ON SPECIAL MISSIONS
Translated from the French of
of the Allied Secret Service
A. L. BURT COMPANY
Publishers New York
First Published, May, 1927
|An Investigation of Poison Gas That Leads Us into Germany|
|The Organization of the German Secret Service|
|3||How Germany Almost Won the War|
|4||At Grips with the German Submarines|
|5||The Tactics of the Q-Boats|
|6||A Diabolic Invention of the German General Staff|
|7||The Secret Correspondence of the German Agents Was No Secret for Us|
|8||How German Agents Sent Their Information to Headquarters|
|9||Some Unusual Spying|
|10||Why the Germans Decided to Sink Ships so as to Leave No Trace of Them|
|11||A Trip to Cattaro, the Austro-German Submarine Base|
|12||Some Dastardly "Work" Done by the German Submarines on Our Coast|
|13||Destroyer and Airplane Against Submarine|
|14||In a German Den at Berne|
|15||The Most Dangerous Spy of Modern Times: Irma Staub|
|16||How I Proved "Count Tirlemont's" Guilt|
|17||The Plan of the German General Staff to Invade Switzerland|
|18||An Intricate Affair|
|19||I Am Offered a Strange Mission and Accept It|
|20||German Women Spies at Nantes|
|21||In Which It Is Shown That When Luck Lends a Hand It Can Turn Some Neat Tricks|
|22||The Truth About the "Big Bertha"|
|23||The German Agent "H. 21"---Mata-Hari|
|24||Agent Z.U.D. 160|
|25||New Methods of Communication Used by the Germans Toward the End of the War|
|26||Miss Doktor, a Woman Such As Is Seldom Seen|
AN INVESTIGATION OF POISON GAS
THAT LEADS US INTO GERMANY
ON APRIL 23) 1915. we received the following communication:
Department for the Supervision of the School for Chemical Research Laboratory of the Department of War
Paris, April 23, 1915.
From the director of the main laboratory to the director of the Counter-Espionage Service.
According to a report received by this office from the general commanding the N------ army, it appears that yesterday, April 22, 1915, toward five o'clock in the afternoon, a large cloud of heavy, greenish-yellow vapor came from the direction of the German lines between Bixchoote and Langemark (Belgium). The wind blew it toward the Allied lines.
An entire division of French infantry was hit by it. Despite their violent coughing and choking, our soldiers held fast, although their heroism cost many of them their lives.
As the use of gas was definitely forbidden by the Hague agreements of the 29th of July, 1899, we will be greatly obliged to you if you will furnish us at once with the details of this business, so that it will complement our scientific report and establish before the eyes of the world this, Germany's new and flagrant violation of her international obligations.
This business did not catch us unawares. Some time before the "raid men" of our service, that is, the agents whose duty it was boldly and quickly to find out what was happening on the other side of the barbed-wire entanglements, had let us know that several of the German factories were preparing some unusual "tricks."
As you might guess, since we allowed no schemes on the other side of the Rhine to mature very long before our directors got hold of them, we demanded details. For perhaps the first time since the outbreak of the war we found ourselves up against a blank wall. Behind that wall something important was happening.
We had, however, two points of departure:
1. The factories in question were all connected with the chemical industry.
2. Most of the output of these factories went to the Krupp works at Essen.
In the latter factory there were several men who, without actually belonging to our organization, had, before the outbreak of hostilities, consented to give our agents certain information---for a consideration.
Moreover, when traveling in Germany in 1911, I had got In touch with a German engineer who was working for the Guisheim-Elektron people at Frankfort-am-Main. M. S------ had, since the beginning of the war, been working as a "mobilized chemist" in the Badische Anilin und Soda Fabrik at Mannheim. For the benefit of those who have not heard about it, I might add that that factory is a town in itself. It employs 33 executives, 412 engineers, and about 10,000 workmen.
My "friend," M. S-----, who had been on the Badische payroll before (he worked at their branch factory at Butirki, near Moscow), had a first-class job at Mannheim. It was such a job that, if necessary, he could get the details of what his compatriots were doing in secret.
Well, M. S-----, for reasons that I shall not divulge---and wisely!---was not in a position to refuse me anything that I asked him. . . .
On receipt of the foregoing letter, my chiefs happened to think of this little fact, so they requested me to go to see him. Naturally, a trip into Germany at that time involved numerous risks. Before setting out I had to lay all my plans with the utmost care. A counter-spy who goes into enemy territory has against him from the moment he crosses the frontier all the power of the enemy police. I assure you, that is not to be sniffed at!
Those of you who traveled in Germany before the war may remember the thousand difficulties that had to be overcome before ore you could cross the frontier even then. Just imagine, therefore, the number and the nature of the difficulties we had to overcome to turn that trick during the war.
However, a few days later I received final instruction from my chiefs and set out for Rotterdam. From there, by means that I may not reveal---the Germans have never found out about them---I got into Germany. Nothing of interest happened during my trip and I had no trouble getting the information my chief desired from my "friend" S----- at Mannheim.
One of the things he told me was that Germany was preparing a poison-gas campaign. In support of his assertion he not only gave me the formula of the gas his compatriots had used on April 22, 1915 (it was chlorine gas---C I2), but also the formulas of these four other gases then in preparation:
Benzyl Bromide (liquid)---C6 H5 CH2 Br.
Bromacetone (liquid)---CH3 CO-CH2 Br.
Methyl Chlorosulfate (liquid)---SO2 CL-OCH3.
As may be seen, none of these gases were blistering gases. They were suffocating- and tear-gases. Even this was enough to put Germany outside the pale of civilized society, but these were quite harmless compared to the gases they used later---gases like dichlorethylsulfide (yperite) and phenyl-dichlorarsine, which raised such havoc in the Allied ranks. . . .
Having forwarded this information to the main office in the usual way, I started for Essen to see if could find out what was being done with the enormous quantities of gas sent there. I was destined to learn things of high importance.
How I Won My Bet Although I Lost Two Thousand Marks
As is easily to be seen, one can not just walk into factories like those at Essen. The dynasty of the Krupps, that powerful auxiliary of the dynasty of the Hohenzollerns, has, since 1811, been granted many special privileges, foremost among which is the right to a private police force whose duty it is to guard their trade secrets. And I assure you that some of their secrets are really terrifying.
The relation between these dynasties is much more readily understood when one knows that the Krupp factories and the German Government work together so well that the principal research foundaries of the German army are not in a military arsenal, but in a civil establishment in the midst of the factory at Essen.
To give you an idea of the nature of this company, I shall allow myself to quote a few statistics.
The factories cover an area of 1200 acres, 250 of which are covered by buildings. There are no less than six Siemens-Martin foundaries With forty-four furnaces, each capable of producing from fifteen to forty tons a day.
One of these steel mills---the one that most interested me, as it was the most difficult to gain access to and was separated from the rest by an actual cordon of soldiers---if we were to believe a report that had been sent us and which my inquiry verified, contained ten furnaces with a capacity of 30 tons each per day. They were capable of producing 130,000 tons of steel a year.
The building housing this plant was 177 yards long and 45 wide. It was, I repeat, extremely difficult to get into it. It had only one entrance, and that was most carefully guarded.
A special kind of steel was made there, and it was up to me to find out just what it was. And yet, paradoxically enough, I had much less trouble there, precisely because the secret was so carefully guarded.
Human nature is such that the very existence of a secret makes people want to discover it. Moreover, in a community of working men like Essen (there were a hundred thousand people there at this time) it is practically impossible to hide any trade secret whatsoever. There are two reasons for this.
In the first place, the men who worked in that secret steel mill were specialists and received much larger salaries than the others, resulting in jealousy, bitterness, and even hatred---which is quite natural.
In the second place, each one of these men was under oath to say absolutely nothing about the work he was doing. Thus they were all under the constant and disquieting scrutiny of the other workers, the latter always attempting to worm their secrets out of them. It was all a matter of psychology!
To get the information I desired there was no need to attempt to get into the factories. I had merely to hang around the saloons and restaurants where the foremen and skilled mechanics would gather. The rest was only a matter of keeping my ears open. Their conversation was full of technical details. By piecing together various seemingly unconnected scraps of information I got a pretty fair idea of the number of machines of all kinds produced per day. I was also able to make a rather accurate estimate of the number and caliber of the shells turned out. Such information was, of course, important, but it was not the information I had come for.
How could I get what I wanted? Should I take the necessary risks and try to worm my way into the factory, either by disguising myself as a workman, or by some other method? In that way I should eventually have been able to get the necessary data.
But to do this would require long and careful preparation. It was up to me to get results at once! Back there in the trenches, all the way from the North Sea to the Vosges, the Germans were about to use a new weapon of offense. It was being prepared here right under my eyes. . . . To destroy the effectiveness of this weapon, we had to know what it was. Above all, we could not risk having it come as a surprise. We must have our defenses ready before they put it into operation.
I was still plugging away at my inquiry when, one day as I was having lunch at the "Essener Hof" (that weird restaurant which, like everything else in Essen, is owned by the Krupp family), by the merest chance, I heard that within a few days they were going to try out a new kind of projectile. The Kaiser, Ludendorff, Hindenburg, and an Austro-Turkish military commission were to be on hand. They hoped that the wholesale use of this new shell would inevitably bring about a German victory.
