British Military & Criminal History:

1900 to 1999.



Home - Spying - First World War - Albert Meyer


Albert Meyer was the penultimate spy executed at The Tower of London during World War One.

Albert Meyer

At the time his arrest, Albert Meyer was 22 years old, described as 5 feet 7 inches tall.

He had worked in Hamburg, Seville and Pamplona before arriving in the UK during June 1914, started working as a cook at Cabins Ltd, Oxford Street, London. He then worked as a waiter in Blackpool, before returning to live in various lodging in London's Soho area. He tended to move around, as he kept making promises about paying his rent to his various landladies, but not usually paying it.

On 22 March 1915, Meyer asked for permission to travel to Copenhagen via Flushing and Germany, stating that he was Dutch, with Dutch parents born in Constantinople. Although his request was investigated, he was allowed to leave the country. He returned to the UK during May 1915, and moved into lodgings in the Soho area. On 20 May 1915, Albert Meyer married Catherine Rebecca Godleman at St. Pancras Registry Office.

The British Security Services intercepted another letter sent to a suspicious address in The Hague, Holland. When the letter was examined, it was found to have a message written in invisible ink. The message is shown below:

I hope that you have received my first letter. I have been to Chatham. The Royal Dockyard is closed entirely, but I got in in spite of all. There are a few cruisers there and a lot of guns as well as destroyers, for instance, Duncan, 2nd classs, 14000 tons, Lowestoft, 3rd class, Boadicea, Lance, Pembroke, Wilder and Actaeon etc.

The mouth of the Thames is guarded by steel like the Humber, but even more so. The ships pass at night and this is indicated from a watch boat through three vertically arranged red lanterns.

I have described to you the state of affairs here in London. A wounded Territorial told me in the course of a conversation that one German is worth twelve of Kitchener's men. There are many boys of 16 and 17 amongst them. They make enough effort and advertise in order to get soldiers. At every street corner, theatre and cinema, people are challenged to join [at this point in WWI, the UK did not have conscription].

The Government appeals to women and young girls to persuade their boyfriends and husbands. Ammunition is made everywhere. At Dartford a large metal factory has been turned into an ammunition factory and here every small metal workshop is making ammunition.

In order to get soldiers, the proprietors of shops have been asked to dismiss certain people and when the employees try to find positions somewhere else they are refused and they are asked, why do you not join the Army? People are forced in this country.

So far I have not been able to find out anything important, but it will come time time.

Yours truly,

(sgd.) Svend Person

Meyer also sent information which was completely incorrect and verged on utter rubbish, and not the sort of information that you would have expected to be supplied by a professional and dedicated German spy.

Late in August 1915, another suspicious letter was intercepted by the British Security Services. Although the letter was allowed to continue, the Security Services decided to act. Meyer and his wife were both arrested, although his wife was released as she was not involved in her husband's activities.

Albert Meyer was tried by courts-martial held at Middlesex Guildhall on 5-6 November 1915. He was found guilty and sentenced to death by shooting. Meyer's appeal was rejected. The Danish Embassy denied that Meyer was a Danish subject, and it appears that he was either German or Turkish.

At 7.45am on 2 December 1915, Albert Meyer was shot by a firing squad composed of soldiers from the 3rd Battalion Scots Guards. The following is an account of the execution:

It was fully expected, judging by his demeanour during the period he was waiting to be shot, that he would prove awkward, but nothing untoward happened until the morning of the execution. When the dread summons came in the cold dawn he was then in an hysterical state and when escorted from his cell suddenly burst into a wild effort to sing "Tipperary". His guard attempted to silence him, but all in vain.

He stopped on reaching the miniature rifle range where he was to be shot and cast a raving eye at the chair standing in the middle. Then he burst into a torrent of blasphemous cursing, reviling his Maker and calling down the vengeance of Heaven on those who had deserted him. Struggling fiercely with this stalwart guard, he was forcibly placed in the chair and strapped tightly in. Before the bullets of the firing party could reach him he had torn the bandage from his eyes, and died in a contorted mass, shouting curses at his captors, which were only stilled by the bullets.

Blog | UK Medals | Remembrance | War Crimes | Spying | Courts Martial | Criminal Cases | Index | Contact