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Saturday, January 19th 2019, 3:42pm

British Empire News 1949

This is the BBC Home Service…

1 January
In an embarrassing situation for the New Year passengers aboard the RMS Queen Mary, the liner ran aground off Cherbourg today. It is hoped the liner will be floated off tomorrow on the next favourable tide.

4 January
The RMS Caronia of the Cunard Line departed Southampton for New York on her maiden voyage today. Caronia is a 34,183 gross register tons passenger ship built by John Brown and Company and launched on 30 October 1947. She has been designed as a dual-purpose ship, suited to cruising and also capable of transatlantic crossings. Novel features include an outdoor swimming pool and bathroom/shower facilities in every cabin. Her large single funnel is one of the largest ever installed aboard a ship. To distinguish her from Cunard's liners, the company has decided to give Caronia a different colour scheme. Instead of going for the typical black hull with a white superstructure, she has a unique livery of four different shades of Cruising Green, making her a highly attractive and instantly recognisable vessel and some have already dubbed her the “Green Goddess”.

6 January
The dark grey ships slowly sailed up the Firth of Forth, passing under the Forth Bridge. These ships were former visitors, and in some cases well-known ships in the area. The Commonwealth Training Squadron under the command of Commodore Eric Hahn (RCN) was sailing into Rosyth. The carrier HMCS Majestic, three light training cruisers HMCS Diana, Apollo and Minerva along with the sloop HMCS Defiant had sailed directly from their Bermuda base. Formed to travel around the Commonwealth training crews and aviators in the art of naval warfare, the Squadron has been deployed to British water for a planned extended period, at least six months, in duration. The crews of the ships comprise a selection of sailors from across the Commonwealth including Australians, Malaysians, Nigerians, Caribbean and Maltese sailors.

8 January
Their Lordships appraised the latest report from their Naval Attaché in Berlin, Alfred Burcough. The information supplied by Burcough and SIS's local man Tanner, chimed with information they had acquired from other sources. The sudden expansion of the amphibious capabilities was worrying, perhaps aimed at Baltic operations such vessels could conceivably be used against Britain, although the likelihood seemed remote. The large destroyer programme to provide suitable escorts was more of a direct threat in several ways. Burcough had noted the manpower problem these new ships would present but he hadn't been rash enough to guess answers. Their Lordships with more braid and responsibilities could afford to speculate. The scale of German-Russo naval training exercises was well noted, it was not inconceivable Russian sailors would be used to man these ships. If so, diplomatic pressure could be brought to bear publicly in regards to 'false flags' and 'mercenaries' and indeed a propaganda outlet could well highlight the fact the German Navy was weak and disorganised requiring foreign manpower to keep it operating.
But their Lordships were not concerned with merely tittle-tattle chickenfeed fed to foreign newspapers, that was SIS's job to get their hands dirty. The Navy would meet the challenge in other ways.
The CNS then drew their Lordships attention to 'Project Cerberus'.

9 January
The well-known comedian Thomas Reginald "Tommy" Handley has died today following a brain haemorrhage, just eight days before his 57th birthday. Well known as a variety performer and radio presenter, he is probably best known for the BBC radio programme ITMA (It's That Man Again). He was born at Toxteth Park, Liverpool in Lancashire.


Saturday, January 19th 2019, 4:15pm

Operation Backgammon, Monday 9 January, RCAF CFB Goose Bay, 06:30 (local ), 10:00 Zulu

Everyone had been preparing for days, every aircraft had been primed and every technical detail checked and double checked. The runway had been swept clear of snow. Little groups of airmen huddled by their aircraft, making their final checks. Finally Air Commodore Dameron checked his watch and gave the thumbs up in his thick padded gloves, the party of men shook hands and exchanged salutations and good luck messages. The men clambered aboard their aircraft, doors slamming shut. After a momentary pause as the flight crews ran through their checklists the first powerful piston engine coughed into life, its contra-rotating propeller spinning up to speed and kicking up a cloud of fine snow. Within minutes sixty engines had breathed fire and began throbbing, the air had come alive. The engines warmed up to operating temperature as the crews made final preparations, tuning radios, stowing charts and soup flasks.

"This is Red Leader to Goose Control, requesting permission to taxi"
"Goose Control to Red Leader, you are cleared to taxi to runway nine-two-seven"

The first CB-27 bomber revved up and began to creep forwards. Soon all fifteen aircraft would be thundering down the runway and would form a loose formation and head eastwards into the Atlantic. Further south Blue and White Flights were also taking-off and orbiting to join the loose stream. Forty-five aircraft heading out into the Atlantic, escorted for the two hundred miles by Argus maritime patrol aircraft for navigational aids and in case any of the bombers had to return back to base with technical problems. Burning off fuel to regain landing weight would take some time. Fortunately nobody had any problems and each aircraft took up its position in the stream.