That was vitally important news!
Moreover, it was unquestionably reliable. The men who had given it to me---two superintendents in the Krupp factory---were in on this secret of the gods!
The news was confirmed that very evening by one of the special policemen who guarded the factory. I had made friends with him by drinking with him often. He closed his remarks with the statement that, "These damned Frenchmen and these thrice-damned Englishmen would shiver if they knew what they have coming to them."
As I pretended to attach slight importance to what he was saying, he became more definite.
"We are going to produce a new kind of projectile, one so powerful that nothing will be left alive within a radius of a hundred yards of the place where it hits!"
"Bah! Some more of your gossip," I answered. "They've been talking that sort of stuff for the last six months!"
Vexed to hear me question his statement, the policeman burst out, "Gossip! Why the other day I saw them with my own eyes putting the charge into one of those shells!"
"Yes, they were probably putting a mysterious magic powder into them," I laughed. "Someone has been stringing you! Why, if they really had such an important secret, do you suppose they would let a common policeman like you in on it? Oh, if you were an officer . . . or an engineer, I could understand it---but a common policeman . . . !"
All at once the man became furious! Not merely had I questioned the truth of his statement, but I had belittled his self-importance.---It was too much! He banged his fist on the table so hard that he knocked over our steins of beer, and yelled, "Der Teuffel! A common policeman like me knows more about it than a fool like you! He knows more than an officer, and more than a good many engineers. There are some places where neither you nor the engineers nor the officers can ever go!
"You can just look around in those places. You don't know what's going on."
"Just look around! Donnerwetter! I tell you that I saw them put gas into the shells with my own eyes!"
I stopped laughing! I understood. But as I wanted to push the policeman completely out into the open, I pretended to take it as a joke.
"What do you take me for?" I said laughingly. "Do you want me to believe that you can put gas inside a shell? You might as well try to keep water in a wire cage!"
My policeman became absolutely rabid. His eyes were popping out of his head as he exclaimed, "So that's it! You take me for a dumb-bell! I don't know what I'm talking about! Well, how much will you bet that there is no such thing as a shell filled with gas!"
I burst into gales of laughter, and then added, "But my good man, think a minute! You are going to lose your money!"
"That's all right with me! How much will you bet? "
I pretended to think for a minute, and then I said hesitatingly, "Look here. I'm a good fellow. I don't want to bankrupt you. Well, I'll bet you a thousand marks that the only gas shells are those in your mind!"
"Shake on it," he said, bursting into a broad smile. "I assure you that I haven't wasted this day!"
"Neither have I," thought I.
When he had stopped laughing I asked him, with the air of a man who is politely trying to make conversation, "When are you going to show me those famous shells?"
"Oh, whenever you want. But I suppose it would be best, just so you won't have any doubts left, if you watched the test. Of course, you understand, you must keep all this strictly to yourself."
"Of course! But what test do you mean?"
"The one they are going to have in the presence of the Kaiser in a few days!"
"The Kaiser at Essen! You are dreaming! What on earth makes you think that the Kaiser is coming to Essen? Go on, someone has been stringing you!"
The policeman started to get mad again; but he stopped, thought a minute, and then asked me, "How much will you bet that the Kaiser won't be here next Friday? "
"Another thousand marks."
He thought a minute and then said, "I'll meet you here on Friday morning at ten o'clock, and I'll show you if I'm a liar! And don't forget to bring the two thousand marks!"
"Agreed! But I'm afraid they won't ever see the inside of your pocket, old man."
He shrugged his shoulders and when we had shaken hands he started off down the road singing at the top of his voice a song that was then very popular, in which the English were put in the hash and the French in the stew. . . .
A Sensational Test
Before proceeding with the following episode, I must call the attention of the reader to several facts.
When an agent is sent to a foreign country, he must include among the documents he hands in some photographic proof of the authenticity of his report.
It is easy enough to say, "I went to such and such a place; this is what I saw." It is much more difficult to prove that you really were there. For this reason in counter-espionage it is required---with justice---that every agent, regardless of rank and length of service, shall back up his written report with adequate photographic proof of the truth of his statements.
On this trip I was able to send my chief a photograph of the Kaiser, Hindenburg, and Ludendorff, checking up on a map a report that they had just received from an officer attached to General Headquarters. The photograph had been taken that very day. It was taken by M. A. S-----, official photographer to the Court, whose duty it was to follow the Kaiser everywhere he went and to "Record for History" the various acts of the "War Lord."
Of course, this photograph did not pop into my brief-case of its own free will. No more did a second photograph that I procured, which showed the Kaiser just getting out of his "field automobile."
If M. S----- was important enough to be a member of the personal staff of the Kaiser, he should have known that it was a serious mistake to leave his apparatus in the cloak-room, especially when that apparatus contained such interesting plates as I found in it.
A few days later, just to let them know at the Thiergarten that we knew about everything that went on in Germany, we sent a few copies of those two photographs to Berlin. They created widespread uneasiness. Think of it! A French agent at Essen at the very time that the Kaiser and all those other dignitaries were there!
And had this agent wished to do away with the Emperor . . . ? If, just to waste time, he had fired a few shots from his Browning straight at the Kaiser . . . !
I don't know whether this poor fellow, M. S-----ever knew what had happened. I do know that bright and early one morning he was arrested and "put away." He stayed there seven months and, of course, lost his job at Court.
However, Friday morning my policeman came for me as we had agreed.
His first question was, "Have you my two thousand marks? "
"I have two thousand marks," I answered. "Here they are. Where are yours?"
"By all that's holy! I see you haven't much confidence in me!"
"Sure! But you've been telling me such extraordinary things that I've got a right to be a little suspicious."
"Well, get ready to see some even more extraordinary things! If you are ready let's get started, because we'll have to get you settled before the sentries get there and keep everyone out of the artillery range. I know of a little place, just big enough for a man, from which you will have a fine chance to watch the firing."
We started out and had to plough through almost impassable roads before we reached the range. Near the middle of it, some 1200 yards away from the battery that was to conduct the test, I noticed a flock of sheep.
"What the devil are these sheep there for?" I asked my companion.
He smiled and answered, "Those sheep are supposed to represent those damned Frenchmen and thrice-damned Englishmen that I was talking to you about the other day! See how many of them are alive in a few minutes!"
"These sheep are to be the target?"
"Is that surprising? Do you want us to try out these new shells on real men?"
"Of course not!"
Farther down, toward the outskirts of the target range, lines of soldiers were moving. Near the gate officers were getting out of automobiles and standing around waiting for the Kaiser to arrive.
Soon he came. . . .
Accompanied by his personal staff, he inspected the guard of honor and shook hands with a few of the men. Then he started for the field where one could see quite plainly a 77 and a naval gun of larger caliber.
My policeman and I had already got into the little hole, and were anxiously awaiting further developments. Suddenly we heard two short orders called out. They were followed by the sound of two shots. We could see the shells explode within a few yards of the sheep.
Immediately after the explosion a cloud of yellow-green smoke arose and was blown toward the flock of sheep. It seemed to cover them like a veil. When the smoke had cleared away nothing alive remained near the spot where the sheep had been. Even the grass seemed to have been burnt, and the stones and the ground looked as if they were covered with rust.
The official observers burst out into loud hurrahs, and the Krupp band Played "Deutschland über Alles."
My policeman gloated.
"Well, Mr. Sceptic, what do you think of that?" he asked.
"Colossal," I exclaimed.
"It's also terrifying. Nothing could stand before such shells, especially if they were used in large numbers!"
"That's exactly what we are going to do! I assure you, we'll soon be in Paris."
"That," said I to myself, "is something else again."
Taking out of my pocket-book the two thousand marks that I had just lost, I gave them to the policeman remarking, "I assure you that's a lot of money for me to lose, but I'm not sorry!"
"It's weird, isn't it?"
"Nothing could be weirder. I still don't understand how they get gas into the shells."
"No one knows that., except the special workmen who make them."
"Oh, of course not! But listen, old man, would you have any objection if I hunted around and found a piece of one of those shells, so I could keep it as a remembrance of this unforgettable day?"
"I don't see why you shouldn't. All the same I think it would be better if I went out there myself and picked it up."
And he did!
Three days later, back in Paris, I gave the proper authorities my various documents, also the photographs and that little piece of steel.
An analysis in our laboratory showed that the shell had been charged with phosgene and chloroformiat of trichloromethyl, a suffocating-gas of the highest power.
There was only one defense against that: the adoption of a special gas-mask.
THE ORGANIZATION OF THE GERMAN SECRET SERVICE
BEFORE proceeding with my memoirs, I think it will make things clearer if I explain to the reader the workings of the German diplomatic and military Secret Service as it was before the war.
It seems scarcely necessary to mention the fact that the activity of the Secret Service since the armistice has diminished so little that at the signing of the famous secret treaty between the Germans and the Bolsheviks at Rapallo, it was necessary to erect two buildings in which to house the new agents. . . .
The German Secret Service, with its official headquarters at the Thiergarten, in Berlin, is the most gigantic system for espionage imaginable. In this, as in all else, our relentless enemies have organized on a grand scale. It may be said without fear of exaggeration that when the Kaiser decided to declare war on us the German General Staff (Grosser Generalstab) knew all that was to be known about the condition of our military forces.
