08 April 2020

Free Digital Files on National Archives

I follow The National Archives (Kew) on Facebook and this post popped up last week. It made my heart skip a beat and then do a happy dance pitter patter!

Due to Covid19, the archives are closed, of course. Many of their digitized files are available for download via their website. But... they cost money. It's not a lot of money but still... £3.50 adds up after a while.

Hence my excitement to read that they are going to be making their digital files FREE! I am going to be working on my wish list while they get the details sorted out... and make sure that I have enough hard drive storage space for this treasure trove.

It does make me wish, however, that more of their files were digitized but... one can't have everything...

01 April 2020

The Après Espionage Career of Gösta Caroli

A year and a half ago, I took a research detour into the career of Gösta Caroli. I had come across a reference which suggested that Caroli had been tried, condemned and executed by the British. This was news to me since there is no evidence of a trial, nor an execution. In fact, according to the records, Caroli was repatriated back to Sweden in August 1945. A year later, he married Gerta Bergmann and two years later, the couple had a son. According to Swedish records, Caroli died in 1975 in Asmundtorp. It would seem to be a slam-dunk case but... there are always rumours of cover-ups, etc.

Cover of Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer - Simon Olsson and Tommy Jonason (2015 via Vulkan
Cover of Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent
Summer - Simon Olsson and
Tommy Jonason (2015 via Vulkan)
I wrote a couple of blogs about Caroli, one on his ill-fated escape attempt and one on his life and career. Readers are encouraged to take a look at those two blogs before continuing with this one...

Gösta Caroli - Dubbelagent SUMMER
Whilst researching the two previous blogs, I had come across another book by Simon Olsson and Tommy Jonason. I was familiarwith the first book these two Swedish authors had published in English: Double Agent TATE (Caroli's friend and espionage colleague). As it turns out, they had also self-published their book on Caroli in Swedish in 2015 via Vulkan.

I had tried to order a copy of the book but the Vulkan site only shipped within Sweden. I had also tried to contact one of the authors via Facebook and recieved no reply. Finally, I had tracked down Caroli's grandson and his wildnerness camp in Sweden and reached out via email but... received no reply.

A couple of months ago, I cobbled together a message in Swedish (using Google Translate) and emailed the Vulkan book publishers asking if I could purchase the Caroli book and have it shipped to Canada. After much back and forth... I was successful and the book arrived in my mail box in late March. Success!!!!

The Book
Olsson & Jonason - Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer  Very tight spine
Olsson & Jonason - Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer
Very tight spine
The book is a soft-cover paperback and while published via Vulkan, it is clearly a self-published book in line with Lulu or Blurb here in North Amercia. There are a few issues with the physical book itself. The glue binding is extremely tight and the inside gutter of the pages is very narrow making it very hard to open the book and read it comfortably. I have to work hard to keep the book open to the point where I can read the words along the inner margins. It then comes as no surprise that, within an hour of reading the book, pages were already starting to come loose from the binding. Sigh.

The cover is also obviously home-made and, I have to say, looks like something a child might draw. I had a look at the moon phases calendar for 6 September 1940 (the night Caroli parachuted into England) and it was a waxing crescent, which is the opposite of what the book cover depicts (a waning crescent).

As for the contents of the book, there are a few things lacking:
  • no author bios - this is always helpful for assessing author expertise, although in this instance, we can just look at the TATE book
  • no acknowledgements - helpful for sleuthing out new contacts
  • no index
  • no photo credits - we have no idea of the source of the photographs. It is clear that some must come from Caroli's family while others are from the National Archives. I'm going to guess that the authors didn't pay the fee for using photos from Kew.
  • no folios for the footnotes - they simply list the KV file number, but no attempt to direct the reader/researcher to the relevant folio, or even the context of the document referenced (date, source, etc.)
Pages falling out after one hour  Olsson & Jonason -  Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer
Pages falling out after one hour
Olsson & Jonason -
Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer
 Now, I know how much effort goes into researching and writing a book. I also know how hard it is to get a book accepted for publication and then get the manuscript ready for publication. Still, I wished that the authors had devoted a bit more time to addressing some of the issues noted above.

Table of Contents
Before we begin, I should say that I don't know a word of Swedish. The language obviously shares some roots with German as I can pick out a few words here and there and, rather surprisingly, get the gist of some paragraphs. I am, however, relying heavily on Google Translate to translate Swedish into English.

First, let's take a look at the book's Table of Contents which give us an overview of the book and where it will take us.

Inledning - Introduction
Prästsonen från Norra Vram - Priest's Son from Norra Vram
Bland silverrävar i Kanada och Storvreta - Among Silver Foxes in Canada and Storvreta
     I 1930-talets Europa - In 1930s Europe
Värvad till Abwehr - Referred to Abwehr
Abwehr - Abwehr
     Nicolaus Ritter - Nicolaus Ritter
     Snows - SNOW
     Snows fall - SNOWs Fall
    i - My Eriksson
Agent i ett Fredstida Storbritannien - Agent in Peacetime Great Britain
     Den andra resan - The Second Trip
     Nya uppdrag - New Missions
S/S Mertainen - SS Mertainen
     Malmtrafiken - Ore Traffic
     Från Narvik - From Narvik
     Tyskt flyg angriper - German Air Strikes
     Fartygets forsatta öde - The Fate of the Ship
     Kristiansund bombas - Bombing of Kristiansund [Norway]
Operation Sjölejon - Operation Sealion
     Operation förbereds - Preparation of Operation
     Slaget om Storbritannien - Battle of Britain
     Invasionsplanerna avbryts - Invasion Plans Cancelled
     Hade invasionen varit mölig? - Had the Invasion been Fun?
Operation Lena - Operation Lena
     Agenter - Agents
     Konklusioner - Conclusions
Vardagsliv i Storbritannien - Everyday Life in Great Britain
     Blitzen - The Blitz

Förberedelser i Tyskland - Preparations in Germany
     Gösta Utbildas - Gösta's Training
     Ritters medarbetare samlas - Ritter's Employees Gather
     I ett ockuperat Paris - In Occupied Paris
     Det första försöket - The First Attempt
     Operationen genomförs - Operation Carried Out
Landning i Storbritannien - Landing in Great Britain
     Arresterad - Arrested
Camp 020 - Camp 020
     Camp 020, Latchmere House - Camp 020, Latchmere House
     "Tin-Eye" Stephens - "Tin-Eye" Stephens
     Förhör - Interrogation
     London Reception Centre - London Reception Centre
     London Cage - London Cage
Dubbelagenten Gösta - Double Agent Gösta
     Camp 020 - Camp 020
     Tyskarnas bild av Caroli - German Image of Caroli
     Flyktförsök - Attempted Escape
     Efterspel - Epilogue
Tate - TATE
     "Tate" i arbete - "TATE" at Work
Double-Cross organisationen - Double Agent organization
     Målsättning - Aims
     Viktiga principer - Important Principles
     Resultat - Results
Åter i Sverige - Back in Sweden

Appendix I - Förhör med Caroli - Appendix I - Interrogation of Caroli
[Appendix II - Angående Chiffrering - Appendix II - Regarding Encryption] (not in TOC)
Appendix III - Agenter och dubbelagenter - Appendix III - Agents and Double Agents
Källförteckning - Bibliography
     Otryckta källor - Unpublished Sources
     Tryckta källor - Published Sources

Back in Sweden
My primary interest in ordering this book was to find out what happened to Caroli after the war and put to rest the rumours that he was secretly executed by the British during the war. As such, I focused on the last chapter - Back in Sweden.

I transcribed the Swedish text of this chapter into a Word document and then ran it piece by piece through Google Translate, then smoothed over some of the grammatical hiccups. I'll include the Swedish here, just in case some Swedish speaking person reads this blog and wants to offer some corrections on the translation!