CB-27 PR786 'White 6' 07:22 (local ),10:52 Zulu
The large four-engined bomber was at cruising speed and slowly climbing to its optimum cruising altitude. The crew were settling in and focusing on the flight ahead. They were travelling over inhospitable ice and sea, any mishap could end up in a dangerous situation with risk of life.
The intercom clicked, it was the pilot, Squadron Leader T. J. "King" Kong;
"Survival kit contents check."
The crew began picking up their small tightly packed webbing packs attached to their parachute packs.
"In them you'll find: one forty-five caliber automatic; two boxes of ammunition; four days' concentrated emergency rations; one drug issue containing antibiotics, morphine, vitamin pills, pep pills, sleeping pills, tranquilizer pills; one miniature combination European phrase book and Bible; one hundred Pounds in English pounds; one hundred Pounds in gold; nine packs of chewing gum; one issue of prophylactics; three lipsticks; three pair of nylon stockings. Damn, a fella' could have a pretty good weekend in Ottawa with all that stuff."


Sunday, January 27th 2019, 11:14am

Operation Backgammon, Monday 9 January, Prestwick, 20:30 (local ), 20:00 Zulu

"This is Prestwick control to Can Air three-four-six, I have you on scope, you are cleared to enter southern corridor two at twenty-four hundred feet,
"This is Can Air three-four-six to Prestwick control, Roger, can you give us a weather update?"
"Can Air three-four-six, wind is 15kt from the west, four-tenths cloud cover, temperature is below zero, advise to watch for icing."

It had been a long ten hour flight but finally the procession of aircraft had crossed the Atlantic and slowly the darkened bulk of the British Isles loomed over the eastern horizon, tell-tale pricks of light from its urban centres lighting their way south as they droned on to their ultimate destinations, Red and Blue flights would soon land at RAF Mildenhall and White Flight would land at nearby RAF Lakenheath, both were bomber airfields. The crews could hardly wait to get out and stretch tired, shaken limbs and get some well-earned sleep.

CB-27 PR786 'White 6' 20:21 Zulu

Squadron Leader T. J. "King" Kong, looked over at his co-pilot checking the fuel consumption figures.
"Well Ace, will we make it?"
"We have enough fuel for another two hours flying, more than enough."
"I sure as hell don't feel good about landing on an unknown airfield in the dark."
"We''ve made it this far", his co-pilot grinned.

At both RAF bases the ground crews were on standby, soon from the northwest the rumbling sound of heavy bombers could be heard. They had made it.

"This is Mildenhall controller to Red Leader, welcome to England, you are cleared to enter the landing pattern and orbit at Angels five, you are cleared to use runway 11/29, please switch to GCA frequency and standby for further instructions."


Saturday, February 2nd 2019, 10:57am

10 January
The Minister of Defence John Strachey announced today that three heavy bomber squadrons of the Royal Canadian Air Force have recently flown across the Atlantic non-stop on an exercise and that these squadrons will be deployed to Britain for three months.
The Minister then went on to outline an agreement signed in Ottawa recently for the provision of a Tactical Air Force to be manned and operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force to be stationed in this country at airbases provided by the Air Ministry will full technical support and contributions to operational costs.
The Minister would not further outline the exact composition of the proposed force, nor the proposed date of its establishment but he did confirm that the Tactical Air Force would include fighters as well as bombers and that the recent arrival of heavy bombers was connected with the establishment of the new force.

12 January
The light cruiser HMS Euryalus and the two destroyers HMS Petard and HMS Porcupine weighed anchor having paid due respects to their Danish hosts. Diplomacy was the watchword given the unfortunate events in the Baltic the previous year. All three ships were headed for Stockholm and Riga for an official flag visit to the area.

14 January
The Australian Government announced today that over 47,000 square miles of land in South Australia has been purchased by the Crown and a no-overflight restriction has been put in place by the Royal Australian Air Force. The land will be used for defence purposes and is controlled by the Woomera Prohibited Area Coordination Office, which will coordinate daily operation of the Prohibited Area and surrounding land which comprises a mix of South Australian crown land and is covered by pastoral leases and mining tenements granted by the Government of South Australia.

17 January
A Street in London
"Read all about it! Three spies to be tried at the Old Bailey! Get your evening paper! Three spies to be tried! Thank you guvnor. Evening paper! Three spies to be tried at the Old Bailey!"

Evening Standard headline 'Atomic Secrets Spy Ring - Were they Working for Germany?''
The Times headline 'Three Men Arrested on Spying Charges - Possible Leak of Atomic Secrets'
Daily Mirror headline 'Three Traitors Spying for Germany?'

19 January
The Royal Aircraft Establishment’s Supersonic Wind Tunnel at Farnborough has become fully operational. It is hoped this facility will aid further research into supersonic aircraft has heralded by such aircraft as the Miles M.52.


Wednesday, February 6th 2019, 8:52pm

The Old Bailey, London, 10:25am, Thursday 20 January

Four men were stood in the dock. The press gallery was crammed and the judge, Justice of Her Majesty's High Court of Justice Sir Roland P. Hewitt, had warned the audience to uphold the standards expected in the highest court in the land.

"Are you Michael Aston?" The court clerk looked up from his notes
“You stand before this court charged committing the offence of espionage under the Official Secrets Acts of 1911 and 1920. How do you plead? Guilty or not guilty?”