The Secret Service, made up out of whole cloth and put into working order by the spy Stieber, who died in 1892, comprises three distinct branches:
1. The political branch;
2. The military branch;
3. The naval branch.
Before the fall of the Kaiser the political branch was directly attached to the Emperor's Cabinet. At present it is under the control of the Minister of Foreign Affairs---at least to outward appearances it is---and it comprises as many sections as there are countries in the world. As its name indicates, its task is to secure for the head of the government---a soldier, be it understood---and for his personal advisers (the Private Counsel) all information about the political world that may be used to the profit of the Empire.
Before the war the most important division was the "Personal Section," under the direct supervision of the Emperor. He, however, exercised his power clandestinely and allowed the Premier in office to retain nominal control.
This section of the service is still in existence. It has merely changed its name, now being called the "Private Section." The agents are usually promoted from the other two departments, which serve, as it were, as training schools. Only men who have given convincing proof of their ability are admitted into the Private Section. They are chosen from all classes of society. Some of them are members of the high nobility, with their names featured in the Almanach de Gotha. Others are hardened criminals capable of the foulest deeds, most of them having been at odds with the police of all countries.
These agents are variously employed according to their stations in life, to their boldness and initiative, or to their training and their education. Ordinarily they work in environments in which they feel at home; but all of them, whatever their positions, are subject ---perinde ac cadaver---to the to the severest discipline. They must without a moment 's hesitation obey any order that may be given them. In their work results alone are of importance. They must achieve their ends at any cost, and they must do so on time to the dot. In no case may they brook failure.
I personally have known men who as a result of an insignificant mistake have been confined in the fortresses of Glatz, Spandau, or Koenigsberg. Some of them have disappeared in the most mysterious manner. . . . If for any reason at all an agent is "scorched" he can count upon no protection whatsoever. If he is arrested in a foreign land---and that happens more frequently than one would suppose---he is abandoned to his fate.
It is only fair to remark that agents performing such hazardous "work" are paid in proportion to the risks they run. At the present time the estimated budget for all three sections amounts to 19,500,000 gold marks (in the neighborhood of $4,875,000). There is, besides, a "black chest" [NOTE: secret slush fund] which is said to be well lined. The funds thus placed at the disposal of General von Seeckt---for which he is not required to give any account---allow him to meet all his needs and to reward any unusual achievements with generosity. An agent of mediocre ability starts at a salary of 6,000 gold marks, supplemented by allowances for housing and for food and also by bonuses varying in amount with the nature of the services rendered.
I was personally acquainted with one of the directors of the service. He was a man whose duties required that he be allowed access to the Kaiser at any hour of the day or night; the Kaiser even showed him genuine marks of affection. This man, Prince R-----, was a member of a distinguished family in the Teuton aristocracy. His father had been the Kaiser's ambassador at the court of a sovereign who during the war maintained a friendly neutrality to us and whose army has since the armistice fought side by side with ours. . . . None the less---and I mention this to emphasize the average morale both of directors and of agents in the Private Section---this man---this prince!---when he was a resident agent in Paris (and, as such, watched by us) was "stung" in a gambling game at his club to the tune of a hundred thousand francs. Soon afterward he bought a pearl necklace, on credit, and immediately sold it again for a third of its real value. Complaint having been made against him, his family hastened to repay the jeweler and von R------- was invited by the French police to kick his heels elsewhere. Later he returned to France . . . at the head of a squadron of Uhlans. Taken prisoner during the battle of the Marne, he was treated to a sojourn at the chateau of Vitré (in October, 1914). There I had a very. interesting conversation with him . . . from which other things developed.
Having seen what the morale [NOTE: the correct translation from the French today would be "morals"] of those who directed the service was like, it should not be difficult to picture that of the subordinates. . . .
The Military Branch
The military branch of the Secret Service is connected with the War Department. It is under the personal supervision of the Secretary of War, the present incumbent being Mr. Gessler. As its name indicates, this section is supposed to supply all military information required by the German General Staff. Von Falkenhayn, Secretary of War under the old régime, built up a formidable system. His agents even now infest most foreign countries. This branch of the Service was perfected and given its final direction by General von Heeringen and General von Plattenberg.
At the outbreak of the war the Secret Service was in complete readiness to give the German General Staff detailed information about any corps or any special department in the Allied armies.
The Crown Prince, his brother, Prince Eitel Friedrich, and Prince Wilhelm von Wied all at one time or another belonged to this Secret Service. There is nothing surprising in this fact when one remembers that in Germany spying is considered a preeminently honorable profession.
Each subdivision of the service possesses numerous agents both civil and military. These are in turn divided into three classes which form a virtual hierarchy:
1st. Directors of operations in foreign lands.
2nd. Agents charged with special missions.
3rd. Resident agents.
I. The Directors of Operations. The directors of operations in foreign lands are the highest type of spy. They must pass the most rigid examinations and, in professional affairs, they must be absolutely dependable. These men usually speak many languages fluently. Before being sent out they are given a first-class military and technical education: topography, fortification, and even strategy should hold no secrets for them. They are often called upon to draw up without the aid of any instrument a detailed map of a countryside, or of a fortification, after a hasty inspection of it. They quickly become adept in estimating the number of soldiers and guns in any fortified position, the exact location of the various defenses, the position of the cannon, and the number of rounds of ammunition for infantry and artillery that are on hand.
The ability to fathom the psychology of those whom they are set to watch ought to be a qualification of these agents---to take note of their peculiarities, of their weaknesses, and they must, if possible, discover some flaw in their characters by means of which they can get something on them, and so, by skillfully managed blackmail, get the information sought by the General Staff.
It is easy to understand how complex are the duties of these agents. They require a combination of qualities rarely found in one man. It is for this reason that, when possible, vacancies are filled from the ranks of the retired officers whose technical training is easily completed. These picked spies all work from central offices in Brussels, Lausanne, and Geneva. The central offices are directed with undeniable talent by Thiesen, the personal adviser of the police, who maintains his permanent residence in Brussels.
The main duty of these directors of operations is to supervise the resident agents in France. From time to time they visit them and give new orders. It is also up to them to verify the information gathered by resident agents and to classify and organize it.
II. The agents charged with special missions. Like the directors of operations, the agents charged with special missions in foreign lands are given the most painstaking training that they may be qualified to carry out their duties to the best interests of the Reich.
When they enter the Secret Service, these men are at once handed over to officers of the General Staff who in a relatively short time---five or six months at the most---turn them out with a technical training equal to that possessed by any civil engineer. Their most important studies are topography, drawing, trigonometry, and fortification. They attend regular courses at the Zeughaus, a magnificent museum where the German General Staff has assembled all manner of documents, photographs, and models detailing the organization, the armament, and the tactics of foreign armies and navies.
When this technical education is entirely finished they must undergo a very severe examination. It is only after this examination, granted that they come through it satisfactorily, that they are sent on missions.
The agents are allowed the greatest freedom in their choice of methods of obtaining information. They are given credentials to German ambassadors in foreign countries and, to avoid leaks, they communicate entirely by code and even then only with military attachés. The information thus obtained is subsequently forwarded to Berlin either in the diplomatic mail pouch or by the attaché; the latter at times delivers it in person to the proper authorities.
Although not unlimited, the sums received by these agents are enormous and out of all proportion to the services they render.
III. The Resident Agents. The resident agents are legion. In France there were 15,000 before the war. They were all Germans and all were under the control of the espionage centers in Brussels, Lausanne, and Geneva.
In accordance with the theory that a spy, to be useful, should enjoy the greatest freedom, most of them were able to avoid being tied down in their daily occupations. Placed at the head of some business or other, they were their own bosses and were free to go off at any time of day or night without attracting the attention either of friends or of employees.
All fields of business suited them---they became real estate men, solicitors, manufacturers of toys and of knickknacks for sale in Paris, commission merchants, exporters, etc. . . . Their commercial enterprises served as cloaks for their espionage. Some of their businesses were supported, in whole or in part, by the Secret Service; each week the agents received refunds (in addition to their salaries of from 500 to 1,000 marks) which arrived under the form of payments in fictitious business deals.
Most of their employees were also German and were more or less attached to the Secret Service.
Individual agents, except in rare instances, had no direct relations with the heads of the service. They merely handed over their information to the departmental chief, who was held responsible for verifying and codifying it.
It goes without saying that the services of these underlings were of no great value. All the same, hidden away close to all of our garrisons, forts and strategic places, they couldn't have been in a better position to inform their chiefs of the slightest movement made by our troops, of changes or improvements in our defenses, or of changes of Commandants or of members of Regimental Staffs. With their incessant watchfulness, they passed up nothing that they thought might be of interest to their chiefs, confident that by their vigilance they were helping to bring about the future triumph of a greater Germany.
The head of our Secret Service was thoroughly acquainted with their methods. "Any German in a. foreign country should be considered a potential spy," he used to say, All the agents in the French Counter-Espionage System now share his opinion. Theirs is the duty of exposing the shady and often criminal activities of foreign spies in France.
The inauguration of this system of resident spies was also due to Stieber, who, after the war of 1870) literally flooded France with spies. He began by sending us farm hands who bought land and, little by little, became accepted as farmers. They were spread all over the country, but they infested the frontier departments especially. Then he secured positions in France for numerous servants both male and female, for school-teachers, professors, commercial travelers and salesmen.
