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The Dangers of Drifting

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Apologies to anyone who has been trying to find my Josef Jakobs website (www.josefjakobs.com)! I have drifted away from blogging about Josef for the last 6 months and wasn't updating the website at all. With the domain up for renewal in January, I had a look at it and was shocked to discover that the site-provider, Moonfruit, moved all free subscriptions to paid subscriptions on September 1.

Apparently the site has been unavailable since then. Oh dear.


So, again, 1000 apologies. In many ways this is a good thing as it will force me to make the switch to the new Josef Jakobs site on Weebly that I set up in the spring. I was just procrastinating on transferring the domain as I tend to do that when I think something will be either (a) hard or (b) complicated.

Stay-tuned and I plan to get the blog back on a regular schedule as well.

Clara Bauerle is Finally Laid to Rest

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It has taken me a few years, pursuing many leads, but I can finally say that Clara Bauerle has been laid to rest.

Clara did not die stuffed into a Wych Elm in England. She was not Bella in the Wych Elm. She was a German actress and singer who passed away in a Berlin hospital on December 16, 1942.

A while ago, I ordered the birth registration for Clara, from the Standesamt in Ulm. That record gave her death registration number in Berlin.

With that in hand, I wrote to the relevant Standesamt in Berlin and, after a lengthy wait, received her death registration in the mail last week. Translation follows below...


The actress Hedwig Klara Bauerle, Protestant, living in Berlin, Bleibtreustrasse 32, did, on 16 December 1942 at 12:15 in Berlin-Oberschoneweide, Konigin-Elisabeth-Hospital, die.
The deceased was born on 27 August 1905 in Ulm (Standesamt Ulm/Donau Nr.../...).
Father - Fruitseller Adolf Bauerle, deceased, last living in Ulm.
Mother - Dorothea Barbara Bauerle, born Schaufele,…

Break in the Hunt for Clara Bauerle

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Regular readers of this blog will know that I have been trying to follow the trail of German cabaret singer, Clara Bauerle. Former mistress of German spy, Josef Jakobs, in recent years, Clara has been put forward as a candidate for Bella in the Wych Elm. It's an intriguing theory... mistress of a German spy parachutes into England in the summer of 1941 and ends up stuffed into a hollow elm tree for her troubles.

Except for the tiny detail that German music resources indicate Clara Bauerle passed away in Berlin on 16 December 1942. I've been digging away at that date, trying to find something more substantial than online resources. The Bavarian Music Lexicon Online was the original source I found that mentioned Clara's death date, but what was the primary source for that information?

A few weeks ago I wrote to the editor of the BMLO and... lo and behold... I got a response. He directed me to the German Theatre Museum in Munich and their annual almanac from 1944. An email to…

Clara Bauerle - How Speculation can quickly turn to Fact

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So, we're back to Clara Bauerle again. The irrepressible German cabaret singer whose name will be forevermore linked with that of Josef Jakobs it seems.

Those of you who follow this blog know that I've been trying to track down more information on Clara. I've done a fair bit and the most solid lead points to her passing away in Berlin on December 16, 1942.

A few years ago... some enterprising journalist suggested that Clara Bauerle may have been the mysterious Bella in the Wych Elm. The identity of the unfortunate woman, stuffed into a Wych Elm in rural Britain in late 1941, has piqued the curiosity of many amateur sleuths, writers, journalists and conspiracy theorists.

That speculative piece of journalism is, however, taking on a life of its own. I was searching the internet for new leads on Clara and came across a reference to here on the Ancestry genealogy website.

Lo and behold... there's a Clara Bauerle listed... born 1906 in Germany and died 1941 in Worcestershir…

The Lost Files of Abwehr Ast X

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Digging up information on the activities of World War II secret services is challenging because... well... a lot of the documents were/are secret!

The British MI5 files have been slowly released to the public domain over the last 15 years, which has been extremely helpful in researching the German spies, including Josef Jakobs.