I am providing some key photographs as well. I had hoped to scan them on my scanner but... the tight spine makes it almost impossible so I just took pictures of them. In the translations below, I am also providing abbreviated footnote references so the interested reader has a sense of the sources.
“Härmed får jag vördsamt meddela, att generalkonsulatet genom härvarande inrikesministerium nyligen erfarit, att en svensk medborgare Gösta Caroli, född i Norra Vram, Malmöhus län den 6 Nov 1902, sedan September 1940 på grund av olovlig underättelseverksamhet hällits i fängsligt förvar i Storbritannien. En tjänsteman i ministeriet har vid samtal med en representant för generalkonsulatet uppgivit, att Caroli den 5 September 1940 landsattes i Storbritannien från ett tyskt flygplan, samt att det av hans utrustning framginge, att han härstädes avsåge att bedriva spioneri för tysk räkning.”[1]
I hereby respectfully announce that the Consulate General through the present Ministry of the Interior has recently learned that a Swedish citizen Gösta Caroli, born in Norra Vram, Malmöhus County on 6 Nov 1902, since September 1940 has been detained in prison in the United Kingdom for illegal activities. An official in the ministry stated during a conversation with a representative of the Consulate General that on 5 September 1940 Caroli landed in the United Kingdom from a German aircraft and that his equipment indicated that he was hereby intending to carry out espionage on behalf of the Germans. [1 - Swedish Royal Archives]
The chapter starts with a quote from the Swedish Consulate General in London dated 18 August 1945 and contained within the Royal Archives in Sweden. It seems pretty straightforward and it is interesting to note that this is a Swedish sourced document.
Ovanstående meddelande skickades från af Petersen vid det svenska generalkonsulatet i London till utrikesdepartementet i Stockholm den 18 augusti 1945. Kopior på meddelandet skickades därifrån till Gösta Engzell, chef för UD:s rättsavdelning, E. Hallgren vid Överståthållarämbetet och till kriminalavdelningen vid Stockholms polis som i sin tur underrättade landsfogde Otto Rosengren i Malmö. Stockholmspolisen konstaterade att ingen kriminell aktivitet var känd om Caroli i Sverige men uppmanade polisen i Helsingborg att göra en utredning om honom.

The above message was sent from af[?] Petersen at the Swedish Consulate General in London to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Stockholm on August 18, 1945. Copies of the message were sent from there to Gösta Engzell, Head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, E. Hallgren at the Supreme Court Office and to the Criminal Division at Stockholm Police, and in turn, Counsel Otto Rosengren informed Malmö. Stockholm police found that no criminal activity was known about Caroli in Sweden but called on the Helsingborg police to investigate him.
The Consulate General's letter obviously generated a flurry of activy in Sweden about the soon-to-be repatriated Caroli. The police conducted some background checks and were set to interview him.
Motorcycles would follow Gösta  throughout life and in Canada he was  probably one of the first to cross  the Canadian Rockies with this vehicle  (Olsson & Jonason -  Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer)
Motorcycles would follow Gösta
throughout life and in Canada he was
probably one of the first to cross
the Canadian Rockies with this vehicle
(Olsson & Jonason -
Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer)
Någon information om Caroli hade sedan 1940 inte meddelats svenska myndigheter eller hans mor som nu bodde i Billesholm, han kunde lika gärna ha varit död. Ett brev som den brittiska postcensuren snappade upp i mars 1941 vittnar om detta, systern Ingrid skrev då till en väninnan i Storbritannien att “Gösta is gone a year ago in Germany, we don’t know how”[2], det är inte konstigt att meddelandet från konsulatet väckte känslor inom familjen. Caroli skulle nu deporteras från Storbritannien och det brittiska inrikesministeriet överlämnade ansvaret över honom till generalkonsulatet för att ordna de praktiska detaljerna. Dagen innan hade ett provisoriskt svenskt pass utfärdats och det hade bestämts att deportationen skulle genomföras med båt från London den 23 augusti. Själv hade Caroli via de brittiska myndigheterna framfört önskemålet om att hans bror, kyrkoherden Gunnar Caroli i Norra Vram, skulle underrättas om hans hemkomst.[3] Vi kan bara spekulera i vad Gösta Caroli tänkte inför hemfärden, hans över fem år långa frånvaro utan några som helst underrättelser till sin mor hade med all sannolikhet satt sina spår. Skulle saknaden göra återseendet med familjen till en känslosam och glädjande återförening, eller skulle det vara helt andra känslor som han skulle bli bemött av? Han var väl medveten om att hans bror Gunnar inte delade hans sympatier för den tyska regimen och hur skulle han nu bli bemött när det var känt att han arbetat som agent för Tyskland? Svaret på frågan skulle snart få sitt svar.

Gösta's silver fox farm in Storvreta was an  extensive project, but the successes failed.  (Olsson & Jonason -  Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer)
Gösta's silver fox farm in Storvreta was an
extensive project, but the successes failed.
(Olsson & Jonason -
Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer)
No information about Caroli had been communicated since 1940 to the Swedish authorities nor his mother who now lives in Billesholm, he could just as well have been dead. A letter that the British Postal Censor intercepted in March 1941 testifies to this, his sister Ingrid then wrote to a friend in the UK that "Gösta is gone a year ago in Germany, we do not know how" [2 - Archive of Northamptonshire Police], it is not strange that the message from the consulate aroused feelings within the family. Caroli was now deported from the United Kingdom and the British Ministry of the Interior handed over the responsibility to him to the Consulate General to arrange the practical details. The day before, a provisional Swedish passport had been issued and it was decided that the deportation would be carried out by boat from London on 23 August. Caroli himself, through the British authorities, had expressed the wish that his brother, the church pastor Gunnar Caroli in Norra Vram, be informed of his return. [3 - Swedish Royal Archives] We can only speculate on what Gösta Caroli was thinking before leaving home, his absence of more than five years without any informations to his mother had in all likelihood left its mark. Would the lack make the reunion with the family an emotional and joyous reunion, or would it be completely different feelings that he would be faced with? He was well aware that his brother Gunnar did not share his sympathies for the German regime, and how would he now be treated when it was known that he worked as an agent for Germany? The answer to the question would soon have its answer.
Clearly, Caroli's family knew nothing about his espionage adventures, only that he had gone to Germany and vanished, with no communication to them. Caroli requested that his brother, Gunnar, be notified of his return. He embarked on the SS Ring on 23 August 1945 from England with a provisional Swedish passport.
Gösta Caroli 1935 (Olsson & Jonason - Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer)
Gösta Caroli 1935
(Olsson & Jonason -
Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer)
Den 1 september 1945 anlade fartyget s/s Ring i Helsingborgs hamn och bland passagerarna fanns Caroli som efter många år i fångenskap åntligen steg iland i Sverige som en fri man. Före dess att han fick träffa familjen fördes han emellertid till Säkerhetspolisens kontor i Helsingborg. Där konstaterades att han hade med sig ett “för honom den 17.8.45 av Kungl. Svenksa Generalkonsulatet i London utfärdat med fotografi försett provisoriskt svenskt pass nr 7/45, giltigt för en enkel resa till Sverige” samt tolv svenska kronor. Kriminalöverkonstapel Carl Palm höll därefter ett längre förhör dar Caroli fick redogöra för sin bakgrund och om vad han varit med om i Tyskland och Storbritannien. Palm noterade senare, den 5 September i en rapport som sändes till utrikesdepartementet och försvarsstaben, att Caroli “nekade bestamt, att han vid något tillfälle lämnat några uppgifter angående Sverige eller svenska förhållanden vid förhör hos engelsmännen eller under sin anställning hos tyskarna”. På frågan om sina framtida planer svarade Caroli att han skulle söka anställning inom jordbruket och at than tills vidare skulle bo hos modern I Billesholm. För den svenska polisen var Caroli ointressant, inget tydde på att han skulle ha gjort sig skyldig till något kriminellt i Sverige och klockan 20.00 samma dag släpptes han. Först vid ankomsten denna dag hade brodern Gunnar underrättats och han mötte nu Gösta hemma hos modern i Billesholm. Mottagandet blev allt annat än varmt, det var inledningsvis inga trevliga ord som mötte Gösta, han blev rent ut sagt regelrätt utskälld av Gunnar. For Gunnars son, då endast fem år gammal, var detta hans första möte med sin farbror och han minns än idag att han blev oerhört rädd för Gösta.[4] Formodligen var återseendet för modern Anna mer positivt, kärleken till sonen kunde inte rubbas oavsett vad han gjort sig skyldig till. Med tiden skulle även förhållandet mellan familjen och Gösta lugna sig och återgå till det normala, men Gösta skulle torts detta aldrig komma att fä en riktigt lätt tillvaro.

