Showing posts from 2015

German Spy equipped with Two and a Half Pounds of Chocolate

Recently I've reestablished contact with Martyn, grandson of Horace Jaikens, the police officer who was in charge of the Ramsey Police Station when Josef was captured. Martyn is a war history buff and a great source of information on Ramsey and the surrounding area.

Last week, Martyn sent me some information from a book that detailed a bit of the history of the Huntingdonshire Constabulary (H.C.). There were some great group pics of the Ramsey police detachment as well as a letter from the Chief Constable of the H.C. dated February 17, 1941. Captain J. Rivett-Carnac was writing to all the police detachments informing them of Josef's capture. In his report, Rivett Carnac included a very detailed list of Josef's possessions, in some aspects, more detailed than the others drawn up by Jaikens and MI5. Let's take a look
pocket knife with wide blade, brown wooden handle, blade stamped "Swing"oblong wristwatch stamped "9321 Fond Acier, Inoxidable"dictionary…

The Mystery Spy - Double Agent GOOSE/GANDER

N.B. I posted a blog in April 2019 with new information that seems
 to confirm his real name was Kurt Karl Goose
On rare occasions I get distracted by the stories I encounter which are technically peripheral to my research into Josef Jakobs. One of those stories is that of double agent GANDER (GOOSE).

Information on GANDER is sketchy at best. There is no MI5 file on him in the National Archives, which is rather odd. References to GANDER in the literature are short but the basic line of the story is this:

GANDER was a German soldier who landed near Wellingborough (Northamptonshire) in early October 1940. He was apprehended by local farmers and eventually taken to Camp 020 where he admitted that he had been recruited to report on the weather, morale and road blocks. He told Major Robin W.G. Stephens, commandant of Camp 020, that he had no intention of carrying out his mission but wanted to get back to America where he had spent several years as a student. He quickly agreed to serve as a…

The Unchanging Ramsey Police Station

On 1 February, 1941, German spy Josef Jakobs was apprehended by members of the Home Guard, after he shot a pistol to attract attention. Having broken his ankle during the parachute descent, Josef was searched and taken into the custody of the Ramsey Police.

A farm cart transferred Josef to the Ramsey Police Station on 4 Blenheim Road. Here, Josef was searched more thoroughly and seen by the local doctor who braced his broken ankle.

The Ramsey Police Station has changed little over the decades and looks like it would have had a very interesting history. Unfortunately, other than a few photographs, I've been able to discover nothing about this handsome building on the internet.

In 2012, I visited Ramsey in the company of Winston Ramsey of After the Battle Magazine. The building is virtually unchanged, at least on the outside and is still used by the Cambridgeshire Police Force.

Looking at the old and new pictures, and playing the game of "what is different", one can see t…

The Mysterious Origins of Britain's WWII Spy Catcher - William Edward Hinchley Cooke

Over a year ago, I wrote a blog post about Lt. Col. William Edward Hinchley Cooke, an MI5 officer who helped catch and prosecute numerous spies during World War II. Hinchley Cooke picked up the nickname "Cookie" during his career, a rather innocent term for such a dedicated and dangerous MI5 officer.

While I have been moderately successful in tracing most of the MI5 officers who were involved in the interrogation and prosecution of German spy, Josef Jakobs, two have proved to be more challenging.

Lt. Col. Robin William George Stephens, former commandant of MI5's World War II interrogation centre at Latchmere House (a.k.a. Camp 020 or Ham Common) was born in 1900 in Egypt to British expats. After about 1960, however, Stephens' trail runs cold; when and where he passed away is still a mystery.

With Cookie, we have the opposite problem. The circumstances surrounding his death are well known. He dropped dead of a massive heart attack in the street outside his home in Ma…

The Spymaster and his Wife

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog about German spymaster Nikolaus Ritter and his American wife, Mary Aurora Evans. I based the blog on information I had dug up on Ritter as well as several book reviews on Aurora's biography (written by her daughter, Katharine (Ritter) Wallace).

The biography sounded quite fascinating and I ordered a copy through, my go-to-source for second-hand books. As luck would have it, there was a copy at a Goodwill store in California, which was reasonably priced.

