- 'Tales of the Spies'
- and Their Dangerous Missions
- told by Secret Service Men of Several Countries
Revelations of Methods and Daring Adventures
spies as seen in popular penny novels
It is estimated that more than a hundred thousand spies and agents have been in the service of the various countries during the War. Several thousand have been captured and several hundred have been executed. The German spy system in the United States alonr was a powerful organization at the beginning of the war. But the American Secret Service, one of the greatest organizations of its kind in existence, thwarted their plots, interned them in large numbers, and drove such men as Boy-Ed and von Papen from our shores. The interception of (he Zimmerman note to Mexico, the revelations of the Swedish duplicity in Argentine, the discovery of Bolo, the French financier, the plots in India and hundreds of others have been exposed by the genius of the United Secret Service. Most of these stories cannot be told until long after the War, but a few of them, gathered from American and European sources, are told here.
I How the Spies Work in Europe
THE extraordinary ingenuity shown by spies in securing the plans of other countries' fortifications has been amply illustrated in the war, although, of course, we know but a little part of what the spies have accomplished.
A woman was caught at the French frontier seeking to enter Switzerland and presumably intending to return to Germany or Austria. She was thoroughly searched by a matron, as is customary in such cases, but nothing was found.
Certain actions of hers, however, had given rise to serious suspicions, and one of the cleverest officers of the French Secret Service was detailed to examine her. He applied several tests to her. He finally obtained what he wanted by seating her, in an undraped condition, tied to a chair, before a warm fire.
"Brutes, you are going to burn me alive!" she shrieked as she was forced into a chair.
"Be calm, madame," said the officer. "We only want to admire your beautiful back."
There appeared on the ample back of this fair-haired lady an elaborate design. To the experienced eye of the officer it represented a plan of one of the most important French fortresses. The number of guns, their sizes and positions were shown. The angles, sallies and extent of the fortifications were clearly indicated. The weak spots in the defense were made clear. This fortress had been entirely made over since the outbreak of the war, and it was of vital importance to the Germans to know its present arrangements.
A German spy in France, evidently a man with military knowledge, had obtained access to the fortress, but there was but slight chance of his getting home with his knowledge. He had, therefore, used the young woman as an innocent looking agent.
The master spy had traced the plans on her back with sulphate of copper. This liquid leaves no mark on the skin under normal conditions, but when exposed to considerable heat it shows up dark blue. For further secrecy, it is stated, the plan of the fortress was concealed within another design in the manner described by General Sir Robert Baden-Powell. He carried with him an illustrated book on butterflies and from this he made what would appear to be specimens of butterflies seen in the surrounding country. Then when he had obtained the details of a fortress he drew them in among the complicated markings on the wings of the butterfly. There they would escape notice by any but the most expert "spy trappers."
Miss Sari Petrass, the beautiful Hungarian dancer, who was for some time a great favorite in London, is reported to have been shot in Budapest as a spy. She is, supposed to have been engaged in gathering military information in her native country for the benefit of England, where she made her greatest artistic success.
When war began, the actress was starring in "The Marriage Market," a Hungarian operetta, at Daly's Theatre in London. She immediately returned to Budapest, but instead of continuing on the stage began a round of social activities.
She wrote letters to the British army authorities, it is charged, which were sent by way of Switzerland in the in the care of young Austrian officers, who had been beguiled by her charms. It is said she was betrayed by one of her dupes in a fit of jealousy. Although an actress, she had a high social position and was a niece of the Countess Ilka Kinsky, one of the most prominent members of the Austro- Hungarian nobility.
Miss Petrass, according to the report which reached her friends in Cleveland, Ohio, was put to death immediately her acts were discovered. When taken to the place of execution she fainted and was unconscious when shot. The announcement of her execution was the first news her family had of the charges against her.