"Are you Anthony Charles Palmer?" The court clerk looked at the second man.
"I am."
“You stand before this court charged committing the offence of espionage under the Official Secrets Acts of 1911 and 1920. How do you plead? Guilty or not guilty?”

"Are you Herbert Horatio Setter?" The court clerk carried on.
"Yes Sir."
“You stand before this court charged committing the offence of espionage under the Official Secrets Acts of 1911 and 1920. How do you plead? Guilty or not guilty?”

"Are you Erich Stoben alias Eric Stoddart?" The court erupted into murmurs of surprise.
“You stand before this court charged committing the offence of espionage under the Official Secrets Acts of 1911 and 1920. How do you plead? Guilty or not guilty?”
“Not Guilty.”

The pleas entered, the court process whirred into motion and soon Charles Ludicott-Peakes QC, the prosecuting counsel, stood and began noting the State’s case against Erich Stoben.


Wednesday, February 6th 2019, 9:04pm

Would not the prosecution only proceed against one defendant, the others having pled guilty? No need for the jury to hear a case against three men who have already copped a plea?


Thursday, February 7th 2019, 10:29am

You are correct. I have amended the post.
Aston, Palmer and Setter were persuaded to enter a guilty plea to secure a more lenient sentence in view of the assistance they gave and also to avoid dragging too much dirty linen into public, especially in the case of Aston and his work for British intelligence.
Also the storyline has been discussed in depth elsewhere so there is no OOC need to retell the tale all over again.


Friday, February 15th 2019, 12:29pm

The Old Bailey, London, 10:18am, Friday 21 January

The bespectacled vicar was sworn in, hardly a necessary precaution for a man in his line of work.
"You are the Reverend Charles Claridge?" asked Charles Ludicott-Peakes QC, the prosecuting counsel.
"Yes Sir, I am."
"And you run the Withington Shelter for the Homeless in your parish in Withington, Manchester?" Peakes glanced up from his notes.
"I am indeed."
"Reverend , could you please explain to the court what your work involves at the Shelter?" he asked, looking at the jury.
The Vicar cleared his throat, "Well we offer shelter for homeless men who have lost work or those who have no relatives to turn to for assistance. We provide a bed and food and help them to find work and permanent lodgings. Even in this age of the Welfare State there is still need and want among the poor.”
"Very noble work indeed," Peakes smiled, "And as part of this work you employed Erich Stoben under the alias of Eric Stoddart to assist at the shelter."
"No Sir, he didn't work full time at the shelter with us in Withington. Too many young men from Manchester have been lured by the prospects in London but fallen on hard times. About four years ago I was at a congress in London and met some fellow clergymen who had similar motivations and they suggested a London office. The committee thought this a wonderful idea and we interviewed several local candidates in London and selected Eric.”
Peakes looked sceptical "And Erich Stoben had all the attributes you were seeking?"
"Indeed," the Reverend continued, "he had done youth work and was involved with the East End missions."
"What were his duties?"
"To visit the London YMCAs and hostels and if anyone wanted to come back to Manchester he would provide them with a train ticket and expenses and then we would take over from there."
"Can you point out Erich Stobben here in court today?"
The Reverend nodded, "Yes, he is there." He pointed to the box where Erich sat with his head up, but looking mournful.
"So tell me," Peakes carried on breezily, "were you aware of his alias?"
The Reverend thought a moment, "Gosh, I guess I found out about two years ago when he visited the shelter and he said he was born in German South West Africa and that on emigrating here after the war he had changed his name as he feared reprisals. He always had an accent but it seemed sensible to me, after all I remember well German shops being smashed and looted in 1915.
Peakes swiftly moved on, "So when Michael Aston arrived at the Shelter nothing seemed out of the ordinary?"
The Reverend shook his head. "No, nothing."
"But Erich had already found him a job. Didn't that strike you as odd?"
The Reverend shook his head. "Not really, sometimes Erich did find work through his contacts in London, we were grateful for that numerous times I can tell you."
"Did you know about the hundred pounds Erich gave him?"
The Reverend shook his head. "No, nothing."
"Was this normal policy for him to dispense funds of such magnitude?" Peakes asked, his face looking incredulous that it would be.
"No, this was not our policy and certainly that money was not withdrawn from our funds."
Peakes smiled, "Where Erich may have got the money from?"
Hugh Daventry QC, the defending counsel stood up. "I object, the witness's opinion of where or where not the defendant may have obtained the money is not a material fact but mere speculation."
The judge nodded, "Objection sustained, the witness cannot be asked to speculate on matters he had no knowledge of."
Peakes turned to the judge and smiled, "of course, I withdraw the question. I have no further questions my Lord."

Hugh Daventry QC, the defending counsel stood up.
"Reverend, I have just one question. Other than the hundred pounds that you were unaware of at the time, were there any other irregularities, anything at all to make you suspicious that the Michael Aston was anything other than a man in need of your care compared to the others Erich Stobben had referred to you?"
The Reverend shook his head. "No, nothing. Michael had a tale of woe and he had clearly been having a rough time with a bad patch of luck."
Daventry smiled, "Thank you," he turned to the Judge, "I have no further questions my Lord."


