12 August 2020

A Useful Resource - the 1939 German Minority Census

 I've been doing some follow-up work on some the individuals involved in the black market passport racket run by Jürgen Ziebell in 1938 in Berlin. I had come across a possible result on the MyHeritage site and signed up for a free two week subscription. One of the resources mentioned was the 1939 German Minority Census. The MyHeritage site didn't have all of the information that one would expect from a census, so I did some more digging.

My first stop was the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) which had a reference page for the census. The German title was "Reichssippenamt Volkszählung vom 17.05.1938 durchgeführt 1939". This was the second of two Nazi-mandated censuses (the first was in 1933) designed to identify all Jewish individuals in the country. The entries on the census form included:
  • first and last name
  • date and place of birth
  • race-based questions about maternal and parental grandparents
  • level of education
  • whether any members of the household resided outside the home
The USHMM also had an external link which led me to the Mapping the Lives site. This site has not only data from the 1939 German Minority Census, but also other sources and is proving to be an excellent resource for tracing some of the Jewish clients of Ziebell.
Below, for example, is the entry for Louis Georg Hagen. When I first began researching these individuals last fall, I was, in many instances, working in the dark and had no idea of the fate of many of the individuals. But the Mapping the Lives site often provides data on the ultimate fate of these individuals.
I searched for one of Louis' brothers, Hermann Hagen, and his entry shows a very different fate.
I am in working on reviewing all of the Jewish clients for whom I had insufficient information to identify with confidence in the genealogical records. The fact that the Mapping the Lives site gives birth dates as well as addresses in 1938/1939 definitely helps in narrowing down the field of possibilities.

05 August 2020

Follow-up to the story of Louis Georg Hagen

I had an email the other day from a gentleman in Norway, the son-in-law of Karl Victor Hagen! Those who read this blog regularly, may remember I did a series of blogs about Josef's involvement with a black market passport business in Berlin in 1938. One of the individuals who purchased a Finnish passport from Jürgen Ziebell was Louis Georg Hagen (father of Karl Victor Hagen).

The Norwegian gentleman had been researching the Hagen clan for many years and came across my blog on Louis Georg Hagen. He was grateful for the new-to-him info on the passport business and I'm glad that my blog was able to help him with his research. He also gave me a few more family connections to the Hagen family and mentioned two books written by two women of the clan.

From Art to Life and Back by Yvonne Hagen
The first book is From Art to Life and Back, written by Yvonne (nee Forrest) Hagen, widow of Karl Victor Hagen. While the book doesn't seem to be focused on the family's escape from Nazi Germany, my Norwegian contact says it does have some info on the Hagen clan. The book was self-published in 2005 via Xlibris which has a write-up on the author:
Having been an art critic for the International edition of The New York Herald Tribune, Yvonne Hagen has a remarkable story to tell. After WW II, Hagen got to know many of the American and French artists who mingled in Paris’ exciting art world. Her book is an immensely instructive account of these people and this period as seen through the eyes of an unconventional and engaging young woman. Yvonne Hagen was born in France in 1920. Her extensive art background includes studies in New York, Berlin and Paris where she became the art editor and weekly columnist for The International Herald Tribune. She has worked as a translator and has written for the French art magazine Art Aujourd’hui as well as The American Magazine of Art. Yvonne Hagen has also served as the art director for the The Museum of Modern Art in Munich. She lives in Sagaponack, New York.
Out of Nazi Germany and Trying to
Find my Way
by Irene (nee David) Matthews

The second book is Out of Nazi Germany and Trying to Find My Way by Irene Matthews, youngest grandchild of Carl (Levy) Hagen. Published in 2000, the book tells the tale of how a young Irene escaped to England out of Nazi Germany. The write-up on Amazon has this to say:
Irene Matthews's autobiography is the story of a young Jewish girl who had the misfortune of growing up in Nazi Germany. Full of the greatest interest, as well as sadness and joy, this is a tale that readers of all ages and backgrounds would find not only entertaining, but also inspiring. A picture is created that is as clear and colourful as one of the vintage colour films that one sees of Germany at this time. We learn how she idolised the Hitler Youth as a child and how, as a schoolgirl, she actually saw Hitler and Mussolini at a parade. A tremendous sense of fear and tension develops as she documents the horrors of the Kristallnacht and her subsequent escape through Aachen and Brussels to a safer life in England. There she experiences great loneliness as a German refugee in wartime England. When she visits Berlin after the fall of the Wall in 1989, the essentially positive character of the book - a strong sense that humanity will always triumph in the end - shines through the epilogue. Affectionate, heart-warming and touching by turns, 'Out of Nazi Germany and Trying to Find my Way' is a frank and poignant collection of memories made even more vivid through a startling recall for detail that is undiminished by time or distance.
The book sounds fascinating and I'm looking forward to reading it. Irene Matthews was born Irene Ellen David, daughter of Clara (nee Hagen) and Ernst David whose story I told in a previous blog post.

I did come across one news story which mentioned Irene Matthews. Published in 2001, the News Shopper article tells how Irene was visiting the National Gallery in London which was featuring an exhibition of paintings from the Nationalgalarie Berlin. The exhibition included four paintings that her grandfather, Karl (Levy) Hagan, had donated to the Nationalgalerie in 1906 in gratitude to the country where he had made his fortune as a banker. Given what the Nazis later did to the Hagen family, one can understand Irene's reaction when she saw the paintings: "I sat down on a bench opposite and started to feel tears fall down my cheeks. I wanted to take them down off the wall and take them home because they had belonged to my grandfather." The National Gallery exhibition had four paintings that had belonged to Carl (Levy) Hagen:

Summer by Manet

St. Germain, L'Auxerrois by Monet

Farmhouse (or House) at Rueil by Manet

Children's afternoon at Wargemont by Renoir

I've ordered copies of both books mentioned above and am keeping my fingers crossed that they won't be too delayed by Covid-19. Irene's book, in particular, looks quite fascinating and I'm looking forward to reading both of them.

News Shopper site - Face-to-Face with the Past (2001) - article about Irene Matthews
Google Arts & Culture - The House at Rueil by Manet
Google Arts & Culture - Summer painting by Manet
Google Arts & Culture - Children afternoon at Wargemont by Renoir
Google Arts & Culture - St. Germain, l'Auxerrois by Monet
Ancestry - genealogical information

29 July 2020

The German Spy and the Lewisham Barrister

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Mike Guilfoyle, Vice-Chair of the Friends of Bockley & Ladywell cemeteries. I'm always amazed at how many diverse people find my blog and reach out. Mike was researching historically interesting deceased individuals with links to Lewisham (just southeast of London) and came upon my website and blog.

As it turns out, Josef's defending attorney, Eric Vincent Ewart White, was born in Ladywell, Lewisham and Mike wrote a short piece for the Ladywell Live site. He did a great job of summarizing the story of Josef Jakobs and his defence attorney. Mike had hoped to dig up some more information on E.V.E. White but was unsuccessful. I had written a blog about White five years ago and include the link here for interested readers.

Gravestone inscription for Eric Vincent Ewart White
(from CWGC - Heliopolis Cemetery)
I did a bit more digging on Eric, just to see if I could turn up any more information.

In my earlier blog, I had noted that he and his wife had a son, David, born in the early months of 1943. I now believe that this is David Vincent Ewart White, born 1943 in Exeter, Devon. David married Micheline Jarvis in 1967 and they had at least three children: Melanie Ewart-White (b 1969), Rowan Bailey Ewart-White (b 1971) and Fraser David Ewart-White (b 1973). David's mother, Nona Lesley (née Davidson)  passed away in 1988 on the Channel Islands and may have remarried, dying with the surname Parkes. David passed away in 2014, likely in Weybridge, Sussex.

I reached out to one of Eric's grandchildren today and will see if that yields any further information...

22 July 2020

MetPol FOI request regarding German Spy Josef Jakobs

Sooo... given that someone successfully submitted an FOI request to the Metropolitan Police about Arthur Albert Tester... I thought... why not see if they have anything on Josef Jakobs. I did some digging and found the original MetPol file number for Josef's case and sent an email off to their FOI department a few weeks ago.