The book arrived last week, and I have been reading it with interest. The author provides quite a bit more information on what Nikolaus Ritter did during his time in America, a lot of odd jobs which he often left after a few weeks or months. It sounds like he was a bit of a Prussian aristocrat who didn't like to be ordered around. Also turns out he was a bit of a free-loader, living off of Aurora's income while in the States. Fascinating glimpse of another side of the man…

Pathologist Spilsbury's Notes at the Wellcome Library

After Josef Jakobs was executed on 15 August, 1941, his post mortem was conducted by two men: London Eastern District Coroner W.R.H. Heddy and renowned pathologist Sir Bernard Spilsbury. Both men likely took meticulous notes but trying to track those notes down has proved to be a wild goose chase.

In 2008 and 2009, a portion of Spilsbury's case notes, which he had transcribed onto index cards, were acquired by the Wellcome Library in London. The library is "one of the world's major resources for the study of medical history... and offer a growing collection of material relating to contemporary medicine and biomedical science in society". The index cards, about 7000 in total, contain just a fraction of Spilsbury's case notes. There are some temporal gaps but... it was worth a shot.

In 2012, I visited the Wellcome Library in the hopes that the case notes might include an index card on Josef's post mortem.

The cards were slightly more organized than when the We…

Exporter of Stockings & Spies - Captain Julius Jacob Boeckel

What does it take to become a spymaster? What are the qualifications? For the German Intelligence Service (Abwehr) in 1940, the answer would have been, "Not much". We've already heard a bit about Major Nikolaus Adolf Fritz Ritter. He was hired by the German Abwehr in 1937 to run spy rings in the United States and England. His major qualification? He could speak American English. Ritter had spent over a decade in the United States, dabbling in various ventures and employment opportunities. He was a businessman with no actual spy training.

In 1939 and 1940, the German Abwehr began to expand their operations. Ritter was stationed at the Abwehr offices in Hamburg where he was involved in gathering information about the air forces and air operations of the United States and England. He needed some help. Did he hire someone with espionage experience? Nope. He hired a businessman.

The German Spymaster and the Alabama Schoolteacher

Researching the life Josef Jakobs has led me down some very interesting side paths. I have come across many interesting characters whose lives intersected with that of Josef. Some were friends. Many were foes. Some were both. When Josef was recruited into the Abwehr (the German Intelligence Service) in 1940, he brushed shoulders with spymaster Nikolaus Adolf Fritz Ritter.

There is a bit of information about Nikolaus Ritter, a.k.a. Dr. Rantzau available online, but quite a bit more resides in some of the National Archives files in Kew.

Nikolaus Adolf Fritz Ritter

Ritter was born on January 8, 1899, in the town of Rheydt, a suburb of Mönchengladbach in the Rhineland. His parents were Nikolaus Josef Ritter and Käthe Hellhoff. Ritter's family clearly moved quite a bit during his childhood. Ritter attended the Volksschule (elementary school) in Bad Bederkesa in Lower Saxony from 1905 to 1910. From 1911 to 1914, Ritter attended the Klostergymnasium in Flensburg, just south of the border …

Magazine Article Review - After the Battle Magazine - Volume 100

The Magazine Article
From the Editor, After the Battle, volume 100, Battle of Britain Prints International Ltd., 1998, page 23.

A very brief paragraph noted that the chair in which Josef Jakobs had been executed had been placed on display at the Royal Armouries in Leed. Included a photograph of the chair in a glass case.

Since then, the chair has been moved to the Royal Armouries at the Tower of London. It is on permanent display in the White Tower.

Review Score
N/A - just a brief note on the chair of execution.

Magazine Article Review - After the Battle Magazine - Volume 80

The Magazine Article
From the Editor, After the Battle, volume 80, Battle of Britain Prints International Ltd., 1993, page 2.

A brief mention of my trip to London in 1991.

Winston Ramsey, editor of After the Battle Magazine, kindly took me on tours of Latchmere House, the Duke of York's Headquarters, the Tower of London and St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery in Kensal Green.

Review Score
N/A - just a brief note, along with a photograph taken in St. Mary's Cemetery.

Magazine Article Review - After the Battle Magazine - Volume 74

The Magazine Article
MI5's Secret Interrogation Centre, After the Battle, volume 74, Battle of Britain Prints International Ltd., 1991, pages 50-53.

This issue of After the Battle Magazine contains an article on MI5's Secret Interrogation Centre, also known as: Latchmere House, Camp 020, Ham Common or simply Ham.

The article gives a brief history of the centre, how it came to be and a few of the stories that have continued to swirl about it. Touching on the issue of interrogation methods, the article does acknowledge that prisoners were often treated rather harshly, left to stew in their cells for a few hours, fed inedible meals and threatened with execution.