Saturday, February 16th 2019, 3:18pm

Politics in 1949

My round-up of political developments, as usual a preemptive retrospective that covers the whole year for ease of reference and for working into storylines later.

A by-election for the constituency of Batley and Morley was held on 17 February, caused by the death of the incumbent Labour MP Hubert Beaumont. The result was a hold for the Labour Party, with their candidate Alfred Broughton who beat the Conservative candidate A.M. Ramsden.

A by-election for the constituency of Hammersmith South was held on 24 February, caused by the death of the incumbent Labour MP William Thomas Adams. The result was a hold for the Labour Party, with their candidate Thomas Williams. Only the Conservatives put up an opposing candidate.

A by-election for the constituency of St Pancras North was held on 10 March, caused by the resignation of the incumbent Labour MP George House. The result was a hold for the Labour Party, with their candidate Kenneth Robinson. He beat the Conservative candidate N.S. Shields and John Mahon who stood for the Communist Party, only receiving 854 votes.

A by-election for the constituency of Sowerby was held on 16 March, caused by the resignation of the incumbent Labour MP John Belcher. The result was a hold for the Labour Party, with their candidate Douglas Houghton. Only the Conservatives put up an opposing candidate.

A by-election for the constituency of Leeds West was held on 21 July, caused by the suicide of the incumbent Labour MP Thomas William Stamford. The result was a hold for the Labour Party, with their candidate Charles Pannell who beat the Conservative candidate B. Mather.

A by-election for the constituency of Bradford South was held on 8 December, caused by the death of the incumbent Labour MP Meredith Titterington on 28 October. The result was a hold for the Labour Party, with their candidate George Craddock winning with a majority of 4,022 and 51.3% of the vote. He beat the Liberal National candidate John Lightfoot Windle and the Independent Liberal Colin James Canning.

Northern Ireland
The Northern Ireland General Election was held on 19 February. The Unionists were able to use their majority in the Parliament of Northern Ireland to schedule the election at a time when many Protestants felt uneasy about development south of the border and as a result might be more likely to vote Unionist than for Labour candidates. This appears to have been borne out in the collapse of the Labour vote.
UUP: 37 seats
Nationalist: 9
NI Labour: 0
Independent Labour: 1
Independent Unionist: 2
Independent: 2
Northern Ireland Communist Party: 0
Socialist Republican: 1

Falklands Islands
The General Election was held in February to elect members to the Legislative Council through universal suffrage. It was the first election in the history of the Falkland Islands, electing four out of the twelve Councillors (two from Stanley and one each from East Falkland and West Falkland). Owing to the remoteness of some settlements and the unpredictability of the weather, the election took place over several days.
Stanley: Arthur Leslie Hardy and Charles Luxton
East Falkland: Arthur Grenfell Barton
West Falkland: Keith William Luxton

General elections on 20 December 1949. Although the People's National Party received more votes, the Jamaica Labour Party won a majority of the seats. Voter turnout was 65.2%
People's National Party: 13 seats (+8)
Jamaica Labour Party: 17 seats (-5)
United Party of Jamaica: 0 seats
Other parties: 0 seats
Independents: 2 seats

Northern People's Congress (NPC) is a new political party formed in June to represent the Northern Region.

The Islamic Liberation Front was founded in March 1949 by Babiker Karrar, a student of law at the University of Khartoum. The party has spread amongst University of Khartoum and secondary school students. It is a revivalist Islamic movement.


Saturday, February 16th 2019, 7:38pm

Three deaths, one suicide, and two resignations? Inopportune time to be a Labour MP what? ;(

Can't wait to read the storylines behind these events. :D


Sunday, February 17th 2019, 11:46am

Not a happy set of affairs for sure. More reflective of the ageing original Labour cohort than anything.

Beaumont was the Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (the second Deputy Speaker). While presiding over a debate in the House on 21 September 1948 Beaumont was taken seriously ill and he was forced to resign as Deputy Speaker; he died in a London hospital just over two months later. He was 65.

Adams died aged 64.

House resigned due to ill healh. He died 8 February 1949 aged 56.

Belcher was appointed Steward of the Manor of Northstead, which is a neat method allowing MPs to resign. The post has no actual role or responsibility but remains a nominal paid office of the Crown, appointment which is one of the things that by law disqualify an MP from the House. This principle goes back to the Act of Settlement 1701, and is now regulated by the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975. Since 1624 MPs have not been permitted to resign their seats directly. So this position and that of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham are used to get-out clauses for MPs to resign.
His story is presumed to be the same in WW; formerly a railway clerk, before winning his seat in 1945. In 1946, he was appointed as Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. Belcher was keen to win support for the government in the business community and networked widely, coming into contact with fraudster, illegal immigrant and undischarged bankrupt Sidney Stanley. Stanley being a "fixer" obtained governmental favours for a fee. He arranged gifts for Belcher including a suit, a cigarette case and holiday in Margate, alongside entertainment at various sporting events. He did not pass on the cash he received from such as Harry Sherman, a football pool promoter who was facing prosecution and was seeking government intervention. An enquiry led by Sir George Lynskey subjected Belcher to searching investigation by Attorney-General Sir Hartley Shawcross. The enquiry concluded that Belcher had been influenced in his conduct as a minister and the police were of the view that he could be charged though Shawcross argued that a prosecution would not be in the public interest so long as Belcher resigned. Businessman Robert Liversidge was also implicated but exonerated of all wrongdoing. Blecher went back to being a railway clerk.

