The German Spy System from Within - William Le Queux - ebook

The amazing ramifications of the German spy system in England are, unfortunately, not even today fully realised by the British public, or admitted by the Government.In face of the hard facts contained in this book, in face of the serious statements of Members in the House of Commons, and in face of what the public are themselves daily reporting to the “authorities,” the present apathy of the Government, and its refusal to admit the peril and deal with spies with a firm hand, is little short of criminal.Seven years before the outbreak of war, by a mere accident while in Germany, I was able to place before the Intelligence Department of the War Office certain facts which, on being thoroughly investigated, resulted in the establishment of a department for contra-espionage. Therefore, however lightly the Government may today affect to treat the question, the fact remains that they have, all along, known of the existence of a horde of German secret-agents in our midst.

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William Le Queux

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Table of contents



Chapter One.

Chapter Two.

Chapter Three.

Chapter Four.

Chapter Five.

Chapter Six.

Chapter Seven.

Chapter Eight.

Chapter Nine.

Chapter Ten.

Chapter Eleven.

Chapter Twelve.

Chapter Thirteen.


The amazing ramifications of the German spy system in England are, unfortunately, not even today fully realised by the British public, or admitted by the Government.In face of the hard facts contained in this book, in face of the serious statements of Members in the House of Commons, and in face of what the public are themselves daily reporting to the “authorities,” the present apathy of the Government, and its refusal to admit the peril and deal with spies with a firm hand, is little short of criminal.Seven years before the outbreak of war, by a mere accident while in Germany, I was able to place before the Intelligence Department of the War Office certain facts which, on being thoroughly investigated, resulted in the establishment of a department for contra-espionage. Therefore, however lightly the Government may today affect to treat the question, the fact remains that they have, all along, known of the existence of a horde of German secret-agents in our midst.Nevertheless, even as recently as March 3, the Government, in response to urgent appeals, blankly refused to vest in one Minister powers to deal with enemy aliens and spies, in place of the present divided policy.Truly deplorable it is to think that to-day, while we are fighting for our very existence as a nation, spies are permitted entire freedom, and are nobody’s business. This most vital question has been shuttle-cocked between the War Office and the Home Office until it is now impossible to say where the responsibility really lies. The one fact, however, which cannot be disguised from the public is that, if the Germans made a raid upon our shores, the Government, so self-satisfied, would suddenly awake to find, as France and Belgium did, an army of spies busily assisting in our undoing. “Ex-Intelligence Officer” has, within the covers of this book, plainly shown how systematic espionage is, and that it has been for many years a most cherished part of German war administration, developed with much forethought, and with characteristic Teuton cunning. That a settled and widespread system of spies exists in Great Britain at the present moment is well-known, both to the Government and to the public, yet certain Ministers would have us close our eyes and accept the extraordinary assurance given by Mr McKenna, early in the war, that the spy-peril has been stamped out.But is it stamped out? I here assert that at no moment of our national history have we been confronted by a graver peril from within, than that with which we are confronted to-day. The public are daily realising more and more that they are being hoodwinked and bamboozled by this shuttlecock policy, which is playing so completely into the enemy’s hands, and is allowing dastardly preparations to be made to hasten our downfall. The inflamed state of public opinion is only too apparent by the mass of correspondence which I have received from all classes, from peers to working men, regarding the publication of my book “German Spies in England,” and, further, by its phenomenal sale. Every letter of the piles before me as I write, complains bitterly of the apathy and disregard with which the authorities treat the reports made to them of the doings of spies, and all express disgust at the refusal to stir in a matter which so closely affects our national security, or even to institute the smallest inquiry.Over the whole subject mystery and mystification brood.The present policy—in face of what the Government know, and what I myself know, as one who has spent the past seven years in studying the German Secret Service system and patiently watching its agents—allows, for example, Baron von Bülow, brother of the German ex-Chancellor, to live comfortably at Putney, in the full enjoyment of a telephone; it mysteriously reverses many military orders for the removal of alien enemies from prohibited areas, providing always that those persons are of the better class; it allows signals to be sent nightly from our shores to the sea, and vice versa; it releases about 1,000 aliens monthly from the internment-camps; it has attempted to gag the Press, and is, to-day—as I will presently prove—stifling all inquiries into the doing of spies among us.In no other capital in the world, save London, would such a disgraceful scandal be for one moment tolerated, as that which any reader may