Silly Spies in Scotland - (and Kent )

On arrival at the French beaches the German high command realised the previous successful tactics could only be brought into play after a risky crossing of the English Channel.

Hitler ordered his generals to formulate a plan for invasion of the British mainland. The plan was named Operation Sealion and concerned the carrying of 160, 000 German troops over a dangerous sea way.
In 1940 the German Secret service arranged a spying operation to concur with that planned invasion of Britain. Information was required on the RAF air fields in Scotland and vital to its success. The only realistic way to gain the information was by a spying exploit.

From the very beginning things began to go a little haywire.

After a celebration at the end of training where a quantity of alcohol was consumed the leader of the mission was killed in a car crash. The other three in the car sustained cuts and bruises. This incident must have shaken them up a bit and may have resulted in delayed shock.

Bad weather always on the horizon on Northern waters stopped the first attempt and like a bad omen delayed the operation by three long days.
In the early hours of a September Monday morning, just off the coast of Banffshire, a Heinkel seaplane landed safely. It permitted two men and a women to disembark by dingy in the vicinity of small villages. The valuable bicycles needed to carry them across country had to be thrown into the sea as they threatened to sink the dingy. This presented an enormous additional risk to complete strangers in a barely populated country side, where every one knew their neighbours

Two of the spies one man known as Karl Drugge and a woman Vera Chalbur made for the West carrying false papers stipulating they lived in London.

That Morning, they wondered into Portgordon Rail station looking a bit lost and conspicuously with wet footwear and legs. They seemed unsure, to an alert Stationmaster John Donald who took note of their incongruity. Helpful sign boards and notices had been removed and Vera was forced to ask the name of the station at the ticket office, before buying two single tickets to Forress. Forress, was chosen as a less suspicious place to purchase tickets to London than Portgordon. Karl produced a wallet stuffed with pound notes, an usually spectacle in war time displaying a lack of foresight.

The stationmaster had one of his staff delay them while he contacted Constable Robert Grieve. The constable arrived shortly and inspected their ID cards. The cards were minus the required immigration stamp and the writing was in a Continental style. During the search of their possessions they found a box containing several rounds of  pistol ammunition. They were then taken to Buckie Police station for a more complete investigation. During a search of a suitcase the police found a list of RAF bases in England.

Along with some German sausage and a loaded gun. Most damming of all was a wireless and its Morse key.
Meanwhile the third spy Robert Petter had walked to Buckpool rail station just missing his train connection. He was advised by one of the staff to go to Buckie station by bus for a better chance of a connecting train. The bus conductress remembers Petter offering a 10 shilling note for a 1 penny fare. After a two hour wait at Buckie he boarded an Edinburgh bound train.

Vera by this time told M15 and police there was a third man involved in the spying operation. A Porter at Buckie station remembered a stranger boarding a train that morning on the way to Edinburgh and immediately informed the authorities.

Waverly Station in EdinburghThe famous Detective Willie Merrilees received the message of a spy on the way by train forty minutes after it had arrived in Edinburgh.

He organised searches of hotels and boarding houses. Then he returned to Waverley station
left luggage office and ca me across a saltwater stained suitcase. It was pried open and in it they found a German wireless set ready for use.

The Police and some brave Women’s Voluntary Service personnel searched the station concourse and platforms. As it was wartime Waverley was full of overseas soldiers making it difficult to find the German spy. The Police kept a watch on the Left Luggage and eventually a suspect arrived. He approached the counter and threw down a ticket before demanding his luggage instantly.

Willie Merrilees dressed as a Porter quickly moved in through the crowd. His plan was to wave at an imaginary person to the rear of the spy. Petter saw the porter wave and looked over his shoulder for the recipient. Merrilees leapt forward and after a struggle disarmed him. Petter insisted he was Swiss and not German but in his luggage a code book and several maps girded to show RAF air fields was discovered. A note book containing the name of a senior German Luftwaffe officer and an unused ration book confirmed his undercover identity.

Despite a spirited defence the death penalty was imposed on Petter and  Drugge. The woman spy Vera Chalbour or whatever her real name was may have been interned till the end of  hostilities. But she may perhaps had been used as a counter spy for all we know.

In a popular version Willie Merrilees waited in a perambulator dressed as a baby. Jumping out and capturing a suspect single handed. 

William Merrilees was known as the pocket-sized Detective with a Battleship reputation.

This story came in many guises, we acknowledge guidance from Andrew Jeffery’s  ---This Present Danger. Which we highly recommend.        

Captured in Kent.
The Rising Sun Inn was a popular watering hole for thirsty Airmen in September 1940 which often extended its hospitality into the afternoon. Few of the local people would have had the nerve to demand a pint before opening hours, so you can imagine the surprise of the landlady Mabel Cole that morning. It was only 09.30am when a knock on the door produced a well dressed young man speaking in a foreign accent.

She was naturally very suspicious and asked the man what he wanted. His reply was a glass of cider and a packet of cigarettes.

Mabel sent him across the road to purchase the cigarettes at Tilbeys Store and to return to the bar for his cider drink. As he set off Mabel had the presence of mind to call for help.

The young man was Karle Meier who was born a Dutch subject in Koblenz 1916 one of four spies who had landed in Kent that morning. They had been instructed to find information of military importance and send it by code to Germany. The information was to help the fore build up an intelligence picture for the fore coming German invasion.

On his return to the Rising Sun Karle Meier was arrested by an RAF Officer and taken to the police station for interrogation.
The very next day a Policemen spotted a man crossing farm land near Lyd to the Dungeness road, he had in his possession a suit case. He was no other than Mabjose Waldberg a German subject born in Mainz 1915. After his arrest he admitted possessing a Wireless set with batteries and Morse key. 

The other two spies were Dutchmen Charles van der Kieboom born in Takarumuka Japan 1914 and Sjod Pons.

On crossing the English Channel in dinghies Meier and Waldberg had came ashore at Dungeness while Kieboom and Pons near the Grand Redoubt at West Hylte. Kieboom and Pons had as much luck as the other two and did not get far. They were captured soon after landing by privates of the Summerset Light Infantry.

All four were tried at The Old Bailey in London on November 22nd 1940 under the Treason Act.

Mabjose Waldberg and Karle Meier were executed at Pentonville Prison on the 10th December 1940. One week later Charles Van der Kieboom was also executed at Pentonville.  Pons claimed he intended giving himself up and told his story so well he was found not guilty. We were assisted greatly in this tale by Terry Amschwand of Kent. There were different spelling of names, we settled for the above.

Pons claimed he intended giving himself up and told his story so well he was found not guilty.There were different spelling of names, we settled for the above.

We were assisted greatly in this tale by Terry Amschwand of Kent.

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