Alas... here is their reply.
Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 01/FOI/20/014842

I write in connection with your request for information, which was received by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on 24/06/2020.  I note you seek access to the following information:

Met Pol file on German spy Josef Jakobs - January 1941 to December 1941. Met Pol file 405/41/624. May have information on Lily Knips as well.


To locate the information relevant to your request searches were conducted within the MPS.  The searches failed to locate any records relevant to your request, therefore, regrettably the information you have requested is not held by the MPS.

Please note that the MPS operates a robust retention and disposal policy in relation to the administration of files. Any documentation relating to your request, if held by the MPS, is now likely to have been destroyed as it was decided at some stage that it was no longer required for a policing purpose.  Files that were thought to have had an ongoing historical relevance would have been transferred to the National Archive for eventual publication.
No luck. However... there is always the possibility that his file was sent off to the National Archives. I have searched the indexes of the National Archives for anything on Josef but have found nothing. I suppose the file could still be waiting to be released, so yesterday evening I submitted an FOI to the National Archives for a MEPO file on Josef Jakobs. Given the Covid delays... I don't anticipate any reply in short order but... at least I've put it out there.

15 July 2020

The Mysterious "Dr." Arthur Albert Tester - Part 4

In the first three installments of this blog series, I looked at the life of Arthur Albert Tester, swindler and conman extraordinaire. (Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here, Part 3 is here) In today's post, I'm going to sweep up the stories of what became of his two wives and six children.

Interestingly, Tester’s birth was finally added to the register of British consular births for 1946-1950, retroactive to 1923 when he received his second (or possibly his first) British passport in Frankfurt am Main. His three eldest daughters, Violet, Margit and Mary, all born in Germany before 1923, were also listed in the 1923 and 1946-1950 consular births register which suggests that their births were not registered with the British consular authorities at the time of their births either. All of this activity in the consular births registers in the post-war period was likely triggered by Tester’s children trying to return to England and finding their path hampered by a lack of adequate documentation. Which begs the question, what became of Tester’s wife and children?

Charlotte Elise (née Uckert) circa 1939
from National Archives KV 2/617

Charlotte Elise Uckert (Tester's Second Wife)
When Tester died (or not) in August 1944, his wife, Charlotte Elise (née Uckert) Tester, was not in the vehicle with him. This would suggest that Tester left his wife and children behind while he tried to escape from Romania. One MI5 report noted that, in August 1945, Tester's wife was still in Romania, suffering from Dipsomania (alcoholism). At some point, however, she must have been able to make her way back to England for in 1948, her step-daughter Margit noted that her step-mother was living in London "somewhere".

While Tester’s death was never confirmed by the British authorities, his wife, Charlotte went to court to get his estate cleared in the 1950s. On 17 March 1954, the Kansas City Star noted that “a few days ago, the probate court in London gave members of the Tester family permission to presume his death, so that his estate may be settled”. His will was probated a year later, in 1955, although I have yet to find a death certificate for Tester. The probate notice states that Tester died on or after August 1944 at some place unknown. The will was administered by Nelly Alice Lucy Ann Tester (spinster) attorney of Robert Eichenbrenner. Nelly was one of Tester’s sisters and Robert Eichenbrenner was the husband of another of Tester’s sisters. I applied for Tester's probate records since it seemed like they might be interesting.

The original will listed Fred Tester (father), Thomas Maslin Harris (business partner) and Eva Lawrence (Tester's secretary) as the executors. Should his father be unable to act, Tester appointed his brother-in-law, Robert Eichenbrenner, as executor. Since Tester's father died 5 November 1940 in Stuttgart, it would appear that Eichenbrenner's role kicked into effect. But when the will came to be probated in 1955, Eva renounced her role and since Eichenbrenner resided out of the country, Nelly was appointed attorney of Eichenbrenner. I can only presume that Thomas Maslin Harris was deceased by this point since his role as executor is not addressed at all in the probate documents. A quick side note, Tester's mother, Emma (née Kauffelin) was still living in Stuttgart in the 1955 address books.

Tester wrote his will on 20 December 1938, a few days before he headed off into the Mediterranean aboard the SY Lucinda. A few items are of note:
  • Tester wished to be cremated, unless he was buried at sea, but it was his "express and earnest wish" that none of his family attend his funeral or wear mourning
  • To his son, Fred Tester (born of his first wife), Tester bequeathed the sum of £1 (one pound) - rather a slap in the face I should think
  • To his son, Arthur, he gave all his personal belongings
  • The rest of his personal property was to be held in trust.
  • Income from his investments was to be paid to his wife, Charlotte, who was to educate and support his five children until the age of 21 years (or if they married before then). Thereafter Tester was confident that his wife would give the children as much support as they might need given the income received by her.
  • Should Charlotte remarry, then the Trust Estate was transferred to his five children (Violet, Margit, Mary, Arthur, Lilian) in equal shares until attaining the age of 35 years. After that, they would receive their share of the capital.
  • There are then a number of paragraphs dealing with the instructions regarding his holding companies, his properties (e.g. Naldera), the yacht Lucinda, several other companies and employees.
  • Finally, Tester states "I DECLARE that if any of the persons named in this my Will as a Beneficiary hereunder shall seek by any means to raise objections thereto or to dispute the same or any part thereof or if any of my children shall attempt to challenge the benefits to my son Arthur which I have given to him under this my will any such child or children or other beneficiary shall forthwith cease to be entitled to any benefit whatsoever under this my will".
How the will was divvied up in 1955 is a mystery. Presumably, with all five children still being alive, Arthur received all the personal belongings and Charlotte was the beneficiary of whatever income was left from all of Tester's investments and companies. Beyond that, all we know about Charlotte is that she passed away in October 1988 in Buckinghamshire. The death registration index notes that her birth date was 14 November 1904 - yet another different date from the ones mentioned in the previous blogs. I have yet to find her birth registration in Berlin...

Mary Tester (born 1922 in Eltville, GER)
We can piece together a bit of Mary's post-war life from the MI5 files on Tester. In December 1947, one Adolph Pawel Obler (born 4 August 1902 in Chorostkow, Poland) a Jewish dentist, applied for a visa to enter the UK and visit his fiance, Mary Tester. The British authorities questioned Mary Tester quite extensively and looked into the background of Obler. Given that Mary's father was the infamous Arthur Albert Tester, the authorities were naturally a little wary of his children. Mary said that she had quarreled with her father about his support for the Germans and run away while in Romania, finding shelter with Obler (20 years her senior). She claimed to have helped the British and that she had arrived back in the UK in September 1947. Despite MI5s misgivings about Obler (he had had some questionable associations with the Romanians), the Foreign Office approved a visa for Obler in June 1948. There is, however, no evidence that he actually came to England. In fact, it would appear that in 1952, Obler emigrated to Canada and married Anna Francisca Mastna in Quebec. Obler passed away in 1966 and is buried in Toronto with his wife. As for Mary Tester, I have yet to discover what became of her.

Margit Tester - circa 1938
(from National Archives KV 2/617)

Margit Tester (born 1921 in Wiesbaden, GER)

On 22 January, 1948, Margit (née Tester) Ghibaldan, the divorced wife of a Romanian subject, requested an emergency certificate to come to the UK with her two infant children. She wanted to regain her British nationality, despite the fact that her father had failed to register her birth at a British consulate within the stipulated period. She stated that she had lived in the UK since being an infant.

Margit had married a Romanian in 1940 while a minor but was now divorced and alone with her two small children in Romania. The MI5 report noted that she had married a pro-Nazi lawyer named Ghibaldan - likely Valeriu Ghibaldan (1897-1978) listed as being a lawyer in Bucharest in newspapers from 1947. One MI5 report noted that Ghibaldan was on the Passport Office black list. Margit stated that her mother (step-mother Charlotte) and sister (likely Mary) were both in the UK. MI5 expressed no objection to her being granted a visa. There is no information on when Margit re-entered the UK.

It would appear that in the last quarter of 1951, Margit married a man named Sydney Harris/Herscooici. Margit’s name was listed as “Marget Tester or Ghibaldan”. Finally, at some point, she also married a man named Watts before passing away on 7 March 2008 in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. Margit had two small children in her care when she came back to England, at least one of whom was a son who passed along the Ghibaldan surname to his children and grandchildren. Margit's first name gets variously misspelled as Margot/Marget.