The method of concealing plans of fortifications on the skin of a spy, already referred to, has been employed with many variations. In time of war or when suspicion of spies is very keen, it is likely to be very useful. Then, again, women are usually called upon to carry this kind of information, because they are less subject to suspicion and watchfulness.
Tattooing plans on a woman's skin has often been resorted to in past wars, but the anti-spy officers are now so keen that this way is no longer reliable. Various forms of writing on the skin, which only become visible under certain conditions, have, therefore, been tried. One form of this has already been mentioned. Plans and messages are also written in nitrate of silver, which becomes visible and black on exposure -to sunlight. The writing is also done with phosphorus, so that it is only visible in the dark, but that lasts a few hours only.
Women have shown extraordinary ingenuity in carrying information during the present war. One wore a large pair of pearl earrings, which, when examined, proved to be stuffed with long messages. Another had a little woolly pet dog, whose tail was found to be artificial and filled with military plans. Another carried a message scratched on the plate of her false teeth.
When it has been found impossible for a human spy to reach a fortress, birds have been employed. Carrier pigeons are fitted with miniature cameras fastened across their breasts by exceedingly fine wires. These are fitted with a time lock which ensures their exposure at a certain time.
The pigeons are released by spies at a place from which they will be sure to fly over the fortress on their way home. A pigeon flies in circles on its journey, and it is certain that during part of its flight over the fortress the camera shutter will be released. A series of pictures taken in this way will give a very complete plan of the defenses to the enemy.
Although immediate execution follows the discovery of a spy or perhaps even the suspicion of espionage, thousands of persons are found willing to undertake the work during this war. It has been truly said that the highest form of heroism is to undertake spy duty for one's country. Nothing can be more awful than the fate of the spy caught and executed amid the hate and fear of the thousands who. surround him. Many photographs sent from the seat of war show how the European armies make the death of the spy terrible.
The Germans are universally admitted to be more skilful spies than the British, and yet Gen- Baden-Powell performed some remarkable spying tricks. He tells how he got into a new German dockyard and made observations under the nose of several policemen:
"Inside a great, high wall lay a dockyard, in which, it was rumored, a new power house was being erected, and possibly a dry dock was in course of preparation.
"The scaffolding of the new house towered above me, and a ladder led upward on to it. Up this I went like a lamplighter, keeping one eye on the corner of the building lest I should be followed.
"Presently I found a short ladder leading from my platform to the stage below, but it did not go to the ground. Peering quietly over the scaffolding, I saw my friend the policeman below, still at fault. I blessed my stars that he was no tracker, and. therefore had not seen my footmarks leading to the foot of the ladder.
"Then I proceeded to take note of my surroundings and to gather information. Judging from the design of the building, its great chimneys, etc., I was actually on the new power-house. From my post I had an excellent view over the dockyard, and within one hundred feet of me were the excavation works of the new dock, whose dimensions I could easily estimate."
"All these duties (of espionage) are subdivided among agents of every grade, from Ambassadors and their attaches downward. Naval and military officers are sent to carry out special investigations by all countries, and paid detectives are stationed in likely centres to gather information."
The General further says that the military information that a country voluntarily gives to a foreign attaché is usually of little value, and therefore he must take secret means to inform himself. (Told in New York American.)
Mata-Hari as Javenese dancer
II Story of Mlle. Mata Hari, Dutch Javanese Dancer
The story of Mata Hari, the beautiful dancing girl, who as a German spy discovered the information about the British "tanks" before they arrived at the Battle of the Somme, is one of the most romantic of the War. She was found guilty of espionage and condemned to death by a military court martial presided over by Col. Sempron.
"Accused did wilfully and maliciously, and against the interest of la Patrie, communicate information of military value to the enemy concerning our offensive of the summer of 1916," read the verdict that sent her to a cell in Saint Lazare Prison awaiting the dawn which means her death.