Gösta Caroli 1938  (Olsson & Jonason - Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer)
Gösta Caroli 1938
(Olsson & Jonason - Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer)
On September 1, 1945, the ship SS Ring sailed into the port of Helsingborg and among the passengers was Caroli who, after many years in captivity, finally ascended ashore in Sweden as a free man. However, before he got to meet the family, he was taken to the Security Police's office in Helsingborg. It was stated that he had on him “for him on 17.8.45 by the Royal Swedish Consulate General in London issued with photograph provisionally provided Swedish passport no. 7/45, valid for a single trip to Sweden” and twelve Swedish kronor. Carl Palm then held a further hearing where Caroli had to explain his background and what he had been doing in Germany and the UK. Palm later noted, on September 5 in a report sent to the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Staff, that Caroli "firmly denied that he had at any time provided any information regarding Sweden or Swedish conditions during interrogations with the English or during his employment with the Germans". When asked about his future plans, Caroli replied that he would seek employment in agriculture and at that time stay with his mother in Billesholm. To the Swedish police Caroli was uninteresting, there was no indication that he was guilty of anything criminal in Sweden and at 8 pm the same day he was released. It was only on arrival that day that brother Gunnar had been informed and he was now meeting with Gösta at his mother's house in Billesholm. The reception was anything but warm, there were initially no nice words that met Gösta, he was, in fact, outright cursed by Gunnar. For Gunnar's son, then only five years old, this was his first meeting with his uncle and he still remembers today that he became extremely afraid of Gösta. [4 - interview with Caroli's nephew] Probably the return for mother Anna was more positive, the love for her son could not be upset no matter what he owed her. In time, even the relationship between the family and Gösta would calm down and return to normal, but Gösta would never get a really easy life.
Caroli arrived in Helsingborg on 1 September 1945 and was questioned by the police. The police has obviously found no criminal activities in Caroli's past and relesed him after a few hours. It would appear that the Caroli family was quite upset with the return of the prodigal son, although his mother likely gave him a warmer welcome. Interesting to note that Caroli planed to seek a job in agriculture.
Left - Gösta married Greta Bergmann in 1946   Right - Gösta Caroli, likely one year later [1947]  (Olsson & Jonason - Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer)
Left - Gösta married Greta Bergmann in 1946

Right - Gösta Caroli, likely one year later [1947]
(Olsson & Jonason - Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer)
För den svenska polisen var ärendet Caroli emellertid inte helt avslutat. På begäran av statspolisintendent Georg Thulin och kriminalkonstapel Einar Netz vid kriminalpolisens 6:e rotel i Stockholm genomförde kriminalöverkonstapel Carl Palm och kriminalkonstapel Olle Olsson ytterliggare ett förhör den 4 oktober. Palm och Olsson besökte då Caroli i hans bostad i Billesholm och frägade särskilt om den Petersen som utbildat Caroli i telegrafi och om hans danska kollege Wolfgang Schmidt. Polisen misstänkte att Petersen var identisk med den tyska medborgaren Herbert Petersen som 1942 och 1944 rest mellan Berlin och de tyska legationerna i Stockholm och Helsingfors. Flera saker tydde på att Herbert Petersen arbetade för Abwehr men detta hittades aldrig några säkra bevis för, inte heller att han skulle vara identisk med Carolis lärare i telegrafi.[5] Trots misstankarna fick Herbert Petersen senare svenskt medborgarskap och han avled i Malmö 1981.[6]

For the Swedish police, however, the case Caroli was not completely closed. At the request of State Police Superintendent Georg Thulin and Criminal Appellant Einar Netz at the Stockholm Police's 6th Division in Stockholm, Criminal Superintendent Carl Palm and Criminal Appellant Olle Olsson conducted a further hearing on October 4. Palm and Olsson then visited Caroli at his residence in Billesholm and in particular asked about the Petersen who trained Caroli in telegraphy and about his Danish colleague Wolfgang Schmidt. The police suspected that Petersen was identical to German citizen Herbert Petersen who had traveled between Berlin and the German legations in Stockholm and Helsinki in 1942 and 1944. Several things indicated that Herbert Petersen worked for the Abwehr, but this was never found to be any reliable evidence, nor that he would be identical to Caroli's teacher in telegraphy. [5 - Swedish Royal Archives] Despite the suspicions, Herbert Petersen later gained Swedish citizenship and he died in Malmö in 1981. [6 - Swedish Death Book]
After some reflection, the Swedish police wanted to question Caroli about one Herbert Petersen, a German who had apparently worked for the Abwehr and served on the German Legation in Sweden. Was this man the same as Caroli's instructor in radio telegraph skills? Apparently not.
Gösta and Stig Blixt at the fair in Kristianstad  (Olsson & Jonason - Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer)
Gösta and Stig Blixt at the fair in Kristianstad
(Olsson & Jonason - Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer)
Efter detta lämnades Caroli av den svenska polisen och han kunde snart återgå till ett någorlunda normalt liv. I mitten av mars 1946[7] fick han arbete på Weibullsholms växtförädlingsinstitut i Landskrona, detta som trädgårdsarbetare och ciceron på grund av sina goda språkkunskaper.[8] På Weibullsholms träffade han även sin blivande maka, den elva år yngre Greta Bergman från Bro i Stockholm som tidigare studerat i Båstad, och i november 1946 gifte de sig och fick två år senare en son. Att Gösta hade andra kvalitéer än språk skulle snart uppmärksammas på Weibullsholm och efter en tid, den 1 September 1947, fick han anställning som assistent vid kromosomlaboratoriet där han började genforska med ärtplantor som grundmaterial. Forskningen var nära knuten till Lunds universitet och resulterade i ett flertal artiklar mellan 1952 och 1955. Caroli var försteförfattare på tre vetenskapliga uppsatser i facktidskriften Agri Hort Genetica tillsammans med Stig Blixt och i en var han ensam författare. I den första beskrev han en metod att ta fram de fjorton kromosomerna hos ärtplantan med oxykinolin, i den andra att det gick att klassa dem morfologiskt och identifiera kromosomerna. I de två sista påvisar han med olika metoder ett utbyte av delar mellan kromosom nr III och V. [9, 10, 11, 12] Rätt avancerat således och uppenbart tillräckligt avancerat för en akademisk examen, något som framkommer i hans korrenspondans med professor Arne Müntzing vid Lunds universitets institution för ärftlighetsforskning. Gösta sökte hösten 1950 en tjänst som assistent vid Institutionen samtidigt som han ville avlägga kandidatexamen i botanik, statistik och genetik vid universitetet.[13] Hans chanser var mer än goda, men då lönen var låg och Gösta ville satsa på ett eget trädgårdsmasteri drog han tillbaka sin ansökan i sista stund, något professor Müntzing beklagade. I ett brev bad han Gösta att tänka över sitt beslut och ville att han vid tillfälle skulle söka upp honom i Lund för att diskutera saken[14], något som dock inte ändrade Göstas beslut. Blixt, född 1930, började som laboratorieassistent på Weibullsholm redan som 15-äring och skulle samtidgt till stor del grunda sin karriär på just den ärtgenetiska forskning han utförde tillsammans med Caroli. Utan någon som helst grundutbildning, men med särskilt tillstånd från kungen, disputerade Blixt vid Lunds universitet 1972 där han sedermera blev professor i genetik, han pensionerade sig först 1995 och avled sommaren 2009 i Landskrona. Då hade Weibulls köpts upp av företaget Cardo 1976.

Top: Gösta together with Stig Blixt and his  family in maize field.   Bottom: Gösta together with Gunnar Weibull  who loaned him money for his own nursery.  (Olsson & Jonason -  Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer)
Top: Gösta together with Stig Blixt and his
family in maize field.

Bottom: Gösta together with Gunnar Weibull
who loaned him money for his own nursery.
(Olsson & Jonason -
Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer)
After this Caroli was left alone by the Swedish police and he could soon return to a reasonably normal life. In mid-March 1946 [7 - letter from Caroli to Müntzing] he got a job at Weibullsholm's plant breeding institute in Landskrona, this as a gardener and guide because of his good language skills. [8 - interview with Caroli's son] At Weibullsholms he also met his future wife, eleven years his junior, Greta Bergman from Bro in Stockholm who had previously studied in Båstad, and in November 1946 they married and had a son two years later. That Gösta had qualities other than language would soon be noticed at Weibullsholm and after a time, on September 1, 1947, he was hired as an assistant at the chromosome laboratory where he began researching pea plants as a base material. The research was closely linked to Lund University and resulted in several articles between 1952 and 1955. Caroli was the first author on three scientific papers in the professional journal Agri Hort Genetica together with Stig Blixt and in one he was the sole author. In the first, he described a method for obtaining the fourteen chromosomes of the pea plant with oxyquinoline, in the second that it was possible to classify them morphologically and identify the chromosomes. In the last two, he demonstrates, by various methods, an exchange of parts between chromosome No. III and V. [9, 10, 11, 12 - all references to Caroli's published papers] Thus quite advanced and obviously sufficiently advanced for an academic degree, which is evident in his correspondence with Professor Arne Müntzing at Lund University's Institute for Hereditary Research. In the autumn of 1950, Gösta applied for a position as an assistant at the Department, at the same time as he wanted to complete his bachelor's degree in botany, statistics and genetics at the university. [13 - letter of recommendation from Herbert Lamprecht] His chances were more than good, but when his salary was low and Gösta wanted to invest in his own nursery, he withdrew his application at the last moment, something Professor Müntzing lamented. In a letter he asked Gösta to think about his decision and wanted him to seek him out in Lund to discuss the matter [14 - letter from Müntzing to Caroli], which however did not change Gösta's decision. Blixt, born in 1930, started as a laboratory assistant at Weibullsholm as a 15-year-old and would at the same time largely base his career on the exact pea genetic research he did with Caroli. Without any basic education, but with special permission from the King, Blixt did his dissertation at Lund University in 1972, where he subsequently became professor of genetics, he retired in 1995 and died in the summer of 2009 in Landskrona. By then Weibulls had been acquired by the company Cardo in 1976.
A reference to a paper by Gösta Caroli
A reference to a paper by Gösta Caroli
We now get to the juicy bits. After his return from England, Caroli got a job at an agricultural firm where he made quite a name for himself conducting genetic research on pea plants. He even published some scientific papers which are still being cited in scientific journals today. He also married Greta Bergmann in 1946 and the couple had a son in 1948. Caroli eventually left the agricultural firm and started his own plant nursery.
The interest in motorcycles followed Gösta throughout life  (Olsson & Jonason - Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer)
The interest in motorcycles followed Gösta throughout life
(Olsson & Jonason - Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer)
För Caroli gick det sämre, strax innan dess att han tackade nej till tjänsten vid Lunds universitet hade han drabbats av dubbelseende och yrsel[15] vilket härledes till en tidigare blödning på lilla hjärnan, med all sannolikhet uppkommen då han vid landningen i Storbritannien den 6 september 1940 slogs härt i huvudet av sin radio. När skadan blev allt allvarligare och han inte längre kunde se i mikroskopen slutade han på Weibullsholm och köpte istället ett mindre trädgårdsmästeri. Direktör Gunnar Weibull ställde själv upp med lånet till köpet och trädgårdsmästeriet växte med åren till en relativt stor verksamhet. I början importerade Gösta olika sorters jordgubbsplantor från Tyskland varifrån även en stor del av arbetskraften kom. Under sina tidigare resor i Sydeuropa hade han fått erfarenhet av mer excotiska växter vilket inspirerade honom att även börja med odling av paprika och majs, något vid tiden nästan helt okänt i Sverige.[16] Skadorna på hjärnan skulle emelltertid med åren bara bli värre och varre, de påverkade balanssinnet och de sista tio åren av sitt liv var han nästan helt rullstolsbunden. Under lång tid försökte han få pension och ersättning för sin skada från de västtyska myndigheterna, detta med hjälp av en av de tidigare medfångarna i Huntercombe som kommit honom nära och som verkligen brydde sig om hans öde. Mannen i fråga, Graf Ulrick Finck von Finckenstein, hade i november 1940 landstigit på ön Jan Mayen vid Grönland som ledare för Sonderkommando Finkenstein vilken tillhörde Abwehrstelle Stettin.[17] Gruppen skulle sända väderleksrapporter till Abwehr, men verksamheten blev kort och redan efter ett par dagar tillfängatogs gruppen av brittiska Royal Navy. Efter kriget blev Finckenstein advokat på den nordvästtyska orten Norden och kom under lång tid att föra Göstas talan mot de västtyska myndigheterna. Alla försök kom emellertid att bli förgäves och någon pension eller ersättning betalades aldrig ut, istället överräckte Finckenstein ett gammalt järnkors från första världskriget till Gösta, han var värd mer men inget fanns att göra. Även den tidigare Abwehrchefen i Hamburg, Herbert Wichmann, som sett till att alla agenter fått status som tyska soldater, var förargad över att det enda Caroli fick blev ett järnkors.[18] Bättre gick det med de brittiska myndigheterna som gav honom en mindre pension för de tjänster han utfört för dem. Den pension han fick var långtifrån stor, de sista åren av hans liv levde han knapert och flera gånger fick hans släktingar hjälpa honom. Nikolaus Ritter sammanfattade 1972 i sina memoarer att “Caroli överlevde sin fångenskap i Storbritannien men återhämtade sig aldrig från de skador han fick vid fallskärmshoppet. Han bor idag i Sverige, är svårt sjuk och har helt tappat sitt minne. Sin medfånge, en före detta Abwehrofficer, som han delade cell med och som återgivit Carolis historia för mig, berättade att han senare flera gånger besökte honom och försökte hjälpa honom så gott han kunde.”[19] Gösta Caroli avled i Asmundtorp torsdagen den 8 Maj 1975 och begravdes i en enkel grav.

Top: Gösta and his family [likely wife and son]   Bottom: One of the last photographs, here at Gösta's  70th birthday  (Olsson & Jonason -  Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer)
Top: Gösta and his family [likely wife and son]

Bottom: One of the last photographs, here at Gösta's
70th birthday
(Olsson & Jonason -
Gösta Caroli: Dubbelagent Summer)
For Caroli, things took a turn for the worse, just before he refused the position at Lund University, he had suffered from double vision and dizziness [15 - interview with Caroli's son], which was attributed to a previous bleed on the cerebellum, most likely when he landed in the UK on 6 September 1940 and was hit in the head by his radio. When the damage became more serious and he could no longer see through the microscope, he quit his job at Weibullsholm and bought a smaller nursery instead. Director Gunnar Weibull made the loan for the purchase himself and over the years the nursery grew into a relatively large business. Initially, Gösta imported different types of strawberry plants from Germany, from which a large part of the labor force also came. During his previous travels in Southern Europe, he had gained experience with more exotic plants, which inspired him to also start growing peppers and corn, something at that time almost entirely unknown in Sweden. [16 - interview with Caroli's son] However, the damage to the brain over the years would only get worse and worse, affecting his sense of balance and the last ten years of his life he was almost completely wheelchair-bound. For a long time, he tried to get a pension and compensation for his injury from the West German authorities, with the help of one of the former prisoners in Huntercombe who became close to him and who really cared about his fate. The man in question, Graf Ulrick Finck von Finckenstein, had in November 1940 landed on the island of Jan Mayen in Greenland as leader of the Sonderkommando Finkenstein, which belonged to Abwehrstelle Stettin. [17 - Pryser, Tore: Hitlers hemmelige agenter (Hitler's Secret Agents), page 79 - Norwegian book (2001) not in the Bibliography] The group was to send weather reports to the Abwehr, but the expedition was a failure and after a few days, the group was captured by the British Royal Navy. After the war, Finckenstein became a lawyer in the northwestern German city of Norden and for a long time brought the lawsuit of Gösta against the West German authorities. However, all attempts were in vain and no pension or compensation was ever paid, instead Finckenstein handed over an old Iron Cross from the First World War to Gösta, he was worth more but there was nothing to be done. Also the former Abwehr commander in Hamburg, Herbert Wichmann, who ensured that all agents received the status of German soldiers, was annoyed that the only thing Caroli received was an Iron Cross. [18 - Swedish newspaper 1976] It went better with the British authorities who gave him a smaller pension for the services he performed for them. The pension he received was far from great, the last years of his life he barely eked out a living and his relatives had to help him several times. In 1972, Nikolaus Ritter summarized in his memoirs that “Caroli survived his captivity in the UK but never recovered from the injuries he suffered at the parachute. He lives in Sweden today, is seriously ill and has completely lost his memory. His colleague, a former Abwehr officer with whom he shared a cell and who told Caroli's story to me, told me that he later visited him several times and tried to help him as best he could. "[19 - Ritter's book, page 315] Gösta Caroli died in Asmundtorp on Thursday 8 May 1975 and is buried in a simple grave.
I had come across sources which indicated that the injuries Caroli suffered from his parachute descent into England, lingered for decades. And this section seems to confirm that. The story goes that when Caroli landed, the radio case that was strapped to his chest struck him on the chin, which would have smashed his head backwards. This is consistent with a bleed in the cerebellum which can, indeed, worsen over time. It is interesting to note the connection between Ritter, von Finckenstein and Caroli. This explains how Ritter acquired his story about the landing of Caroli, which was highly inaccurate. Clearly, Caroli had developed some sense of loyalty to the British or, perhaps, a hatred for the Germans, who had sent him on such an ill-fated mission. It would appear that he told a cover story to Finckenstein. And, again, we have the note that Caroli died 8 May 1975, buried in a simple grave, presumably in Asmundtorp.
Hans betydelse i det tysk-brittiska spionspelet kan inte överskattas; han var den första tyska agenten att landa med fallskärm i Storbritannien, omständigheterna med fiktiva hjälpinsatser av de agenter som tyskarna trodde var i deras tjänst stärkte förtroendet för deras, som de trodde, agentverksamhet i Storbritannien; han gav övardelig hjälp och erfarenhet när det gällde hur Double-Cross-systemet skulle byggas upp - britterna erhöll stor lärdom av hans fall - och den information han avslöjade i förhör, ledde till att andra agenter kunde gripas och värvas som viktiga dubbelagenter. Framför allt gäller detta hans vän Wulf Schmidt/Tate, som blev den dubbelagent som hade längst karriär under kriget. Hur tyskarna värderat Carolis insats framkom i en intervju med Herbert Wichmann 1976, hans omdöme om honom var: “en av de bästa agenter vär underrättelseavdelning i Hamburg någonsin haft.”[20] Någon hängiven nazist var han emellertid knappast och han var aldrig organiserad i något parti. Istället följde han den kultur med tysk influens som gällde i Sverige vid den tiden, han drogs med och blev alltmer involverad i Tyskland och ett projekt som han till sist inte kunde dra sig ur, eftersom han i såfall skulle riskerat sitt eget liv.

His significance in the German-British spy game cannot be overstated; he was the first German agent to parachute into Britain, the fact of fictitious relief efforts by the agents who the Germans believed to be in their service strengthened confidence in their, as they believed, agent activities in the UK; he provided immense help and experience when it came to how the Double-Cross system was to be built - the British learned a great deal from his case - and the information he revealed in interrogation led to other agents being apprehended and recruited as important double agents. This is especially true of his friend Wulf Schmidt/TATE, who became the double agent who had the longest career during the war. How the Germans valued Caroli's efforts was revealed in an interview with Herbert Wichmann in 1976, his opinion on him was: "one of the best agents our intelligence department in Hamburg has ever had." [20 - Swedish newspaper 1976] However, he was hardly a dedicated Nazi and he was never organized in any party. Instead, he followed the culture of German influence that prevailed in Sweden at the time, he was drawn in and became increasingly involved in Germany and a project he eventually could not pull out of, as he would in any case risk his own life.
I'm a bit intrigued by the comment that information from Caroli "led to other agents being apprehended and recruit as important double agents". I'm aware of TATE, obviously, and possibly GOOSE/GANDER although I wouldn't necessarily call him important. Not aware of others... but I might have to transcribe and translate other sections to get clear on that.

I hope that this blog has helped to clear up the ultimate fate of Gösta Caroli. He was indeed deported back to Sweden in 1945, married and had one son. He embarked on a relatively successful career in agriculture, first studying pea genetics and then opening his own nursery where he grew corn and peppers. The head injury he sustained during his parachute descent into England in 1940 would worsen over time. Caroli passed away in Asmundtorp in 1975.

I am now eyeing some other key sections in this book. If any readers have a burning interest in any particular section, let me know. I don't now that I can scan any pages of this book, it strongly resists being forced to open flat and I'm afraid the whole thing might burst asunder. On secon thought, that might not be a bad thing... at least then I could run it through my scanner feeder.

26 March 2020

Sleuthing the Death of Robin William George Stephens - Anne Margaret Mary Pennycook (also Wilson and Warrener)

Still chipping away at any clue for when Robin William George Stephens passed away. Stephens had served as commandant of MI5's Camp 020 interrogation centre during the Second World War and retired from the military in 1960 at the age of 60. I've investigated several dead ends and keep coming back to his second wife's death as a line of inquiry.

Joan Geraldine Pearson Dowling Stephens passed away in 1992 in Lincoln, Lincolnshire. Robin Stephens was already deceased at that point. The informant for Joan's death was her sister, Audrey Violet (Dowling) Richardson. Audrey passed away in 2005 and, a few years ago, I applied for her probate records (but apparently never blogged about it).

The executors of Audrey's estate were Andrew Francis Wright and Anne Margaret Mary Pennycook, both of Lincoln. Anne was also the chief beneficiary of Audrey's estate. Who were these individuals? Was Anne another sister of Audrey? Or were they cousins?

