction of the strongest signal and, if the signal was picked up by several stations, the authorities could use triangulation to determine the transmission's source. But in the end, Josef never had a chance to use his radio set, neither as a spy nor as a double-agent.

The location of Josef's radio set is unknown. It was confiscated by MI5 in 1941. While some sets in the possession of MI5 were donated to the Imperial War Museum after the war, many of the sets have simply disappeared into the mists of time.

After the Battle Magazine, Volume 11, 1976.
Imperial War Museum
Military Wireless Museum
National Archives, Security Service file, KV 2/26.

12 September 2014

A Circle of Lint - Target for Death

In the early morning hours of 15 August, 1941, Josef Jakobs was seated in a wooden Windsor chair in the miniature rifle range at the Tower of London. A circular target was attached to his chest by the doctor attending. After the execution, the target disappeared.

Shot at Dawn memorial  (from Wikipedia)
Shot at Dawn memorial
(from Wikipedia)
Over the years, various stories have emerged around the target used on that fateful day. In 2000, the authors of Tales of the Tower (Donnelly & Diehl) stated that the target was a piece of black cloth cut in the shape of a heart (p. 191). Their account was, however, highly suspect given their tendency to fictionalize the story of Josef.

Close-up of the Shot at Dawn memorial.  (from Wikipedia)
Close-up of the Shot at Dawn memorial.
(from Wikipedia)
Geoffrey Abbot, a former Beefeater from the Tower, stated that a circle of linen was used as the target. One of the Military Policemen who had guarded Josef at Wandsworth Prison, and who was present at the execution, stated that a white metal disc was used as the target.

There is some evidence to support the use of metal disc, one has only to look closely at the "Shot at Dawn" statue which commemorates British soldiers who were shot for desertion or cowardice during World War I. The statue clearly shows what appears to be a metal disk on a string/chain around the soldier's neck. Could Josef have had a similar target placed around his neck?

Lint Circle held at the Scots Guards Museum.  From After the Battle Magazine
Lint Circle held at the Scots Guards Museum.
From After the Battle Magazine
Scots Guards

In the mid 1970s, Sir Winston Ramsey, editor of After the Battle magazine traced the target that had pinned to Josef's chest to the Scots Guards Museum in London. The target was a white lint circle and showed evidence of the passage of five bullets. 

Interestingly, the lint circle at the Scots Guards Museum has been placed on display in the past at which time it has been accompanied by a small index card which stated:

Index card displayed with the lint circle at the  Scots Guards Museum (copyright G.K. Jakobs)
Index card displayed with the lint circle at the
Scots Guards Museum (copyright G.K. Jakobs)
Target Patch
White flannel aiming patch pinned on the breast of the German spy Josef Jacobs at his execution in the Tower of London on the 14 August 1941. Powder burns from five bullet holes can be clearly seen. It was retrieved by a member of the firing squad Guardsman CVT Gordon later a lieutenant colonel in another regiment.

A bit of research revealed that the person in question was Colin Victor Thomson Gordon.

Major Colin Victor Thomson Gordon

Colin was born 30 September 1897 in Dennistoun, Glasgow. His parents were William Gordon and Jeanie Thomson. In 1914, Colin enlisted in the Scots Guards and served in France in 1914, 1915 and 1917.

On 26 June, 1918, shortly before the end of the war, Colin was commissioned as an Second Lieutenant in the South Staffordshire Regiment.

South Staffordshire Regimental logo
South Staffordshire Regimental logo
After the war, Colin spent five years in Singapore and Burma with the 1st Battalion of the Staffords. After returning to England for a brief tour of duty at the Depot, Colin was seconded to the Royal West Africa Frontier Force in 1927. He spent most of the next nine years in Africa, including Sierra Leone and Nigeria. On 1 May 1928, Lt. Gordon was promoted to the rank of Captain. In 1932, Colin married Colleen Kemp in London.

In 1939, with the outbreak of war, Colin was once again at the Depot of the Staffords and ended up commanding the Infantry Training Centre from 1940 to 1941. He later commanded the 9th Battalion. Major Gordon retired in 3 June, 1946, with the honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel and settled in Torquay, Devon.