Stamford committed suicide, apparently due to a depressive episode due to overwork. He was 67.

Titterington also died of old age, being 63.


Sunday, February 17th 2019, 6:58pm

Ah yes... Belcher - I missed the name on first reading. Schellenburg will be at once satisfied and disappointed. :D


Sunday, February 24th 2019, 2:24pm

The Old Bailey, London, Monday 24 January

Charles Ludicott-Peakes QC, the prosecuting counsel stood up and put his notes down and he turned towards the witness box. "Are you Detective Inspector Grice of Special Branch, Scotland Yard?"
Grice nodded, "Yes Sir, I am Detective Inspector Grice."
"Now, you were the chief investigator of this spy ring? The cases of Messers Aston, Palmer, Setter and Stoben?"
"I was yes."
Peakes looked at his notes. "Perhaps to enlighten the jury you should quickly outline the whole affair and the defendant's role within it?"
Grice opened his notebook, "It was a complicated case. Michael Aston had been under suspicion for some time of espionage activities. Under police surveillance he was seen dropping off materials at a set location where they were collected. Anthony Palmer was arrested in the act of retrieving one of these packets, which was found to contain classified information from a government research establishment. Aston was then detained for questioning. Palmer was a courier, part of a network of agents and in the efforts to roll up this network Horatio Setter was also arrested in the act of trying to retrieve information he had left for Palmer, who of course Setter was unaware was in custody. Our investigations of Aston's background brought to our attention Erich Stoben's possible role in placing Aston near the government research establishment for the purposes of espionage on behalf of another country."
"And you interviewed the defendant ?" Peakes looked up from his papers in his hand.
"Not personally, a colleague interviewed him at the Saint Luke’s Chapel in Wansdworth, London. He was later taken to a police station for questioning but was not charged. We had hoped he might lead us to others in the network but Stoben gave us the slip and left the country."
Peakes smiled and looked towards the jury "So the defendant admitted his own guilt by making a break for freedom? The defendant making his way to Ireland beyond the jurisdiction of the authorities."
Grice looked at Stoben in the box, "Yes Sir, it confirmed all our suspicions of his involvement. Elements of his journey to the Irish Republic gave us reason to believe that he may have been assisted by his paymasters, there are indications a forged passport was used."
"But the defendant is in the dock today, how did he come to be arrested?" Peakes asked.
Grice looked at his notes, "He was arrested attempting to re-enter the country on the Isle of Man packet, he was detained at Heysham and taken for questioning where his identity was confirmed and he charged."
Stoben shifted in the box uneasily and Peakes glanced at the jury "Do you know the reason for the defendant's return to this country?"
Grice shook his head, "No, he gave us some story that he had been kidnapped and dumped on the ferry. But there was no corroborating evidence. Investigations in Belfast were undertaken. Two witnesses claimed to have seen a man and a woman with the defendant before he boarded the ferry but they were not identified at Heysham when the boat docked."
"So as far as you are aware there was no case of police brutality or kidnap?" Peakes beamed, casting a sly glance at Hugh Daventry QC, the defending counsel.
Grice shook his head. "No Sir, there was no evidence of that."
Peakes tugged at his cloak, "Let us return to the charge. You have evidence of the defendant's alleged role in setting up Aston as an agent?"
Grice checked his notes, "Aston was at the YMCA in Brixton when he was approached by the defendant and given a hundred pounds in cash and given a train ticket to Manchester, all under the auspices of the Withington Shelter in Manchester, where Aston spent a short time before moving into the lodgings that the defendant had already arranged for him under the cover provided by his charitable work. Another man, Charles Schrod, had secured Aston a job at the Barely Row public house in Warrington, where Aston was able to overhear conversations by workers from the government establishment. Schrod also recruited Palmer. The defendant identified Schrod. There was no question that the defendant was involved in the creation of the network of agents."
"And did you question this Charles Schrod?"
Grice grimaced, "No Sir, he had already been tipped off and fled to the continent. Interpol are still investigating his case."
Peakes turned to the judge and smiled, "I have no further questions my Lord."

