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The Tower of London

Discussion in 'The Secret War: Resistance and Espionage During WW' started by brianw, Jul 3, 2014.

  1. brianw

    brianw Member

    Sep 6, 2011
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    Bridgend, Mid Glam.
    via War44
    That most famous of London’s landmarks, The Tower of London has for almost a thousand years been known for the disappearance of the two young princes, the Ravens of the Tower, Traitor’s Gate, the Crown Jewels and of course the Beefeaters or more correctly, the Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign's Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary.
    The Tower of London has also been long thought of as a prison, torture chamber, dungeon, garrison, armoury and place of execution. In its very earliest days it was a Royal Palace too. However, since its last medieval beheading in 1747 only 12 people have met their ends within its mighty and imposing walls.

    World War One

    During the First World War the British Intelligence Services detected and prosecuted 31 enemy agents, of whom 11 of those found to be guilty under the Defence of the Realm Act were sentenced to death by firing squad.

    The Tower's indoor firing range in 1910

    Of those sentenced all but two were carried out “at dawn” in the small indoor rifle range within the walls of the tower, usually by a squad of eight riflemen armed with the standard army issue Lee-Enfield .303 short magazine rifle. The condemned person was usually secured to an ordinary chair, blindfolded with a bandage across the eyes and a white cloth “target” fastened over the heart; there was no post to which they were tied, nor was there a special “execution” chair. The two spies not shot in the indoor range were executed in the tower ditch for no other reason than the rifle range was undergoing some repairs at the time and could not be used.


    Of the eleven, probably the most well known was Karl Lody, the first to be executed on 6th November 1914.

    The other convicted spies were:

    Carl F Muller shot on 23 June 1915 after a trial at the Old Bailey.
    Willem J Roos and Haicke P M Janssen, both shot in the Tower Ditch on 30 July 1915.
    Ernst W Melin, shot on 10 September 1915.
    Augusto A Roggin, shot on 17 September 1915.
    Fernando Buschman, shot on 19 September 1915.
    George T Breeckow, shot on 26 October 1915 after a trial at the Old Bailey.
    Irvin G Ries, shot on 27 October 1915.
    Albert Meyer, shot on 2 December 1915.
    Ludovico H Zender, shot on 11 April 1916.

    With the exception of Muller and Breeckow who were tried at the Old Bailey, all the others were tried and convicted by Courts-Marshal.

    One other German agent was executed by hanging at Wandsworth jail on 15th July 1915 and is buried in the prison cemetery inside the jail.
    The agents executed at the Tower are buried together in a small area of Plaistow Cemetery.

    World War Two

    During the Second World War, a number of German agents were detected and prosecuted by the Intelligence Services, some like the famous “Garbo” were turned and became a valuable asset as a “double agent” feeding “manufactured” information to the enemy, most famously just prior to D-Day, others were executed by hanging at either Wandsworth or Pentonville Jails, but only one foreign agent was executed by firing squad in the miniature rifle range at the Tower of London.

    By the Second World War, the Defence of the Realm Act had been largely replaced by the Treachery Act 1940, under which some 17 “spies” were tried and convicted. Nine were executed by hanging at Wandsworth, seven were hanged at Pentonville and one, Josef Jakobs was shot at the Tower.

    As a serving officer of the German military, Josef Jakobs was entitled to a military execution and he was the last person to be executed at the Tower. He was shot at dawn, 7:12 am on 15th August 1941.

    Four others were tried under the High Treason Act 1351 (Amended 1945). Of those four, two were executed at Wandsworth; William Joyce (Lord Haw Haw) and John Amery. Two others, Walter Purdy and Thomas Cooper had their sentences commuted and were eventually released.

    The miniature rifle range was eventually demolished to make room for offices and later a carpark in 1969.

    The Tower was used as a prison during WW2, but only for a very short time in 1939. The crews of U39 and U35 were held there at the start of the war before being moved to proper Prisoner of War accommodation. Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess was also held in the Tower for a very short period (just 4 days) in 1941.

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