investigate for himself, providing he is careful not to obtrude his British nationality, namely, the toasting of the “Day” of Britain’s downfall by these self-same enemy aliens, who, recently released from the internment-camps, now nightly meet and plot in the various little foreign restaurants in the neighbourhood of the Tottenham Court Road. Here, round the small tables in the underworld of London, sit enemy men and women, openly expressing the most intense hatred of us, gloating over their own piratical deeds and barbarities, and declaring that in England, ere long, there is to be repeated the same savagery and unbridled lust with which poor Belgium was swept from end to end. This is no idle statement. I have been present, posing as an Italian and a neutral, and I have seen and heard. Indeed, in those places, news from Germany is known hours before it is known to our military or naval authorities, and I have heard it declared openly that the vanguard of spies among us are ready to act at a given signal—which is to be the appearance of Zeppelins over London—to blow up bridges, water-mains, and railways, destroy telephones and telegraphs, and commit the most widespread havoc, incendiary and otherwise, for the purpose of creating a panic, and preventing the movements of troops.Naturally, one asks, where are the police? On discovering this scandalous state of affairs I went to New Scotland Yard to ask that same question. I had interviews with various officials, and after over an hour’s prevarication and elusive replies to my rather disconcerting questions, I succeeded in eliciting the very illuminating fact that they were unable to act without the consent of the Home Office! Why, one may ask, is it withheld? Why should we risk our well-being by allowing these hot-beds of conspiracy and crime to be officially protected, while a man may be hauled before the magistrate for the heinous offence of not having a rear-lamp to his cycle? What a comedy!Mr Justice Ridley has rightly said: “We must make an end of spies.” Yet the fact that spies are being officially winked at can no longer be doubted. Before me, I have fully two hundred cases reported by responsible citizens in various parts of the country in which the “authorities”—who seem, by the way, to have no authority at all—have refused even to make the most superficial inquiry, or else a constable in full uniform has been sent to interview the person under suspicion!Let us calmly consider the present situation. The mystery of the official protection afforded to spies has been greatly increased during the month of March, and the public confidence has been further shaken in consequence of the statement of Mr Bonar Law in the House of Commons, who not only declared that there were, on March 1st, 600 male alien enemies still residing on or near the coast, but also made a most interesting revelation. The Admiralty, he said, in order to test whether signalling was really going on from the shore, sent a trawler to sea with instructions to show German signal-lights. And these were instantly answered!What was done? Nothing! And, judging from the experience of the public, this is hardly surprising. Perhaps a case in point may be of interest. In the middle of February, from an officer in His Majesty’s Service, I received information that certain highly suspicious signals were being made nightly between the Kent coast and London. Therefore I went forth at once to investigate, in company with the officer in question, who is a qualified signaller and wireless expert, and a non-commissioned officer also qualified in signalling, while I myself know something of signalling and wireless. For a fortnight we were out nearly every night in a motor-car—sometimes watching from the tops of hills, a cold and weary vigil from dark to dawn—until we had established, beyond all shadow of doubt, the houses whence the mysterious lights emanated. These houses—several of them being residences of well-to-do people, and all in high commanding positions, had, in each case, an alien living in them, whose name and calling I succeeded in obtaining. Then, one night, while posted on a hill commanding nearly the whole of Surrey, and having taken down their code-messages on many occasions, we resolved to make a test, and with a powerful signalling-apparatus, I suddenly replied to one of the signals, repeated part of the code-message, and in pretence of not understanding the remainder, asked for its repetition. At once it was flashed to me and read by all three of us! In the message, which, later on, was submitted to an expert in ciphers, occurred the numeral five. It was more than a coincidence, I think, that only an hour before that message had been flashed, five German aeroplanes had left the Belgian coast on their way to England!On three separate occasions, from various high positions in Kent and Surrey, we flashed German signals, which were at once responded to. Then, having fully established that messages were being nightly so exchanged, to and from the metropolis, always with the same three code-letters as prefix, and having definitely fixed those houses harbouring the spies, I considered it my duty, as an Englishman serving his country, to call in the assistance of the Intelligence Department of the War Office, and to them I furnished a full report, together with the signals sent and received.Though my facts were vouched for by three officers and a signaller, and four civilians. I, at first, did not even receive the courtesy of a reply to what I had declared to be a matter of extreme urgency.Two nights after sending in my report, some officers of the Royal Naval Air Service discovered a powerful car containing two men reconnoitring certain