In 1959, the South Staffordshire and North Staffordshire regiments were amalgamated into the Staffordshier Regiment. Colin was a strong supporter of the Regimental Association of the Staffords and took part in a reunion in 1974. Shortly afterwards he was in a serious car accident and lost a leg. Through sheer strength of character and determination, Colin came to grips with his disability and conquered the use of an artificial leg. Colin passed away in Devon on 18 April 1982 at the age of 85 years. He was predeceased by his wife (1973) and survived by a daughter living in America. In 2007, the Staffordshire Regiment and two other regiments were amalgamated into the Mercian Regiment.

The Problem

There is only one small problem. C.V.T. Gordon was a member of the Scots Guards during World War I NOT World War II. By the time World War II rolled around, Gordon was a Major with the South Staffordshire Regiment and commanding an Infantry Training Centre.

This could mean:
  1. There was another C.V.T. Gordon who was a Guardsman during World War II and present at Josef's execution (unlikely).
  2. Colin Victor Thomson Gordon, Guardsman in World War I, was present at the execution of a World War I spy and the lint circle belongs to that spy. Colin Gordon was stationed in France in 1914, 1915 and 1917. He could have been attached to the 3rd Battalion of the Scots Guards in 1916, the battalion that provided the soldiers for firing squads at the Tower during World War I.
  3. The lint circle is the one that was used at Josef's execution but the reference to C.V.T. Gordon is a curatorial mix-up.

Which leads to the question - is the lint circle that is in possession of the Scots Guards actually the one that was used at the execution at Josef Jakobs? Or was it used at the execution of a World War I spy?

A Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London has suggested in a private conversation that the lint circle at the Scots Guards Museum is not from the execution of Josef Jakobs. He indicated that someone else had the target used at Josef's execution in their possession.

Ancestry.co.uk - genealogy records.
London Gazette - various years
Army List - 1941
Obituary & Brief Biography of Lt. Col. C.V.T. Gordon - this link no longer functions - the obituary was provided by Whittington Barracks.
Memories of Netherstowe House - pdf brochure

08 September 2014

Long Odds - The Proposed Journey of Josef Jakobs from Ramsey Hollow to London

When German spy Josef Jakobs landed near the village of Ramsey on 31 January, 1941, he had planned to make his way to London. Naturally, given his broken ankle, his plans came to naught.

But what if he had not injured himself, during his descent from the German aircraft. Would it have been feasible for him to make his way from the rural fens of Ramsey Hollow to the urban hubbub of London?

Start Point
Josef's map held at  National Archives  (KV 2/27)
Josef's map held at
National Archives
(KV 2/27)
In an alternate world, Josef would have landed near Dovehouse Farm in the late evening hours of January 31. His landing place was far from any hedgerows or forests so he probably would have used his collapsible shovel to bury his parachute gear in the soft soil. Then what?

It would have been extremely dark and given the black-out regulations, there would have been no lights indicating the location of neighbouring farms. He more than likely would have hunkered down in the field and waited for the grey light of morning rather than stumble around in the dark.

As the pre-dawn light strengthened Josef probably took out his map of Great Britain and unfolded it. One of the aircrew members, who had flown the plane from which Josef descended, had made several pencil marks on the map.

Google Map - showing the triangular area that had been marked on Josef Jakobs' map. The black arrow marks Ramsey.
Google Map - showing the triangular area that had
been marked on Josef Jakobs' map. The black
arrow marks Ramsey.
A triangle extended from Peterborough to Cambridge and Bedford. Apparently Josef was supposed to have landed somewhere within that triangle. It was a large area. (In actual fact, Josef had landed just outside the northeast side of the triangle (black arrow).

Part of Josef's dilemma was that he would have had no idea as to his location. The first requirement in using a map to navigate is knowing your start point. Josef needed to know where he was. To complicate matters, he had no compass and in the grey light of the featureless fens, he would have had no clue which way was south, north, east or west.

As the morning mist rose from the fens, Josef might have seen the buildings of Ramsey in the distance and decided to head in that direction. He would have been looking for a train station at which he could discretely enquire about trains to London.

Railway Options
Map showing location of Ramsey East Railway Station  (lower red circle) and Ramsey North Railway Station  (upper red circle). Josef would have walked into town from  the lower right part of the map.  (From Disused Stations website)
Map showing location of Ramsey East Railway Station
(lower red circle) and Ramsey North Railway Station
(upper red circle). Josef would have walked into town from
the lower right part of the map.
(From Disused Stations website)
Ramsey originally had two railway stations. The Ramsey East Railway Station was constructed in 1889 as the terminus of a branch line that ran from Ramsey through Warboys to Somersham where it joined the Great Eastern Railway.

The Ramsey East Railway Station had been closed to passenger traffic in 1930, although in 1941, freight trains still used the line. Had Josef heard trains using that line, he might have assumed that passenger trains also ran on that line.

His other option would have been the Ramsey North Railway Station. Constructed in 1863, the station was the terminus of a branch line from Holme which still had passenger trains running on it in 1941. This would have been Josef's best bet and, had he actually managed to catch the train and make the required connections at Holme and possibly Huntingdon, he could have ended up at King's Cross Station in London courtesy of the London and Northeastern Railway.

Running the Gauntlet
Josef's first steps on his journey to London would have been through a muddy potato field as he began to walk from Ramsey Hollow to Ramsey. The routine of life started early in the rural areas of wartime Britain and Josef would likely have been seen by at least one or two farm workers. One could well imagine their suspicion at seeing a business man with an attache case walking along Hollow Lane. The British had been on high alert since the summer of 1940, on the lookout for German spies. Each and every person was essentially a mini Sherlock Holmes. Had Josef managed to reach the village of Ramsey unchallenged, he would have faced other hurdles. He would have needed to ask for directions to the railway station which was not in the centre of town, as it was in so many Germany villages. His poor grasp of the English language, his foreign accent and the mud on his shoes and pants would have raised suspicions.

Odds of Success
It was extremely unlikely that Josef, had he remained healthy and uninjured, would ever have made it to London, or even to the Ramsey North Railway Station. The British were suspicious of anything out of the ordinary and a well-dressed stranger with mud on his shoes and a foreign accent on his tongue would definitely have been out of the ordinary in the village of Ramsey. A cursory glance at his Identity Card would have alerted even the sleepiest village bobby that the man in front of him was up to no good.

On the off chance that Josef had made his way to Warboys, he would have stood even less of a chance of getting to London. The only railway station in Warboys was on same branch line as the Ramsey East Railway Station and closed to passengers in 1930.

Most of the German spies who landed in England were captured within 48 hours of arrival. They stood out like sore thumbs for a variety of reasons. They didn't understand the licensing laws of establishments serving liquor and asked for drinks outside of regular hours. They didn't understand English money (pounds, shilling and pence) and tried to pay for a meal with two pounds when two bob (two shillings) had been requested. They appeared in small villages with no clue as to their location, and then asked the locals where they were. Their accents betrayed them. Their forged identity cards were a dead giveaway. On top of that, thanks to the Double-Cross system, many of the newly arrived spies were expected by the British authorities. Josef really didn't have a chance, even if he had landed uninjured.

Whatever Happened to...?
Former Ramsey East Railway Station - circa 1960s  (From Disused Stations website)
Former Ramsey East Railway Station - circa 1960s
(From Disused Stations website)
The map which Josef carried on his person was a Shell Touring Road Map of Great Britain. It was naturally confiscated by MI5 upon his capture. It sat in the MI5 files for decades before it was eventually released to the National Archives in the early 2000s. It is located in the KV 2/27 Security Service file.

The Ramsey East Railway Station was closed to all railway traffic in 1956. Since then, the last remains of the railway terminus and the station buildings have been demolished. A new industrial complex and a housing estate now sit on the former station site. The former route of the Ramsey East Railway line can still be traced on the satellite images available through Google Maps.

Former Ramsey North Railway Station - circa 1970  (From Disused Stations website)
Former Ramsey North Railway Station - circa 1970
(From Disused Stations website)
The Ramsey North Railway Station closed to passenger traffic in 1947 and to freight traffic in 1971. Since then the railway line has been torn out and many of the station buildings demolished. One of the remaining buildings is apparently used by Ramsey Auction Rooms.

The former location of the Ramsey North Railway line can also be traced on aerial images as it makes a gentle northerly and then westerly curve before meeting the main railway trunk line near Holme.

