Gösta Caroli - Double Agent and Fox Farmer
I know that Caroli's MI5 file says that he was repatriated back to Sweden at the end of the war, but... one always wonders with MI5. I had a vague recollection of reading something about Caroli's death in Sweden in the 1970s... so I did a bit of digging...
I came across a 2009 forum discussion on ScanGen (Genealogy in Scandinavia) which mentioned Gösta Caroli and, after heavy use of Google Translate, along with some reference to the Swedish Ancestry site, I've stitched together the following.
Birth of Gösta Caroli
|Church (Kyrke) in Norra Vram where Gösta Caroli was born|
and his father, Claes Alfred Caroli was Vicar from 1901.
(Swedish National Heritage Board [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons)
Claes was vicar of the church in Norra Vram from 1901 onwards. The couple had several children:
- Ingrid (born 17 March 1896 in Uppsala - died 25 October 1983 in Farsta, Sweden)
- Gunnar (born 1898 in Uppsala - became a clergyman - died 6 August 1975)
- Gerda (born 29 December 1900 in Uppsala - became a Gymnastikdirektör (could be a school principal if it is comparable to "Gymnasium" in German))
- Gösta (born 6 November 1902 in Norra Vram - this is our guy)
- Claes Tryggve (born April 7 1905 in Norra Vram - died 6 May 1968 in Ekenäs Varnum Hökenäs Municipality)
In researching this article, I was really only trying to establish what became of Caroli after the war but... his pre-war activity was just too fascinating to pass up! Particularly as it involves trips to Canada... and my own home province of British Columbia.
It would appear that Caroli, between 1924 and 1929, spent a lot of time shuttling back and forth between Sweden, Canada and the United States. He may even have become a Canadian (perhaps landed immigrant), although the evidence is not 100% clear. The following is based primarily on passenger lists and immigration records, which are fragmentary.
On 4 March 1926, Caroli boarded the RMS Ausonia (Cunard Lines) in Southampton, England bound for Halifax, Canada.
|Silver Fox Pelts|
A couple of years later, he was again traveling from Europe to Canada. This time he arrived in Halifax on 12 March 1928 aboard the SS Thuringin. In response to the Canadian authorities, he stated that he had
been in Canada before, from March 1924-November 1927 at Quilchena, British Columbia.
He could speak Swedish, German and English and, while his nationality was Swedish, the form listed him as a "Returned Canadian" and noted that his passport had been issued in Montreal, Quebec. He gave his
occupation as farmer and stated that his final destination was Lake View Fox Farm at
Quilchena, B.C. He may have taken a circuitous route to Quilchena via the United States. There is a record of him crossing from Canada into the United States in 1928 (but no details). Several months later, on 6 June 1928, he crossed back into Canada, this time from Oroville, WA, bound for Quilchena. He stated that he was visiting his friend, W. Crompton, and that he was enroute back to Sweden.
He must have returned to Sweden quickly. By 28 October 1928, he boarded the SS Albert Ballin in Sweden, bound for Canada (with a stop in Hamburg along the way).
By 27 February, 1929, he was back on the Continent once again bound for the Americas. This time, he boarded the SS Berengaria in Cherbourg, France, bound for New York. In May 1929, he departed New York (having been in Winnipeg, Manitoba) for Sweden (Gothenburg). His ultimate destination was Helsingfors in Sweden.
On 7 December 1929, he boarded the SS Kungsholm in Gothenburg and arrived in Halifax on 14 December 1929. To the Canadian authorities, he stated that he had been in Canada between 1926 and 1927. He was a director and owner of the Fox Farm "Stora Vreta" in Uppsala, Sweden. He gave his occupation as "Fox Buyer". His destination is difficult to read as handwriting has been superimposed on the typewritten information. It is in Winnipeg and looks like "Alisted Ranch, Somerset ^Block
Room^ 846. It's likely meant to be: "Somerset Block, Room 846". Somerset Block was a multi-story building in downtown Winnipeg (294 Portage) that housed offices. Caroli was traveling inland on the CNR (Canadian National Railway).
|Extract from Canadian arrival record of Gösta Caroli on 14 December 1929 in Halifax|
It's pretty clear that Caroli traveled back and forth between Sweden and Canada. Whether he took on Canadian citizenship is unknown. He would appear to have been a dealer in foxes and fox fur pelts. He may have brought breeding pairs from Sweden to Canada, or vice versa.
Within Canada, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and the Nicola Valley (British Columbia) all had a thriving fox fur industry in the 1920s and 1930s. I found numerous online references to fox farms in the Nicola Valley (in which Quilchena was located). I even found a reference to William Crompton, a well-known fur farmer in the area who passed away in 1947. Crompton was likely the "friend" that Caroli was visiting in Quilchena in 1928.