But what about the files of MI5's German counterpart - the German Intelligence Service a.k.a. Nachrichtendienst a.k.a The Abwehr?

Good question. The answers range from: files were destroyed by Abwehr staff as the Allies invaded; files were destroyed through Allies bombing; files have gone missing; files are buried in the German Military Archives; files are buried in the National Archives in Washington DC. It's enough to give researchers pounding headaches.

Let's start near the beginning... or at least... a beginning. Back in 1971/72, three books were published about World War II espionage activities: one by one by a German, one by a Briton and one b…

Abwehr Locales in Hamburg

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Hamburg has proved to be a stubborn nut to crack. Very stubborn. During the last few years of writing this blog, I've been tackling various locales, people and objects, trying to deepen my own understanding of the role they played in the story of German spy, Josef Jakobs. Most of my blogs have focused on the English side of things, mostly because it has been easier to dig up information on those places and/or people.

I've tried several times to dig up info on some of the Hamburg hotels/restaurants/meeting places that the 1940/41 spies and Abwehr officers would have frequented. On the whole, the internet rebuffed my efforts. Given that Hamburg was bombed to smithereens in the latter stages of the war, this might not be altogether unsurprising. Maybe some of those locations ceased to exist?

But... last week, whilst researching the Beautiful Vera, I redoubled my efforts to crack the Hamburg nut... and met with some success. Here, then, are the results of my research:

Abwehr Headqu…

Tales of the Spies - The Mysterious and Beautiful Vera

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In late September, 1940, three spies landed on the Banffshire coast in a rubber dinghy. Dropped off by a flying boat from Norway, the two men and one woman would not remain undiscovered for very long.

François de Deeker (real name Karl Theodore Drücke) and Vera Eriksen (a.k.a. Vera von Schalburg, Vera von Stein, Vera de Cottani de Chalbur, Vera von Wedel, Vera Staritzky) were apprehended in a local train station. Werner Walti (real name Robert Petter) made it as far as Edinburgh before he too was arrested.

Drücke and Petter were virtually unbreakable, even by MI5's expert interrogator Tin-Eye Stephens. They were hanged in early August 1941 at Wandsworth Prison.

The story of their accomplice, Vera, is more convoluted. She was never prosecuted, a mystery which has baffled historians for decades. Was it because she was a woman? Because she had given birth to the illegitimate child of a member of upper crust English society? Because she had cooperated with MI5 and become an informer?…

Tales of the Spies - Double Agents

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If there's one thing I've learned in researching the story of Josef Jakobs, it's that sometimes you have to go sideways in order to go forwards. I've hit a lot of brick walls in my years of research, and oftentimes have experienced a breakthrough by focusing my research elsewhere.

One of the obvious sideways alternatives is the stories of the other World War 2 spies, both those who became double agents, and those who paid the ultimate price.

In the first group, the double agents, there are several who stand out. SNOW, TATE, SUMMER, MUTT, JEFF. Their stories were contemporaneous with that of Josef's and, in some cases, touched on his case directly.


The story of SNOW has been written many times. One of the primary books is that by Madoc Roberts & Nigel West and the other is a very readable version by James Hayward.

The saga of TATE has been written by a couple of Swedish writers, Tommy Jonason and Simon Olsson. There is some controversy surrounding this book fro…

New Josef Jakobs Website in the Works

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It's time for a change.

For the last few years, I've had the Josef Jakobs website hosted on Moonfruit. It was easy. It was cheap. But a few weeks ago, I got a new laptop with Windows 10 and McAfee Anti-Virus. I tried to update the website and McAfee had a snit-fit and told me it was not a safe site. Come again? I overrode McAfee eventually but... the experience made me pause.