James John Rymer - The Innocent Radio Engineer tainted by a German Spy

When German spy Josef Jakobs descended from the heavens on the night of 31 January, 1941, he brought with him a load of trouble for one James John Rymer of London.

Josef Jakobs had been equipped with a National Identity Card in the name of James Rymer of 33 Abbotsford Gardens, Woodford Green. The ID card was notable for many reasons, the most glaring being the registration number 656/301/29. Registration numbers always started with a letter prefix and Josef's was clearly an odd one.

Josef Jakobs visits Cannon Row Police Station

During World War 2, almost all of the captured German spies were taken to Cannon Row Police Station in London for a preliminary interrogation/statement.  Josef Jakobs, who arrived via parachute on January 31, 1941, was no exception.
After a cold night in a potato field near Ramsey, nursing a broken ankle, Josef was discovered by the local Home Guard and taken to Ramsey Police Station. After being processed by the Ramsey Police, Josef was transported to London on the afternoon of February 1, 1941.
Many of the German spies had been told by their handlers that London was a bombed-out wreck, but as Josef was driven through the streets of London, he would have realized that the Abwehr spymasters had been lying.

Magazine Article Review - After the Battle Magazine - Volume 72

The Magazine Article
From the Editor - Letters, After the Battle, volume 72, Battle of Britain Prints International Ltd., 1991, page 36.

Last year I wrote a short article review on After the Battle Magazine's classic piece on German Spies in Britain (Volume 11, published 1976). In the late 1980s, this magazine was one of the first sources of information that I cam across in my research on Josef Jakobs. In 1991, I wrote a letter to After the Battle Editor, Winston Ramsey.

In Volume 72 of After the Battle Magazine, Ramsey published portions of my letter to him as well as the photograph of Josef that I had sent to him. The article also includes a photograph of the memorial statue in the Chapel at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Kensal Green, London.

Review Score
4 out of 5 - Accurate although the source of Josef's photograph was not acknowledged in the photograph caption.

Lt. Col. Charles R.T.M. Gerard - The Man in Charge of Josef Jakobs' Execution

When Josef Jakobs was found guilty of Treachery (espionage) by a military court martial in early August 1941, his fate was placed into the hands of the London District Deputy Provost Marshal, Colonel Charles Robert Tolver Michael Gerard. It was Gerard who would make arrangements for Josef's execution and who would ensure that everything surrounding the event was carried out with military precision.

Early Life
Charles Robert Tolver Michael Gerard (we'll just call him Charles) was born on 28 February, 1894, in the rather posh district of St. George/Hanover Square in London. His parents were the Hon. Robert Joseph Geard-Dicconson and Eleanor Sarah Bankes.

Charles' grandfather was the 1st Baron Gerard of Bryn but Charles' uncle ended up inheriting the title. But as fate would have it, eventually Charles' own grandson would inherit the 5th Baron Gerard of Bryn title due to a lack of male heirs in the other line. Charles' family was quite well-to-do and the household …

Update on the Hunt for Kenneth C. Howard

N.B. See my February 12, 2017 blog for a break in the search for Kenneth C. Howard
Two small notebooks are contained in one of the Josef Jakobs folders (KV 2/27) at the National Archives in Kew, England. Both notebooks seem to be the property of one Kenneth C. Howard from Birmingham. They were sent to MI5 by the Birmingham Police in June 1941, but the only spy connection seems to be a reference to Karl Theodore Druecke. Nowhere in the MI5 files on Josef Jakobs is there any mention of these notebooks nor any questions around Kenneth C. Howard. Unfortunately the Druecke files were heavily weeded - so no help there.

I've done several blogs on Kenneth and his little notebooks:
Who is Kenneth C. Howard?The Mystery of the Two Notebooks and a Boy named Kenneth C. HowardThe Mysterious Diary of Kenneth C. HowardKenneth C. Howard's Little Black Book A few weeks ago, a couple of comments were left on the second blog offering some genealogical threads that might help track down Kenneth. T…

Mysterious End of Robin William George Stephens - a.k.a. Tin-Eye Stephens

I've written a couple of blogs about Lt. Col. Robin William George Stephens, the commandant of MI5's secret World War 2 interrogation centre, Camp 020.

The first blog touched on the life of Stephens and was based on readily available information. One of the enduring mysteries around Stephens is the actual date of his death. It is not mentioned in any of the literature and while the death of his second wife is well-documented, that of Stephens is not. Admittedly, with a surname like Stephens, and a first name that fluctuated between Robin and Robert, it is a bit hard to pin down a death date. There are a lot of Robert Stephens in Britain.