A web page about mink farming history in British Columbia noted that:
W. Crompton of Quilchena had an advertisement in the May 1925 issue of the Fur Trade Journal, offering to buy live wild mink, marten and fisher
A book about the History of the Church in Merritt (a few miles from Quilchena) noted that:
Another industry that is fast becoming an important factor in the economic life of the valley is that of Fox Farming. Starting on a small scale in 1921 with sixteen pairs of the best variety of silver foxes the "Merit Fox Ranch" operated by J. J. Gillis has now in the neighbourhood of three hundred animals in pens that cover almost two acres of ground. The farm is ideally located in the foothills two miles east of the city at an altitude where the winter temperature is just right ofr the production of the finest fur. Plant and animals together represent about sixty thousand dollars in value. Messrs. Charles and Edgar Collett are in charge of the farm. The other breeders in the district are A.E. Axton, W. Crompton [emphasis added], J. Guichon, Mrs. Marshall, Isaac Millar, Mrs. Eric Gavelin, all of whom are having good success. Merritt is headquarters of the B.C. Fox Breeders Association.
By 1929, there were apparently 1200 foxes being farmed in the area and the industry was worth in the hundreds of thousands of dollars (quite an amount back then). In 1928, the Summerland Review noted that:
One fox farmer near Merritt is realizing $20,000 from a twenty-pair shipment to Sweden. Another fox breeder, the mayor of Merritt and M.L.A. for Yale, is shortly to ship thirty pair to France. It is evident that the market is world wide.Caroli was obviously involved in a profitable industry although, one wonders what happened when the bottom fell out of the stock market ushering in the Great Depression.
The Nebulous 1930s
I had a look in Caroli's MI5 file, a severely redacted file of "selected historical papers". There isn't much in there and Caroli's name is always blanked out.
(From Danish website on Wulf Schmidt)
In the late 1930s Caroli claimed to have worked as a journalist, even spending time in Birmingham and spying for the Abwehr before the war. He also apparently worked as a seaman and was found with a seaman's book in 1940.
After agreeing to work as a double-agent for MI5 (in exchange for the life of his friend and fellow spy Wulf Schmidt (double agent TATE), Caroli (now double agent SUMMER) sent doctored wireless transmissions to Germany. He did not, however, handle his captivity well and in November 1940 severed both radial arteries in his wrists with a razor. He survived and was continued to be employed as a double agent by MI5. In mid-January 1941, however, he cracked again when he over-powered his guard and escaped on a stolen motorcycle. He didn't get far and was interned for the duration of the war.
I also remember reading (somewhere) that Caroli had ongoing issues with his neck due to the wireless case smashing him on the chin when he landed by parachute in September 1940. Even after the war, he was trying to seek compensation (from the Germans or the Swedes?) for his injury.
A Repatriated Double Agent
According to the MI5 files, Caroli was repatriated to Sweden on 25 August 1945 (KV 2/2593). On 24 November 1946, Gösta Caroli married Greyta (Greta) Bergmann (born 15 March 1914 in Bro, Stockholm) in Landskrona.
|Marriage registration of Gösta Caroli and Greta Bergmann - 1946 November 24|
A couple of years later,
on 21 May 1948, the couple had a son in Landskrona: Claes Caroli (still
Claes married Kerstin Margareta Elisabet Larsson and the couple had two sons: Christian Nils Peter Caroli (born 1981) and Stefan Claes Gösta Caroli (born 1983). Stefan runs Camp Caroli, a lodge in Swedish Lapland which offers wilderness tours.
According to the Swedish Death Book (Sveriges död bok), Gösta died in Asmundtorp, Sweden on 8 May 1975. His wife, Gretya died 22 July 1975 in Asmundtrop, Sweden.
|Family Chart of Gösta Caroli, his son (Claes Caroli) and grandsons (Christian Nils Peter Caroli & |
Stefan Claes Gösta Caroli) (from Ancestry tree of hschneidau1)
There would seem to be incontrovertible evidence that Gösta Caroli was indeed sent back to Sweden, where he married, raised a son, and died in 1975. His son, Claes is still alive and apparently provided photographs of his father (Claes Caroli) to Tommy Jonason & Simon Olsson, the authors of Agent TATE: The Wartime Story of Harry Williamson.
|Cover of 2015 book by Simon Olsson|
and Tommy Jonason "Gösta Caroli -
Ancestry.se - family tree from hschneidau1
Ancestry.ca - passenger and immigration lists
Rootschat - discussion about W. Crompton
Merritt Morning Market - has a brief synopsis from the Nicola Valley Museum
Summerland Review - news article about fur farming in the Nicola Valley
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church - Souvenir Book - December 1923 - details the history of the churches in Merritt BC and a bit on the area's industry
Denton History - The Spy from the Sky - story of Gösta Caroli's landing and capture
Agent TATE: The Wartime Story of Harry Williamson by Tommy Jonason & Simon Olsson (2011).
P.S. The Nicola Valley Museum used to have a blog which had an article entitled: "Fox Farming: A Once Booming Industry in the Nicola Valley" (2013 02 20). Unfortunately, they have changed the hosting provider of their website and blog and the link no longer works. The Internet Archive Wayback Machine only archived the stub of the article, not the "Read More" part.