Later, thanks to the money put at his disposal by the General Staff, he so organized the hotel industry that most of the great international hotels belonged to Germans and had German personnels. These luxuriously fitted-out hotels attracted a clientele of rich and distinguished foreigners. Cabinet officers, diplomats, politicians, generals, etc., would have considered it unthinkable to stay anywhere else.
Yet where may things be stolen with greater ease than in a hotel room---especially if one has a passkey? Guess whether the German agents made use of their opportunities!
As soon as a man on official business registered at one of these hotels, the object of his trip was discovered. If he did not take the elementary precaution of carrying on his person the documents entrusted to him, he might be sure they would undergo minute examination at the hands of a German Secret Service agent. Even such a precaution was not enough to keep a secret from leaking out.
The German Secret Service had plenty of tricks up its sleeve. If the people at the hotel slipped up, they would fall back on a demi-mondaine. Nine times out of ten she would succeed in getting possession of the desired documents.
Thus Irma Staub (known as "the beautiful spy"), whom we shall later see in action, was able to get hold of some letters, the disappearance of which gave one of the most prominent men in Europe a prolonged dose of insomnia. Luckily they were in code. The gentleman in question learned his lesson then. If the Germans had ever discovered the secret contained in those letters, there is no question but that war would have broken out.
I said above that the German Secret Service had plenty of tricks up its sleeve. I ought to be specific and add that there was no end to these tricks. They would stop at nothing, not even at murder, to get information they considered essential. Here is an example. Several months after the outbreak of the war an extremely talented officer in one of the Allied armies was entrusted with a list of the signals that were used, by day and by night, to identify his country's boats. He was to give this code to the head of one of the Allied General Staffs.
I need not point out what it would mean were the enemy to gain possession of such a secret. Everything in the world was done to get it, but the German spies were up against a tough customer. Not only did the young officer not let his secret escape, but he took a sly pleasure in showing up the spies as one by one they were sent against him. Irma Staub was almost successful, but the young officer caught sight of her whispering to a man whom he knew to be a spy. He sent her away, after having publicly reproached her for her conduct.
The German agents, having been instructed to get hold of that document at any cost, did not give up. One evening as the officer left his hotel, two of them assaulted him and severely wounded him with a knife. The officer had thought out the situation clearly. To make sure that nothing would go wrong, he had previously given the documents to the Counsel of an Allied power for safe-keeping.
That is the way the German Secret Service agents go about things. If, because of the intelligence and foresight of this officer, their schemes fell through that time, how many other times have their criminal methods been successful in gaining documents of the highest importance! . . .
The reader will excuse this long digression, but it was absolutely necessary for him to know how the German Secret Service was organized. In the following chapters he will see the agents themselves at work.
HOW GERMANY ALMOST WON THE WAR
NOW that you are acquainted with the organization of the Secret Service of the Reich, I shall show you that despite their formidable system, the German spies met their masters in the war-time operations.
By the middle of 1917---in April, to be exact---Germany had the upper hand and was on the verge of winning the war.
Perhaps you think that a rash statement. It is not! I can prove it, and do so by citing unimpeachable authorities.
On April 26, 19 17, Admiral Jellicoe, in command of the English navy, sent the following telegram to the English naval attaché in Washington. Comment upon it is unnecessary.
You must make plain to the American officials the true gravity of the naval situation. During the last week we lost 55 boats with a gross tonnage of about 180,000 tons and there has been no let-up in the rate of our losses. When you talk to American officials insist that everything must be subordinated to the anti-submarine campaign, and tell them that naval patrols should be concentrated upon the southwest coast of Ireland. You must unceasingly impress upon the American officials the seriousness of our position and the necessity for immediate action. Our new defenses will not become effective until July. The critical period is from April until July.
Does not that confession strike you as coming straight from the shoulder?
Here is another, even more forcefully stated.
On April 27, 1917---the day after the above telegram had been sent to Washington---Mr. Page, the American ambassador in London, himself sent the Secretary of the Navy the following telegram:
Very confidential for Secretary and President.
There is reason for the greatest alarm about the issue of the war caused by the increasing success of the German submarines. I have it from official sources that during the week ending 22nd April, 88 ships of 237,000 tons, allied and neutral, were lost. The number of vessels unsuccessfully attacked indicates a great increase in the number of submarines in action. This means practically a million tons lost every month till the shorter days of autumn come. By that time the sea will be about clear of shipping. Most of the ships are sunk to the westward and southward of Ireland. The British have in that area every available anti-submarine craft, but their force is so insufficient that they hardly discourage the submarines. The British transport of troops and supplies is already strained to the utmost, and the maintenance of the armies in the field is threatened.
There is food enough here to last the civil population not more than six weeks or two months. After talking over this critical situation with the Prime Minister and other members of the Government, I cannot refrain from most strongly recommending the immediate sending over of every destroyer and all other craft that can be of anti-submarine use. This seems to me the sharpest crisis of the war, and the most dangerous situation for the Allies that has arisen or could arise. I cannot exaggerate the pressing and increasing danger of this situation. Thirty or more destroyers and other similar craft sent by us immediately would very likely be decisive. There is no time to be lost! (Signed) PAGE.
These two documents, the authenticity of which cannot be questioned, establish definitely enough which side had control of the seas at that time. The Germans did have the situation in hand and were, as I said above, on the verge of winning the war.
So far had things gone that Admiral William Sowden Sims, in command of the American naval forces in European waters, became terrified by the turn of events and telegraphed Washington several days. later that:
The situation brought about by the enemy submarine campaign is not merely serious. It is critical. The significant fact that we are making no headway can no longer be concealed. In other words, the enemy campaign is on the road to success. The present situation is extremely serious. If at this critical moment American naval forces in sufficient numbers cannot be thrown into the balance, there can be no doubt of the enemy's success. In a word, I am convinced that at this instant we are losing the war. (Signed) Sims.
It would be difficult for a man to make a more clear-cut statement. Coming from such an experienced sailor as Admiral Sims, it will be readily admitted that the opinion should be given full weight.
As a matter of fact, the English fleet---and the same was true of ours---didn't know in what direction to turn. In vain had the Grand Fleet, the famous fleet of cruisers, and even the fleet of destroyers, circled aimlessly to port and to starboard. They had not lessened the ever-present menace of the submarines. Still more serious, the submarines were reaping a particularly fruitful harvest among the colliers. The British Admiralty was having the greatest difficulty keeping its ships fueled.
Again I refer to Admiral Sims. Two months later (June 29) he telegraphed Washington: "Due to the lack of fuel, orders have just been given to cut down speed of all boats by two-fifths, except in cases of dire necessity."
And he added as a postscript: "This means that Germany is on the way to winning the war! "
However she did not win! She did not win because of certain energetic men who, by daily deeds of supreme heroism, were able to ward off the dreadful danger that threatened the Allied cause.
I propose to write the story of these men's deeds. I know of none more glorious. May I here mention the name of the most heroic of them? Captain Gordon Campbell.
What our wonderful soldiers began at Verdun, Gordon Campbell and his men finished on the high seas. Without them---we must admit it frankly---the war would have been lost for lack of food and munitions!
You can't fight on an empty stomach! You can't fight without munitions! In June, 1917, we were on the verge of running out of both.
Here is how the situation was met.
On January 20, 19 17, one of our resident spies at Wilhelmshafen put in our hands, through a channel I may not divulge (who knows what we may be up against to-morrow? ), a copy of the secret instructions to the German submarine commanders. These instructions were dated January 17, 1917. Therefore we had them within three days of the date they were issued, despite the care that was taken to guard them. We knew quite a lot about what was happening. . . .
In them might be read the following statements:
Our aim is to oblige England to sue for peace and thus to decide the outcome of the war. . . . Energetic action is necessary, but, above all, we should have immediate results. . . . The submarine warfare should be carried on with the utmost vigor. No boat, which the regulations permit you to sink, should be left afloat. . . . Submarine warfare has several advantages of which full use should be made. This is especially true in the matter of torpedoing without warning.
Some of these advantages are as follows:
1. Attack all armed vessels, or vessels which are suspected of being armed, while still submerged.
2. In preference attack at night.
3. Open up at once with a sustained bombardment, without wasting time with preliminary warning shots.
4. As between an armed vessel and a merchantman, always choose the latter.
5. Attack from the rear, preferably at a distance of 200 meters.
As one might guess, as soon as these instructions became known to the Allied General Staffs, they were met by a defense in kind. Admiral Duff in England, and Admiral Merveilleux du Vignaux in France, who were then in charge of the special antisubmarine details, put in action some new offensive devices the exact nature of which it would be unwise to reveal. They had the desired results, when applied in full.
But it was while waiting for these devices to be put in working order that the situation previously mentioned arose. These new devices led to the detection under water of seventy submarines within a few days. In the meantime, the Admiralty decided to make general use of the trap-boats, generally known as Q-Boats. Unfortunately, before our efforts could be coordinated and made effective, the enemy submarines had a fine chance to get in their dirty work. Having been authorized to sink any vessel whatsoever, no matter where it was, nor how the act was accomplished, they spared no boat.
