World War One: Eleven Shot At Dawn In Tower Of London

Lody was one of the 11 German spies who served in the First World War and was shot in the Tower of London. At the scene he was described as walking “steadily, stiffly upright, and yet as easily and unconcerned as though he were going to a tea party, instead of to his death.” After that, the prisoner was taken inside the shed and killed by one single volley, according to the writings of John Fraser, a Yeoman Warder in 1914.

Dr Sally Dixon-Smith, Historic Royal Palaces Curator believes it is “really extraordinary” that 11 spies were executed at night, at a major tourist attraction famous for holding the Crown Jewels. Smith said that more people were shot dead at the Tower of London during the 20th Century than under the Tudors.

According to author Len Sellers, who wrote Shot In The Tower, a book about German spies from the First World War, the Tower of London was selected as location for executions, due to its sinister appearance and reputation. “It was thought it would put a chill in the mind of an enemy spy and it might put him off doing what he was doing because he might be shot there,” wrote Sellers.

British Intelligence conducted several operations through which they intercepted letters, telegrams and newspapers that spies had sent and this way most of them were arrested. Ms Dixon Smith explained how they were being caught. Apparently, most spies used lemon juice and peppermint oil instead of ink, which made the writing invisible. They were usually arrested because they were carrying lemons and pen nibs with them. Also, the nibs were really corroded because of the acid in the lemon juice, used to write their messages.

British Intelligence could easily break any primitive codes, for example the ones used to order cigars and sardines. However, not all the spies were German. There there was also one from  Latvia, two men from the Netherlands, one from Sweden, a Turk and three others from South America, the BBC News reports.

Lody was staying in Edinburgh and was often sending information on German warships in the Firth of Forth. An officer who served with the Honourable Artillery Company, Adrian Hill witnessed another execution, of spy Carl Muller, of whom, he said, spoke very good English and shared his life story with him. ‘ I got to know him so well,’ said Mr Hill. Although it was supposed to be a long night for the prisoner, Hill said he appreciated the fact that Muller was able to sleep before his death.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE