The Tenuous Thread of Communication

N.B. 2020 11 06 - I have since learned that that the transmitters displayed at the IWM and their captions, may not be entirely accurate. This post should therefore not be taken as accurate. I am working with some ham radio buffs who are trying to tease apart the different sending/receiving apparatus used by the spies... stay tuned.

 

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)
An SE 92/3 transmitter set
Provenance unknown
(Imperial War Museum - COM 1500)

Waldberg and Meier, who had landed farther down the beach were also equipped with a radio identical to that of Kieboom and Pons.

[N.B. When I first published this blog, the Imperial War Museum noted that they had an SE 92/3 transmitter set (see photo at right) but their captions on that photograph have now changed. They think that the radio at right belonged to Drücke or Walti.]

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.

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