03 September 2014

British Procedure for Military Executions by Firing Squad (1950)

In researching the circumstances surrounding Josef's life and death, I have sought information from a variety of sources. One aspect of Josef's death that stymied me for the longest time was the procedure for a military execution by firing squad. It was easy enough to find an American military procedure, less easy to find a British procedure.

Last year I wrote to the curator of the Royal Military Police Museum seeking information on the squad of Military Police who guarded Josef during the last few weeks of his life. The curator of the museum kindly sent along three pages from the Military Police Manual published in 1950. He noted that while the museum did not have the equivalent manual for the War (World War 2), in essence it would have been the same procedure.

The 1950 procedure for military executions helped to clear up a couple of points of contention that have crept up repeatedly around Josef's execution.

Seated or Standing
Many articles and books state that Josef was seated in a chair for his execution because he couldn't stand due to his broken ankle. Some even go so far as to suggest that the reason Josef was shot by a firing squad was because he couldn't stand at the gallows for the hangman's noose.

The information in the manual states that "The prisoner may be shot either standing up strapped to a post fixed in the ground if available, or sitting down strapped to a chair" (Section 117.b.viii). The spies executed by firing squad during World War I were all seated. In the most recent execution by firing squad in the United States (Utah, 2010), convicted criminal Ronnie Lee Gardner was seated in a chair.

Blank Rounds?
Several sources noted that one or two members of Josef's firing squad were issued blank rounds. The information in the manual states that two rifles would contain blank rounds - specifically live ammunition from which the bullets have been removed. The reasoning behind some rounds being blank was that it afforded each member of the firing squad a bit of doubt - "did I really fire the lethal round?". This worked well in the days of muskets when the wad that was placed in the muzzle along with the ball of shot also generated recoil. It was hard to tell the difference between a musket loaded with wad and ball and one just loaded with the wad. With modern rifles and bullets, any skilled marksman would notice the difference between the recoil of a live round versus that of a blank round (recoil was less due to absence of a bullet). But apparently, over time, the mind could convince itself that the recoil was softer. Another possible explanation was that should the firing squad ever be brought before a tribunal (e.g. by the enemy), each could plausibly deny that they had fired the lethal round. While the reason behind the modern-day usage of blank rounds might be a mystery, it was clear from the Military Police Manual, that blank rounds were issued.

In the case of Josef's execution, there were naturally some variations from the procedure outlined in the manual. As the first section noted, there were no firm rules and the procedure could vary slightly, depending on circumstances. Josef's firing squad was composed of eight soldiers, not ten as recommended in the manual. Josef was also walking with a crutch at the time so it was unlikely that his arms were pinioned prior to going into the miniature rifle range at the Tower of London. An eye-witness account also noted that the hood was only placed on Josef's head once he was seated in the chair.

There is much in the news these days about botched executions by lethal injection in the United States. Some advocate a return to execution by firing squad, claiming it is more humane and more certain.

The information in the manual clearly indicates that death by shooting is not always instantaneous. In some cases, the medical officer might indicate that death has not occurred and the officer in charge will need to administer the "coup de grace" with his revolver. Death may still occur within the space of 10 seconds, but it could be a gruesome affair. But then, death, no matter how "clean" it may appear, is always a gruesome affair.

The section on Military Executions from the Military Police Manual (1950) is reproduced below.

 Military Police Manual (1950)

A.P.M. - Assistant Provost Marshal (previously known as Deputy Provost Marshal)
C.O. - Commanding Officer
M.O. - Medical Officer
O.C. - Officer Commanding Unit
R.S.M. - Regimental Sergeant Major
S.A.A. - Small Arms Ammunition

Section 117.--Military Executions
(p. 213-215)

(a) A provost officer may at any time in war or peace be made responsible for the organization and carrying out of a military execution. There are no firm rules laid down, but notes on a suggested procedure are included here, as this event is more likely to occur in an army of occupation than at any other time. The main object is to carry out the sentence as rapidly and humanely as possible.

(b) Procedure
(i) Promulgation
The responsibility for promulgation rests with the O.C. unit; usually this is deferred until about an hour or two before the time fixed for the execution.

It must be remembered that the president of the court martial will have already warned the prisoner in writing that the sentence of death has been passed. The promulgating officer should ask the prisoner whether he has any request to make and whether he wants food or drink. He should be allowed, if possible, any drink he asks for and, if desired, a sedative injection by a medical officer. During this stage the A.P.M. should be in touch with the O.C. unit.