Although the Q-Boats were authentic enough warships, they didn't look the part at all. The inventor of them (and I suspect that it was Gordon Campbell, although he denies the charge vigorously), basing his theory upon his knowledge of the German psychology and their theory of submarine warfare, conceived the idea of giving the submarine a really worthy opponent---and, for good measure, one with defenses against both torpedoes and cannon. Working on the theory that the Germans would always rely upon the same methods in sinking a merchantman, that is, a boat unable to defend itself, he sent against them a merchantman---to outward appearances.
It was a stroke of genius. Still more so because when the first Q-Boats were used the German Admiralty, since the stock of torpedoes was rapidly diminishing, had just ordered submarine commanders not to waste torpedoes on such ships---to use only shells against them. To obey these instructions the submarine had to rise to the surface---which it did not do when it relied upon torpedoes---and to approach within a few hundred meters of the boat which it expected to bombard without disturbance.
When our resident agents at Hamburg and Wilhelmshafen reported this new procedure, the Allies didn't take long to decide that, as nothing could be more vulnerable than a submarine on the surface, it was only a question of bringing it within the range of our guns. This task was imposed on the Q-Boats. A number of them were scattered over the important shipping channels where German submarines were especially likely to hang about looking for victims.
AT GRIPS WITH THE GERMAN SUBMARINES
IMAGINE the astonishment of the German submarine crews, used as they were to sinking utterly defenseless merchant ships, when they found themselves unexpectedly faced by heavily armed vessels.
Steaming, without the slightest fear, toward the ship they are to sink, crew on the bridge and gunners standing by their 77's and 88's, the submarine gets into position to open fire. Suddenly the false fronts of the freighter are thrust aside, guns appear, and the submarine receives a broadside of shells that riddles its hull like a sieve. Unswerving, straight to the mark, the shells follow one another and presently the submarine, lurching like a drunken man, pivots for an instant, turns over and then plunges to the bottom of the sea to rejoin its victims.
A submarine, finding itself in such a critical situation, has but a single method of escape: to submerge. But to escape, it must be able to do so. Nine times out of ten, officers and crew being on deck, there was no time to dash below, batten down the hatches, and disappear. Thus nine times out of ten the submarine was victim of its own rashness. This kept up as long as the German Admiralty knew nothing of the existence of the Q-Boats. For a long time it did not hear about them. But the day came when a submarine succeeded in escaping from the trap and returned, clippity-clop, to its base with its hard-luck story.
The German Admiralty, because of the ever-increasing number of submarines that did not return, had suspected the Allies of having a hand in these mysterious disappearances. At last they understood how formidable these new engines of destruction really were.
At the submarine bases at Zeebrugge and Ostend the crews became terror-stricken. Then anger succeeded terror; and haughtily, without any sense of being ridiculous, they complained to the British "Submarine Attack Committee." The Germans denounced the use of Q-Boats as "barbarous and contrary to the rules of civilized war." The latter did not cease to keep watch. They remained at sea whatever the weather, guarding the important shipping channels more carefully than ever, although to all appearances the German submarines had deserted them. The latter had become suspicious of all merchantmen. How were they to tell that, disguised by its sloppy appearance, a given ship was not a trapboat?
The Boches were forced to make drastic changes in all of their methods of naval warfare. Henceforth, submarine commanders, unable to hail Allied or neutral ships and to sink them at leisure either with cannon or bombs, were ordered to sink without warning any ship that they encountered. Moreover, they were forbidden to rise to the surface and to approach boats thus torpedoed.
As one can see, the struggle was becoming unquestionably ferocious. Happily for us, it soon changed into a contest in skill, which inevitably turned it to our advantage.
Due to the strictness of the Allied blockade even the German submarine crews, although they received better care than men in the other branches of the navy, were deprived of a good many things, especially fresh food, soap, and tobacco. They had been accustomed to make up for such deficiencies by plundering Allied or neutral ships before sinking them. The decree against plundering, therefore, was a real tragedy for them. It deprived them of the rewards upon which they had counted and which were their only incentives to perform such disagreeable duties.
They lost interest in the whole business and some of them let their officers know as much. In vain did the latter impress upon them that each encounter with a merchantman bad become a matter of life and death, because of the impossibility of distinguishing between the Q-Boats and the others. The crews answered that it was up to the officers to find out whether a vessel was a Q-Boat or not. When the Admiralty insisted upon the enforcement of its decree, discontent gained ground rapidly and soon spread through all the submarine bases. Recruiting was affected; and likewise discipline. It became necessary to give in, willy-nilly, and to restore the right to plunder.
That was what we were waiting for. Our resident agents had followed each phase of the struggle with great attention and had each day sent us detailed reports of what was happening. At last they warned us that the submarine warfare was to be resumed in full force. We took the steps necessary to be ready for them. The Q-Boats, bored with their useless circling about, had gone back to port. They now put to sea again. Never before had they been so dirty! Never in the history of the sea had ships looked so slovenly!
And never, in any navy at any time, had crews contained so many distinguished men. Admirals, captains of ships, captains of destroyers, and petty officers had volunteered as able-bodied seamen or as stokers. Each one, mindful of England's danger, had abandoned rank and title, and, putting away for the time being medals and braided uniforms, they had disguised themselves as able-bodied seamen. And what sailors they were, these "trampmen"---the lowest and most undisciplined class of men to be found anywhere afloat!
Discipline! We shall see what the discipline to which they submitted so willingly amounted to. Form your own opinion when you hear the facts!
THE TACTICS OF THE Q-BOATS
I HAPPENED to be on a mission in England and had a chance one day to lunch with a friend at a base where the Q-Boats put in for supplies. Despite the fact that he was a lieutenant-commander attached to the General Staff, he was for the moment Quartermaster on board the Pargust, commanded by Gordon Campbell.
Campbell himself was not there, but around the table was ranged the strangest assortment of men I have ever seen. They were dressed in second-hand clothing and almost no one had shaved for a week (the week it took us to get from Dunkerque to the base); their language, their attitude, their manners, were all assumed. These officers certainly gave one the impression of being the lowest type of tramp sailors.
Even among tramp sailors there is a certain order and neatness; there was no trace of anything of the sort in the men about me. It was incomprehensible. My friend had been watching me, a smile on his face. Suddenly he asked: "You don't. seem to feel at home! What could there possibly be here to disturb you?"
"Well-nothing, I assure you! Except that as I know you all, I don't quite get the idea of your "disguise.' "
"I assure you that all this is not for disguise. We have voluntarily 'resigned' for the duration of the war. I'll tell you why.
"As long as the 'Huns' (the nickname, you remember, that our English friends applied to the Germans) didn't know that there were such things as Q-Boats, every day as regularly as clockwork, one or more of their submarines would fall into the trap. Now all that is changed and we have on our hands a contest which, distasteful as it is to people of our temperament, is none the less necessary. As it is our ambition to lure the submarines within range of our guns, we have been forced to assume the outward appearance of a merchant ship. As you know, there couldn't be a greater contrast than between a sailor in the royal navy and one on a merchantman. To play our part successfully, we have had to imitate all of the characteristics of tramp sailors. There now remains nothing at all about us that, whether seen at a distance or close at hand, might lead to our being mistaken for military men. We have been advised to assume the uncouth carriage, the speech, and the untidy dress of the lowest type of sailor.
"As our officers are really distinguished men, and as many of our comrades are of high rank in the service, it is a hardship to obey orders and not to show them any signs of respect. We address them, pipes in our mouths and hands in our pockets, for who can be sure that somewhere there isn't a periscope peeking at us. . . . You may be sure that our crew is much larger than that of the usual merchantman; but while we are at sea there must never be more men on deck than there would be on a freighter. The rest are hidden away between decks, in the hold---anywhere, so long as no one can see them.
"On land the orders are the same. We are absolutely forbidden to abandon our pose. There might---as you, better than anyone else, should know---be spies watching. If instead of hanging. about in sailors' saloons, we went to clubs or first-class hotels, you can well imagine how soon we should be found out. That must never happen. Consequently all of us, regardless of rank, have had to give up the pleasures of family life upon entering this service. Each of us is married; we all have children. Yet as long as the war lasts none of us will see our wives or our little ones!
"As with our persons, so with our boats. They are camouflaged. And it is so well done that scarcely a day passes that we are not hailed by French or even by English warships. At first our guns were on deck concealed by netting. For a while that was enough. We had merely to push a lever and the netting fell to the deck leaving the guns in position to blaze away at the submarine. Now they have become suspicious. Before hailing us they examine us minutely through the periscope and if anything at all is out of the ordinary, they submerge and depart. It thus became necessary to conceal the guns in the hatches and the life-boats. By means of a very simple mechanism they may still be uncovered and fired in a jiffy. To all appearances the only gun on the boat is the one in the stern, such as all freighters carry. If we did not have that, the submarine would be suspicious.
Seeing that from a distance, they are sure that we are just an ordinary freighter. That is what we are hoping for.
"As soon as they come within range we fire a few shells, taking good care to make no direct hits. As our shells consistently fall short, they become self-confident. They suppose they are toying with a 'pop-gun.' They continue to approach and, at last sure that we are harmless, they order us to cease firing. Of course we obey instantly. Taking us for neutrals, they order us to prepare the life-boats, to take the crew off, and to row away. We obey them, merely taking the precaution of turning so that our guns are in perfect position to open fire. Approaching confidently with the intention of taking possession of our belongings, our provisions, or our papers, the submarine finally gets within good range. It rises to the surface and, when its gun is ready, it fires a shell, usually aiming it at the engine room which it supposes to be our most vulnerable spot.