Fred Tester (born 1924 in Eltville, GER)
Fred Tester, the eldest son of Tester, was born February 1924, after his mother, Ingeborg had already left Arthur Albert Tester. Ingeborg moved to Hamburg with her infant son and Tester apparently had little to no contact with Fred.

There were, however, rumours about Fred Tester circulating through the intelligence community. In 1939, one report noted that Fred Tester was reportedly in the German Air Force which, given that he was 15 years old at the time, seems a bit of a stretch. Another report noted that Fred had a great talent and was being prepared for the career of a professional musician at the Conservatory in Kiel.

Whether Fred served in the German Air Force is unknown. He did not, however, live a long life. On 9 October, 1950, at the age of 26 years, Fred died in St. George’s Hospital in Hamburg. He was not married and died of a rather odd and rare malady: highly feverish Bulbar Paralysis (hochfieberhafter bulbärparalitischer prozeß). From what I can gather, Bulbar Paralyasis is a progressive disease, of unknown origin, marked by progressive paralysis and atrophy of the lips, tongue, pharynx, and larynx. Not a pleasant way to go I would imagine. His occupation was listed as “Correpetitor” which is an accompanist, coach or tutor of ballet dancers or opera singers. This definitely jives with the MI5 report which noted that he was being prepared for the career of a professional musician. I presume that Tester's bequest of £1 to his son Fred was divided equally among the remaining five children when the will was probated in 1955.

I should note, in passing, that the first wife of Arthur Albert Tester, Ingeborg, was still alive in 1950 when her son passed away. Her ultimate fate is unknown but she still appears in the Hamburg address books in 1960.

Ingeborg Violet Tester - circa 1937
(from National Archives KV 2/616)

Ingeborg Violet Tester (born 1918 in Wiesbaden, GER)
As for Violet, Tester’s eldest child, she had a much more challenging time in returning to England and her journey can only be pieced together by newspaper reports.

It would appear that, when Tester left England in 1938, Violet was a dancer with the Hamburg Opera House. She also spent time in Vienna as a dancer and one article noted that in 1938, she was the prima ballerina at the Vienna Opera. A photo of Violet posted on GettyImages notes that she was a Principal Dancer at the Vienna State Opera in 1943. This does not, however, mean that she was a lead dancer. The Wienner Staatsoper site has a list of ballets in which Violet performed from 1940 to 1943, and she never seems to have had a leading role. Her last ballet in Vienna finished on 1 July 1943 and it seems likely that she then moved to Romania. The MI5 records for Arthur Albert Tester don’t have a lot of information on Violet other than noting that she married a Romanian named Ghibaldan (possibly a brother of Valeriu Ghibaldan) in 1944.

The newspapers from the mid-1950s, however, have a fair bit about Violet as she was finally given permission to leave Romania and travel to England. One representative article from 22 August 1955 gives a good summary of the story:
British ballerina returns from behind Iron Curtain
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - 22 Aug 1955
Mrs. Violet Tester, the 34-year-old British ballerina, who has been trying to leave Rumania for five years, arrived in Paris today on the Arlberg express from Vienna after leaving Bucharest on Friday. Later in the day she left for London by way of Calais.
Mrs. Tester, a slim, attractive woman with blonde curling hair, was prima ballerina at the Bucharest State Opera Company from 1946.
She said on arriving in Paris: "I am overjoyed to be returning to England, which I have not seen since my childhood. I have no money, so I hope to find a job dancing--perhaps at Sadler's Wells--when I arrive there."
'Terribly long wait'
Five years ago she applied in Bucharest to return to Britain. She is one of the four British wives known to have been trying to come home.
"I have had to wait a terribly long time," she said. "They refused to give me permission."
Mrs. Tester declined to say anything about her experiences behind the Iron Curtain.
Questioned about reports that her father, the British born Dr. Arthur Albert Tester, a reputed millionaire, was shot while fleeing from the Russians in Rumania, she said: "All I know is that I received a report while in Rumania that he was shot on August 25, 1944--the day of the 'liberation' in Rumania."
No friends to meet her
She said she had no friends or relatives to meet her in London. "My brother left Rumania several years ago and went to Australia and I have a half-sister in England, but I do not know where she is. I will be starting my life all over again.
"I married a Greek-born ballet master while I was in Bucharest. We were divorced three years ago."
After the divorce she decided to resume her maiden name.
Mr. Anthony Nutting, Minister of State, announced in the House of Commons last month that Rumania had granted Mrs. Tester a visa. The British Legation in Bucharest had made an application in 1952 for her to leave.
Ingeborg Violet Tester - 22 Aug 1955
(from the Daily Herald)
A much better photograph is viewable
on Shutterstock

Later that day, when Violet stepped off the train in London, she apparently told a Daily Herald reporter that "As far as I know, my father had no Nazi sympathies". Which stands in stark contrast to Mary's statement that she ran away from her father in Romania because she didn't agree with his German activities. The Daily Herald paper also notes that Violet "will see lawyers about her father's estate in this country, estimated at £25,000 and now handled by the Custodian of Enemy Property."

Interestingly, the Belfast News-Letter, noted that when Violet arrived at Victoria Station, she was hustled through a crowd of reporters and photographers to a taxi. "She refused to speak to the reporters. She was met on the platform by two women". The same article also has several statements given by Violet, but these may have come from her interviews with reporters in Paris from earlier in the day. The reference to the two women who met her on the platform is intriguing and I would imagine that these might be her sisters, Mary and Margit, or perhaps one was her step-mother, Charlotte. Clearly, given what we know of her step-mother and sisters, Violet had more than just a "half-sister" (likely Lilian) in England. What became of Violet after she stepped off the train is unknown. She passed away on 19 December 1991 at White Oaks Nursing Home in Uckfield, East Sussex.

Arthur Uckert/Tester (born 1925 in Wiesbaden, GER)
As for Tester's illegitimate son, Arthur Uckert... we don't really know much. Violet says that her brother went to Australia... but I have found no evidence to confirm this. One Romanian article said that Arthur Tester was in dealing arms in the Middle East in the 1950s and one article suggested this might actually be Arthur Uckert. Beyond that... Arthur Uckert and Arthur Tester are both too common to trace with any certainty.

Lilian Tester (born 1932 in Broadstairs, England)
Finally, we come to the youngest of the Tester children. In 1955, Violet noted that she had a half-sister living in England, likely a reference to Lilian. I did find a family tree (it just went up on 7 July 2020) on Ancestry which seems to refer to Lilian Tester, born 29 April, 1932 in Broadstairs. According to the very scant information on the tree, Lilian married Marc Callaghan (1920-1962). Marc passed away in France on 9 January 1962, suggesting Lilian may have been living there as well. Lilian herself passed away last year, on 10 May 2019, in London.

And... we reach the conclusion of this four part saga of Arthur Albert Tester. With more questions, it seems, than answers. I do think, however, I have a fairly good sense of the man and his mode of operation. Which will help me in piecing together a bit more of the story of Josef Emil Roos, the man who was associated with a scheme to secure Irish naturalizations for Jews desirous of leaving Germany. A bit of a round-about route to get to this point but... Tester's role seemed to be important...

National Archives  (Kew) - Security Service files on Arthur Albert Tester (KV 2/616, 2/617, 2/618, 2/2266)
Metropolitan Police - FOI publication of MEPO 38/95 - police file on Arthur Albert Tester
The London Gazette - various notices
The British Newspaper Archives - various articles
Ancestry - genealogical records
FindmyPast - genealogical records
Getty Images - picture of Violet Tester
Wiener Staatsoper site - has a list of productions which included Violet Tester
Theater Museum Wien - a picture of Violet

08 July 2020

National Archives reopening...

I received an email today saying that The National Archives at Kew were reopening on July 21... I had a bit of a panic attack about the digitized files... Because while TNA has been closed, all of the digitized files have been free... but when I actually read the email... I heaved a sigh of relief
I’m pleased to say that, for the time being, we will also continue to provide free downloads of our digital collection on our website, along with a huge number of research guides, resources and activities for the whole family to enjoy.
Excellent news! While I don't have any files on my to-be-downloaded list... that might change!