"Eye-of-the-Morning" is English for the Javanese pet name "Mata-Hari" the stage name of Mme. Marguerite Gertrude Zeile Macleod, first known in Paris, and latterly all over Europe, as a dancer whose specialty was the representing of Far- Eastern legends and fables according to the terpsichorean art. ...
One of the most important and spectacular events of the only Allied offensive of 1916 was the appearance in action of the newest engine of war the so-called tank. As with any innovation, the success of the tank depended largely on the element of surprise attaching to its debut. Therefore, the strictest secrecy marked the planning, the construction, and the shipment of tanks to the Somme, where they first went into action. But of course a certain number of people in England and in France knew about the tanks or "creme-de-menthes" as they were first called in Paris because each one is named like a ship and one called after the famous green liqueur. It took a good many months to construct the first fleet, and a good many weeks to train the first crews to stand the jerky, rolling, pitching, lumbering gait of the mobile forts. During that period the circle of people "in the know" increased, and Mata-Hari was one of those who heard about the curious landships.
Where Mata-Hari obtained her first tip on the tanks has not yet been disclosed. And that is one reason why the "memoirs" which she is writing in her cell at Saint Lazare prison are being awaited with fear and anxiety by at least one person, and with the liveliest interest by the world at large,
It is rumored that a Deputy inadvertently gave her the first information about tanks. And the rumor is strengthened by the fact that Mata-Hari had plenty of coal for her apartment during the fuel famine in winter. That in itself is proof enough to everybody of her intimacy with some high official, as few people short of Deputies had influence enough to obtain a hundred-weight of coal during the bitter months of January, February and March.
In any event, Mara-Hari learned vaguely of tanks early in 1916, when the Krupp guns of the Crown Prince were daily booming nearer and nearer to Verdun in that terrific struggle which was to mark the turning point of the war. Mata-Hari also learned that the tanks were being constructed in England and would be shipped to France via certain ports and she got the names of the ports.
Then Mata-Hari decided she must return to her native country, Holland. For, with all her Javanese appellation, she was born near Rotterdam, although it is true she went to the Dutch East Indies when a tiny child. She gave ass reason for going to Holland the fact that she had married a Dutch army officer with a Scotch name Capt. Macleod, that they had divorced, and she wished to arrange a settlement of their common property.
Her passports were made out, and safe conducts granted for a trip to Holland, via England, of course, as that is the only way to get into the Low Countries from the Allied side.
Mata-Hari went to England. But before she proceeded to Holland, as Secret Service agents of the British and French Governments ascertained, she visited a certain English manufacturing city, where, it so happened, the tanks were being constructed.
Evidently Mata-Hari did not find out much about the tanks there, as not a man connected with their construction ever passed through the gates of the high brick wall which surrounded the factory during the six months that the first "fleet" was building. The men were boarded, entertained and employed here continually. Every letter they sent out or received was subjected to the most rigorous censorship.
The dancer proceeded to Rotterdam. Investigation there has since proved that she had no "communal rights property" to settle with any one, and further that Capt. Macleod of the Dutch Army was known among his fellow officers as pronouncedly pro-German.
Soon Mata-Hari returned to Paris. She was seen at the Cafe de Paris and at Maxim's, and at Armenonville in the Bois with an English officer who wore on the lapel of his collar, an insignia denoting his branch of service, a little twisted brass dragon. Months later, when more of these badges were seen on British officers passing through Paris, it became known that the dragon was of the official insignia denoting service with the tanks.
Mata-Hari sported a new bauble soon after taking up with the Englishman a jewelled replica of his gold insignia her dragon had real emeralds for eyes, and a carrot-shaped ruby for a tongue darting from its opened fangs.
In May, 1916, a little more than a month before the Somme offensive opened and tanks were first used, Mata-Hari appeared before the police magistrate of her district and requested a safe conduct to visit a certain port in France. The reason she gave was that her fiancé, an English officer, was seriously wounded and in hospital there. He had sent for her to come to see him. Perhaps they would be married at his deathbed if he could not recover, she volunteered, dabbing at her eyes with a lace handkerchief.