Moonfruit has been urging me to update my site to HTML5, but I've heard that it muddles up your website quite badly and... I didn't really want to deal with that. Plus, I've been meaning to rejig the site for a while. The News section is getting ridiculously long and confusing (even to me)!
A bit of research revealed that the old version of Moonfruit uses Flash which is apparently quite susceptible to attacks, hence the McAfee alarms. Well then, if I'm going to have to upgrade Moonfruit and go through the hassle, why not move elsewhere?

Sooo... I have been researching other website builder…

The Ruins of RAF Upwood

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I came across a few interesting sites that document the abandoned RAF Upwood base near Ramsey, Huntingdonshire. German spy, Josef Jakobs, landed near Ramsey on January 31, 1941 and MI5 speculated at the time that he might have been sent to snoop around the airbase. While Josef had a Shell Touring Map of England in his possession, he most definitely did not have a map of RAF Upwood.

A couple of penciled marks on the map seemed to coincide with RAF Upwood and RAF Warboys, but are not perfect matches to either location. As mentioned in the previous blog post, the circle on Josef's map likely marks the place where the German aircrew of his plane hoped to cross into the general drop zone. The "x" on the map marks the likely location of where the aircrew hoped to drop Josef.

The site, Behind Closed Doors, has a nice series of photographs of the old RAF Upwood base. A short write-up on the site notes that:
"In February 1941 a German spy named Josef Jakobs was discovered …

A Theory for the Marks on Josef Jakobs' Shell Touring Map

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When German spy Josef Jakobs parachuted into a potato filed on Dovehouse Farm the night of January 31, 1941, he had a Shell Touring Map in his possession. The map was a fold-out variety and relatively small-scale. Not the best map for a would-be spy!


When MI5 examined the map, they noticed that a triangle had been drawn on one of the sheets connecting Peterborough, Bedford and Cambridge. According to Josef, this was the area in which the German aircrew said they would drop him.

Within that triangle were two other marks, a penciled "x" and a small circle. The penciled line under the word Ramsey was added by the President of Josef's General Court Martial and is noted in the court martial transcripts. Ramsey actually lies outside the boundaries of the triangle and given that Josef was dropped southeast of Ramsey, this suggests that the aircrew did not have exceptionally precise navigation.
There was much speculation in 1941 as to what the penciled "x" and circle c…

Long Shot on discovering the death date of Lt. Col. Robin William George Stephens

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For the last few years, I've been scratching away at the personal history of Tin-Eye (Robin W.G.) Stephens, former commandant of MI5s secret interrogation centre, Camp 020.

I've discovered quite a bit about Tin-Eye - his parents, his brother who died in WWI, the death of his second wife. But the death of Stephens continues to elude me. I even ordered his military records from the British Army Personnel department - they were sketchy to say the least.

There is one long shot that I haven't tried yet - the informant at the death of his second wife. But it's a seriously long shot. Let me walk you through it and maybe someone can suggest a way forward.

In the late 1920s, Stephens married Phyllis Gwendolyn Fletcher (nee Townshand) in India. They divorced in 1933 in London.

After that, there is no record of Stephens ever getting married again except... in Oliver Hoare's introduction to the book Camp 020, there is a photograph of Stephens with his second wife - Joan Gerald…

Photos from the Field Trip with Karel Richter

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote two posts which I hope brought some clarity to the location of Karel Richter's landing site.

The first looked at the possibility that Karel had sheltered at the Cherry Green Leaves camp northeast of London Colney.

The second delved more deeply into determining, with some certainty, the landing site of Karel Richter and the location of his equipment stashes.

A series of photographs taken by Camp 020 psychologist Dr. Harold Dearden during the field trip in mid-May 1941 were of great help. Whilst writing the second post above, it became clear, in looking at Dearden's photographs, that they were taken at two separate locations. One set was taken where Richter stashed his parachute. The second set was taken where Richter stashed his radio gear.

I thought I would try to assign each photograph to the relevant location.

Location 1 - Parachute Stash - just off White Horse Lane
According to a report by Capt. Stimson (May 18, 1941), the first stash included:…