01 July 2020

The Mysterious "Dr." Arthur Albert Tester - Part 3

Arthur Albert Tester
Arthur Albert Tester
N.B. This is Part 3 in a four part series on Dr. Arthur Albert Tester:
Part 4 link will be posted when it is out...

There have been a lot of rumours and theories about how and when Arthur Albert Tester left England. One particularly glamorous story relates how Tester left the shores of Britain in August 1939, shortly before the declaration of war. According to the story... Tester trotted down the 39 Steps opposite his Broadstairs mansion and then scurried across the beach to be spirited away by a German submarine. The truth is not quite so James Bondish…

Departing Britain
Sometime before December 1938, Tester bought the SY Lucinda, a steam yacht (588 tons gross) for £7500 from B.L. Koppenhagen, Alton House, Bessborough, Roehampton. Some authors say that Tester used to entertain lavishly on his yacht and even hosted foreigners. This might refer to the SY Lucinda, but it could also be a reference to the Blue Bird yacht which Tester rented in September 1938. Tester sailed the Blue Bird from Southampton down to France, picked up a load of foreigners and headed for Dublin where the group held business meetings onboard. Tester was also a member of the Royal Motor Yacht Club having been nominated by Admiral White who, coincidentally, sat on the Board of Directors of Thor Engineering, one of the companies with which Tester was associated.

While we don't know exactly when Tester purchased the SY Lucinda, we do know that on 17 December 1938, the yacht left Messrs. Camper & Nicolson’s Yard and tied up to a buoy in Southampton Water. The yacht had a crew of 24 and apparently cost about £300/week to run. On 24 December, a number of passengers boarded the yacht from a launch in Southampton and the yacht set sail for the Mediterranean. The passengers included Arthur Albert Tester, Charlotte Tester (wife), Margit Tester (daughter), Mary Tester (daughter), Lilian Tester (daughter) and Arthur Uckert (illegitimate son of Arthur and Charlotte). There were also a number of household staff including a governess and Tester’s personal valet.

A follow-up report on the SY Lucinda came from Gibraltar on 30 December, 1938, and noted that there were 28 British crew on board and 11 passengers: Tester and his five family members plus five guests. Household staff may have been counted as "crew". The Gibraltar report noted “nothing of any interest regarding the passengers was reported”. There were, however, some interesting passengers who had boarded in Lisbon including Richard Wilhelm Behn (Tester's Hamburg lawyer), Reinemer, Frisch (both Tester’s business partners) and an unnamed German government official. Charles Paquet, another one of Tester’s business partners boarded the yacht in Gibraltar.

Cruising the Med
Tester's merry band then set sail for Egypt and arrived in Port Said in January 1939. The yacht sailed halfway down the Suez Canal and stayed in Lake Timsah by Ismalia for four days. The British security officers in Egypt noted no suspicious activity associated with Tester or his crew.

On 15 February, the yacht set sail from Port Said bound for Cyprus, Istanbul, Athens, Malta and Gibraltar. There are a few snippets in newspapers of the time which indicate that the Lucinda went aground on sandy bottom near Yenikoy in the Black Sea, just northwest of the Bosphorus and that the Captain requested assistance. The grounding must have created a bit of excitement for crew and guests. Tester likely too advantage of the delay to renew some business connections in Turkey; he had been a close personal friend of the Atatürk (who had passed away in November 1938).

Back in England, MI5 was gathering evidence against the shady financier. Several documents note that MI5 expected Tester to return to England by April 1939, and they wanted to be prepared for his arrival. MI5 requested that British officials in the Mediterranean keep an eye on Tester whenever and wherever he might appear. They also noted that the Dutch insurance investigation (N.V. Patria) was still not complete in March 1939. That same month, MI5 wrote to Special Branch to let them know that Tester’s father “was never a British Consul as alleged and there is no information to show that Tester took any degree which would entitle him to use the word 'Doctor'.” More and more questions were piling up around Tester, and both the police and MI5 were awaiting Tester's return with anticipation.

SY Lucinda in the Bay of Naples
(from ArtNet site)

April came and went and yet the SY Lucinda didn’t arrive in Southampton as scheduled. MI5 made some enquiries and learned that she was in dry dock in Naples. Interviewing Tester would have to wait but, in the meantime, MI5 was able to question several members of the ship's crew who had left the ship and returned to England. Reasons for their departure from the SY Lucinda varied: some were disgusted with Tester’s anti-British talk while others were afraid of a coming war after the Albanian crisis (Italy's April 1939 invasion of Albania). MI5 interviewed the crew members and several thought that Tester was a spy who covered up his activities under the guise of doing business in wines and oil. Tester told many tall tales, claiming to be a personal friend of Mussolini. He even told his personal valet that he had been in the British Secret Service during the First World War and showed the scars on his legs to prove it. [Those scars were likely from Tester's 1924 motor vehicle collision with a train in Germany].  All of the crew members agreed that Tester, his wife and his associates expressed strong anti-British sentiment.

As for Tester, he remained in Italy, entertaining guests and trying to make a number of business deals in wine and other items. Some of the guests who joined him are familiar to us from Tester's shell companies (e.g. Captain O’Reilly - BUF member) while others are new (e.g. Josef Emil Roos - more on him in another blog post). Apparently Palvary, the inventor of the bullet-proof aeroplane fuel tank, also joined Tester in Italy and the pair tried to sell the tank to the Italians. They set up a demonstration which failed miserably and the Italians rejected the fuel tank out of hand.

With the declaration of war in early September 1939, Tester and the SY Lucinda departed Italy and sailed from Naples to Greece where Tester's wife and children disembarked. Tester then sailed with the ship to Port Said where it was handed over to the Royal Navy. While in Egypt, Tester managed to arouse the suspicion of the Egyptian authorities and was arrested for hanging out with drug dealers and espousing fascist ideals. An investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing, other than securing drugs (ambergis) for his own use, and the Egyptian authorities decided to deport him to England where MI5 and the police would have welcomed him with open arms and a set of handcuffs. Somehow this deportation plan got changed and Tester was only deported out of Egypt, boarding a plane for Greece on 4 October 1939. The British authorities managed to rifle through his trunk and personal possessions but found no evidence of espionage. Nevertheless, on 1 November 1939, Tester was put on Britain's Central Security War Black List. As for his yacht, the SY Lucinda does make an appearance in a 23 February 1945 article in the Chelmsford Chronicle. Apparently a military wedding reception with 100 guests was held aboard the yacht Lucinda in Alexandria, Egypt. It is unclear how else the SY Lucinda helped the British Navy's war effort.

Tester, like a cat, landed on his feet in Greece. In November 1939, he contacted the British consular staff in Athens and laid out a proposition that would benefit both Britain and himself. He proposed to buy up foodstuffs in Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece in order to keep them out of German hands. He would then sell the foodstuffs to the British Government for a modest profit. Despite not receiving the go-ahead from the consular staff, Tester began to buy up foodstuffs and apparently told the sellers that he was working on behalf of the British Government. The British Ministry of Food had to tell their Yugoslavian contacts that Tester was most definitely not recognized by His Majesty’s Government. On top of that, Tester bought the foodstuffs at higher than normal prices and most of the goods he purchased were subject to prohibition orders and/or were unsalable in the UK. What became of the footstuffs is unknown. If he couldn't sell them to the British, then to whom did he sell them?

By December 1940, Tester had moved his base of operations from Greece to Romania and MI6 received word that Tester was doing business with the Germans. At the same time, he wasn't above demanding assistance from the British, whose passport he still carried. He presented himself at the British Consulate in Bucharest in December 1940 requesting assistance. Two of his children were still in Greece and they needed help with their passports in order to travel to Romania. At the time, Tester told the consular staff that he was a middle-man, buying up Jewish businesses and selling them to third parties (for a profit). Finally, in February 1941, Tester managed to get his children out of Greece and thereafter, information on him becomes quite sketchy, at least from the British perspective. After the war, the Allies got their hands on German documents and also interviewed several former Abwehr officers, all of which shed a rather illuminating light on Tester’s activities from 1940-1944.

