19 October 1915 – Fernando Buschman

Fernando Buschman

Fernando Buschman

If faced with certain death, how would you spend your last night?

In Fernando Buschman’s case, he spent the night playing his violin before kissing it and saying ‘Goodbye, I shall not want you any more,’ according to the book ‘The Trial in History’1.

And he was right, he wouldn’t be needing it again, for Buschman stood accused of spying for the Germans during World War I and was executed on this day in 1915.

Brazilian by birth, Buschman and his parents had relocated to Holland and he eventually wound up importing food between Germany, the UK and Brazil. At least, that was his story.

Spy ties

As a result he would often come to London and when the First World War kicked off the infant organisation MI5 clocked him corresponding with two dodgy addresses in Rotterdam. These addresses had been linked to known espionage activities, so the connection was immediately made.

His main focus was on Portsmouth and Southampton – apparently because he was into shipping food. But these were crucial British ports and, to this day they have strong navy presence too.

But one of the main clinchers was that Buschman was also in contact with a man known to be a key coordinator for German spies, says war researcher Stephen Stratford.

Security threat

These juicy bits of evidence were enough to ensure the Brazilian was hauled up for questioning and slung in the Tower of London on the basis that he was a threat to national security. There then followed a court-martial where he was found guilty of being a double agent.

Buschman was banged up in the Tower and it was there that he faced his death too, literally, as he refused to be blindfolded as was the normal procedure. He was put before a firing squad on this day in 1915 as one of 13 men who were found guilty and shot for espionage during the war.

1 The Trial in History: Volume I by Maureen Mulholland, Brian S. Pullan, R. A. Melikan, Anne Pullan.

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