The safe conduct was made out, and Mata-Hari arrived at a certain French port almost simultaneously with the first consignment of tanks shipped over from England.
Now a tank of the early type was 35 feet long, 12 feet wide and 9 feet high, and the caterpillar tractors rumbling under it and over it and around it made a terrible din, attracting the attention of people for great distances around. And because of the weight of the tanks they could not be moved by rail, but had to travel under their own power. It was impossible, therefore, to wholly hide the monsters from inhabitants of that particular French port, and from the townspeople in the French villages through which they passed on the way to the Somme front. Of course most of the travelling was done by night, and tarpaulins were always draped over the armed and armored behemoths.
But there did not seem to be much necessity for precautions, as nearly all of the inhabitants of the districts through which the tanks passed remained stolidly right there where they were. Few indeed were as lucky as Mata-Hari and able to get safe conducts to travel about. But then few were as beautiful and alluring as the dancer.
Mata-Hari remained in the French port for a week. She strolled about the town at night and explained to the hotel clerks that she could not sleep without taking a certain amount of exercise before retiring, and that after being accustomed to gay life in Paris, she was not tired * until after midnight.
It was on June I, exactly a month before Gens. Haig and Foch began their drive astride the Somme, that Mata-Hari returned to Paris. And the first thing she did was to apply for a vise on her passport permitting her to go to Spain. San Sebastian was the place she mentioned, as she explained she wished to attend the horse races there. Her papers were stamped and sealed and she left almost immediately for the fashionable winter resort in the south.
Madrid, Spain, and Nauen, Germany, are in constant wireless communication. There are other radio stations, privately owned in Spain, which can flash messages to Germany, according to Allied intelligence officers who have investigated. And of course there are innumerable German agents, spies and propaganda disseminators infesting the land of the Dons.
Secret Service reports disclose the fact that Mata-Hari was seen much in company at San Sebastian race track with a man long looked upon with suspicion by the French Government. He was a frequent caller upon her at the hotel where she stopped, and it was reported that he made good many of the big bets she placed on horses that did not materialize as winners.
Soon Mata-Hari came back to Paris and the apartment near the Bois de Bologne. And once more the limousine owned by the individual whom rumor has branded a Deputy, began rolling up to her door twice a week and sometimes oftener.
Then came the simultaneous Franco-British offensive at the Somme. Tanks went into action for the first time, and according to Gen. Haig's official communiqué his "land ships achieved satisfactory results."
The tanks did achieve satisfactory results. More than that, they revolutionized offensive tactics on favorable terrain by advancing immune against rifle and machine gun bullets, or even against light trench mortars whose shells exploded at a touch. They smashed by sheer weight strong points and machine gun emplacements. They straddled trenches, enfilading the occupants and crushed in entrances to dugouts.
But several of the tanks were put out of action and not by stray shells hurtling forward from far behind the German lines. They were knocked out by small calibre PENETRATION shells, fired from 37 millimetre trench cannons the largest guns that can be handled from advanced positions. Guns specially built and rifled, and fired at high velocity and flat trajectory, so that, unlike any shell ever coughed up by a mortar, they penetrated the object struck even though it were steel before exploding.
Instantly it became evident that the enemy had become aware of what was in store for him and had constructed an "anti-tank" gun. And when the booty in the captured German positions was examined, the British found they had several good specimens of Krupp's newest weapon. Several German officers of higher rank taken prisoners confirmed suspicions, by explaining they had received description of the tanks several weeks before, and had been instructed how to combat them.
Now Mata-Hari is awaiting death and writing as she waits. She is penning her memoirs rapidly, filling scores of pages a day in a polyglot of French, German, Dutch, Javanese, Japanese and even English, according to the mood she is in, says the prison warder.
And because she fears her history will not be finished before that unannounced daybreak when she will be placed blind-folded before the high stone wall facing a firing squad of French soldiers, she has ordered herlawyer, M. Edouard Clunet, to plead for a stay of execution.
So Mata-Hari writes feverishly, and all Paris waits . eagerly except the one who waits apprehensively to see if she will name the "ami" who gave her the first inkling of the tanks.
Pinned to the corsage of the Empire-cut black silk dress which Mata-Hari wears in her narrow cell in Saint Lazare Prison is a curious gold brooch. It is shaped like a twisted dragon, and its eyes are emeralds and its darting tongue a carrot- shaped ruby.
"It will be there right over my heart when I go away when I stand before those men with guns aimed to kill me," says Mata-Hari. (Told in the New York World.)
(Since these stories were written Mata-Hari has gone to her death blindfolded before the firing squad. She met her execution stoically.)
official French detention photo
III Adventurous Life of Mata-Hari
This is told by a man who for obvious reasons will not allow his name to be used:
"I knew Mata-Hari in Paris. I called on her at her home at Nieully-sur-Seine. The sinister character in Dumas' great romance was not more cunning or adventurous nor played for higher stakes than did Mile. Mata-Hari. In many respects their histories should be printed in parallel columns. But I believe that for adventure, for cunning, for her great influence over the destiny of those with whom she came in contact, Mile. Mata-Hari was more dreadful than 'Miladi.'
"Her father was a subject of the Netherlands and her mother was a Javanese. He died when she was an infant, and in order to protect her from the dangers which beset a young girl of mixed blood in the East her mother fled from Java with her when she was three years old and entered Burma. There, to further protect her, she pledged her to celibacy and placed her in a Buddhist temple to learn dancing. Then it appeared that her destiny would be not unlike that of thousands of other young girls in that country and similar in many respects to that of the old vestals of ancient Greece. In Burma these dancers are called bayadere.
"She told me that when she was twelve years old she was disgusted with life and was determined to change it or end it. After a dance at a great Buddhist festival in Burma, when she was about fourteen years old, she saw a British officer and fell in love with him. It was her first love affair. She managed to escape from the temple and joined him. This man was a baronet and loved her. Finally they married. Two children, a boy and a girl, were born of their union.
"I do not believe that she ever loved any man. It is certain that she did not love her husband. At any event, the monotonous life of a British official's wife was more than she could stand. The climax came when a maid whom she had beaten and discharged caused one of her gardeners to poison her infant son.
"The tragic sequence and scandal which followed the death of her son still is remembered by old timers in India. She started an investigation of the killing independent of the British authorities, and finally, in her own mind, fixed the guilt on one of her gardeners. She took a revolver, and, walking into the garden where the man was working, shot him dead.
"She was arrested, but owing to the high position occupied by her husband everything possible was done to suppress the scandal. Finally she was told -that she would have to leave British India. It was just what she wanted to do. She left her home in the night, stealing her daughter from her husband. She made her way to Marseilles and thence to Holland, where she placed her daughter in a convent. Then she went straight to Paris, where she learned that she was penniless, the small fortune which her father had left her having, under the Dutch law, passed to her child. Then she set about to captivate Paris. Not satisfied with her conquest, she went to Berlin, to Petrograd, to Vienna she travelled over all Europe and became one of the most talked of women on the Continent.
"She met many men. One of them was a wealthy German, who was a high official of the Berlin government. He bought a home for her at Nieully-sur-Seine and furnished it in a style that was representative of what was most truly Oriental splendor. There the two of them lived. It was there that I first saw her.
"Soon she tired of this German. He was extremely jealous of her. Always her art her dancing called to her. He would not let her dance. There were many 'scenes' at home. Her life was not happy, despite the wealth at her disposal.
"Then she met a one-time Minister of Finance, .of France, and, through him, his brother-in-law. He fell in love with her and she with him.
"This man was at that time the managing director of a great Paris bank. He deserted his wife and bought a magnificent chateau in Touraine. For two years they lived there. Then, one day, the police entered the bank and arrested the managing director. He was charged with embezzling the funds of the institution. He was tried and convicted and sentenced to two years at hard labor. The woman then went back to the German official at Neuilly-sur-Seine. They were living there when I left France four years ago." (Told in the New York Herald.)
a Russian spy in city and rural disguise
IV Story of the Execution of Susanna Raynal
This is the story of a French young woman who was executed by the French military authorities in Bellegarde, the little Franco-Swiss frontier village.
Women have figured prominently as spies in every war. In this war their role has also been conspicuous. Some have betrayed their country for money, others have betrayed it for the love of adventure, and still others have betrayed it for the sake of love following blindly the men who lead them astray along the fascinating and dangerous path of crime. This young woman was a victim of love.
Not a word has been written about her death. Not a sigh, not a tear, not a prayer from her friends and relatives. For they did not know what had become of her. The French newspapers did not record the end of this woman, who paid with her life for her daring, mad desire to help her Austrian lover, who sought to secure French military secrets.
Her name was Susanna Raynal. She was the wife of Louis Raynal. a lieutenant in the artillery of the French army. She was twenty-eight years old when she was put to death. The husband, twelve years her senior, was at the front when she was shot. Her lover was shot with her. He broke down, quivering and crying hysterically while she kept bracing him up, repeating: "Have no fear! Have no fear!"
She begged the officers to have them shot together, not separately. She declined to be blindfolded, held her lover by the hand and kept murmuring "Have no fear! Have no fear!" ...
Several weeks ago I met in Paris a distinguished French diplomatist with whom I discussed many incidents of the war. Our conversation turned to the many varieties of spies and provocateurs and to the motives that prompted them to betray their country.
Then he told me the story of this young woman who met her end so bravely at the French-Swiss frontier. There were tears in his voice as he related the details. For he knew the woman and he knew her husband.
"I was returning from London to Paris a few weeks ago," he said. "Just as we were reaching Boulogne, on the boat crossing the Channel, while I was in line in the dining room of the boat where the passports were being examined by the military officers, I heard behind me a familiar voice, whispering in German, 'Furchte doch nicht!' (Don't be afraid!)
"I turned and saw the wife of my friend, a French lieutenant who was at the front. She felt somewhat embarrassed when she noticed me, but immediately advanced toward me and introduced to me a tall young man of rather anti-pathetic appearance.
" 'This is my husband's friend,' she said to me. 'He was kind enough to help me arrange my business affairs in London. Louis is at the front.
"Upon our arrival in Paris she asked me to visit her soon. She said she wanted me to advise her in a certain important matter, that she was alone now, that I could help her with letters of introduction, for which she would be most grateful. She urged me to visit her the following evening. I promised to call on her and bade her farewell.
"On the following evening, when I came to her house, her maid met me at the door and said that madam was expecting me for dinner an hour later. I asked her to tell Mme. Raynal that I had another engagement for dinner.
"A few minutes later Mme. Raynal came out. As I mentioned before, she was a beautiful young woman of about twenty-eight. She was most charmingly dressed. She greeted me warmly and begged me to stay for dinner. I told her I had another important engagement. She implored me to stay. She said she was alone, and that she wished to talk with me about a matter of great importance, in which she desired to enlist my aid. I said that I would call on her some other evening.
"Then she told me that she wished to visit friends in Switzerland, that she had some manuscripts of a literary character she wanted to take to them, and that she wished me to give her letters of introduction to several people, among them the Minister of War. I promised to call on her the following evening.
"As I bade her good night, she kissed me and begged me to break my other engagement and take dinner with her. I repeated that it was impossible. Then I left her. As I walked down the stairs, I noticed the tall young man I had met with her at Boulogne, going up in the elevator to her apartment. That seemed more than strange to me.