Operative of the Abwehr
In October 1940, German troops began to enter Romania and in November of that same year, Romania joined the Axis forces. As a British citizen, Tester would naturally have come under suspicion by the German authorities. And, indeed, Joachim Rohleder, head of Abwehr IIIF in Berlin, believed that Tester had worked for British intelligence prior to the war and ordered that he be arrested and sent to a concentration camp. The head of Abwehr IIIF in Romania, Kurt von Rohrscheidt, disagreed and stated that Tester was pro-German and quite prepared to work for the Abwehr without pay. Rohleder agreed to allow Rohrscheidt to use Tester as an agent of the Abwehr. According to Rohrscheidt, Tester’s first mission under Abwehr IIIF was in Sofia, Bulgaria. Tester, posing as a British (or American) officer, penetrated an underground movement of Macedonians who wanted to overthrow the government which was friendly to the Axis Powers. Tester obtained a complete list of personalities in the movement and the details of the plan for overthrowing the Bulgarian government.

That same year, Tester, through his work for a bank controlling organisation, had access to bank records in Athens, and was able to examine cheques and other documents signed by British intelligence officers. With those names, Tester was able to infiltrate the Greek resistance fighters as well as learn the names of British operatives in Romania.

As an Abwehr operative, Tester moved around a fair bit, working in Romania, Bulgaria and Greece on counter espionage work. One of Britain's sources in Greece, noted that a Greek banker had told the source that he had seen Tester working in one of the Nazi offices in Athens “resplendent in Gestapo uniform”. This is the first mention of Tester being associated with the Gestapo and, to my mind, needs to be taken with a grain of salt. All of the German sources state that Tester worked for the Abwehr and that the SIPO/SD (Sicherheitspolizei and Sicherheitsdienst) were very wary of Tester. It would be hard to imagine that the Gestapo, a branch of the SD would have allowed Tester to work for them. It is possible that Tester was dressed in a German uniform, although unlikely. It is also possible that the source was simply exaggerating Tester’s involvement with the Germans in order to cause trouble for him.

Anglia, Quo Vadis?
In April 1941, Tester published a series of extracts from his book Anglia, Quo Vadis? in a Romanian newspaper. Written with a rather strong anti-Jewish and anti-British tone, the article's byline stated that:
“Out of the whole of the General Staff of the British Fascists the only leading man who is free and who took refuge abroad is Dr. Arthur Tester who bears of the title of Personal Conduct Officer of the Party Chief. By holding such a high commission, he is one of the intimate collaborators of Sir Oswald Mosley."
Given that Mosley, and much of the BUF leadership, were interned in Britain, Tester could pretty much claim anything that he wanted without fear of being found out. The British got wind of his Quo Vadis articles and noted that Tester spoke “disparagingly” of Britain and the British war effort. He was to be arrested if he ever set foot in any British territory again.

So much for Tester's avowal to a British newspaper reporter in March 1938: "If a war came with Germany I should be among the first to go into the trenches." In April 1941, Tester wrote a letter to Germany’s ambassador to Romania, Manfred Freiherr von Killinger in which he stated, “May I once again state that I place myself completely, loyally and without reservation, at your disposal for active co-operation, and naturally neither expect financial reward nor would I accept it.”

Tester suggested a number of ways in which he could be of assistance to the Germans and the fascist cause. He suggested writing a series of articles, in line with the Anglia, Quo Vadis? series, but these would be entitled I am an Englishman. Tester convinced the Germans that he was known throughout England and that he would be accepted as an official representative of the BUF. The Nazis rather liked the sound of the articles and Tester went to Berlin in the summer of 1941 to discuss working for the Press Section of the Foreign Ministry. It would appear, from several German documents, that  he was hoping to move to Berlin in September 1941. The plan was that he would not be paid for the work but that he would receive a monthly stipend from his frozen German bank accounts. Before the deal could be finalized, Tester was once again sent on a mission for the Abwehr to Athens, Belgrade and Sofia.

Signature of Dr. Arthur Albert Tester - 8 April 1942
The salutation translates as "Your very devoted, Heil Hitler! Dr. A. Tester"
Letter written to Oberfuehrer Roedel, Deutsche Gesandtschaft
(likely Oberfuehrer S.A. Willy Roedel who served as Political Adviser
to the German Ambassador Manfred von Killinger in Bucharest. Roedel
was captured by the Russians in November 1944 and would eventually share
a cell with Raoul Wallenberg. But that's another story.)

There was, however, some concern about Tester’s true loyalties. Abwehr III thoroughly approved of Tester and thought that he was unobjectionable and reliable. He had been working for them with great success and had a steady pro-German attitude. The SIPO/SD, however, had looked at his history and thought that he was politically unsound and had a number of crimes against him. They noted that he was an international swindler and a profiteer in arms and explosives. In the end, the Foreign Ministry sided with the SIPO/SD and decided not to employ Tester.

The following year, Tester was once again in Berlin to discuss performing propaganda work for Germany. He had told the German authorities that Italy was interested in his book. The Foreign Ministry once again expressed some interest in him writing a series of articles in line with Anglia, Quo Vadis?. Unfortunately, when Tester went to Berlin to discuss his work, he seemed more interested in setting up a satellite BUF group in Romania and sending out press broadcasts to England. Interradio in Berlin wanted to use him for their English section but they were informed, in no uncertain terms, that Tester was not suitable for active employment with them.

The SIPO/SD were very wary of Tester and ordered that his plans to offer himself to Italy or Romania be hindered. At the same time, there were rumours that Tester was embezzling funds in Romania but the evidence was too thin to warrant an arrest and Tester was allowed to return to Romania. While von Killinger thought Tester was still useful for many things, Ambassador Hermann Neubacher thought that Tester was a war profiteer and a highly dubious figure who should not be trusted.

On 15 May, 1944, a brief note in the German documents stated that both the the Abwehr and the SIPO agreed that Tester should be sent to Pressburg (now Bratislava, Slovakia) for an interrogation. The results of that interrogation are unknown, but it can be assumed that Tester managed to talk his way out of trouble and returned to Romania, for he was certainly at liberty in that country in August 1944.

Shot or Not?
Irish Gestapo Chief Shot Dead Escaping
Evening News - 24 September 1944

The next reports we have of Tester are newspaper articles from 25/26 September, 1944, which state that Tester had been killed by a Romanian border guard while trying to flee the country. The events reported likely took place near the town of Arad in western Romania and followed on the heels of King Michael's Coup which took place on 23 August, 1944. As a supporter of the Allies, King Michael offered German ambassador von Killinger a non-confrontational retreat but the Germans tried to reverse the coup through military attacks. Things got a bit messy in Romania and it's no wonder that Tester was trying to escape the country, although one wonders at the wisdom of leaving his wife and children behind. Word of his failed escape bid surfaced in late September and British newspaper headlines ran along the lines of:
“Gestapo Chief Shot”
"Irish Gestapo Chief shot Dead - at Rumania frontier"
“Gestapo Boss was London Financier - Mosley Man shot in Rumania”
“Irish Gestapo Chief Shot Dead Escaping”
“Dr. Arthur Albert Tester, the Irishman who was chief of the Gestapo in Rumania, is dead”
Dr. Arthur Tester faked his death - Himmler's No. 1 in Rumania
Daily Express - 6 October 1944

Again, Tester was assigned to the Gestapo although, given that he was sent for an interrogation by the SIPO and Abwehr in May 1944, this would seem to be highly unlikely. In addition, Tester was most definitely not Irish, although some sources thought he was Irish because he had black hair. All the news reports noted that his passport had been signed by Hitler himself.

A week later, in early October, 1944, the British newspapers ran another series of articles which stated that Tester had faked his death. According to news reports, Tester had been fleeing the country in a car, traveling with another German. They tried to dodge the Romanian border guards who fired shots at the fleeing vehicle. Tester's vehicle ended up in a ditch where it caught fire. But, instead of it being Tester in the burning wreck, he had put his clothes, watch and cigarette case on a body about his size and shape. Tester had then escaped into Hungary. Or so said the news reports. Did he bribe the border guards? Where did he find a convenient body to use as a decoy?

