29 June 2015

Final Jeopardy for Josef Jakobs

Quick! Who was the last person executed in the Tower of London? Tick. Tick. Tick. The clock timer is counting down.

It's a trivia question and one that few people answer correctly. Some might remember Anne Boleyn from the time of the Tudors. Others might think of Catherine Howard. Few would think that the last execution took place in the 20th century, a mere 74 years ago.

While that question pops up on many online trivia sites, it recently achieved a new level of notoriety when it appeared, in modified form, on the famous game show Jeopardy.

On May 8, 2015, three contestants worked their way through a series of Jeopardy clues. The trick with Jeopardy is that the correct "answer" to each clue has to be phrased as a question. For example: "This man is the host of Jeopardy" would be the clue. The answer would be "Who is Alex Trebek?" The contestants earn money with each correct answer and by the end of the Double Jeopardy session on May 8, each had built up a significant pot of money.

Final Jeopardy
Final Jeopardy

Andrew Haringer, a history instructor from Squamish, B.C. had $15,400. Mary Green, an instructor from Milton, GA had $10,000 and Louis Virtel, a web writer from Lemont, IL, was in the lead with a pot of $16,000.

It was now time for Final Jeopardy. The host of the show revealed the category, Historic Sites. Each contestant now had a change to write down their wager, without knowing the question.

Would they bet the bank or would they play it safe? If they answered the question correctly, their wager amount would be added to their pot. If they answered incorrectly, their wager amount would be deducted from their pot.

After a commercial break (of course), Alex Trebek revealed the clue...
Final Jeopardy question - May 18, 2015 (From The Final Wager website)
Final Jeopardy question - May 18, 2015
(From The Final Wager website)

The clock started ticking. The contestants had 30 seconds to write the answer down on an electronic screen. The tension mounted. Andrew wrote his answer down quickly. Mary and Louis both hesitated. Their time was up. Their answers were revealed starting with the person with the lowest pot of money.

Mary's answer was "the Ba" - clearly not correct. She may have been trying to write the Bastille. Mary had wagered $9500 and was left with $500. Sorry, Mary.

Andrew's answer was "What is the Tower of London". Ding ding ding! Correct. He had wagered his entire piggy bank, all $15,400 and was now up to $30,800. But would it be enough to win? If Louis had wagered $14,801 AND correctly answered the question, Andrew would lose.

Louis' answer was "Auschwicz". Nope. Wrong answer. Louis had wagered $14,801 and lost it all. He was now at $1199.
May 8, 2015 - Jeopardy contestants (from Fickle Fame website)
May 8, 2015 - Jeopardy contestants (from Fickle Fame website)
Kudos to Andrew for correctly answering the question. Clearly he paid attention in history class or he's been reading trivia websites.

Fickle Fame website - Provides recaps of all Jeopardy shows.
The Final Wager website - Analyzes the wagers of Jeopardy contestants.
J Board website - forum to discuss strategy of Jeopardy contestants

24 June 2015

BBC Article - Unsolved English Murder Mysteries - 13 January 2015

Clara Bauerle, singer and actress (National Archives - Security Service files)
Clara Bauerle, singer and actress
(National Archives - Security Service files)
Every once in a while, I dig around the internet, turning over stones and looking for new and interesting tidbits about Josef and his associates. This morning I came across a January 2015 BBC article entitled "English murder mysteries that have baffled detectives".

Naturally, the article included the case of Bella in the Wych Elm. The article mentioned the usual suspicions that the deceased woman had been a German spy. But this article had an interesting tidbit of information.
The publication of MI5 files detailing the capture of a German spy [Josef Jakobs] with a picture of the actress Clara Bauerle in his pocket led to speculation last year Clara was Bella.
But author Piu Marie Eatwell, who is researching the case, dismissed the theory, highlighting the women's different descriptions and that Clara lived after 1943.
She said her own research had found a lot of police files associated with the case were missing.
My researcher antennae perked up at the mention of another author who has been researching the case of Bella in the Wych Elm, and its connections with Clara Bauerle. Particularly since Eatwell had come to the same conclusion that I had. A bit more searching and it appears that author Piu Marie Eatwell has written a book about Bella in the Wych Elm, but one that has yet to be published. Unfortunate, as it sounds like a very good read.