"The next morning I chanced to be lunching in a café where I occasionally met my friend, the head of the secret police department. In the course of my conversation I told the peculiar story of the woman and the young man, without mentioning- her name. The police chief listened intently and then said:
" 'I think I know the woman. We are watching her. We are also watching the man closely. He is an Austrian. They seem to be engaged in a serious political conspiracy.'
"About two weeks later I met the head of the secret police department in the same cafe. He said to me:
" 'Do you know what has happened to' that woman Susanna Raynal?'
" 'I haven't seen her since then,' I replied.
" 'You will never see her again,' he said. 'She has been shot.'
"And then he told me how the police had shadowed her and her lover, how some one who had made her acquaintance recently gave her a letter of introduction to the Ministry of War. She wanted to help the Austrian carry certain documents out of France and wished to get a special letter from the Minister of War permitting her to take what she called 'manuscripts' to her friends in Switzerland.
"She came to the Ministry of War with her lover. They were taken to a room, where they met an officer who told her that he would be glad to arrange the matter for her. Then the police did what is usually done in such cases. The officer walked out of the room for a short time, leaving on the table near them a number of important-looking documents. The man took some of these documents, and after the officer had returned and had given them the letter they asked for they went away.
"On the following day they reached Bellegarde, the Franco-Swiss frontier. They were searched, and the papers taken from the War Department were found on the woman. Within one hour both were shot. She met her death bravely. She held the man by the hand and tried to brace him up. He was crying helplessly and hysterically. . . .
"A few days ago I received information that Lieutenant Louis Raynal, the husband of the woman who was executed in Bellegarde, fell on the battlefield recently. He passed away without learning of the tragedy that had befallen his home.
"He died in defense of his fatherland, which his wife, through her blind love for a spy, had endeavored to betray. Perhaps as he was dying of his wounds, his last thoughts and prayers were for his home and for his wife." (Told by Herman Bernstein in the New York American.)
an Austrian spy executed in Russia
V Stories of the Military Secrets
The Paris papers contained a brief paragraph telling of a young girl, a milliner, in the neighborhood of Grenoble, who had been caught playing the spy for the Germans and sentenced to a long term of imprisonment.
"We don't shoot women spies any more," said a soldier from the Somme front to whom I spoke of the story. "There have been no women shot for a long time. They generally get about twelve years at hard labor."
"Are you as much troubled as ever by spies ?" I asked.
He laughed. "As long as there is war there will be spies," he replied. "You can't stamp them out. The only thing you can do is to try to catch them. It was only a few weeks ago that we caught a woman spy on the Somme.
"You remember when we took Bouchavesnes ? Well, there was not much left of the village when we got it. Our artillery had knocked it pretty well to pieces, but we found an old woman there. She had remained all through the German occupation, and had even managed to hide and stay behind when all the rest of the civil population had evacuated. She was in a cellar during our bombardment, and when we went into the town she came out to welcome us, the only one of the original French inhabitants of the village remaining. As it was French again, she insisted on remaining. It was her home and she had succeeded in clinging on all the time the Germans were there. She saw no reason why she should go when the French came back into occupation.
"She stayed and did our washing for us. She was busy all the time, and every morning she would take the , wet clothes out and spread them on the ground to dry. You could see soldiers' shirts and underwear all around the cellar where she lived, and hanging on all the posts and pieces of wall.
"The old woman pottered around and worked most industriously at her tubs. She always came out when there were troops going through the village and she would talk to the men, find out where they were going, where they came from and how long they expected to be there. And whenever she came out from her tubs she would go to her wash, lying out to dry, examine it, turn it over, rearrange it. She was a wonderful washwoman. It was a mania with her, having everything just right for the French soldiers, who had won back her home for her in France.