The body from the car wreck was exhumed a week later by the Romanian authorities but there was no evidence that the grave was actually Tester's. On 8 February, 1945, a third exhumation took place in the presence of a member of British Consular Advisor’s staff. According to this report, the body exhumed that day was definitely not that of Tester - the teeth were not a match and the body had no metal in the hands or feet (from Tester’s 1924 accident between his motor vehicle and a train). There was always the possibility that Tester was buried in another plot within the cemetery, as the exhumed grave had no marker. The British also noted that jewels and papers that he had had on his person had disappeared, although that is not conclusive given that they could have been taken by the border guards.

A view of the cemetery in Arad, Romania where Tester is supposedly buried
(Cimitirul Pomenirea - from Special Arad site)

And there we have it... Arthur Albert Tester, as mysterious in death as in life. In many ways, if his death was a done deal, it would seem anticlimactic for a life lived with such verve and grandiosity. Tester always kept people guessing... no wonder then, that the circumstances around his death were no different. One Romanian article noted that Tester was selling arms in the Middle East in the 1950s. Another article suggested that the arms dealer was more likely Tester's illegitimate son, Arthur Uckert who may have gone by the name Arthur Tester...

Which leaves one wondering, what became of Tester's wife and children left behind in war-torn Romania in August 1944? Stay tuned for the next blog.

National Archives  (Kew) - Security Service files on Arthur Albert Tester (KV 2/616, 2/617, 2/618, 2/2266)
Metropolitan Police - FOI publication of MEPO 38/95 - police file on Arthur Albert Tester
The London Gazette - various notices
Ancestry - genealogical records
FindmyPast - genealogical records

24 June 2020

The Mysterious "Dr." Arthur Albert Tester - Part 2

Arthur Albert Tester (at right) ca 1928 - the photograph shows his rather stout physique. Photograph given to the Metropolitan Police by the  Dutch Vice Consul. The other two men are Germans: circa 1928 - Professor Goldberg of Berlin (centre) and Franz Shiften of Starnberg near Munich (left) (MEPO 3895)
Arthur Albert Tester (at right) ca 1928 - the photograph
shows his rather stout physique.
Photograph given to the Metropolitan Police by the
 Dutch Vice Consul. The other two men are Germans:

circa 1928 - Professor Goldberg of Berlin (centre)
and Frans [sic] Shiften [sic] of Starnberg near Munich (left)
(MEPO 3895)

We are following the story of Arthur Albert Tester, a larger-than life character who gained notoriety across Europe throughout the 1920s, 30s and 40s.

In the first blog of this series, I outlined Tester's beginnings and how he managed to get into legal trouble in Germany, France and Belgium during the 1920s. Tester then made the leap to Great Britain where he made a name for himself, albeit not necessarily a positive one.

Naldera, Broadstairs, Kent
Despite filing for bankruptcy on 24 September 1930, Tester managed to purchase a large mansion in Broadstairs, Kent in 1931, a house known as Naldera. Tester apparently paid £6000 for the villa which had lain vacant since the death of its previous owner, Lord Curzon, who passed away in 1925. It's interesting to note that when his bankruptcy proceedings finally wrapped up in 1933, the proceedings were discharged with Tester only being required to pay £400. This pattern of declaring bankruptcy and absconding with the funds was one that Tester repeated throughout his career.

At the same time that Tester was declaring bankruptcy and spending money, one report noted that, in 1931, Tester was suspected of being engaged in arms trafficking with a man named Paul Wognar. This affiliation with arms trafficking would certainly explain his ready access to funds. The allegations of Tester's involvement with arms trafficking would follow him for the rest of his life and even beyond.

Naldera, Broadstairs, Kent
Naldera, Broadstairs, Kent
The 20-room mansion at Broadstairs had been built by George Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzonof Kedleston, the former Viceroy of India (1899-1905) and named after a favourite residence in India, Naldera. Upon his death, one of his daughters, Cynthia Blanche (1898-1933) inherited the Naldera property. Lady Cynthia, or Cimmie, as she was known, had married Oswald Mosley on 11 May 1920. Both Cynthia and her husband would become involved in politics, with Cynthia winning as a Labour Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent in 1929. Her husband started out with the Conservatives, became an Independent, moved to the Labour Party, and eventually formed the British Union of Fascists. No surprise, then, to learn that Arthur Albert Tester soon became involved with the BUF.

A Veneer of Respectability
In many documents, Tester is listed as a banker and he played the role of successful financier quite convincingly, maintaining an office at 14 St. James Place, well-situated between The Ritz Hotel and St. James' Palace near Green Park. Tester also traveled to the Continent quite frequently, particularly to The Hague, making deals and stirring up investor interest in various ideas and companies.

Arthur Albert Tester was nothing if not a convincing orator. He convinced people that he was an educated man, claiming to have earned the right to be called a “Doctor of Law of Germany and Switzerland” and a “Doctor of Philosophy of Belgium”. MI5 was skeptical of these claims and there is no evidence of his right to claim the title of doctor of anything.

Tester also managed to convince people that he had highly-placed connections. We saw this technique in the last blog, where he managed to convince a number of German companies that he was well-placed with the French and/or British occupation authorities. In the 1930s, Tester claimed close acquaintance with King Carol of Roumania, with Mussolini of Italy and, interestingly, with Dr. Josef Goebbels of Nazi Germany. In 1938, he told some associates in Holland that he had gone to school with Goebbels and that he, Tester, was well known at the German Embassy in London.

Hermann Goertz (Wikipedia)
Hermann Goertz (Wikipedia)
Many of the Broadstairs locals noted a large number of foreigners flowing in and out of Naldera. On top of that, MI5 noted with interest that Tester received numerous letters from Holland, Germany, France, Belgium, Austria and Japan. By June 1936, the authorities had worked up enough suspicion about Tester to order that his mail be opened and inspected. Interestingly, Tester sent and received most of his mail by rail, having it sent from Victoria Station in London and picking it up at the local train station. The local police suspected that Tester had "nefarious associations with foreigners" while MI5 suspected Tester of espionage but had nothing solid with which to charge him.

In November 1935, Hermann Goertz, a German spy, was arrested and Tester reportedly met some Germans at the Stafford Hotel (16 St. James Place, London - just around the corner from his offices at 14 St. James Place) and engaged in animated conversation. One source noted that Tester claimed to be representing the German Embassy at the Goertz trial. Whether this is actually true is another question. Given that Tester was conversing with a German crowd, he may have been pulling his usual trick of convincing his audience that he was more important and connected than he actually was. On the other hand, some authors have speculated that it was no coincidence that fascist conman Arthur Albert Tester, school teacher & BUF member William Joyce (the future Lord Haw-Haw) and German spy Hermann Goertz were all living in Broadstairs in the mid-1930s. If MI5 suspected anything... they did arrest Goertz in 1935... one would have expected them to scoop up the other two as well... perhaps. I have copies of Goertz's MI5 files and if I come across any reference to Tester in the future... I'll amend this blog post.

Cynthia (Curzon) & Oswald Mosley (from Amazon.com)
Cynthia (Curzon) & Oswald Mosley
(from Amazon.com)

What is clear, is that Tester did become involved with the British Union of Fascists and was, apparently, one of their first members. In later years, Tester would claim to have served as Mosley's aide-de-camp, second in command and/or Personal Conduct Officer. The veracity of that claim is doubtful. In the mid-1930s, Tester was made Chief Officer for the BUF's Isle of Thanet branch. Tester also contributed a shop front to the BUF (for office space) and paid the salary of the district officer, as well as providing him with a car and a furnished house. Tester hired a number of members of the BUF for his household staff. Some articles even claim that Tester would stand outside the BUF's shopfront and hand out fascist literature. At some point, however, Tester stopped contributing to the BUF and the Isle of Thanet branch fell into debt. Finally, in December 1936, Tester dismissed all but three of his household staff, most of whom were members of the BUF. Despite this apparent falling-out with the BUF, Tester would still draw on his connections with Mosley whenever he needed some prop to his credibility.

Slipping away from the Dutch Police
In January of 1937, Tester managed to get into several different pots of trouble. To start with, he was found guilty of maliciously prosecuting a clerk and ordered to pay a £800 fine. Tester launched an appeal which failed.

At the same time, the Dutch Police putted out a wanted poster for "Dr." Arthur Albert Tester. The N.V. Patria Verzekeringsmaatschappij (N.V. Patria Insurance company), in Rotterdam, had gone sideways and the Dutch police suspected Tester of being involved in swindles with the company.

