Archive for Spying

19 October 1915 – Fernando Buschman

Posted in Death penalty, Firing squad with tags , , , , , , , on October 19 by Last Writes

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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17 September 1915 – Augusto Roggen

Posted in Death penalty, Shot with tags , , , on September 17 by Old Sparky
Augusto Roggen

Augusto Roggen

Augusto Alfredo Roggen was executed in the Tower of London during the 1914–18 First World War.

Roggen (or maybe Roggin), originally from Montevideo in Uruguay, was accused of spying for the Germans. And the Brits were onto him.

Virtually as soon as he’d arrived in England he was banged up – after docking in May 1915, he’d found himself flung into the Tower by June.

Roggen trading

Having sent mail to an address in Rotterdam that was already known to the secret police, Roggen had inadvertently stirred their suspicions. But more evidence was needed.

So, he was allowed to enter Britain where he proceeded to Scotland to carry out a series of odd activities, all under the covert watch of the secret police. None of these activities amounted to anything, yet he was soon captured with incriminating weapons, invisible ink and the like.

The suspect was hauled in and faced trial for espionage, for which he was found guilty.

As expected, Uruguay naturally jumped to his defence asking for him to be reprieved, but to no avail.

Staunchly refusing to wear a blindfold, Roggen faced a firing squad within the walls of the Tower on this day in 1915 as the war raged, aged around 34.

According to records from the War Office, Roggen was one of 11 foreign nationals shot at the Tower during World War I on charges under the 1914 Defence of the Realm Act.

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23 June 1915 – Carl Muller

Posted in Death penalty, Firing squad with tags , , , , on June 23 by Last Writes

Carl MullerInvisible ink failed to fool the British Secret Service during the First World War. And as spying during World War I was punishable by death, Carl Friedrick Muller felt the full force of British wrath after he was executed for his betrayals. Yet he almost missed his own execution after the black cab broke down on its way to the Tower of London.

For Muller had stood charged with ‘feloniously attempting to communicate and recording and collecting information with respect to military and naval forces and war materials with intention of assisting [the] enemy’ – to you and me that means passing armed forces’ secrets to the opposition. And the opposition meant Germany.

He’d been enlisted as a secret agent by the Germans, not least because he could speak a number of languages fluently. He was in shipping and was hard up – the perfect combination.

As a result, Muller was to travel between Germany and Britain seemingly innocently, writing correspondence detailing shipping movements to his German pals – but little did he know the Brits were on to him and had intercepted his letters.

Branched off

Unsuspectingly, in February of 1915, he hooked up with a Brit (of German extraction) – John Hahn, who was an East-end baker and together they sent more incriminating letters. Both were unaware their illicit communications were being diverted to Special Branch for closer inspection.

There CID found secret German messages written in formalin (formaldehyde) and lemon juice in between what appeared to be innocent letters written in English. The two were busted.

Hahn’s up

Both men were hauled in and while Hahn pleaded guilty and got seven years, Muller pleaded not guilty and got death. The latter was housed at Brixton Prison and on the day of his execution, he was taken by black cab to the Tower of London where he was to be executed. According to Stephen Stratford it broke down, so another took him on to the place of execution.

So Muller was riddled with a slew of bullets on this day within the grounds of the Tower of London in 1915.

According to a couple of sources, New Scotland Yard’s Assistant Commissioner of Police, Sir Basil Thomson witnessed the execution by firing squad. It was carried out by eight soldiers. He observed: ‘I saw no expression of pain. I found no pulse and no sign of life. Death appeared to be instantaneous, and the body retained the same position. The bullets probably in fragments had passed through the thorax and out of the back. Some blood, mixed with what appeared to be bone, had escaped through the clothing…’. And with that, the second spy to be executed during World War I was pronounced dead.

Details of Muller’s trial and evidence of his damning correspondence now sit in The National Archives at Kew.