Anne Margaret Mary PennycookWhat can we discover about Anne Margaret Mary Pennycook? Well... first up, we know when she passed away. A reader of this blog shared a link for her obituary. Anne passed away 19 December 2015 at home in Lincoln. There are a few different obituary notices for her in the Lincolnshire Echo:

Pennycook Anne Margaret Mary Passed away peacefully at home on Saturday 19th December 2015 aged 85 years [born around 1930]. The funeral service will be held at the Lincoln Crematorium on Monday 4th January 2016 at 10.30am. All our thoughts are with you Rob,Caroline,Lucy and Gill, Dave,Nicola, Mark
This doesn't make it clear who the individuals are - whether they submitted the In Memoriam or whether they are individuals to whom the condolences are offered.
PENNYCOOK Anne Passed away peacefully at home on 19th December 2015. Our beautiful Mum and Grandma. Will be loved and missed always. Lesley, Richard and Chris, Grandma to James, Rebecca and Charlotte and Great-Grandma to Katelynn, Owen, Courtney and McKenzie. -xxx-
This is more helpful as it makes it clear that Anne had children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Whether their last names are Pennycook is another matter.
Pennycook Anne Dearly missed, my forever friend. Love Vera, David, Nigel, Dawn & Kim.Rest in peace. 
This one seems to be from friends.

Tracing Anne M.M. Pennycook
Given the title of the newspaper, "Lincolnshire Echo", let's assume that Anne lived in Lincoln. This isn't too big of an assumption as, in 2004, Anne was living in Lincoln when she signed Audrey's will. A bit of searching reveals the following tidbit of information from the www.192.com site.
Anne Mm Pennycook was living in Lincoln (street address only for paid subscriptions) in the 2002 Electoral Roll. A name associated with her is "Alexandre Pennycook".

That sent me off to Ancestry... where I found this entry in the marriage registrations:
Alexander Pennycook married Anne M. M. Wilson in the last quarter of 1976 in Lincoln.
From Ancestry, we can glean that Alexander appears to have been born about 1925 (location unknown) and married Audrey Kyme in 1954 with whom he had several children (names are private). Audrey passed away in the first quarter of 1976 and Alexander passed away in Lincoln in 2002. This leaves room for Alexander and Anne to have married in the last quarter of 1976, when Anne would have been around 46 years old.

Maiden Name?
So, we have traced Anne M.M. Pennycook, who is likely be Anne Margaret Mary Wilson, but it isn't clear if that is her maiden name or a surname from a previous marriage.

We know that Anne was born around 1930 (+/- one year) based on the obituary. While all of her Christian names are quite common (Anne, Margaret, Mary), in unison they are helpful. I found this entry from the 1939 National Register:

1939 National Register - Anna M.M. Warrener
1939 National Register - Anna M.M. Warrener
This is definitely promising - Anna M.M. Warrener - born 21 November 1930 and residing in Lincolnshire in 1939. A look at the record and it "promising" becomes certainty.
1939 National Register - Anne M.M. Warrner/Wilson/Pennycook
1939 National Register - Anne M.M. Warrner/Wilson/Pennycook
We have a 9 year old Anne M.M. Warrener, living with her parents and an older sibling (closed record). Her surname has been stroked out and replaced with WILSON in ink and then faintly in pencil is written PENNYCOOK. This has to be our girl.
1939 National Register - enlargement of Anne's surnames: Warrener/Wilson/Pennycook
1939 National Register - enlargement of Anne's surnames: Warrener/Wilson/Pennycook

This record confirms that Anne was not a sibling of Audrey and Joan. I did a quick trace of Anne's parents, George R. & Kate Warrener. It appears that they married in 1922 in Lincoln and that Kate's maiden name is Woodley. So, if there is a family connection, it would have to be farther back. This record also means that Anne's children ould likely not be Pennycooks but Wilsons, as Anne was 46 years old when she married Alexander Pennycook. Although... a late 40's pregnancy is not impossible.

A bit more digging and this appears in the marriage indices:
In the second quarter of 1950, A.M.M. Warrener married Albert B. Wilson in Lincoln.
This is likely our couple. I haven't had any luck tracing Albert B. Wilson in Lincoln... far too common a name. But... we might have better luck with their children.

Tracing Anne's Children
If we do a search for individuals with the surname Wilson [children take their father's surname], born within 10 years of 1960 (1950-1970) [20 years after the marriage of Anne and Albert], and whose mother's surname was Warrener, we come up with...
Ancestry - Wilson children with a Warrener mother
Ancestry - Wilson children with a Warrener mother

This matches two of the three names from Anne's obituary: Lesley, Richard and Chris. No luck finding a Chris Wilson (not even from 1970-1976). But we now have Richard W. Wilson and Lesley N. Wilson. But at this point, we run out of leads. There are no spousal names with Lesley and Richard, nor is it clear which children might belong to them, so... even 192.com isn't yielding anything definitive. Wilson is far too common a name to trace these two any farther at this point.

I did do a search for Alexander Pennycook and Audrey Kyme's children and came up with Robert A. Pennycook (born 1961) and Gillian A. Pennycook (born 1956). These could be the individuals listed in the first obituary notice: Rob[ert],Caroline,Lucy and Gill[ian], Dave,Nicola, Mark. This suggests that Anne may have been close to her step children and their families.

A bit more digging and the 192.com site indicates that a Robert A. Pennycook, Caroline J. Pennycook and Lucy Pennycook are all associated with an address in Lincoln. Ancestry shows a 1987 marriage of Robert A. Pennycook and Caroline J. Frow in Lincoln. Robert appears in the 2003-2004 and 2005-2010 Electoral Registers but living at different addresses. The most recent address was 19, Grange Crescent, Lincoln, LN6 8BT.

As for Gillian A. Pennycook, she apparently married David C. Armstrong in 1976 in Lincoln. Thus, their assumed children, Nicola and Mark, likely have the surname Armstrong. Another visit to 192.com and there is an address in Lincoln associated with David C. Armstrong, Gillian A. Armstrong, Nicola C. Armstrong and Mark J. Armstrong. The 2002-2003 Electoral Registers from Ancestry list Gillian A. Armstrong as living at 2 Rivermead Close, Lincoln, LN6 8FD. Whether the family still lives at that address is unknown.

There is always the possibility that this blog post will bring something to the surface. It is quite a limb we have crawled out on, all in the hopes of tracing the death of Robin William George Stephens... whose second wife was Joan Geraldine Pearson Dowling Stephens... whose sister was Audrey Violet Richardson... whose estate went to Anne Margaret Mary Pennycook. One never knows though... perhaps there is a scrap of information out there that will unlock the secret of Robin's death.

18 March 2020

Book Review - Cover Name: Dr. Rantzau - Nikolaus Ritter, translated by Katherine R. Wallace (2019)

A few years ago, I stumbled my way through Nikolaus Ritter's memoir: Deckname Dr. Rantzau - Die Aufzeichnungen des Nikolaus Ritter, Offizier under Canaris im Geheimen Nachrichtendiesnt. [Cover Name Dr. Rantzau - The Notes of Nikolaus Ritter, Officer under Canaris in the Secret Intelligence Service].

I say stumbled, because my schoolgirl German found the espionage lingo quite challenging. But... I think I got the gist of the book.

Luckily, Ritter's daughter, Katherine Ritter Wallace, decided to have Ritter's memoirs translated and published in English via the University Press of Kentucky in 2019. Sooooo much easier to read and understand! Having read Katherine's translation and my original blog post on the German version, I believe my comments stand the test of time and interested readers can read my book review blog post.

Overall, I'd say the translation was quite well done as Ritter's stuffed-shirt, patriarchal German personality comes through loud and clear!

As I noted with the original German version, Ritter does tend to play hard and loose with the facts. On top of that, he portrays himself as the consummate spy and spy master who engages in meticulous preparations for his missions. All this while tossing disposable and poorly prepared agents at England with casual disdain. While Ritter focuses on the "successful" agents, he spends no time touching on the failed agents who ended up being hanged or shot.

Overall, Ritter's memoir (German or English) needs to be taken with a grain of salt. It's a great book for an overall view... not so good for the detailed facts.