Hugh Daventry QC, the defending counsel stood up.
"Detective Inspector, much has been made of the hundred pounds and its origin. My client denies that he had anything to do with the money and that it was given to him. What makes you so sure it has anything to do with this case?"
Grice's face contorted slightly, "Agents have to paid. No other charity case at the Withington Shelter or at Saint Lukes ever received this amount of money. Aston during his interview left us in no illusion that he was given the money as payment. We assume the money was provided by Charles Schrod via an intermediary and that the defendant knew well enough what the money was for when he received his instructions."
"So there is no evidence to link the money with Schrod or supposed German paymasters?" Daventry hissed.
Grice shook his head, "We have no direct evidence, but there was no evidence the money came from legitimate charity funds and unidentified young man who brought the money to Stoben already knew of Aston's predicament, therefore it seems Stoben was directed to see Aston safely to Manchester and arrange lodgings and give Aston his payment. Several fake bank accounts were found under various aliases used by Palmer with payments to and from persons still unknown to us."
Daventry looked at his notes, "You mentioned the defendant identified this missing Charles Schrod. Yet he denies that he actually knew the man, he says he only met him the one time."
"I don't believe him, he knew him well enough to recognise his face on a photograph and also had a codename for him, Konservendose in German, Tin Can in English. In my experience Sir, this was grounds for more than a hunch that the defendant was involved in a network and that whatever role he played in it, Schrod was a more senior person."
Peakes smiled to himself, seeing Daventry skewer himself, but Daventry recoiled and fired off more questions. “If this is the case then why did you not charge my client at the time?”
Grice shifted in the box, “We had sufficient evidence to do so, but we wanted other people in connection with the network and it was felt that the defendant might have led us to them.”
“That hardly seems normal procedure to me Detective Inspector,” Daventry looked at the jury “by your own admission it seems there are rather a lot of loose ends in this investigation. Unknown people, unknown motives, untraced money, missing people, suspects seemingly able to freely move abroad. I put it to you that in truth that your investigation is incomplete and that any evidence seems to be completely lacking pertaining to my client’s involvement.”

Peakes shot up from his seat before Grice could answer, “My Lord! I object! My learned friend is attacking the reputation and methods of the police force in an unfair and dismissive manner. The witness cannot answer questions of ongoing investigations without prejudicing them.”
The judge nodded and looked at Grice, “Detective Inspector, is this case an ongoing investigation?”
Grice nodded, “Yes my Lord, there is still work ongoing to trace several missing members of the network in this country and abroad.”
“So you cannot possibly comment on the completeness or otherwise of the whole investigation?”
Grice shook his head, “No my Lord, I cannot.”
The judge looked at Peakes, “But do you feel justified that the evidence provided for the State’s prosecution of the defendant is sufficient and that your investigations relating to the defendant are complete at this time?”
Grice nodded, “Yes my Lord, the evidence is complete, we do not feel there is any doubt regarding his case.”
The judge nodded, “Good. Otherwise I would have felt that the State would have been ill advised to bring such a case to court. The objection is overruled and you may continue your cross examination.”
Daventry turned to the bench, “thank you my Lord. However, I must ask my learned friend to indulge me a little longer in questioning police methods. There are some issues with the way the defendant re-entered the country and was arrested that I would like to probe deeper into.” He turned to Grice. “You have stated on oath that there is no evidence that the defendant was coerced into coming back to this country to face arrest. Yet my client strongly denies that he was willingly returned to these shores. You said there were two unidentified people at the docks in Belfast, a man and a women who were seen with the defendant, two more unknown people in this case of unknown people. Do you not find it rather fortuitous that the defendant should miraculously turn up for your fellow officers to arrest?”
Grice checked his notes, “Those were eyewitness reports from the Northern Ireland Constabulary. I agree it was fortuitous but the defendant may have had good reason to return, he may have been trying to contact other members of the network to arrange their escape.”
“May have?” Daventry’s voice was full of scepticism, “I take it your questioning revealed no motive for his return other than he was forcibly brought here. Your speculations are nothing more than that. And as an officer of your experience should know, speculation is not evidence.”
Grice sifted awkwardly, “No Sir, he did not give any other motive under questioning but he was unable to confirm his story. We checked and found no evidence to support his story.”
Daventry turned briefly to the jury before asking his next question, "Do you feel that it is likely that had the defendant been working for a foreign intelligence organisation that they would have risked his return if he did know as much as you claim, especially given the knowledge that he was a wanted man?"
Grice shrugged, "No, I suppose they wouldn't, but it could have been private enterprise on his part. He had at least one alias and forged passport, so he may have rated his chances as good."
"And you can state here today that the police or intelligence services had no hand in his return to this country?"
Grice nodded, "Not as far as I am aware Sir."
Daventry smiled, "Thank you, for at last giving us some facts." he turned to the Judge, "I have no further questions my Lord."


Sunday, February 24th 2019, 7:35pm

Dastardly Northern Irish Constabulary. Shades of the Black & Tans. Up the Republic!



Monday, February 25th 2019, 1:02am


Given the seriousness of the accusation made by Reverend Stobin (Stoben? I've seen both), and the facts as stated, the Irish Garda has reason to believe a crime has possibly been committed, and feels compelled to launch an independent investigation. The Garda therefore respectfully requests that the British authorities assist them by making witnesses available for interviews and establishing facts...