A few months ago, I did an update on the family of Lt. Col. Robin W.G. Stephens. I had tracked down Robin's parents, William Henry Stephens & Julia Elizabeth Howell, as well as an older brother, Howell Charles Stephens. Howell was killed in action during World War I, and the parents endured internment on Jersey during World War 2. But …

Another Clue in Tracing the Enigmatic Clara Bauerle

A few weeks back, I tracked down a resource that possibly had fresh information on Clara Bäuerle.

If you recall, Clara is considered by some researchers to be a potential candidate for the mysterious Bella in the Wych Elm. Several online resources, however, indicate that Clara died in Berlin on 16 December, 1942. I've been trying to dig up information to substantiate that date.

This new resource: Tondokumente der Kleinkunst und ihre Interpreten: 1898-1945 (privately published by Berthold Leimbach in 1991) had a page on Clara Bäuerle, a portion of which was visible on Google Books.

This rather obscure book isn't available in North America, so I had a cousin track it down in the Staats Bibliothek zu Berlin (Berlin State Library). After much anticipation, my cousin sent me a scanned image of the relevant page.

The image shows:
Top left - brief biography of Clara.Top right - the standard promotional photograph that Clara handed out at concerts. This is the same image that Josef J…

German Spy, Josef Jakobs breaks into the world of Fiction

Josef Jakobs has broken into the world of fiction. Susan Elia MacNeal, an American novelist, has written a mystery series that features heroine Maggie Hope. Maggie swirls through the espionage corners of Britain. In His Majesty's Hope, Maggie takes on an undercover mission behind enemy lines in Germany. While Maggie is tip-toeing through the minefield of Nazi Germany, a dialogue takes place in London between a man named Hugh and John Cecil Masterman (chairman of MI5's XX Committee):


“What about those who won’t turn?” Hugh asked. He knew about one captured German spy in particular, Josef Jakobs, who had parachuted into Ramsey in Huntingdonshire in January. Jakobs had been picked up by the Home Guard, who found that he’d broken his ankle when he landed. When arrested, he was still wearing his flying suit and carrying forged papers, a radio, British pounds, and a German sausage.

“He was tried in camera and found guilty under the Treachery Act of 1940. …

Red Herrings in the hunt for German Spy, Josef Jakobs

Asparagus and Flying Aces - these are the two red herrings that can lead one astray in a search for information on Josef Jakobs. Google Search is a wonderful tool but it doesn't always return the best search results. There are tips and tricks that you can use to improve the search results. First, one must realize that Josef Jakobs/Jacobs is a fairly common name in Germany and the Netherlands. Fortunately, search results generally return only the more "famous" results.

One of the primary red herrings in the hunt for Josef Jakobs is a place near Berlin called "Josef Jakobs - Spargelhof" - essentially "Josef Jakobs - Asparagus-farm".

Back in 1996, some entrpeneurs purchased a rundown Bauernhof (farmyard) near Beelitz and transformed it into a mecca for asparagus lovers.

A quick perusal of their menu reveals that everything is made with asparagus. Here in Canada, the "good" aspargus is pencil-thin and green. But in Germany, spring is Spargel-Zei…

Retracing the Footsteps of German Spy, Josef Jakobs

During his time in England, Josef was held, or taken to, various locations in Cambridgeshire and London. In the interests of clarity, I have created a Google Map with these locations marked on it.

If you follow the link to the map, you'll find that it is interactive. Zoom in and click on the various markings for a bit of information about each location and how it played a role in Josef's case. I'll be updating the map on occasion and probably extending it to Continental Europe.

Google Map - Retracing the Footsteps of Josef Jakobs in England

Book Review - Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and around the Fens - Glenda Goulden - 2008

The Book
Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and around the Fens; Glenda Goulden; Wharncliffe Books, Barnsley, South Yorkshire. 2008.

Every once in a while, I come across a "true crime" book that makes me shudder, not because of the gory crime scenes but because of the poor research. This is one such book.

First,a confession, I did not read the entire book, only Chapter 14 in which the author relates the dramatic capture of two sets of German spies in the fens of Cambridgeshire.

The first story purports to tell the tale of Wulf Schmidt (later double-agent TATE). Apparently a Home Guard Volunteer met two men in Danish uniform walking along a road near Willingham. He gave them directions to the village but was uneasy about their story. The authorities were contacted and guards from nearby RAF Oakington arrived to take the two men into custody. One man hung himself at Oakington while the other (Schmidt), was found to be a reluctant spy during interrogation at Oakington. He…