11 March 2020

The Story of Roy Harrison - Executioner of a German Spy

Evening Chronicle - 1984 11 07 Interview with Roy Alan Harrison former member of Josef Jakobs' firing squad.
Evening Chronicle - 1984 11 07
Interview with Roy Harrison
former member of Josef Jakobs' firing squad.
I bought a British Newspaper Archives subscription last year and did various searches for Josef Jakobs/Jacobs.

Imagine my surprise when I came across a 1987 article in which a man named Roy Harrison told the story of how he had served on the firing squad of Josef Jakobs!

I already had an eye witness account from one of the British Military Policemen who accompanied Josef to his execution.

I also had the Regimental Sergeant Major's hand-written instructions from the morning of the execution.

While I had tried to track down some of the members of the firing squad... they weren't easy to find.

Yet here was this interview with Roy Harrison! It doesn't always jive with the other two accounts and I note the discrepancies and/or inaccuracies in square brackets.

Evening Chronicle - 1984 November 7
Safety catches off...
Take aim...

And so died a Germany spy

[Roy Harrison, a quiet man from Washington [Tyne and Wear, Country Durham], once made a macabre mark on history - he was on the firing squad which carried out the last execution in the Tower of London. Eric Forster has been talking to him.]

He is a quiet, anonymous sort of chap today and even shamefacedly confesses to composing the odd poetic stanza about life, its purpose and direction.

He once made teacakes at a Team Valley factory until dismissed for asking double-time for Sunday working. That apart, he has lived the low profile image of the average workingman and now lives in retirement in a terrace house in Washington, Tyne and Wear.

Anonymous - perhaps. But Roy Harrison is a man who had made a macabre mark on history: he was on the firing squad which performed the last execution at the Tower of London.

The condemned man was Josef Jakobs, a German spy, who was arrested immediately after his parachute descent into the Home Counties of England in 1941.

The executioner: Roy Harrison, then a young Scots Guardsman, one of six marksmen who were called one day to perform "special duties" - and found themselves facing a living target. [Other information indicates seven, possibly eight, members of the firing squad.]

It happened on the morning of August 14, 1941, [August 15, 1941] and Roy often thinks about it. Only now, with the covers off the official secrets of the time, has he decided to talk about it.

Nothing he was ever called upon to perform as a wartime soldier would ever match that bizarre moment when he and his fellow guardsmen were ordered to shoot Josef Jakobs.

Rifles were loaded
His duties had led him to sentry duty at Buckingham Palace; he guarded and fed Rudolph Hess during the Deputy Führer's incarceration in the Tower; he fought in the Western Desert and was wounded at Salerno.
But it is the execution of a spy who went proudly to his death that Roy Harrison dwells upon today in moments of introspection.

"Two of our party were later killed in Italy at Casino and I was twice wounded. Were we getting paid back" he wonders...

He adds: "I have never forgotten it. I was just 21 at the time and very impressionable. I had won my special proficiency for rifle shooting and was considered a crack shot. [If, as noted below, they were not volunteers, then it would make sense that the commander would have chosen the best marksmen for this duty.]

"Without any warning I, along with the others, was marched down to the armourer's shop one morning and issued with a short Lee Enfield rifle that was already loaded. [RSM orders indicates that the rifles were already in the firing range when the squad arrived.] We were then marched down to the miniature rifle range along the wharf. [Not exactly along the wharf - was along the Eastern Casemates.]

"None of us had the slightest idea what we were going to do. [Other information has suggested that firing squad members were volunteers, so this would be new information.]

"We were taken inside to the 25 yards line and given a spaced position in line and then ordered to adopt the kneeling position. [This is new information.] Our sergeant informed us that not a sound should be made. We would be signaled to remove the safety catch and, after taking aim, wait for the signal to fire. [The RSM instructions indicated that they practiced first and were then marched out of the firing range, only to reenter once Josef had been led inside.]

"The next thing we knew, a senior officer, a medical officer and a corporal called Purvis - he worked in the medical bunk because he was nearly seven feet tall - came in at the far end of the range bringing with them a chair - and Josef Jakobs. [Was there an entrance at the "far end"? The RSM orders indicate that the chair was already prepped and tied to a beam at the target end of the range. The Military Policeman stated that he and his colleague accompanied Josef to the end.]

"He was blindfolded and had a piece of white lint over his heart. He looked very proud and did not show the slightest sign of fear..."

Subsequent events were swift, he recalls.

"We lads were really dumbfounded but with the strict training we had received, we acted as ordered." he says.

"Jakobs, still showing no signs of fear, was offered the seat and accepted it (he had broken his leg during his abortive parachute descent)."

And then came the signal. "Release safety catch... take aim... FIRE!" [The first two instructions, as noted are generally done with gestures/signals and only the word "Fire" is spoken out loud.]

Josef Jakobs slumped forward on the chair, dead.

Even within the context of wartime censorship, the execution made front page news the following day. The Evening Chronicle reported Jakobs had been "dropped" in the Home Counties.

When arrested he had with him a radio transmitter, a "large sum of British money" and food including "an ample supply of sausage." [One half-eaten piece of sausage is likely not "ample".] He also carried a spade with which to bury his parachute.

Went to the Pub
Jakobs had been sentenced to death at a general court martial held in secret, and had revealed that he was a non-commissioned officer with the German meteorological service. Born in Luxembourg, he was 44 and the fifth to be executed since the outbreak of war. [Not accurate - Carl Meier (Dec 1940), Jose Waldberg (Dec 1940), Charles van den Kieboom (Dec 1940), Werner Walti (Aug 1941), Karl Theodore Drücke (Aug 1941). Josef was thus the sixth spy to be executed.]

Roy Harrison and his fellow soldiers of the firing squad knew none of this as they trooped away from the firing range on that morning of August 14, 1941. [August 15, 1941.]

"The body was whipped away to the medical bunk. We were ordered to apply safety catches and marched straight back to the armourer's shop. The rifles were handed in and unloaded.

"We were then informed that only one rifle had the live round, the others having been loaded with a ballistic charge, which gave the equivalent 'kick' of a life round."  he said. [This may be a interviewer error - generally only one rifle is loaded with a blank while the others are all live rounds. Josef's body had more than one gunshot wound.]

"If it was true, nobody really knows who killed Jakobs - but the uncertainty is still in my mind."

The party, he recalls, was sworn never to tell colleagues the nature of their "special duty" that day and were given the remainder of the day off. [This seems rather odd given that the execution was published in the newspapers and the entire Scots Guards complement at the Tower would have known of the execution.] They went en bloc to the Red Lion pub, Aldwich.

Even the armourer did not know which man had been given the killer rifle. I remember that Cpl. Purvis, the medic, kept the belt of Jakobs' coat, with his "signature' on it," says Roy. [This would be new information. Interesting that there is no mention of the RSM who apparently kept the target as well as the ropes used to tie Josef to the chair.]

How does he view his role in the retrospect of the years?

"I have thought about it a lot. The unfair thing was the way in which we were ordered to do the job without any warning. None of us had any idea until that moment when the man was marched before us and we were ordered to fire," he says. [This seems to have made a lasting impression on him so it may be accurate and the "volunteer" aspect in accurate.]

He is also left with that discomforting thought, posed by the subsequent fate of the firing squad.

Two killed in action, himself twice wounded... the whereabouts of the others unknown to him.

Did fate really strike back, he wonders? [It does make one wonder.]

Roy Harrison Evening Chronicle - 1984 November 7
Roy Harrison
Evening Chronicle - 1984 November 7
Who was Roy Harrison?
I haven't been able to dig up much on Mr. Harrison.

Based on the fact that Roy was living in Tyne and Wear, he is possibly the same man who died in the first three months of 2002 in North Tyneside, Tyne and Wear. This gentleman, Roy Alan Harrison, was born 9 June 1921.