((OOC: don't wish to derail or interject myself into the story, but there does appear to be some suspicious business going on here, and the Irish will be pretty cross if it turns out somebody was kidnapped from their territory to stand trial in the UK, particularly since Ireland has been going the extra mile for good relations...))


Monday, February 25th 2019, 10:05am

I am sure both Scotland Yard and the Northern Irish Constabulary will co-operate with their counterparts in the Garda in the investigation.

(OOC: MI5 will never admit anything publicly, Stoben may claim he was drugged and carted aboard a ferry by two people who slipped ashore before it cast off but he has no evidence. Its not likely Grice or his colleagues would know anything about it either. If suspects are needed then the IRA are perfect scapegoats or even Ulster Unionists.
Stoben (who is not a Reverand but a charity worker) has yet to make his appearance in the witness box. He will be doing so soon.)


Thursday, February 28th 2019, 1:19pm

The Old Bailey, London, Wednesday 26 January

The public gallery was full as the time came for Erich Stoben to take the stand and begin his testimony of what took place.
Tuesday's session had seen the beginning of the case for the defence, led by Hugh Daventry QC. Three character witnesses had been brought forward to testify for Erich's charity work and by implication his loyalty as a naturalised British subject. Charles Ludicott-Peakes QC, was still confident that the case for the defence was quite weak, but of course the allegations of kidnap had proved titillating for the press and could have far reaching implications assuming that Erich's story was true.

Erich looked nervous, as most defendants do standing in the witness box in the most famous court in the land. He was sworn in and Hugh Daventry QC began his examination. The first questions eased Erich into it, simple statements of fact about his role at the Saint Lukes chapel and his charitable works in the East End and now he turned to the circumstances of how he met Michael Aston.
"Well, a young man came to the Chapel, he told me that a man, Aston that is, needed help. That he had fallen on hard times and wanted to get back to Manchester. He told me Aston was staying at the YMCA hostel in Brixton and I went there that afternoon and spoke to Aston and after that I went and arranged train tickets and a bed at the Withington Shelter, who I did a lot of work for in London." Erich explained.
"And this man was known to you?" Daventry asked.
Erich wiped his brow, "No, I didn't know his name."
"But you were expecting this man to arrive?"
Erich nodded, "Yes, I had a cryptic telephone call the day before, saying a man would call on me on a delicate matter."
"What delicate matter was that?" Daventry asked.
"The young man who came with the instructions and the money said he came from one of the diplomatic embassies and that the man had been an employee and needed help and that I needed to be discreet about the whole affair."
"What do you think he meant by employee?"
Erich shrugged, "I didn't know what to think, but in my line of work you meet many people with strange circumstances. I couldn't refuse to help this man so I met the young man and did as he asked."
Daventry looked at the jury "and this man brought you the one hundred pounds to give to Aston?"
Erich nodded, "Yes."
Daventry then moved on to why Erich had bolted to Ireland. "Why did you leave the country in such a hurry after your questioning by the Police?"
Erich wiped his brow again, "I guess I panicked. I knew the Police suspected that I had been part of the network who had been involved, they seemed to know the man who I met and knowing that I was German I was worried they would blame me, so I ran. Knowing people who know people in the criminal world I obtained a passport and fled to Ireland."
Daventry sighed, "It would have looked better for your case had you not run for it, but you did return to this country. You allege you were forced to come back, this may have great bearing on this case and therefore I must ask you to tell the court in your own words what happened."
Erich shifted on his feet. "I was staying in Drogheda. One evening I was in a public house, a man and woman, both seemingly Irish got talking to me. They invited me to a party at another public house just down the road. I remember having a drink then I must have passed out. I woke up aboard a ship, a ferry to Britain. I wanted to try and stay on the board but I couldn't and tried to sneak ashore, where my identity was discovered and I was arrested. I gave descriptions of the man and woman but they were reported not to be on board the ship. I have no recollection of how I got aboard that ship, or even how I came to be in Belfast. I can only say that whoever these people worked for they kidnapped me."
Daventry nodded, "Given you were warned of the discreet nature of Aston's predicament do you think that the intelligence services of Germany or Britain were behind your abduction?"
"It could be either," Erich shrugged, "but given they thought Aston was a spy, it makes more sense my abductors were British."