(ii) Place of Execution
Should be secluded and as near as possible to the place of confinement.

(iii) Time for Execution
The best time is shortly after dawn.

(iv) Action by the Officer of the Provost Service
The A.P.M. of the formation to which the prisoner's unit belongs is responsible for the carrying out of the sentence; he will select the place of execution, fix the time, arrange in conjunction with the C.O. for the attendance of a chaplain, medical officer, firing party (with ten rounds ball and two rounds blank S.A.A.) an ambulance and for the provision and preparation of an execution post or chair, with the necessary straps and ropes, a cap, to be placed over the prisoner's head, an aiming mark for attachment to his uniform, and a stretcher for conveyance of the body to the ambulance. At the place and time of execution the A.P.M. will carry a loaded revolver.

(v) The C.O. will arrange for the production of the prisoner to the A.P.M., if the latter has not already taken charge of him; he is responsible for the promulgation of the sentence and the delivery to the A.P.M. of the proceedings of the court martial for retention until after the execution. He will arrange for the firing party with ammunition as above, and for rifle-rests, if possible. He will arrange fro the burial of the body and for the attendance of a chaplain thereat.

(vi) The Medical Officer will accompany the A.P.M. He will examine the body immediately after the firing party have fired and before it is unbound and will inform the A.P.M. of the result.

(vii) The Chaplain will accompany the prisoner from outside the place of confinement to the place of execution.

(viii) Procedure (Note: The prisoner may be shot either standing up strapped to a post fixed in the ground if available, or sitting down strapped to a chair.

A minute or two before the hour fixed for the execution the A.P.M. accompanied by the M.O. and two military policemen will go to the place of confinement and the A.P.M. will satisfy himself as to the identity of the prisoner, whose arms will then be pinioned to his sides with a strap. The M.O. will slip a cap over the prisoners' head and fix an aiming mark over his heart. He will then be led by the two military police to the place of execution, where a strap or rope will be passed around his body to secure him to the post or chair. At the same time another strap or rope will secure his legs in the same way. The procedure should be carefully rehearsed beforehand so that only the shortest possible time will elapse between the visit of the A.P.M. to the place of confinement and the completion of the sentence.

(ix) The Firing Party will consist of one officer, the R.S.M. (if possible) one serjeant [sp] and ten rank and file from the prisoner's unit. The rank and file alone will fire.

It is very desirable to arrange rifle rests for aiming some ten or twelve yards from where the prisoner will be placed.

The procedure set out below, including the signals to be used, will be carefully rehearsed beforehand.

The party will arrive at the place of execution in sufficient time to enable the following procedure to be carried out before the time fixed for the execution.

On arrival the firing party will be ordered to load with one live round. They will then ground arms and be marched a short distance away, so that they cannot see their arms, where it will be explained to them that all commands after the appearance of the prisoner will be by signal and in silence, except the command "fire" and that the greatest service they can render the prisoner is to shoot straight at the mark. Meanwhile, the A.P.M. will change the places of the rifles, unload two and reload them with blank ammunition [marginal handwritten note: live rounds from which bullets have been removed]. The firing party will then be marked back to their rifles, and will take up arms and remain perfectly still.

(x) The Execution
At this point the A.P.M. will proceed to the place of confinement (see paragraph (viii)).

As soon as the prisoner has been secured the A.P.M. will signal to the firing part, who will come to the aiming position, using the rifle-rests, if any.

On a further signal from the the A.P.M. to the O.C. firing party, the latter will give the command "fire" which should be the only word spoken from the moment of the prisoner's arrival until his death.

If the medical officer indicates to the A.P.M. that the prisoner is not dead, it is his duty to administer the "coup de grace" with his revolver.

Immediately after the firing party has fired the men will be ordered to ground arms and turn about, they will then be marched back a short distance until the A.P.M. has again changed the position of, and unloaded the rifles, when they will return, take up arms and march away to their unit.

(xi) Burial
After the M.O. has certified that death has taken place, the body will be unstrapped, placed on a stretcher and carried by the military police to the waiting ambulance, from where it will be removed for burial under arrangements made by the C.O.