On this day in history : 15th August 1941 – The execution by firing squad, at the Tower of London, of Corporal Josef Jakobs…. It is to be the last ever execution at the Tower….

The Miniature Firing Range, Tower of London – ‘The Shed of Death’ – Photograph from the collections of the Imperial War Museums

Jakobs, born in Luxembourg in 1898, was a German spy – who during World War Two worked for the Abwehr, the German Army’s intelligence department….

On the 31st of January he was flown into Ramsay, Huntingdonshire from Schipol Airport, Holland…. He parachuted from the aircraft and landed in a field but broke his ankle in the process…. The following morning, to get the attention of two farmers, Charles Baldock and Harry Coulson, who were working nearby, he fired his pistol into the air….

The Home Guard were notified and Jakobs, still wearing his flying suit, was arrested…. He was carrying £500 in British currency, a radio transmitter, forged identity papers – and a German sausage! He also carried a photograph of German singer and actress Clara Bauerle, who was his lover and also a spy…. She was already in England and the idea was for him to join her….

Josef Jakobs – Fair use

Jakobs was transferred to Cannon Row Police Station in London, where he gave a voluntary statement to MI5…. He was then taken to Brixton Prison Infirmary where his ankle was treated before being held at Dulwich Hospital for the next two months….

His court martial took place on the 4th and 5th of August 1941 at the Duke of York’s Headquarters in Chelsea…. The British had been aware that he was coming to England as they had been informed by a double agent, Welsh Nationalist Arthur Owens…. Jakobs was found guilty and sentenced to death….

The execution took place ten days later at the miniature rifle range at the Tower of London…. Jakobs was tied blindfolded to a Windsor chair…. Eight soldiers of the Holding Battalion Scots Guards took aim with their 303 Lee-Enfields at a white cotton target pinned above his heart…. At 7.12am a silent signal was given by Lieutenant-Colonel C.R. Gerard…. Jakobs died instantly; five bullets hit him, three of the soldiers had been issued with blanks…. Jakobs was buried in an unmarked grave in St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green, London….

The Windsor chair on which Jakobs was executed – Image credit : Hu Nhu – own work – CC BY-SA 4.0

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