main roads in a Surrey valley actually beneath the residence of one of the enemy signallers, and they naturally stopped it. The strangers were questioned, so suspiciously were they acting, while in the meantime one of the officers reported by telephone to the Admiralty and asked for instructions. But the amazing reply received was that they had no authority to stop the car! As for myself, I again wrote to the Intelligence Department of the War Office, but after eleven days all they would deign me was a mere printed notice informing me that my report had been received. To this I replied, asking that immediate steps might be taken to investigate and arrest the signallers as dangerous to the State—more dangerous perhaps even than the cyclist without his back-lamp—but to that letter I have not even received an acknowledgment! Another instance may perhaps be of interest. I discovered that, among the Belgian refugees from Antwerp who had received charitable aid in one of our biggest seaports, were two men upon whom considerable suspicion had fallen. One posed as a smooth-tongued priest, and wore that garb, while the other was a “friend,” apparently somewhat lower in the social scale. The priest asserted that he had been head of a college near Antwerp; and in consequence of his pious profession, he was, as was but natural, made much of by the ladies in the city in question. One day this priest, who it had been noted had been unusually inquisitive, and had been constantly strolling round the extensive docks and quays, and had watched the military preparations in case of a raid, suddenly applied to the local Belgian Relief Committee for money to return to Antwerp. Questioned, he told rather a lame story about some of his pupils having returned, while his friend, who also applied at the same time for leave to return, gave as excuse that he had to go to look after his cows! One wonders how many the Germans had left him. Or, perhaps he was a humorist, and meant the Black Cows—those mystic signs employed by Von Kluck’s spies. The Relief Committee, apparently, were not exactly satisfied with the stories; nevertheless, they eventually granted the pair money for their journey back to Belgium.A report of this I furnished immediately to the Intelligence Department, offering to send them information when the pair left the seaport, in order that they might be met on arrival in London and questioned, and I also supplied them with the time of the train by which they were to leave London for Flushing. The whole matter was ignored, and an official acknowledgment, printed, of course, was sent to me three days after the fair had gone across to Flushing—full of most important information, as was afterwards discovered! Here is yet another instance. In Liverpool the special constables were performing most excellent work in hunting out alien enemies and sending them to internment-camps, when, of a sudden, an order came—whence nobody appears to know—to arrest no one further, for, as the order put it, “such action may create public alarm.” Why is it, too, that men of wealth and influence, bankers, brokers, financiers and Birthday-baronets, German-born Privy Councillors, and other alien enemies who happen to possess money, are caressed and given such latitude to exert any evil influence they may like upon us? Why, also, was Baron von Ow-Wachendorf, a lieutenant in the Yellow Uhlans of Stuttgart, just under thirty years of age, permitted to practise running in Hyde Park so as to fit him for his military duties: and why was he—on March 1st—allowed to leave Tilbury for Holland to fight against us?These are questions upon which the public should demand satisfaction, and to arraign those responsible.I here wish to state, most emphatically, that I am not a politician, neither am I criticising, for one moment, the splendid military administration of Lord Kitchener. If the spy-peril were placed in his capable hands—with complete power to act, to arrest, and to punish—then I would, at this moment, lay down my pen upon the question. Yet, as one who was among the very first—perhaps the first—to discover the secret plans of Germany and to report them, I consider it my duty, as a lover of my country, to warn the public.The time has passed for mincing matters, or for the further protection of traitors in our midst. I here cast no reflection upon any single person, and further, any person mentioned in this article is beyond the pale of my statement, but I here assert that I have had, in my possession, a list—actually shown to me by a friend at Wilhelm-strasse, who was their paymaster—of persons in England and America who have been in receipt of German money, and who, by dint of it and of secret influence, have risen to high degree, and, in some instances, to places with fat emoluments. Motives of patriotism alone prevent me from revealing that list at this hour of our national crisis.The many truths contained in the following chapters of this book must surely reveal to the reader the edge of the volcano upon which we are now sitting. Notwithstanding all the false official assurances, the sleepiness of the much-vaunted Intelligence Department, and the fettered hands of the police—both Metropolitan and Provincial—must surely give the man-in-the-street to pause. Spies are to-day among us in every walk of life, and in almost every town in Great Britain. Every single man and woman among them is impatiently awaiting the signal for the destruction of our homes and the ruin and massacre of our dear ones, and yet we are actually asked to believe that no danger exists!The same kid-gloved policy which, at a cost of 13,000 pounds has provided a pleasant mansion with charming grounds, and a staff of