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Introduction

This article is concerned with Irving Guy Ries, one of spies executed at The Tower of London during World War One.

Irving Guy Ries

Irving Guy Ries was an alias, and during his courts-martial he consistently refused to disclose his real name, as he stated that he wished to protect other people, mainly in the USA. He disclosed his real name just before his execution, but the name is not shown in his papers at the Public Records Office.

Irving Guy Ries was born in Chicago, USA. At the time of execution, he was 55 years old.

On 4 July 1915, after arriving from New York via Liverpool, Ries travelled to London, where he booked into the Hotel Cecil in the Strand, which was a hotel well known to American visitors of the day. He claimed that he was a sales representative for the hay and corn business of two American firms: Charles Schaefer & Sons, and Eidt & Wayand, both firms located in New York.

Yet again the British Security Services intercepted a telegram dated 9 July 1915. This telegram, transferring the sum of 40, was sent to Ries by N.M. Cleton of 72a Prevenier Stracht, Rotterdam. This Dutch address was already viewed by the British Security Services as another address using by German spy organisations. However, at this time the telegram was allowed to progress, and Ries collected his 40 from the Southampton Street Post Office.

On 15 July 1915, Ries travelled from London to Liverpool. After spending less than 48 hours in the city, Ries journeyed to Newcastle-on-Tyne. Again he claimed that he was a sales representative for some American firms. On 20 July 1915, Ries went to Glasgow, and the next day he went to Edinburgh, booking into the Crown Hotel. Six days later, Ries travelled to Liverpool, before returning to London and the Hotel Cecil on 28 July 1915. Another telegram, intercepted but allowed to proceed, was cashed by Ries at the same Post Office before.

On 9 August 1915, Ries went to the American Embassy in London to obtain a visa for his passport, as he wished to travel to Rotterdam, as he wished to meet a person there who owed him a considerable sum of money. When the American Vice-Consul examined his American Passport, he noticed that the passport appeared to be a forgery. The American let Ries leave the Embassy and then contacted the police.

On 10 August 1915, Inspector Joseph Sandercock (New Scotland Yard) arrested Ries at the Hotel Cecil. Ries admitted that his passport was a forgery bought in the USA, and that the business addresses written in his notebook were genuine. Ries also refused to provide details about his birth, apart from saying that his Father was Dutch and his Mother was Scottish. He also denied working for the Germans, and that the telegrams he received from Rotterdam were payments for legitimate business transactions.

Ries faced a courts-martial held at Middlesex Guildhall on 28-29 September 1915. The court's president was Major-General Lord Cheylesmore. The Prosecution case was presented by Mr. Bodkin and Lieutenant Peevor, Ries was represented by Mr. Huntley Jenkins instructed by Percy Robinson & Co. Ries pleaded not guilty. This case different from previous WWI spy trials, as Ries does not appear to have actually sent any information to the Germans. The implication was that Ries was travelling to Rotterdam, so he could present a verbal report.

Ries was found guilty and sentenced to death by shooting. His appeal were rejected, and he remained calm until his execution. He shook hands with the firing squad before being tied to the wooden chair. At 7am on 27 October 1915, Ries was shot by a party of soldiers from the 3rd Battalion Scots Guards.

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