In February 1937, Tester let go the remainder of his domestic staff, except the gardener, and sent two of his daughters to the Continent. One report notes that Violet (age 18) went to Hamburg to study ballet and Margit (age 15) went to a girl's finishing school, College Femina de Boufffement, near Paris. The local police suspected that Tester might be preparing to leave the district and noted that he owed a lot of money to several tradespeople in Broadstairs. During the previous six months, Tester had had extensive renovations done to Naldera including new bedrooms, a new heating system and a new gymnasium. Some locals even whispered that Tester had a radio transmitting tower on his property and suspected him of communicating with the Germans. Tester himself denied these allegations vociferously.

In March 1937, Tester arrived back at Dover having managed to squeak out of Belgium, one step ahead of the Belgian authorities. He had gone to Brussels for some business negotiations but the Dutch police had gotten wind of his whereabouts. They requested his extradition from Belgium for fraudulent bankruptcy and forgery (likely related to the N.V. Patria insurance case). When the Brussels police showed up at Tester's hotel room, they found two men in the room: Tester and his associate Thomas Maslin Harris. The two men pretended to be each other and the Belgian police took Harris into custody, allowing Tester to escape. When the police realized that they had the wrong man, it was too late, Tester had vanished. As for Harris, he was given twelve hours to leave Belgium. Harris was a long-standing associate of Tester's, as well as a member of the BUF. He had a background in engineering, putting forth several patents related to internal combustion engines, and gave a veneer of legitimacy to many of Tester's "inventions" for which he sought investors. Harris, however, didn't have much of a head for finances apparently, declaring bankruptcy in 1921 and 1944.

A Finger in Every Pie
From mid 1937 to the end of 1938 Tester was involved with a number of companies which eventually made for explosive newspaper headlines. Similar to his activities in Germany during the early and mid 1920s, Tester seemed to move from company to company, leaving a trail of wreckage in his wake. One will notice that several names show up again and again: Thomas Maslin/Moslyn Harris, Charles Paquet and Joseph Victor Anthony Hepburn-Ruston (a committed fascist and the father of actress Audrey Hepburn). MI5 later noted that many of Tester's companies were shell companies which didn't really transact any business but simply served as channels for funds to bolster either the BUF accounts or the pockets of Tester and his closest associates.

Curzon Shipping Co.
14 St. James Place, the same address as Tester's own office in London.
The company seems to have been founded in 1929. Tester was also reported to be involved with Lt. Col. Hon. Roper Curzon, son of Lord Teynham. This is likely Ralph Henry Roper-Curzon (born 6 Aug 1899) who was the son of Henry John Philip Sidney Roper-Curzon, 18th Baron Teynham and Mabel Green Wilkinson. Ralph Roper-Curzon (the son of Lord Teynham) had served as an officer with the East Kent Regiment during World War I. During the Second World War, he was a Captain (Acting Lt. Col.) with the Scots Guards. At first, I thought that this might be the same Curzon family who owned Naldera but the two families do not appear to be related, having different lineages. Dissolved by order of the Companies Act (1929) in April 1938.

British Glycerine Manufacturers Ltd.
14 St. James Place
The company was incorporated in October 1936 by Charles Paquet to take advantage of a “secret process” developed by one August Rasse. According to one MI5 report, the company did little real work but seemed to be a front for transferring money into and out of fascist accounts around Europe. The company bought an old brewery at Gravesend for £22,000 and later sold that same brewery to Jean Frisch (Wine Merchants) for £60,000 (see below). The company went bankrupt almost immediately (1938) and Paquet was expelled from England. Ruston was a director of the company. An MI5 report notes that the company was a fraud and that Tester had an interest in it. Other sources suggest that he actually owned the company. In March 1939, creditors moved against the company and in May 1944 it was finally dissolved under the Companies Act (1929).

Roumanian National Industrial Holdings
This company was associated with Tester before its assets were transferred to a new company, Victor Holdings (see below). Dissolved by order of the Companies Act (1929) in May 1942.

Victor Holdings
14 St. James Place
The company was founded by Thomas Maslin Harris with Charles Paquet as Governing Director. Dissolved by order of the Companies Act (1929) in April 1949.

Thor Engineering
This company was associated with Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston a.k.a. Joseph Victor Anthony Hepburn-Ruston and possibly Thomas Maslin Harris. The company also became involved with the Palvary fuel tank (see below) and was involved with weapons, vehicles and aircraft. On 27 September 1940, the London Gazette published a notice under the Companies Act of 1929 which listed a series of companies to be dissolved after three months unless reason was shown to the contrary. Thor Engineering was one of those companies, although there is no actual order of dissolution three months later, as with the companies above.

European Press Agency
10 St James Place
This was another front for companies operated by Ruston and Tester. Company directors were Anthony Hepburn-Ruston, Charles Paquet and William Agg Large. Some MI5 reports note that Tester was also a director. The European Press Agency also used the services of a German lawyer named Richard Wilhelm Behn who was co-director of the EPA and a close confidant of Tester’s. Dissolved by order of the Companies Act (1929) in February 1939.

Consolidated Industrial Agricultural Finance Co.
Tester was a director of the company along with Thomas Maslin Harris and Paul M. Lehmann. Dissolved by order of the Companies Act (1929) in May 1938.

Paramount Restaurant Flats
Tester, Paquet and Ruston sold failing shares of this company to the Jean Frisch (Wine Merchants) (see below). Slightly more interesting dissolution. There was a notice in the 9 December 1938 Gazette which noted that "a petition for winding-up of the above named Copmany by the High Court of Justice was on the 6th day of December 1938 presented to the said Court by the Mayor Aldermen and Councillors of the city of Westminster of Westminster City Hall". It took a while, however, and the company was finally struck off the register and dissolved in April 1952.

Lillian (or Lilian) Estates Ltd.
Apparently Tester’s holding company for his property at Naldera. A voluntary winding-up of the company shows up in the Gazette in 1950 and 1953 but there is no final dissolution notice of the company.

Jean Frisch (Wine Merchants)The company was incorporated in 1938 and dissolved in 1957. Company directors were Tester, Ruston, Paquet, Frisch, Reinemer, Bries, Captain Harry Humphreys (BUF) and Captain O'Reilly/O'Riley (BUF). MI5 referred to the directors as "a set of international crooks". The Commercial Manager was Thomas M. Harris and the General Manager was Anthony Joseph Ruston. One report noted that Tester was present at board meetings and that “ he appeared to have been the master mind in most of the important financial transactions of the company”. According to MI5 reports, the company never really did any serious business transactions but was set up to extort vast sums of money from Baron Brugmann de Walzin (Belgian). The money was paid into the pockets of Thomas Maslin Harris and John Paul Friedrich Frisch. Dissolved by order of the Companies Act (1929) in March 1957.

Moritz Strauss Assoc.
14 St. James Place
The company was established in 1938 with fine wine cellars and tasting rooms. According to MI5 reports, the Managing Director was Hugo Richtheimer but the real manager was Hepburn-Ruston. Other company directors were apparently Ruston, Harris, Kenneth Hunt and Richtheimer. Dissolved by order of the Companies Act (1929) in June 1947.

Uniberia Ltd.
Ruston was involved with this company and MI5 notes it was a “spurious company run at a dead loss”. I include it here because on 29 June 1940, the offices of Uniberia were raided by Special Branch officers and one MI5 officer, Captain R.W.G. Stephens, our friend who later became commandant of Camp 020. This raid was noted in an MI5 report from 1955 which noted that Stephens was "now a Brigadier". Dissolved by order of the Companies Act (1929) in March 1947.

Bullet-Proof Aviation Fuel Tank
Palvary bullet proof aviation fuel tank - field test (Nat Archives - KV 2/616)
Palvary bullet proof aviation fuel tank - field test (Nat Archives - KV 2/616)
There are a few stories that illustrate the kind of business activities in which Tester engaged. In September 1937, Tester needed a new solicitor and reached out to one William Edward Agg-Large (37 Norfolk Street). In the course of conversation, Tester told Agg-Large about a Hungarian inventor (Else Palvary) who had created a bullet-proof aviation fuel tank. Agg-Large was interested in the idea and, after witnessing a successful test of the fuel tank, wanted to buy into the company.

