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Showing posts from February, 2016

Book Review - Horrible Histories - Spies

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Wander through the bookstore at the Imperial War Museum and you're likely to spy a book entitled Horrible Histories - Spies. It's a children's book designed to awaken young minds to the horrible history of World War 2 espionage. It does a rather admirable job.

The book is full of all sorts of interesting stories and facts, often related in a rather tongue-in-cheek fashion. For example, regarding Karel Richter, the book has this to say:On 14 May 1941 German spy Karel Richter dropped into England on a parachute. He buried the parachute. Sadly crackpot Karel also buried his food supplies by mistake. After two days he was ill with hunger and the police caught him when he was taken to hospital. He was hanged. At least he didn't die hungry. A few factual errors (date and method of his capture) but on the whole, the account is accurate, and designed to illicit a rueful laugh from the reader. Mind you, after a while, the word play becomes a bit annoying, at least to an ad…

Another Dead-End with Tin-Eye Stephens

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A few weeks back, I ordered the Army Personnel Record for Robert/Robin William George Stephens, former Commandant of MI5's wartime interrogation centre, Camp 020. I've discovered quite a bit about Stephens through other sources, but his date of death still eludes me. Given that Hinchley-Cooke's Army file noted his death, I had hopes that Stephens' file might reveal the same. Alas, not so.

The records provided by the Army Personnel Centre for Stephens lack any family information and are generally notices of his promotions and/or assignments. A few tidbits of information came to light.
Stephens name is listed as Robin William Granor Stephens - not sure why given that his middle name was definitely George. Searching for the death of a Granor Stephens has yielded no results so far.Stephens was granted an OBE (Civil) on 1 January 1946. Even with that firm date, the actual notice in the Gazette still eludes me.Stephens regimental number was 157471. This bit of information al…

RSLO Cambridge - Cyril Egerton Dixon

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In the early years of World War II, particularly 1940 and 1941, MI5 was inundated with reports of suspicious people, flashing lights, strange markings on telegraph poles and spies dressed as nuns.

In the middle of June 1940, MI5 appointed Regional Security Liaison Officers (R.S.L.O.) to the headquarters of the two Civil Defence Regions seen to be under imminent threat of a German invasion (Cambridge & Tunbridge Wells). By the end of September, 1940, every region in the country would have an R.S.L.O.

It was the job of the R.S.L.O. to assist the local police in arresting, searching and interrogating suspicious characters.

The R.S.L.O. for Cambridge, an officer by the name of Dixon, was a very busy man indeed, handling the apprehension of several German parachute spies: Gosta Caroli, Wulf Schmidt, Kurt Karl Goose (sometimes called Hans Reysen), Josef Jakobs and Karel Richter.

Tracing Dixon has proved to be a tad difficult. One author suggested his first name was Richard/Dickie/Dicky,…

Lt. R.W. Taylor - Doctor at the Tower of London

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A few years ago, two prescriptions from the estate of London chemist H.A. Rowe went up for auction.

One was for Rudolf Hess, who was held at the Tower of London in May 1941 and the other was for Josef Jakobs, who was executed at the Tower in August 1941.

The Tower of London was the successful bidder for the prescriptions and Bridget Clifford from the Royal Armouries kindly shared a copy of the documents with me.

Originally, I was writing this post to touch, very briefly, on the identity of Lt. R.W. Taylor, the military doctor stationed at the Tower of London who signed both prescriptions. His identity however, is a bit of a mystery due in part to the lack of forenames and his rather common surname.

On 21 October 1940, one R.W. Taylor M.B. (Medicinae Baccalaureus) received an Emergency Commission as a Lieutenant, but beyond that, there is very little information on our Tower doctor.

Without any first names, trying to pin down the identity of the doctor is a bit challenging.

There was…

Capture of German Spy, Josef Jakobs - 75th Anniversary

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2016 marks the 75th anniversary of Josef Jakobs' ill-fated espionage mission to England. On the evening of January 31, 1941, Josef parachuted down from a Heinkel 111 aircraft.

Having broken his ankle during his exit from the plain, Josef lay in agony for 12 hours before attracting the attention of some passing farmers on the morning of February 1. Less than 7 months later, Josef would be executed as a spy at the Tower of London.

In May 2010, I visited Dovehouse Farm near the village of Ramsey, Huntingdonshire. Winston Ramsey, founder and editor of After the Battle Magazine graciously offered to serve as chauffeur and tour guide. It was a most enlightening trip.

It is only when one stands on the windy fens around Ramsey that one truly gets a sense of the futility of Josef's mission. A man dressed in the latest continental fashions, with a poor grasp of the English language, would have stood out like a sore thumb.

 Josef's mission ended before it really began.