"But the Germans seemed to know every concentration of troops we made in that region. Their shells received us every time. We could not make a move that they did not know all about. We set three men to the special duty of finding out how the Germans got their information. The first thing they found out was that there were more air fights over Bouchavesnes than at any other part of the line. There seemed to be always a Boche aeroplane hovering over the ruins. They decided that there must be something about Bouchavesnes which made it a particularly good observation point. As the old woman was the only thing that distinguished the place from any other ruined village, they arrested her.
"At first she denied everything, but the German accuracy in bombarding our concentrations ceased with her arrest. It does not take a long argument to convince a drumhead court-martial, and the old woman saw that the game was up. She then claimed to be French, and said that she had consented to spy for the Germans partly under threats, partly because her life had been spared by them, and partly because they had paid her well, and she had no other way of getting any money to live. Finally, she acknowledged that she was German and had been purposely left behind to spy when the Germans got out. She got twelve years at hard labor."
"Spies work all kinds of tricks. There was the old fellow who came back to his farm just behind the lines and started to do his fall ploughing with three horses, a red, a white and a black. He did his signalling by changing the position of the white horse in the team. He was easy to catch, as a team, especially a plough team, always works in the same order. Some of our men who were farmers noticed how he was constantly changing his horses about. They talked about it among themselves a bit and at last one of them spoke of it to an officer. The alleged farmer was investigated and shot.
"Spies are almost sure to get a certain length of time to do their work before they are caught. We ran across a blacksmith who was one of the most congenial fellows you ever met. He had his shop right beside one of the main roads used by the troops in going back and forth to the trenches and he always had a stock of wine and something to eat. His shop did not keep him very busy and he was nearly always at his door. He would talk to the soldiers, give them a drink, ask where they were going and want to know how long they would be gone, so that he would be waiting to give them another glass of wine when they came back. He was very popular with the soldiers, because he was such a good fellow, always ready with a joke and a glass of wine.
"But our concentrations were known .to the Boches. Our men were being shot down. We never could prepare anything in advance and bring it off successfully, because the Boches knew just where we were getting ready to do something. Some of our spy catchers got to work to find the leak. They hunted through the sector for the best place to pick up news about troop movements and they found, of course, that all the soldiers were friendly with the blacksmith. His shop was raided one day. He had been left behind by the Germans. He had a three months' store of wine and food in his cellar. Of course, he could give our men wine. But he had, also, direct telephonic communication from his cellar with the German lines. He was shot.
"The worst case that I ever knew of but it was not the only one of the kind was an officer in the French army who was a German spy. You can see from that how thorough the Boches are. That man had been sent from Germany to France when he was a boy. He had been educated in France and had gone to the French military schools. He was an artillery officer and one of the best. He was a lieutenant at the beginning of the war, but when the Somme offensive began he was a captain in command of a battery. For all that time he had done his work without being suspected.
"On the Somme he was in charge of his battery, which was firing ahead of our men during an advance. The battery got a signal that their range was too short and they were firing into our own men. The sergeant told the captain, but he said they were firing according to orders and not to change the range. The battery fired another round and got another signal from the infantry that they were firing short. The sergeant spoke to the captain again and the captain lost his temper and swore at the sergeant. He ordered another round at the same range and the sergeant refused. The captain tried to fire one of the guns himself.
"It was very important for the Germans to stop our advance at that point. It might have saved Combles. But the sergeant knew as much about the situation as the captain. He knew what it meant to have our troops stopped there. We might have lost a brigade. . We might have lost a division. He threatened the captain with a rifle and arrested him. It is something to arrest your own captain, but the sergeant did it, and there was a drumhead court-martial and the captain was shot. He confessed, when he saw it was all up with him, and bragged of the two years he had escaped being caught and of what he had done. He was brave enough, but Well, think of it! Educated in France, an officer in the French Army, living at the expense of France, living a lie for ten years, waiting for 'the day' to betray those who trusted him. It takes a German to do that." (Told by Fred B. Pitney in the New York Tribune.)
from a British magazine
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