"That is a tragic moment for those of our comrades who have remained on board and who, eyes fixed on the submarine, are getting ready to sink it. They are forbidden to make any move. They must keep up the deception. If one of them is wounded by the explosion of a shell, he must make no sound. As the crew is supposed to be in the life-boats, we must not let them know that anyone is on board. As the first shell doesn't have the desired effect, the submarine comes closer to send a second one home more accurately. This is the moment we have waited for. An order rings out and our guns are suddenly uncovered. They deliver a broadside that sends the submarine to the bottom."
"How absolutely wonderful," I exclaimed.
"Oh. it's just a matter of getting used to it. Do you want me to tell you the greatest deed ever accomplished by a Q-Boat?"
As you can imagine, I answered affirmatively, and this is what he told me.
That day---it was in August, 1917---our ship, the Dunraven, was cruising in the Gulf of Gascony. Any sailor would have taken it for one of those tramps which at that time used to ply between England and the Levant by way of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean. They usually had a cargo of food and munitions for the Allied troops in the Orient. As a matter of fact the Dunraven, commanded by Gordon Campbell himself, although it apparently carried only the one useless gun in the stern, was heavily armed. Not only were cannon hidden about everywhere but in tubes in the prow we also had two torpedoes all ready for action.
That was the lay of the land when one day at daybreak a submarine caught sight of us and gave chase. As soon as we saw it we pretended to be scared to death. We put on full speed, zigzagging as we went, as though to avoid a torpedo, and then we began to open up at the submarine . . . taking great care not to hit it. That was, I can tell you, a great hardship for our gunners. All of them, or almost all, were officers intensively trained for such shooting. With anything but a 57 they would have taken the greatest delight in sending the submarine to the bottom with one shot, had they received permission to do so. But it would have been stupid to risk so much out of mere pride in their marksmanship. All of us on board had just one wish---to lure the submarine within safe range, and then to open fire.
In about three-quarters of an hour, the submarine fired a shell which seemed to have been well directed. A thick cloud of black smoke arose from the engine room. The smoke really came from tubes concealed on deck. It arose in thicker and thicker clouds so that the Huns, not guessing the truth, naturally felt sure that they had done serious damage to our vessel.
Immediately after the firing of that shell, the commander ordered us to stop and to launch the lifeboats. Our Panic Party, that is, those of us whose task it was to pretend to be terrified, got to work at once and arranged our little byplay so well that two of the boats tipped over as they were being lowered, dumping their occupants into the sea. We on board could hear the German sailors laughing and cheering. Such desperate confusion struck them as first-class entertainment. The swimmers were fished out and, following directions, the boats departed in the direction agreed upon. They chose their course so as to bring the submarine within range of our guns if it should decide to take a chance on inspecting the life-boats to make sure what was in them.
Unfortunately they didn't bite. Closing in to within three hundred meters of the Dunraven, they fired three more shots at us and this time they did real damage. The first of these shells ignited a bomb containing seventy pounds of cordite. The explosion hurled the officer who was in charge of the firing off his feet. Although he was seriously wounded, the officer crawled back to his post with the greatest composure and without saying a word. Two other shells had just burst in the midst of the powder magazine. Soon clouds of smoke---and this time they were not fake---showed Commander Gordon Campbell that his ship was doomed to blow up. Aware of the danger, he was on the verge of giving the order to open fire when a gust of wind blew the smoke between him and the submarine, entirely blotting out his adversary. It was out of the question to fire under such conditions; not only would they have failed to score a hit, but they would have put the enemy completely to flight.
Sentimentality does not carry much weight on the Q-Boats. As our duty was to sink the submarine, even if the whole boat was in flames, it was up to us to risk being roasted alive or blown to pieces by the explosion of the shells in the hold. There was nothing for it but to wait until the submarine was within range again. Looking death straight in the face, Gordon Campbell decided to do this. Therefore, we waited until the submarine, which was as annoyed as we were, had circled our boat so as to get into position to fire more shells. Meanwhile, fire was raging in the powder magazine. The iron deck on which the sailors were crouching grew hotter from minute to minute. These brave men, oblivious to danger and disdainful of their pain, had but one worry.
They must not let themselves be seen and thus betray the true nature of the ship!
When the submarine finally came into range, Gordon Campbell was about to order us to open fire, when, unfortunately, the hold in which the munitions were stored blew up. The 100 mm. gun which was ready for action was blown into the air along with the officers, range finders, and sailors who operated it. As soon as the Huns saw the explosion, they realized that they were mixed up with a trap-boat and they made haste to submerge and disappear.
Knowing them as we did, we were perfectly sure that we were about to be torpedoed. That was what happened. Scarcely had we recovered from the first shock of the explosion in the hold when we felt another, caused by a torpedo of which we could hardly see the wake. Even more disastrous than the first one, this second explosion put out of order the last of our means of communication. The telephones would no longer work; the speaking tubes had long since been destroyed. Although the entire stern was on fire, Gordon Campbell was not down-hearted. He knew he could still rely upon two of the guns and the torpedoes. He conceived the wild idea of launching a second Panic Party on a raft and the one remaining life-boat. Several men carried the dead and wounded down to the raft, which was then taken in tow by the life-boat.
The commander's idea, of course, was to coax the Germans into believing that the Dunraven, in flames and abandoned by the last remnant of her crew, was harmless and that nothing could be easier than to finish her off. Crouched down on deck, joking with his gunners, he kept careful watch of the submarine as it rose slowly to the surface towards the stern of the Dunraven. From that position not one of our guns could reach it. Although our boat was on fire (for the fire raged during the entire four hours that the struggle lasted) and the flames kept creeping up farther and farther, the submarine feared some new surprise and kept shelling us, sweeping our decks' with shrapnel. At last, satisfied that nothing on board had survived, it came out into the open.
That was what Gordon Campbell was waiting for. With the enemy to one side and in plain sight, we launched a torpedo that missed them by a few inches. We cried with rage! Luckily they didn't notice it and continued to go forward. We launched a second torpedo. It struck home, and the submarine plunged to the bottom of the sea. The Dunraven soon followed suit. Although it contained large quantities of wood and cork, which should have made it impossible to sink it, they had been destroyed by the fire, and slowly the ship disappeared beneath the waves.
Gordon Campbell, as calm as ever amid the wreckage of his ship, at length sent out an SOS. A few minutes later the American yacht Norma and the English destroyers Alcock and Christopher arrived on the scene of battle. We climbed aboard as the last of the good ship Dunraven vanished into the sea. . . .
"Perfectly marvelous," I exclaimed. "That is one of the most heroic deeds performed during the war!"
My friend smiled, then he added,
"Oh, you French! You call that an heroic deed! How do you describe what is at this moment happening at Verdun? We 'held the line' against the Huns for four hours! But at Verdun they've been doing it for six months, and against the whole German army! No. That is the most heroic act of the war."
While he spoke, all the officers present---each wearing the ribbon of the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration that an Englishman can receive---stood at attention, eyes fixed on the word Verdun which glittered from the military map on the wall, and saluted.
I know of nothing more touching than that salute by heroic British sailors in honor of our heroic soldiers.
A DIABOLIC INVENTION OF THE GERMAN GENERAL STAFF
IN COUNTER-ESPIONAGE there is one axiom the truth of which is constantly being demonstrated the improbable is often probable. I should like to add to that another statement: Most people are profoundly ignorant in military matters.
It is absolutely true!
Take, for example, the average Frenchman. Show him a 420 shell, the most colossal thing achieved by the Austro-German artillery manufacturers, and he will say: "As a weapon of destruction, this is perfect. Nothing could be better!" Yet the Germans made something much better! The glassblowers in Thuringen far outdid Krupp, Skoda, and their corps of engineers! Thanks to them, German agents in foreign countries possessed an infernal machine which, to judge from results, was a hundred times more destructive than even the 420's. And you could carry It in your pocket! It weighed exactly 50 grammes! But it could, if the enemy so desired, blow up a factory, a canal (some of these were vitally important to us), a powder factory, a ship, or a munitions dump.
It---it was a pencil! And you know as well as I do that a pencil doesn't take up much room. Also, you are using one all the time. You can leave it anywhere . . . even in a pocket, when that pocket isn't yours, or in a brief-case . . . when the briefcase doesn't belong to you! It was unfortunate that those pencils were always turning up---we'll see why in a moment---where they had no business being. Sometimes they were discovered in the midst of a consignment of cotton, sometimes in the middle of a munitions dump! One of them was even found in bed with a pretty woman . . . she was a part-time spy! Certainly those were strange pencils . . . pencils!
I first got wind of them when I was in Switzerland, keeping an eye on Herr von R-------, the German Minister, and his agents. One morning---the exact date was August 19, 1916---when I opened the Gazette de Lausanne, the following article caught my eye.
Last week, acting on word received from the Italian Government, the Department of justice of Vaud with the aid of Professor R. A. Reiss, head of the laboratory devoted to scientific detective work at the University, examined the trunks and suit-cases left in the parcel room in the main railroad station in Lausanne. There seemed to be nothing suspicious about any of the luggage.