Beyond that, there are a lot of Roy Harrison's in the UK! And Roy A. Harrison's for that matter.

Did he get married? Have children? Is there more information out there?

Hard to say, but this blog has a tendency to create connections and so I put this information out there, trusting that, when the time is right, it might generate a contact.

In a rather synchronistic moment, after publishing this blog, I was trying to dig up Roy's obituary on Google and came across a recent article published by the Washington Historical Society. They too had come across Roy's newspaper interview and published it online on 3 February 2020. I shall reach out to them and see if they have any more information

24 February 2020

Flood and Mud

A rather torrential January has resulted in a basement flood and the discovery that our household perimeter drain is not up to snuff. Much mud and digging at the moment. This blog is therefore on temporary hiatus for a few weeks until life rights itself.

31 January 2020

Sharing the Tale of Josef Jakobs on Talk Radio Europe

Talk Radio Europe logo
A few weeks ago, Talk Radio Europe had me on their 10:30 am morning show. Given that they are in Spain and I'm on Canada's West Coast... I pried myself out of bed at 1:00 am to be moderately awake and coherent for the 1:30 am interview!

You can listen to the interview here...

Thanks to David Tremain for suggesting I chase down the opportunity to get on the TRE show!

And thanks to Wendy, Giles and the TRE crew who created a very smooth process...

27 January 2020

Branches of the Josef Jakobs Family Tree

Trier, Germany - origin of the Josef Jakobs clan
Trier, Germany - origin of the Josef Jakobs clan
Back in November, I received an intriguing Facebook message from a woman down on the east coast of the States. She said that her family name was spelt "Jakobs" as well and that her family had long circulated a story that one of their great-relatives was a spy for the Nazis. She had come across my book and website and thought... maybe we were related.

This was kind of a cool thought and it spurred a burst of activity from me on Ancestry. I hadn't worked on the Jakobs branch for a few years and... Ancestry has come a long way since then. I started tracking various Jakobs side-branches from my direct lineage, trying to trace a connection to the States. At the same time, I got a bit of information from the woman and began researching her tree upwards... trying to trace her forefathers who immigrated to the States from Germany.

At this point, I've traced her great-great grandfather as one Herman Frederick Jakobs who came to the States in the early 1890s - exact city/village/town in Germany still unknown... but we are working on digging up some more records.

At this point, however, drawing a link between Herman's tree and my tree is not likely:
  • Herman's branch is Protestant... my Jakobs branch is Catholic - and while there have been people who have crossed the lines from one to the other... it isn't likely
  • My Jakobs branch has no Herman's or Frederick's in it... and given how children were often named after previous ancestors... this makes a connection doubtful
  • DNA - I had Ancestry DNA done a few years ago and... so did the US woman's father... at this point, Ancestry says we have zero DNA in common
  • Herman would have been roughly the same generation as Josef Jakobs' father, Kaspar Jakobs. So even if there were a connection, it would have to be higher up the tree than Kaspar (as he had no Herman or Frederick siblings)
Jacobs/Jakobs is not that uncommon a name in Germany and it is quite likely that Herman Frederick originated from some other location. My branch of the Jakobs originated in Trier and I can trace them there until well into the 1500s. I've made contact with a few German Jakobs relations (4th cousins) but haven't found any evidence of them jumping the pond to North America.

There is always the possibility that Kaspar, Josef or my own father had a few extra-marital Jakobs children... and it remains to be seen if any of them ever emerge from the woodwork. There is also the mysterious nephew of Josef Jakobs, one Balthazar Jakobs, who was born in the mid-1920s and, according to family legend, died during the war. I haven't been able to confirm his death so... it is always possible that he survived the war...

22 January 2020

Book Review - Operation Fortitude - Joshua Levine (2011)

Cover - Operation Fortitude: the Story of the Spy Operation that Saved D-Day (Joshua Levine)
Cover - Operation Fortitude: the Story
of the Spy Operation that Saved D-Day
(Joshua Levine)
The Book
Operation Fortitude: The Story of the Spy Operation that Saved D-Day. Joshua Levine. Lyons Press. 2011.


In the lead-up to the D-Day landings in Normany, the Allies operated a number of plans designed to mislead the Germans as to the actual landing zone. The overall plan codenamed Operation Bodyguard had several sub-plans, one of which was Operation Fortitude (North and South). This plan was to convince the Germans that the Allies were planning landings in Norway and Pas de Calais. The Allies used a number of ploys, including their network of double agents, to pull the wool over the eyes of the Germans.

While the title might lead one to believe that the author will focus on the 1944 plan for Operation Fortitude, Levine helpfully begins much earlier, in 1940. In preparation for Operation Sealion, the Germans sent a number of poorly equipped agents to England with a view to sending back weather reports and other helpful information. The vast majority of these hapless agents were snapped up by the British and several were turned into double agents. Levine gives a very thorough and accurate history of these agents and how they played their own role in Operation Fortitude... convincing the Germans that they had active and useful spies in England.

I found this book to be eminently readable and very well researched. It provides a very accurate and comprehensive portrayal of the double cross system and was a pleasure to read.

Review Score
4.5 out of 5 - well researched and well written

17 January 2020

Book Review - Agent TATE: The Wartime Story of Harry Williamson - Tommy Jonason & Simon Olsson (2012)

Cover - Agent TATE: The Wartime Story of Harry Williamson
Cover - Agent TATE: The Wartime
Story of Harry Williamson
The Book
Agent TATE: The Wartime Story of Harry Williamson. Tommy Jonason and Simon Olsson. Amberley Publishing. 2012.

The story of double agent TATE (LEONHARDT to the Germans) is one of the classic tales of the British double cross system from the Second World War. One can read key snippets of his story in many books and journals:
  • How the ardent Nazi Wulf Schmidt parachuted into England in mid-September, hot on the heels of friend, and fellow spy, Gosta Caroli.
  • How Schmidt was quickly snatched up by the authorities after washing his swollen twisted ankle in the village fountain. 
  • How Schmidt proved stalwart in the face of MI5's top interrogator but eventually crumbled when he learned that Caroli had already spilled the beans.
  • How Schmidt would go on to become one of Britain's most prized double agents... and simultaneously, one of the German Abwehr's most prized agents (even to being awarded the Iron Cross).
The story is a fascinating one and two Swedish authors, Tommy Jonason and Simon Olsson brought all of the pieces together into a cohesive whole, published in 2012 by Amberley Press. One note: TATE's birth name was Wulf Schmidt and his assumed name in Britain was Harry Williamson. I shall refer to him as Schmidt as that is more common in espionage literature.

Jonason and Olsson's book is very readable and draws heavily from the declassified MI5 files at the National Archives. The authors provide a helpful context to the Operation LENA spies who were dispatched to England in the fall of 1940, all in preparation for Operation SEALION - the invasion of England.

The details of Schmidt's training by the German Abwehr is a familiar tale - poorly trained, poorly organized, poorly equipped and yet... despite the many disadvantages, the Germans seemingly bought the idea that Schmidt eluded capture and would manage to send signals undetected until shortly before the end of the war.

While the authors touch on Schmidt's request for more funds in early 1941, they don't spend a lot of time in examining the connection with Karel Richter, a suspected courier of funds and equipment to Schmidt. Specifically, the authors don't spend time delving into the story that Richter eventually admitted to his British interrogators -- that he had been sent to check up on Schmidt as the German handlers suspected he had been turned. Given the intimate connection between Richter and Schmidt in that regard, a bit more of emphasis on Richter would seem to have been warranted.

On another note, the section on Josef Jakobs has several minor errors which make the reader wonder if others are present elsewhere in the volume.

The authors do consider the question as to whether the Germans knew that Schmidt had been turned or not. The evidence is quite contradictory but the authors do a fair job of covering the different aspects.

Review Score
4 out of 5 - readable and fairly comprehensive