Showing posts from 2019

A Window into the Minds of Abwehr Officers - Die Nachhut

Over the course of the last year, I've written a few blog posts in which an Abwehr officer named Walter Schulze-Bernett played a role.
Dutchman Harm Knol Bruins - German Spy and Civil Engineer- 18 Dec 2018Irish Naturalization - Wolpe, Roos and Smith - Black Market Passport Business - 11 Oct 2019 From June 1940 to June 1941, Schulze-Bernett was head of Gruppe I, Ast Netherlands in The Hague, a key period when Germany was throwing spies at the UK in preparation for Operation Sealion. Whilst researching the blog on Harm Knol Bruins, I came across an article written by Schulze-Bernett on the Venlo Incident entitled: Der Grenzzwischenfall bei Venlo/Holland (The Border Incident near Venlo/Holland).

The article is reproduced on a site devoted to George Elser, a German worker who organized the the Bürgerbräukeller assassination attempt on Hitler on 8 November 1939 in Munich. The author of the site, Peter Koblank, also has a sub-page devoted to the Venlo Incident, on which is the link for …

Article Review - Dramatising intelligence history on the BBC: the Camp 020 affair - Christopher J. Murphy (2019)

The Article
Dramatising intelligence history on the BBC: the Camp 020 affair. Christopher J. Murphy. Intelligence and National Security, Volume 34,  Issue 5, p. 688-702, 2019.

A few months ago, I received a complimentary copy of this article from the author. He had earlier requested a copy of the Camp 020 Spy! television episode (1980) of which I happened to have a digital copy, and which I shared with him. It was nice to see the final product and I found the article enlightening.

The Camp 020 Spy! episode is quite notorious as it depicts, in docu-drama fashion, the re-enactment of a British intelligence officer (Stephens) hitting a German spy (TATE). Given that Stephens had professed physical violence to be taboo, the airing of the episode generated a firestorm of criticism from former Camp 020 staff. A number of individuals wrote to the BBC expressing their strenuous objection to the episode stating that Stephens had never hit a prisoner. They admitted that a visiting officer…

The Spy in the Tower - Another Review

Had another author leave a review of The Spy in the Tower on out of 5 stars)
Dr. Jakobs has written a very important contribution to an under- and mis-represented aspect of espionage history - the treatment of Hitler's 'Lena' spies. These were agents sent by the Abwehr, in the winter of 1940-1941, to prepare the ground for the planned invasion. Jakobs's account is especially poignant because her grandfather was one of those executed. She complements her very thorough inspection of the archives, therefore, with a very moving story of Joseph Jakobs's prosecution and execution, which now seem highly controversial under a stricter examination of the quickly-enacted Treachery Act. 'The Spy in the Tower' may be a little too narrowly focused for the general reader, but it is a compelling tale, nonetheless. (Tony Percy on I appreciate any and all reviews!!

Book Review - Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm: Volume 2: A Crime Shrouded in Mystery - Alex Merrill (2019)

The Book
Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm: Volume 2 - A Crime Shrouded in Mystery. Alex Merrill. APS Publications. 2019.

The mystery of who put Bella in the Wych Elm has an enduring fascination. Over the decades, theories of whose skeletal remains were found in a hollow tree in Hagley Wood, Worcestershire, have proliferated. The theories cover everything from witch covens to German spies... and the casual reader can be easily sucked into all sorts of quagmires, many of which turn out to be based on false rumours.

The police report, recently released to the Worcester Archives doesn't really help the situation as it too has an over-abundance of false leads and dead ends.

In his first book, Alex Merrill provided a breath of fresh air to the case, examining the evidence in a clear and succinct form. He even moved the investigation ahead in several areas, notably the actual location of the wych elm (which moves around quite a bit in different theories!).

In his second book, Alex tac…

Bella in the Wych Elm - The Van Raalte Connection

In the mid-1950s, after "Anna of Claverley" wrote her cryptic letter to journalist Wilfred Byford-Jones, the police were able to track down and interview the letter writer, one Una Abel Mossop.

Una claimed that in 1941 her husband, Jack Mossop, had told her a story about a mysterious Dutchman named van Raalte and his "girlfriend". Apparently van Raalte and Mossop stuffed the girlfriend into a hollow tree in Hagley Wood and left her there. The story had several different variations: what Una said in her letter to Byford-Jones, what she told police in the Dick Whittington Pub (the source of the Frick & Frack rumours), what she told police in her signed statement several days later and Byford-Jones' own recollections five years later (the source of the "trapeze artist" connection). In some accounts the girl was simply drunk and stuffed into the tree... in others, she was killed by van Raalte and stuffed into the tree.

What did the pol…

The Unsealed 1939 National Register entry for Kenneth Clifford Howard

N.B. - I had logged in to make an edit to a photo on this blog post after it was published and... the entire thing disappeared and was overwritten by an upcoming post - apparently a glitch in Blogspot today. I am rewriting this blog post but... it may not be the same as what was originally published!

For a few years now, I've been researching a gentleman named Kenneth Clifford Howard and his mysterious association with the two German spies, Josef Jakobs and Karl Theodore Drücke.

His association with Josef seems to be based on a filing error at the National Archives (or MI5). Two small notebooks belonging to Kenneth can be found in one of Josef's files at the National Archives. There is ample evidence, however, that these notebooks were never in Josef's possession, and are actually associated with another spy, Karl Theodore Drücke.

One of Kenneth's notebooks, a 1936 diary, has a brief notation for 13 May 1936:"Today my friend [?] Karl Theodore Drucke 30…

The Tarnished Career of Johann Hans Wolpe

A few weeks ago, I posted several blogs about one of the individuals involved with Jürgen Ziebell in an Irish naturalisation scheme. Johann Hans Wolpe was a Jewish financier who had left Berlin under suspicious circumstances, bumped around Paris for a few years and then ended up in Holland, from whence he was eventually deported to a concentration camp and murdered.

I had found some intriguing references to Wolpe in a book about Aleister Crowley which included an Appendix about Leon Engers Kennedy. Engers was the brother-in-law of Wolpe and Frank van Lamoen, assistant curator at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, had conducted extensive research into Engers life.

Lamoen noted that in 1925, Beatrice and Johann Wolpe moved their family from Berlin to Paris. That same year, Wolpe and Fritz Klekottka were accused of a swindle. In 1935, Wolpe, while living in Paris tried to sell forged shares. In 1938, Beatrice and Wolpe moved to The Hague but by 1939, they couple was divorced.

I re…

Book Review - Ghost of a Hurt - Bella in the Wych Elm - Rik Rawling (2008)

During my research into the Bella story, I've come across repeated references to a booklet published by Rik Rawling entitled Ghost of a Hurt. Unable to find a copy online, I reached out to Pete Merrill (co-author of another book on Bella) and got Rawling's contact info. Rawling was kind enough to send me a copy of his booklet in Word format, the published versions all being long since dispersed. The booklet was part of a set which included a compact disc and cassettes.

The document is about 15 pages long and the first third is taken up with Rudolf Hess and his mission to England. In the later two thirds of the booklet, Rawling examines the Bella mystery and suggests there may be a connection with Rudolf Hess - that Bella may have been a German spy sent to Britain in late 1941 to escape the Aktion Hess (retaliation against astrologers in Germany). In the final few pages of the booklet, Rawling examines some other, more recent events surrounding Hagley Wood (abductions, rapes, …