A certain wooden box was the only item to attract the attention of M. Reiss. It was opened and he discovered . . . that it was empty. Still unsatisfied, M. Reiss had it taken to his laboratory. As the sides of the box seemed unusually thick, he decided to take them to pieces. Great was his amazement at finding carefully secreted in little grooves in the wood thirty-six metal tubes having the outward appearance of pencils. Each pencil was wrapped either in a sheet of black paper or in a map sketched out on tracing paper. An examination of these maps established the fact that they were careful reproductions of maps numbers 25,000 and 50,000, of the series issued by the Italian General Staff: these maps were of the districts of Simplon and Mont Cenis. Hydro-electric plants were marked in red and the tributary canals in green. Directions in bad Italian and excellent German made the origin of these mechanisms self-evident.
The expert proceeded to open one of these objects and discovered that it would explode anywhere---even under water. When a thin rubber covering is broken water seeps into the tube until it comes to a hollow ampulla in which there are two holes; there it dissolves a tiny amount of chromic acid and the solution proceeds into the fuse, where, in conjunction with another element, it generates an electric current. A tiny platinum wire, becoming heated by the passage of the electric current, sets off a charge of fulminate of mercury; this explosion in turn sets off fifteen grammes of picrate of sodium.
The machines are only twenty centimeters long. It seems, from their construction, that they have been manufactured in quantity.
After giving several details about the method of manufacture, the Gazette de Lausanne very penetratingly added:
This new type of bomb would have blown up the Italian hydro-electric plants, especially those in the Simplon-Mont Cenis district. They would be most destructive if dropped into a canal. An Italian, in the employ of Austro-German agents at Zurich, who was to have carried them over the border into Italy, abandoned his dangerous luggage in the baggage room at Lausanne. . . . In a few weeks, that box would have been sold at auction. Little by little it would have become saturated with dampness and one fine day all thirty-six bombs would have exploded and would, doubtless, have claimed numerous victims.
As was my duty, I at once made every effort to get hold of one of those machines. I had an idea that my superiors might be interested. I was successful. As a matter of fact, that was a very experimental attempt on the part of the Germans. Although it was extremely dangerous, this machine had not yet been perfected, and the enemy was inclined to discount its value. Moreover, it was more like a torpedo (as it was later named) than a pencil.
Detecting the Diabolic Pencils in Western France
Once when I had just finished an unusually strenuous task and was rather fagged out, my chief gave me a leave of absence.
I had just got to M-----, when I received an official telegram ordering me to report to Captain R-----, head of our counter-espionage in the Chantilly district. Cursing my rotten luck, I proceeded to the town to which I had been ordered and found that my arrival was eagerly awaited. They turned over to me various reports that had been sent in by both the civil and military authorities. These documents seemed to point to the existence of a group of people---not necessarily spies---who were systematically going about the district spreading false gossip of a nature to alarm the population. There was one curious coincidence. Wherever these people had been, especially at M-----, S-----M-----, and at I-----, an epidemic of mysterious fires had broken out. An investigation had been ordered and was already under way. They wanted my assistance in it.
There was no way out of it for me. I got copies of the various documents connected with the case and retired to my room to study them at my leisure. They were mostly concerned with statements of the various rumors that had been started by the people in question. All of them---or almost all---said nothing about the origin of the fires. However, three of the reports contained clues that, after verification, were useful as points of departure for the inquiry.
In the first of these was this observation: "A quarter of an hour after the automobilists had left town a fire broke out without apparent cause among some bales of cotton that were piled on the wharf."
The second stated that: "The fire could have been started only by the people in question as they were the only ones to have approached the field containing the hay stacks. However, the sentinel did not see them do anything suspicious. They were never within less than fifty yards of the field. The fire, according to the sentinel, broke out about twenty minutes after their departure. No one observed either the make or the license number of their automobile."
In the third one I read this: "As soon as the fire was out, we rummaged about in the ashes but found nothing suspicious. Nevertheless, several half-burned bundles had an acid smell. A half-burned pencil stub which was found on the ground smelled very strongly of the same acid. . . ."
Further along this report states: "No suspicious-looking strangers were seen in the district. Four automobilists did stop for lunch at the Commerce Restaurant. There is no reason to suspect them, however, as the fire did not break out until they had left."
Of all the facts mentioned, only three seemed worth remembering:
1. The presence of automobilists each time that a fire broke out.
2. The fire never started until they had left town.
3. The discovery of a half-burnt pencil stub in the ashes of a factory that was engaged in the production of war materials.
It was little enough. I felt, however, that it was a key to the solution of the problem. By an association of ideas---natural enough if one stops to consider the matter---I happened to think of the article in the Gazette de Lausanne, a part of which I have just quoted.
I asked myself this question, "Taking into consideration the mentality of the German General Staff, why shouldn't they make use of the same weapons in France as in Italy?"
And as a corollary, "That being so, why not equip their agents with machines like those found at Lausanne?"
After thinking it over awhile, I started off on that tack. It was destined to lead me to the truth.
I will spare the reader the details of the thousand and one steps that were necessary before I could get to the bottom of the affair. It is enough to report that exactly eighteen days after the opening of the inquiry six of the incendiaries fell into our hands. Each of them was equipped with these explosive pencils; each was made to expiate his crime. . . .
Peace be to their ashes!
One of the Diabolic "Pencils" found in Western France.
I shall quote only one passage from the report establishing their guilt which was read before the court-martial.
In outward appearance the pencil resembles any other pencil that may be sharpened by unwinding a strip of paper which exposes the lead and serves the same purpose as the wood of an ordinary pencil. A little way up, the lead---which is either red or blue---serves as a stopper for a tiny glass tube which contains a combustible fluid of tremendous strength. When a certain portion of the pencil is unraveled, air is let into the glass tube and in fifteen or twenty minutes it reaches the chemicals; this automatically produces a heat of incredible intensity and the fire spreads with a speed impossible to describe.
The report closes with these words,
This kind of crime is especially loathsome because its perpetrator, the criminal, runs almost no risk. He may pretend to eat as he strolls along. One bite is enough to break the point of the pencil which he has previously hidden in a slice of bread. He leaves the bit of bread wherever he is to start the fire on a pile of cotton, in a factory, on the wharves of a port---then he peacefully strolls off. . . .
Now I intend to give complete and overwhelming proof of the guilt of the Germans in this matter.
The Journal Officiel of the Swiss Republic in its issue of November 16, 1918, publishes a report of the findings of the Grand jury of Zurich. There one may read the following statement:
The inquiry into the bomb affair has brought out the fact that German diplomatic representatives in Switzerland employed messengers to carry bombs and explosives as well as poisonous germs into this country which were destined for Italy.
And who was implicated in this unethical and dangerous business? A distinguished man, Prince von Bulow, former Chancellor of the German Empire, who, at his home in Lucerne, receives and confers with such anarchists as Bertoni and Cavallini! Can one tell whether or not the germs which these "personages" have successfully shipped into Italy may not have caused some catastrophe?
That, we repeat, is an official statement. One wonders somewhat why, after such an exposure, M. von R-----, the German minister at Berne, and his assistant, Major von B-----, the head of the German Secret Service in France, were not deported at once. Some crimes are so heinous that even diplomatic immunity ought not to protect their perpetrators. Among these are the crimes I have just revealed!
THE SECRET CORRESPONDENCE OF THE
WAS NO SECRET FOR US
DURING the war great use was made of secret correspondence. It often happened that information procured by agents of one of the belligerents was of use only if the enemy did not know that it had been discovered. Take, for example, the document printed on page 70. It is the type of report sent by a resident German spy in Paris to his chief. It tells him that 15,000 men have been sent to the Italian front. From this news the German General Staff must decide:
1. To what part of the Italian front are the troops to be sent?
2. Are they shock troops?
3. If so, in what section will the new drive take place?
By referring to the various maps of the front and by piecing together various bits of information that bear on the same point---some of which have been sent in by spies who are themselves at the front---they are able by the process of deduction to decide, without any chance of error, the exact point to which these troops will be sent.
Now let us suppose---as really happened---that this report, instead of going straight to its destination, falls into the hands of a member of the French counter-espionage system. First of all, he should inform the commanding officer of his discovery. Then he should deliver the letter in such a manner that the enemy will never guess that one of his sources of information has been discovered.
The Spy's Letter. A perfectly ordinary letter. There are apparently no suspicious characteristics.
Once a spy is "scorched" there is nothing more to fear from him. It then becomes the business of those whose job it is to thwart him, not to arrest, but to watch him. A "mouse-trap" is set. In it are caught all who get in touch with him, either in person or by correspondence.
The Spy's Letter. The same letter after being treated by chemicals to bring out the secret message written between the lines.
That being so, it is evident that for a correspondence to be of any real value, it must be kept strictly secret. But-and it is time the world knew it---during the last war our great scientists were able to discover the secrets of all the inks which the German Secret Service used. In other words, they found means of revealing each kind of ink used by the Germans. They went even further-but this is another story---and presented our agents with an ink which it was absolutely impossible to detect. Four different reagents were necessary to bring it out, and they had to be applied in a definite order or the process would not work. [This reagent was the subject of an address before the Academy of Science in Paris on May 6, 1918. Its invention is attributed to M. Bayle.]
As there is no longer any danger in exposing the secrets of several of the methods of communication used by the Germans during the war, I will tell you as much about them as I am allowed to.
At the outbreak of hostilities, the Germans did not use invisible ink. They used, as the case might be, onion, or lemon juice, saliva, or urine. These liquids, whose properties were physical rather than chemical, might be made visible either by iodine vapors or by coloring baths.
When they discovered that their secret correspondence was constantly coming to light they called in the aid of their scientists and early in 1915 chemical inks began to appear. From that time on the composition of invisible inks became more and more scientific. Protected by a preliminary bath in a solution of hyposulfite or ammonia, the invisible writing defied the usual processes of bringing it out. That was because the Germans were writing with a solution of either metallic or organic salt.
Just the same, by means of the application of certain analyzed reagents---I cannot tell you just how it was done---we always succeeded in translating seized documents. The Germans were never able to discover why at this time a considerable number of their agents were arrested and sent to the dungeons at Vincennes. They attributed these arrests to treason within their own ranks. Will they kindly allow me to inform them that those arrests were solely due to the clumsiness of their chemists? When you send a spy into a foreign country, if you don't want him to be captured you should not equip him with soap made of potassium ferrocyanide or toilet water that contains lead acetate.
When most of their agents had been arrested, the Germans finally realized that their invisible ink held no secrets for us. Then they began the use of solutions of organic silver compounds and, when possible, proteinates (Protargol). We had quite a job finding a suitable means of revealing these. We did it, however, by using nitrate of silver (mixed with a solvent). Indeed, all metallic salts, even when used in an extremely weak solution, all organic salts in which there is a mineral acid, in short, all liquids which can in any way affect the surface of a piece of finished paper, respond to treatment by this mixture.
There was soon a new slaughter of German agents. And yet those gentlemen took admirable pains to protect themselves. Neither on their persons nor in their luggage was found anything that had the slightest resemblance to a vial of ink. The various bottles containing their toilet preparations contained real perfume, and not, as before, a doctored preparation.
Then it was that M. Bayle---one of the great chemists of the age and head of the laboratory of criminal identification---succeeded in detecting in socks and in shoe laces, a trifling amount of silver salt. Each sock contained but a few milligrams of it, but that was enough for a German spy to soak it in a glass of water and thus to obtain a chemical ink very hard to detect.
The Germans had something else up their sleeves. . . .
One fine day we happened to notice that several suspicious-looking people whom we were watching did not send certain white handkerchiefs to the laundry along with their other dirty linen. They seemed to take unusual care of them. At this time, also, we were receiving notice from various sources that the postal-censors were not intercepting the secret correspondence of certain German agents whom they were supposedly watching. All of the reagents, even the nitrate of silver, failed to work. Something had to be done.
We pulled a "quiet raid" on the room of a suspected spy who was living in a fashionable hotel on the Champs-Elysées. We replaced one of these handkerchiefs by another that looked just like it. It took three months for the great chemist to whom we gave the handkerchief for analysis to discover what chemical it contained. Even then he found but a fraction of a milligram of it.
The document printed on page 70 was written in this solution. In the end we discovered even that secret. During the following week, in the Paris district alone, we arrested ten spies, each one more dangerous than the last. The honor for this haul goes entirely to our chemists. Their genius is equalled only by their modesty.
HOW GERMAN AGENTS SENT THEIR INFORMATION TO HEADQUARTERS
TOWARD the end of 1916 1 was sent on a mission to the peninsula of Guérande. A suspicious-looking stranger had been reported at Croisic, where there was a rather important Allied Naval Aeroplane Station. This man claimed to be a painter and was living in grand style.
Before leaving Paris, I had quietly investigated him. None of the principal artists in the capital had ever heard of him. He had never hung around the artist quarters in Montmartre and Montparnasse, the favorite stamping-ground of painters of all kinds. There was no sign of his name in any almanac; no catalogue listed his paintings. The dealers had never heard of him. He claimed to be a Pole, but at the Polish legation his name had never been mentioned.
We could learn nothing about him! It was time some light was thrown on his case, and that as soon as possible.
Disguised as an amateur painter and carrying all of the proverbial apparatus of the painter in the field, one fine morning I got off the train at Croisic and put up at the Hotel M-----. This painter was also staying there. A glance at the hotel register confirmed the fact. I also learned that P----- gave his age as thirty-two, claimed to be unmarried and gave Paris as his last address.
I washed up and went down to the dining-room. While waiting for lunch, I ordered some sort of an appetizer. I had just got settled when P----- came in and sat down at a table near mine. He was a large, red-faced man, of husky build. His blue eyes, bristling mustache, and bald head gave me the impression that I had seen him before. He would not have looked at all out of place at the head of a platoon of white-coated cuirassiers. In vain did I rack my memory; I could not identify him in any way. Perhaps I had run across him in Germany or in Switzerland. If so, I couldn't remember the details of our meeting.
Although the lunch bell had not yet rung, he called one of the waitresses and in excellent French spoken without accent, he ordered lunch. He went over the menu with the air of a man who denies himself nothing. He took particular care in his choice of wines. He stowed away what was put before him with a voraciousness that in itself would have revealed his nationality. From time to time he would glance at me out of the corner of his eye, trying, no doubt, to make me out. His eyes were unusually alert and piercing.
As the room began slowly to fill up his attention was drawn to the other guests.
Suddenly I saw a shiver pass through his body. His eyes rapidly hardened and were fixed on a gentleman who had nonchalantly sat down near a window overlooking the wharves. From that position, without appearing to do so, he could keep track of everyone who entered or left the room. If P----'s eyes had been pistols I would have given little for that gentleman's life. He was---I should keep it from you no longer---an agent attached to the Special Commission at Saint-Nazaire. The official, however, seemed to pay little attention to P----- who by now was gobbling his dessert, his head almost touching the table-cloth.
When I had finished lunch I went to the coatroom where I had left my paint box, my easel, and my portable stool; then I started toward the wharves. P----- had left the room when I did. Noticing my paraphernalia, he came toward me and courteously asked,
"Have I the luck to have struck upon a colleague?"
I nodded without speaking and he introduced himself.
"M. P-----, a Polish sculptor and painter."
It was now up to me to introduce myself. I did so in a gibberish, half-French, half-Italian, that quite astounded the good fellow.
"I am," I replied, "Monssu Campanella, a Neapolitan painter."
With the introductions out of the way, P----- and I lost no time in becoming the closest of friends, although at times he cracked jokes about my accent that threw the people in the hotel into gales of laughter.
"He laughs best who laughs last," thought I.
To come to the point, within a few days we were not only eating at the same table, but I had even coaxed the estimable Madame M----- to give me a room with a door that opened directly into P-----'s. As far as I could make out, he was of pure German blood. His arrogance, his stiffness, and the completely German nature of his conversation proved it to me without shadow of doubt. But nevertheless he was a clever fellow and not to be caught napping.
Each morning he would pack his materials for painting into an auto and set out. Toward eleven he would return with a completed sketch which he would smirkingly show me. When he wasn't walking along the shore, he spent his afternoons playing tennis.
"If that chap is a spy, he doesn't follow his profession very assiduously," I would say to myself.
There was really nothing suspicious about him. He never did things secretly; he received no suspicious callers, no compromising messages. He himself wrote very little.
It was writing letters, however, that gave him away. I had noted the fact that all the letters he wrote---eight a month---were addressed to the same person, a Madame Hermann Müller, Berne, Switzerland. It was to this same lady, who, he said, was a dealer both in old masters and in modern paintings, that he sent all his sketches, water colors, and oils. She seemed to have no trouble finding purchasers for them. After all, it might have been true, and I had no way of disproving it.
That was the situation when one fine day I was examining a landscape done in pencil which he had just held up for my inspection. It seemed to me that some of the perspective in it was not quite right. It was out of drawing. It had about it a certain heaviness entirely out of keeping with P-----'s usual style, which was passably good.
Of course I said nothing about my observations. To the contrary, I pretended to be enthusiastic over the picture and asked him to allow me to copy it. It was, I declared, a masterpiece. He hesitated for a moment, but I was so insistent and overwhelmed him with such praise that he finally agreed to let me have it until that evening. He expected to send it off the first thing the following morning.
As soon as he had left, I set to work and by means of a special process I quickly discovered a second sketch beneath the pencil drawing. As may readily be seen from the illustrations below, underneath the sketch was a map of one of our submarine bases!
The Spy's Drawing. What could appear more harmless?
On the other drawing below you can see what was hidden underneath
Map of a French Naval Base. This is what was underneath the camoflaged drawing reproduced above.
The notes that went with this sketch proved the case beyond doubt. The windmill covered a lighthouse (A); the clumps of trees were fortifications, trenches, and a semaphore station (B); the groups of buildings were sketched in (C); strategic railway lines were indicated by the letter (D) ; the belfry of the church was marked by a letter (E).
P----- was undoubtedly a spy. It was imperative to place him at once where he could do no more harm. It was accomplished that day. And it was done so quietly that no one even at the Hotel M----suspected anything. . . . M. Campanella, the Neapolitan painter, settled the bill of his old friend P----and, just for good measure, undertook to take care of his luggage.
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