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 years old was today sentenced to 3 yrs imprisonment and 10 yrs banishment"
|13 May 1936 entry from one of Kenneth Clifford Howard's notebooks|
This brief entry raises all sorts of questions. Who was Kenneth? How did he know Drücke? Did he know Drücke? Was Kenneth a spy?
|One of the notebooks belonging to|
Kenneth Clifford Howard
An address in Bromley, Kent was also listed as one of Kenneth's residences and the notebooks were forwarded to the Metropolitan Police who conducted an investigation in late June 1941, having more success than the Birmingham Police. The Metropolitan Police reports noted that Kenneth Clifford Howard was born 4 June 1921 in Bromley, Kent to Frank Howard and Florence Mitchell. The police also tracked down several London-based individuals listed in the notebooks, none of whom knew of Kenneth. The report noted that Kenneth would have been 15 years old in 1936 and ascribed many of the entries to a "boyish interest in detective stories".
The police report (date 23 June 1941) does note that Drücke had been sentenced to death on 16 June 1941 at the Central Criminal Court. The notebooks and police reports were likely forwarded to MI5 shortly thereafter and are included in Drücke's file (KV 2/1701). There is no evidence, however, that Drücke was ever questioned about the notebooks. There is also no evidence that MI5 sought to investigate Kenneth any further, which seems rather odd.
Given the information in the police reports (parents, birth date and location), one would think that Kenneth would be reasonably easy to trace, but such has not been the case. I have written a series of blog posts detailing my investigation into Kenneth. Key blog posts are:
- 2019 07 18 - Birth & Death of Kenneth - reviews birth and death registrations as well as city directories - also some info gleaned from an Ancestry tree which names his wife
- 2019 06 05 - On the Trail of Kenneth - reviewing the 1939 Nat Reg for possible records based on his parents' names
- 2017 02 17 - Solved - Kenneth Clifford Howard & his Diaries - reviews the history of the notebooks and how they came to be in Josef's file when they really belong in Drücke's file - also has links to my earlier blogs on Kenneth
|1939 National Register - Frank & Flora Howard - Leicester|
This summer, I bit the bullet, and requested the opening of the 1939 National Register for Kenneth Clifford Howard. I also received some information from a contact on Ancestry, a distant relative of Kenneth, which has also helped to tie different bits of information together.
1939 National Register
In August, I received an email from the National Archives which provided a transcript of Kenneth's entry for the 1939 National Register and it was indeed the one from Leicester!
The National Archives, to whom one applies for a register entry to be opened, only sends textual information, not an image of the register. The image is apparently available on FindMyPast but will take a few months to appear on Ancestry. The information for Kenneth is:
Borough, County: Leicester, City of C.B. (part of): Leicestershire
Enumeration District Letter Code: REST
Registration District and Sub-district: 407/3
1: Address: 128 New Walk
2: Schedule Number: 27
3: Sub Schedule Number: 3
4: Surnames and other Names: Howard, Kenneth
5: O V S P or I (Officer, Visitor, Servant, Patient or Inmate): Not applicable
6: Gender: Male
7: Birth Day/Month: 4 June
8: Birth Year: 1921
9: S M W or D (Single, Married, Widowed or Divorced): S
10: Personal Occupation: Dental Mechanic (apprentice)
11: Any detail in the Instructions Column: None
Royal Army Dental Corps
|Royal Army Dental Corps insignia|
(in 1946, King George VI granted
the ‘Royal’ prefix to the Corps
and a new cap badge was designed
depicting the legend of Cadmus
I had a look through the Forces War Records and there is a Kenneth Clifford Howard (#10511112) listed on the register of the Royal Army Dental Corps. The register notes that he was released on 13 Dec 1946. This information does not quite match with the passenger list which would suggest that he was still serving with the military in 1948. It is possible that he was released from General Duty in 1946, but then was reactivated to serve with post-war British Forces in Palestine.
|Royal Army Dental Corps - Registers - Kenneth Clifford Howard|
(from Forces War Records)
Ancestry Tree Contact
The other bit of information that I have gleaned comes via the lady who posted information about Kenneth and his wife Doris Rhoda May in an Ancestry Tree. She is related to Doris Rhoda May (distant cousins) and had this to say:
Rhoda (as she was always known) had two sisters, Lorna and Leila. Lorna
and her husband settled after the war in Rhodesia and Rhoda decided she
wanted to travel and joined them in Salisbury [now Harare, Zimbabwe].
While there, Rhoda needed some dental work and that is how she met Kenneth, who by that stage was a dental technician. They fell in love, married and had a daughter. They returned to England while their daughter was very young.
Kenneth served in the British Army during the war but was not serving when he met Rhoda. I understand that he had been married before, to an Italian but was divorced when he and Rhoda met. I also understand that he may have had a daughter from his first marriage.
None of this explains the material found in Kenneth's boyhood notebooks from the mid-1930s. Nor who sent those notebooks to the Leicester Police. More mysteries...
As for Kenneth's parents, they are also a bit of a mystery. Even with their exact birth dates, their names are so common that it is a bit of a struggle to identify them precisely using the Birth, Marriage, Death indices. There is also always the possibility that one or both of them were born in Scotland or Ireland. More research required, but all placed on the back burner for now.
What then can we say about Kenneth Clifford Howard? If we leave aside the notebooks, he seems to have lived a very unassuming life. He was born on 4 June 1921 in Bromley, Kent to Frank and Flora Howard, blouse merchants. The family moved around a fair bit, to Birmingham and then to Leicester. His father shifted from selling blouses to selling Hoovers and to then managing the sales of medical appliances. Perhaps it was this occupation that got Kenneth interested in becoming a dental mechanic. At the age of 18, he was an apprentice dental mechanic in Leicester and likely joined the Royal Army Dental Corps shortly thereafter. He served with the corps until 1946 (or 1948) and returned to England.
At some point, Kenneth made his way to Zimbabwe where he met Doris Rhoda May and the two were married in Zimbabwe in 1954. The couple had one child and moved back to the UK. Kenneth apparently continued to work as a dental mechanic until his retirement and passed away in Poole at the ripe old age of 93.
Nowhere is there a hint that Kenneth was a spy and the notebooks remain a mystery. The police had decided that they were the ramblings of a young boy interested in detectives. In all likelihood, that is likely true, although one does wonder how he knew that Karl Theodore Drücke had indeed been found guilty on 13 May 1936 in France... and sentenced to three year imprisonment. Perhaps Kenneth read in in a newspaper and incorporated it into his lively detective fantasies...
National Archives - KV 2/1701, KV 2/26
Ancestry - genealogy resources