Soon it was the time for Charles Ludicott-Peakes QC, the prosecuting counsel to cross-examine Erich and his tone was harsher and took little time to attack the weak spots in Erich's testimony.
“Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget, what thou among the leaves hast never known. The weariness, the fever, and the fret, here, where men sit and hear each other groan. I believe you know those words from Coleridge's 'The Nightingale? In your interview with the Police you claimed that these two lines were a code and counter code for identifying each other?”
Erich nodded, "Yes."
"And how did you come to know the poem to recite on meeting him?" Peakes scowled.
"The man on the telephone wanted to take precautions, he said it was a delicate matter." Erich wiped the sweat from his cheeks.
"And you told the Police that the man on the telephone you knew as Konservendose, or in English Tin Can?"
"Are you asking the jury to believe that this 'Tin Can' told you his codename for discreetness? It would seem rather odd for agents of the German Abwehr to tell everyone their codenames on making their acquaintance on the telephone. I put it to you that actually you already knew 'Tin Can'. Detective Inspector Grice has testified in this court that you identified a man known to be Charles Schrod as the same man as 'Tin Man', a man you claim to have never met but only spoken over the telephone. I put it to you this is a pack of lies."
Erich trembled, "No, yes, I mean I knew him, but I mean I met him, once, just once, but I don't know who he was. I assumed he worked at the embassy."
"The German embassy?"
Peakes scowled again, "And did this 'Tin Can' procure you the passport with which you fled to Ireland in the hope of joining him there?"
Erich shook his head, "No, I told you I got it from a friend of a friend."
"If you named this so called friend I feel you would be committing perjury, for you know well enough that you already had a German passport in the name of Stoben and and a British passport in the name of Stoddart. The Police at Heysham confiscated your German passport when you tried to sneak back into the country. Doubtless you had access to other forged passports as well in your role as middle man in this network."
Erich shook his head, "No, I had no other passports."
Peakes took up the baton again, "As to your return, the Police have found no evidence to corroborate your story. A man and woman were seen helping you onto the ferry in Belfast in your sickness or drunkenness but there are no witnesses of such a couple appearing in the public houses of Drogheda. I put it to you that you tried to sneak back into this country, either to clear your own name or on the bidding of your paymasters."
Erich shifted in the box, "No, that is not true. But I am in this court giving you freely my side to clear my name regardless."

After the questions, Justice of Her Majesty's High Court of Justice Sir Roland P. Hewitt, called for a recess. All that remained was for the prosecution and the defence to sum up their cases and then for the jury to retire and come to their verdict.


Thursday, March 7th 2019, 1:51pm

The Old Bailey, London, Friday 28 January

After hearing the prosecution and the defence sum up their cases, the jury retired to discuss the case amongst themselves.
After several hours of deliberations the jury returned having agreed a verdict on Erich Stoben's case. Justice of Her Majesty's High Court of Justice Sir Roland P. Hewitt asked the spokesperson what the verdict was, he replied "Guilty".

The court then proceeded to sentencing the four defendants.

Judge Hewitt addressed the four defendants.
"This case has been one of the most serious I have encountered during my tenure on the Bench. Espionage for a foreign country is an extremely serious matter, especially when defence secrets are at stake. Three of you have confessed your guilt to these crimes and I trust you are prepared to pay your debt to this nation, helping the authorities in their investigations is only part of repaying that debt, especially when you have attempted to so grievously harm your own nation for your own enrichment. This is a despicable enough act and the potential risk you have put to others lives is a great shame on your shoulders that you alone must bear the burden for. One of you of course has added to his foul deeds by biting the hand that feeds him. An alien taken in after the war, a man of the church expecting mercy and shelter and finding it here. Yet this man used his good works to shield his involvement in espionage against his new home. He still believed in the old cause and was prepared to follow his creed regardless. You should think yourself lucky that charges of treason were not brought by the prosecution. It is now my duty to do my part in protecting the state and having been found guilty of the charges arraigned against you I will now pronounce punishment.

Michael Aston, you have pleaded guilty to the charges brought by this court. For the offence of espionage under the Official Secrets Acts of 1911, you are liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years. Due to the severity of your crime we feel duty bound to impose the maximum penalty allowed and hereby sentence you to fourteen years imprisonment.

Anthony Charles Palmer, you have pleaded guilty to the charges brought by this court. This court could sentence you for two counts under the Official Secrets Act totaling twenty-eight years of imprisonment, but in view of the nature of your involvement and willingness to show remorse for your crimes we commit you to a single term of fourteen years imprisonment.

Herbert Horatio Setter, you have pleaded guilty to the charges brought by this court and therefore we sentence you to ten years imprisonment.

Erich Stoben, you have been found guilty of the charges brought by this court by a jury of your peers. As an agent for another nation and the seriousness of your treachery this court feels constrained to commit you to the maximum term allowed for these offences, fourteen years imprisonment.


Thursday, March 7th 2019, 3:35pm

Interesting outcome. In the end it would seem Aston and Palmer gained little for their pleas as compared to Stoben, who will no doubt appeal his conviction. I also suspect that Aston - to assure his silence on his former connection with 'the Service' might get several years off for good behavior, once the hue and cry has died down. Good job! 8)


Friday, March 8th 2019, 1:58pm

That is true, for public consumption the court had to be relatively harsh to send a message that spies will be banged up if caught.
True, Aston got little but then he did desert the service. He may get out in 10 years if he's a good lad.
Palmer could have got 28 years, so a 14 year deduction is pretty hefty for him.
Setter got just 4 years off but being small fry I'm sure he will only serve 5-6 years.
Stoben may appeal but is unlikely to be successful, even if he *was* kidnapped, it doesn't alter the fact he was involved with dubious contacts at the German embassy.

Politically the government will be happy with the convictions and won't make a big deal of the German angle in public. In the background, they are still looking for Schrod.