valets, servants, etc, for German officers, many of whom were responsible for the barbaric outrages on innocent women, and the massacre of children in Belgium, has also placed a protecting hand upon our alien enemies. Assuredly this is an injudicious policy, for it has already created a very grave suspicion and distrust in the public mind.The “authorities”—whoever the persons in real authority may be—know full well how, with every outgoing mail to Holland or Scandinavia, there goes forth a mass of information concerning us, collected by spies, and forwarded to neutral countries, where it is again collected by German secret-agents, and forwarded to the German Secret Service in Berlin.These letters are generally written, either in invisible ink or in cipher-ticks, upon newspapers or magazines, which are merely placed in unsuspicious-looking wrappers addressed to somebody, usually with an English name, in Holland, Denmark, or Sweden. I have before me two such letters posted in Hertfordshire. Further, we have undoubted communication existing nightly from the sea to London by means of the line of signal-lights which I have described, and further, these, it has lately been proved, extend north, from the neighbourhood of Harrow, right up to Leeds, Manchester, and Liverpool. There are other fixed lights, too; brilliantly-lit windows and skylights, which show each night, and are intended as beacons for the guidance of the enemy’s aircraft. Yet, all the time, we pursue the foolish policy of trying to hide London by darkening it, and, at the same time, shine searchlights at the self-same place and at the same hour each night—apparently to betray to the enemy our most vulnerable points.It was not long ago that, in this connection, my friend Mr Geo. R. Sims pointed out the existence of a line of these guiding-lights, extending from Willesden across to Buckingham Palace, and happily, through the exposure he made, those of our “friends” who maintained them have now been forced to leave them unlit.Germans have been found in possession of hotels and mansions in strategic positions all over the United Kingdom, and to-day numbers of alien enemies—thanks to the order which has released them from the internment-camps—are actually employed at the various great railway termini in the Metropolis! Fancy such a state of affairs being permitted by Imperial Germany—a country in which British prisoners of war are half-starved, as evidenced by a cleverly composed letter before me from one who is unfortunately a prisoner, and which passed the German censor, whose knowledge of English was not so extensive as to cause him to suspect.When the reader has digested the pages which follow—chapters which give a very lucid, calm, and first-hand idea of the low-down methods of German espionage, he will, I venture to think, agree that it is of no use to cross the barbarian’s sword with a peacock’s feather. Germany intends, if she can, to crush and to humiliate us, to devastate our homes, to outrage and massacre our dear ones, and by every subtle and dastardly means, to bring upon us a disaster so stupendous as to stagger humanity. Shall we remain lulled to sleep further by assurances which are not borne out by facts? Germany’s advance guard of spies are already here, rubbing shoulders with us, many of them smug and respectable citizens passing among us entirely unsuspected, members of our churches, honoured, and believed to be Britons. Some are alien enemies, others are traitors, who have imperilled this country’s safety for the lure of German gold.In another place I have fully explained how the German Government held out an alluring bait to myself. If this was done to me, then surely it has been done to others.We are Britons, fighting for our King and our Country. Our fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers, have gone forth to battle for the right and hurl back the barbaric Teuton-tide which threatens to overwhelm us. Some, alas! already lie in their graves. Is it therefore not our duty to those we hold dear to see that spies shall not exist in our midst? If the Government are so utterly incapable of dealing effectively with the problem, as they are now proved to be, then why do they not allow the formation of a Central Board, with drastic powers, to end at once this national danger, which grows more acute with the dawn of every day?I am no alarmist, nor am I affected with spy mania. I am merely here writing a plain and bitter truth, the truth which I have learnt after years of experience and patient inquiry. If space permitted, I could relate a hundred stories of espionage, all supported by evidence; stories which would contain as much excitement as any I have ever written in the guise of fiction. But my only object in this preface is to urge the public to read this book, to inquire into and study the problem for themselves, and to assure them that the words of “Ex-Intelligence Officer” are full of very grave truths, which cannot be ignored or refuted.It is for the public themselves to demand satisfaction in a very determined and outstanding manner. The voice of the country is unanimous that we are being trifled with, and surely it is a thousand pities that mistrust should thus arise, as it is rapidly arising, at this grave crisis of our national history.The public have been told definitely by Mr Tennant that “Every enemy alien is known, and is now under constant police surveillance.” If the public, in face of the mass of evidence accumulating to the contrary, will still believe it, then let them rest in their fool’s paradise until the Day of Awakening. If not, then they, through their representatives in Parliament, have the matter in their own hands.William Le Queux.