On 25 September, 1937, a business agreement between Tester, Harris and Agg-Large was drawn up and Agg-Large bought a one tenth share of the company.

Tester and Harris also managed to convince Baron Brugmann de Walzin (Belgian) to buy shares in the company totaling £30,000. On 1 October, 1937, an agreement was signed between Harris (Victor Holdings), Baron Brugmann de Walzin (Brussels - b1878 d1945), Joseph Victor Ruston (Brussels) and Charles Paquet (Brussels - born 8 Dec 1878 in Huys).

Palvary bullet proof aviation fuel tank - field test (Nat Archives - KV 2/616)
Palvary bullet proof aviation fuel tank - field test (Nat Archives - KV 2/616)
Baron Brugmann de Walzin was an exceedingly rich man and before the Second World War, Paquet had been the administrator of his estate. Unfortunately for the Baron, he seems to have been easily convinced by fraudulent schemers like Paquet, Ruston, Harris and Tester. The cash from de Walzin was distributed between several holding companies as well as three individuals: Palvary, Harris and Tester.

In October 1937, Tester arranged for a test of the fuel tank in front of Short Brothers (aeroplane manufacturers). Tester later claimed that the test had been successful and that the Air Ministry was interested in the fuel tank. Later investigations by the Metropolitan Police showed that Short Brothers were most definitely NOT interested in the fuel tank and that there was no evidence of any interest on the part of the Air Ministry. It would seem that Tester was simply trying to drum up investor interest in the fuel tank, allowing him to abscond with yet more funds.

As for poor Palvary, he was interviewed on 18 January 1939 by the Daily Express and said that he had not heard from the Air Ministry about his bullet proof fuel tank. When he enquired with them, they told him that they knew nothing about it... Tester apparently had no qualms about keeping his associates in the dark. Although Palvary would meet up with Tester again in the summer of 1939 as they tried to tempt the Italians into buying the tank. More on that in the next blog post.

Anti-Communist Newspaper funded by the Nazis
In March 1938, another one of Tester’s concerns erupted onto the front pages of British newspapers. A company called the European Press Agency, with offices in Britain, was planning to purchase one of the oldest Belgian newspapers and convert it into an anti-communist newspaper.

On 23 March, 1938, however, a debate in the Belgian Parliament brought up a rather unsavoury bit of news: apparently the European Press Agency had received £110,000 from Josef Goebbels via German industrialists. The fact that the company was affiliated with British "financiers" naturally dragged the whole mess into the British press.

Arthur Albert Tester - 1939 Passport renewal
Arthur Albert Tester - 1939 Passport renewal
There were several familiar names associated with the debacle: Joseph Ruston, William Edward Agg-Large (who was conveniently in Cuba escaping bankruptcy proceedings at the time) and Charles Paquet (Belgian).

Interestingly enough, Tester’s name was dragged into the scandal as well and he gave numerous interviews to the press vociferously denying the pro-Nazi allegations. He said that he had no affiliation with the European Press Agency (although later MI5 reports called him a director of the company) but was simply an advisor to Ruston… although one newspaper reported that Tester had been present at EPA board meetings.

It was at this time that Tester claimed that he was Mosley’s personal aide-de-camp, a claim that was never confirmed by any member of the BUF. Tester also told several newspaper reporters that his father had been an English Consul (MI5 found no evidence of that) and that Tester himself had been put into a German concentration camp during the First World War as an Englishman (no proof of that).

Reporters noted that Tester spoke rapid, fluent English, albeit with a German accent, and was quoted as saying:
“I bear Germany no malice for that. All my sympathies are German. But I love my country, England.”

“I have spent a great deal of my life in Germany, and I have a great deal of sympathy for German aspirations, since my mother was German, but I shall never forget my country, which is British. My father was a British subject and I am British”

“If a war came with Germany I should be among the first to go into the trenches.” (although he did not say for what side…)

“I would not allow a British company to be used for German propaganda in this country. I believe that every country should settle its own affairs.”

“Although I do not want to boast, I predict that within two years Mosley will be in power in this country.”
When MI5 dug into the EPA, they found several informants who reported that, during meetings in Brussels, Tester had boasted about his connections with Goebbels. His denunciations to the press, therefore, need to be taken with a grain of salt. As noted above, Tester tended to claim friendship with highly connected individuals in order to convince potential investors/marks that he had influence. Whether Tester actually knew Goebbels is up for discussion.

While Tester played the part of an affronted businessman very well in the press, he didn't just leave it there. In April 1938 Tester went down to the Metropolitan Police to defend himself and offered a statement to one Inspector Tarr. Vociferous denunciations of all wrongdoing were followed by a sly request for assistance. He had a Hungarian inventor who had a new type of hand grenade, an automatic trench mortar and an electric bayonet. He wanted advice from Inspector Tarr on how to extend the man’s stay in England. Ever the consummate fast-talker…

Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston (from British Guardian blog)
Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston
(from British Guardian blog)

It should be noted that Ruston and Harris were both interned under Defence Regulation 18B in mid-July 1940. Harris’s case was reviewed by MI5 in September 1940 and while they noted that he “was guilty of commercial dishonesty on a grand scale” there was nothing which suggested he was a security concern (i.e. working for the enemy) although he was apparently assisting Tester who was abroad (more on that in the next blog). Ruston remained in detention for the rest of the war and was released in April 1945.

As for Tester… already in March 1938, MI5 was questioning BUF members about Tester and his claim that he was Mosley’s aide-de camp. Prominent members of the BUF denied that he ever played that role for Mosley and that he was just a very old member of the BUF. Whatever the case, Tester wouldn't hang around long enough to be interned by the British authorities.

In the fall of 1938, Tester leased a yacht "Blue Bird" and sailed from Southampton, bound for Dublin. Along the way, the yacht detoured to the coast of France and picked up a boat load of foreigners according to the ship's Chief Engineer. One source noted that Tester wanted to hold a meeting regarding Jean Frisch (Wine Merchants) but since he couldn't go to Belgium, and Paquet was banned from setting foot on UK soil, they decided to hold the meeting on the boat in Dublin harbour. The boat's passengers included the usual crowd: Tester, Ruston, Paquet, Humphreys, O'Reilly, Harris, Reinemer, Frisch, and one Ernest C. Randall Sr., the lawyer for Moritz Strauss Assoc. The same source noted that Baron Brugmann de Walzin had actually bought 14 St. James Place and transferred it to Moritz Strauss Assoc. I feel rather bad for de Walzin, he seems to have been an easy mark for this crowd of swindlers.

On 8 December 1938, an MI5 officer wrote a note which stated that “S.I.S. report on telephone today that Friedrich Tester was never British Consul in Stuttgart”. It is interesting to note that Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston, born in Czechoslovakia of a British father and a Czech mother, also claimed that his father was an honourary British Consul in Czechoslovakia. It is not surprising that Tester and Ruston flocked together given their similar backgrounds.

On that same day in early December, MI5 received word that the Dutch were not going to request Tester's extradition from England until the prosecution of other individuals from the N.V. Patria affair had concluded.

Perhaps Tester got wind that the English sharks were circling closer and closer, for within the month, he would leave England, never to return.

[Part 3 of the series is here and Part 4 link is coming]

National Archives  (Kew) - Security Service files on Arthur Albert Tester (KV 2/616, 2/617, 2/618, 2/2266)
National Archives  (Kew) - Security Service files on Joseph Victor Anthony Hepburn-Ruston (KV 2/3190, 2/3191)
Metropolitan Police - FOI publication of MEPO 38/95 - police file on Arthur Albert Tester
The London Gazette - various notices
All the Devils are Here, David Seabrook, Granta Books, London, 2002.
Audrey Hepburn's Greatest Charade by Susan Gardiner, 2020 - article on Medium.com
Thanet Watch press release - What were Three Nazis doing in Broadstairs? - August 2012 - have not been able to find the actual article.
Bygone Kent, Volume 10, p. 157-160 - The North Foreland Nazi by W.H. Bishop
Bygone Kent, Volume 28, p.209-213 - The Mysterious black shirt of Broadstairs by Nick Evans.
Ancestry - genealogical records
FindmyPast - genealogical records