19 June 2015

Daily Mail Article - German Spy - Carl Hans Lody

Carl Hans Lody, WWI Germany spy.
Carl Hans Lody, WWI Germany spy.
On 2 July, 2014, the Daily Mail published an article which outlined the story of Carl Hans Lody. The article was prompted by the discovery, in the Guards Museum, of a letter written by Lody to the Commander of the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards, thanking him and his men for their kindness.

The letter was recently included in a display at the Guards Museum commemorating the 100th anniversary of Lody's death. The display also apparently includes the bullet which ended Lody's life as well as a sixpence that he gave to one of the guards as a tip.

The Daily Mail article also includes an inset piece on the bloody history of the Tower, highlighting some of the more famous (infamous?) executions which have taken place over the centuries. The inset mentions that during World War II, the Tower served as a "temporary prison" and served as the execution site for Josef Jakobs.

This line may not be entirely accurate. The Tower was considered to be a fortress and a royal palace during World War II, but not a prison (either temporary or permanent). While it was true that the Tower served to hold some individuals (e.g. Rudolf Hess), the Secretary of State never declared the Tower of London to be a military prison nor a detention barracks during World War II.

On the other hand, the cell used to hold Josef at HMP Wandsworth, was declared to be a military prison on 19 July, 1941 by Herbert Morrison, one of His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State. Such a decree was never issued for the Tower of London during World War II.

18 June 2015

Today in 1941 - June 18 - German spy Josef Jakobs gave a statement to Lt. Col. Hinchley-Cooke

Today in 1941, Josef Jakobs was taken to Cannon Row Police Station where he gave a statement to Lt. Col. Hinchley-Cooke of MI5.

Since mid-May, Josef had been involved in a cross-ruff with fellow spy Karel Richter; one spy being played off the other. MI5, however, was eager to move in the direction of prosecution and by mid-June, felt that they had all of their ducks in a row. All that was required was for Lt. Col. Hinchley-Cooke to take a statement from Josef.

For this purpose, Inspector Douglas Grant from Special Branch (Metropolitan Police) transported Josef from Latchmere House to Cannon Row Police Station. The statement was taken in the presence of Inspector Grant, Detective Sergeant Smith and Detective Constable Wills. Hinchley-Cooke took the statement in the form of question and answer. After covering the basics of Josef's birth, nationality and military service, Hinchley-Cooke briefly touched on how Josef had arrived in England (by parachute from a German military aircraft) and his purpose in coming to England.

This statement would be used at the court-martial against Josef.

15 June 2015

Tower of London - Fortress and Royal Palace, not Prison

Tower of London - (c) G.K. Jakobs.
Tower of London - (c) G.K. Jakobs.
A few days prior to Josef Jakobs' execution on 15 August, 1941, Lt. Col. W.E. Hinchley-Cooke of MI5 met with W.B. Purchase, the Northern District Coroner (London) and G.H. Cox, Assistant Adjutant General of the London District (military). The three men met around 10 August to discuss the procedure surrounding a coroner's inquest in the case of the death of a person in military custody.

Hinchley-Cooke wanted to keep Josef's execution as secret as possible. He desperately wanted to avoid a coroner's jury and notice of the execution being posted on the gates of the Tower, both of which were necessary when a person was executed at one of His Majesty's Prisons. Hinchley-Cooke recognized that the members of a coroner's jury would need to be informed prior to the actual execution, and he wanted to avoid this at all costs.

Purchase said that a coroner's inquest would be necessary because the death would be unnatural and, if the Tower of London was a prison, then the coroner would need to involve a jury. Purchase rather thought that the Tower could be classified as a prison but a copy of the Army Act was produced for him which altered his thinking.

Header of letter written by W.B. Purchase to M.H. Whitelegge (Home Office?)
Header of letter written by W.B. Purchase to M.H. Whitelegge (Home Office?)
Purchase noted that "it is true that in the past [the Tower of London] has, and at times in the present it may harbour persons in custody, but it has never been set apart by the Secretary of State under the terms of the Army Act (s. 132(1)) as a military prison." The Tower of London was simply a royal palace and a fortress, not a prison. Given that the Tower was not a prison, nor a palace in which the King was in residence, it could simply be considered an ordinary place in which a person had died an unnatural death.

In the opinion of Purchase, the coroner assigned to the case need not call a coroner's jury nor post a notice of the execution on the gate of the Tower. Purchase noted that the coroner would still need to conduct an inquest to determine the legality of the death and whether or not it had been carried out in the proper and humane way. Thus the coroner might choose to conduct the post-mortem examination in concert with a skilled person independent of those who had conducted the execution. Finally the coroner and whoever conducted the post-mortem could be bound by the provisions of secrecy.

