Josef Jakobs bigraphy, stories - German spy

Josef Jakobs : biography

30 June 1898 - 15 August 1941

Josef Jakobs (30 June 1898 – 15 August 1941) was a German spy who became the last person to be executed at the Tower of London. He was captured shortly after parachuting into the United Kingdom during the Second World War. Convicted of espionage under the Treachery Act 1940, Jakobs was shot by a military firing squad. He was not hanged because he was captured as an enemy combatant and not by the civilian police service.

Military trial and execution

Jakobs' court martial took place in front of a military tribunal at Duke of York's Headquarters in Chelsea, London SW3, on 4-5 August 1941. The trial held was in camera because the German agent had been apprehended in a highly-classified intelligence operation known as the Double Cross System. The British were aware Jakobs was coming because his arrival information had been passed on to MI5 by the Welsh nationalist and Abwehr double agent Arthur Owens. After a two-day trial which involved hearing the testimonies of eight witnesses, Jakobs was found guilty of spying and sentenced to death.

Jakobs's execution took place within the miniature rifle range in the grounds of the Tower of London on 15 August 1941. Jakobs was executed while seated blindfolded in a brown Windsor chair due to his broken ankle. Eight soldiers from the Holding battalion of the Scots Guards, armed with .303 Lee Enfields, took aim at a white cotton target (the approximate size of a matchbook) pinned over Jakobs' heart. The squad fired in unison at 7.12 after being given a silent signal from Lieutenant-Colonel C.R. Gerard (Deputy Provost Marshal for London District). Jakobs died instantly. A subsequent postmortem examination found that one bullet had hit Jakobs in the head and the other seven had been on or around the marked target area.

Following the execution, Jakobs' body was buried in an unmarked grave at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green, London. The location used for Jakobs' grave has since been re-used so the original grave site is difficult to find.

All other German spies condemned to death in the UK during the Second World War were executed by hanging at HMP Wandsworth in south London.

Early life

Jakobs, who was a German citizen, was born in Luxembourg in 1898. During the First World War he served in the German infantry, rising to the rank of Leutnant, in the 4th Foot Guards. In June 1940, ten months after the outbreak of the Second World War, Jakobs was drafted into the Wehrmacht as an Oberleutnant. However, when it was discovered that he had been gaoled in a Swiss prison from 1935-37 for several criminal offences, he was forced to resign his commission in the Wehrmacht. Jakobs was demoted to a feldwebel (NCO) and placed in the Meteorologischen Dienst (meteorological service) of the Heer. Shortly afterwards he also began working for the Abwehr, the intelligence department of the German Army.

On 31 January 1941, Jakobs was flown from Schipol Airport in the Netherlands to Ramsey in Huntingdonshire. However his parachute was seen descending by the local Home Guard. They quickly reached his landing point because Jakobs had broken his ankle in the jump (it had struck the fuselage as he left the plane); he had also been firing his pistol into the air to summon help. The German spy was caught still wearing his flying suit and carrying £500 in British currency, forged papers, a radio, and a German sausage.

He was taken to Ramsey police station before being transferred to Wandsworth Prison in London.

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