Hinchley-Cooke was much relieved by this decision and could relax, knowing that Josef's execution would take place in military secrecy.

National Archives - Home Office file - HO 45/19086.

10 June 2015

The Tablet - A Brief Tour of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green

The Tablet logo.On 23 November, 2013, the Tablet newspaper in England published an article entitled "From NW10 to Eternity". The article gives a brief history of St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery in Kensal Green where Josef Jakobs is buried.

The article highlights some of the more impressive tombs in the cemetery and mentions the three spies who are buried within its grounds - Josef Jakobs (German spy), Krystyna Skarbek (British Secret Intelligence agent) and Andrzej Kowerski (SOE agent during World War 2).

The article also notes that there is an underground catacomb below the chapel and the chapel office, a fascinating tidbit of information.

The article notes that the cemetery was almost full in 1992 and that a second lift of soil was placed on graves in the southern area of the cemetery. Winston Ramsey of After the Battle magazine indicated that a second lift of soil was placed on graves in the "G" area of the cemetery in the mid-1970s. Shortly afterwards, he visited the cemetery looking for Josef's grave and found that it had been covered over. Perhaps this area was expanded in 1992.

05 June 2015

Website Review - Blog by Robert Walsh

I came across a blog article last year entitled: Josef Jakobs - The Last Execution at the Tower of London. The author of the blog, Robert Walsh, outlines the story of Josef Jakobs. The account, while quite readable, suffers from several factual errors, inconsistencies and spelling mistakes.

Date of execution - Walsh correctly says that Josef was executed on August 15, 1941, and then later alters that to August 14, 1941.

Executions at the Tower - Walsh correctly notes that 11 spies were executed at the Tower during World War I, but later notes that prior to Josef, the last execution took place in 1747. Prior to Josef, the last execution at the Tower took place in 1916 (World War I spy - Ludovico Hurwitz-y-Zender).

Nationality - Walsh states that Josef was a Luxembourger, which is inaccurate. Josef was born in Luxembourg to German parents and was a German citizen.

Money - Walsh says Josef was equipped with £500 in forged notes, also inaccurate. The currency that Josef brought was turned in to the Bank of England and exchanged for new notes. The money needed to be available for Josef's court martial, and after that took place, the original notes he brought were destroyed. Had they been forged, the Bank of England would not have issued replacement notes to the Security Service.

Court Martial - a typo - Josef's court martial took place in 1941 not 1940. Sergison-Brooke did not preside at Josef's court martial, that honour went to Major General Bevil T. Wilson. Sergison-Brooke was the Officer Commanding, London District.

2.5/5 - Several inaccuracies and spelling mistakes distract from the overall story.

01 June 2015

Digitization at the National Archives

A friend of mine recently told me that the Josef Jakobs files at the National Archives had been digitized. I took a look and, sure enough, it is now possible to purchase the KV 2 files for the princely sum of £3.30 each, which I think works out to just over $5 CAN.

Twelve years ago, when I first visited the National Archives after the files had been released, I paid £1.00 per page to have the files photocopied. About £800 or almost $1500 CAN, if I remember correctly. A worthwhile investment but it is still nice to know that the files are now available for a much more reasonable cost. I did, however, notice that the court martial file has not yet been digitized. Perhaps the Archives only digitizes "popular" items that have reached a certain threshold of views.

In addition, the National Archives has provided images of some of the artifacts and photographs in the Josef Jakobs files. The x-ray images of Josef's fractured ankle from the KV 2/24 file are available for purchase. In addition, some images from the KV 2/27 file are available - the photograph of Clara Bauerle, the torn fragments of the code disc and a photograph of the flashlight and battery.
National Archives - Image Gallery - items from the KV 2/27 folder on Josef Jakobs.
National Archives - Image Gallery - items from the KV 2/27 folder on Josef Jakobs.
Image from the Image Library are a tad more pricey - £35.00 each to supply the image and then a reproduction fee based on the intended usage of the image.

I had a look through some of the other World War 2 spy files and found, much to my delight, that many of them have now been digitized. All four of Karel Richter's files, for example, are available for download, as well as a number of photographs in the Image Library.

On the other hand, some of the CRIM (Criminal Courts), PCOM (Prison Commisioners) and WO (War Office) files on the spies have not yet been digitized.

The digitization of the KV 2 files makes research on the World War 2 far more convenient, particularly from a distance.