Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Bad Choices

Some individuals in history have a very murky story, but sometimes wide reporting of the story sees it getting tied up in knots and contradicting itself. Here's one such story, that of Norman Baillie-Stewart.
Norman Baillie-Stewart
He was born in 1909 to a military family, in London. The family name was Baillie-Wright, and Norman's middle name was Stewart. However, at the age of 20 he changed his name to Norman Baillie-Stewart for unknown reasons. By this point he'd seen his father lead an Indian Army regiment in the First World War, and he had been to Sandhurst Royal Military College, graduating as a Lieutenant. From here he had joined the Seaforth Highlanders, serving in the Northwest frontier. His tour had not been a success, when his action of pulling down a local banner from a graveyard aggravated the locals and caused some disruption. He was, it is reported, generally disillusioned by army life at this point so he applied for a transfer to the Royal Army Service Corps, returning in 1931 to Britain.
It is here that things begin to get murky, as Norman was soon to get mixed up in espionage. In 1932 Norman was taking pictures inside a British Vickers Medium MK.III, one of the sixteen tonners, when he was arrested for spying. We know this because David Fletcher has spoken to a soldier present during the incident. It was alleged that Norman had taken plans of the A1E1 Independent, a new automatic-rifle and some organisational diagrams and sold them to Germany. The A1E1 Independent plans appear to have arrived in Moscow, likely gifted to the Russians by the Germans whom Norman was working for. These, it seems likely, would have influenced the T-35's development, which first appeared some three years later. Equally its possible, although much less certain, that Norman's interest in the Medium Mk.III is somehow related to the German Neubaufahrzeug tanks.

All the paper details that Norman obtained were checked out and copied from a military library in Aldershot. Even worse they were checked out in Norman's own name leaving a paper trail that was pitifully easy to follow.
What induced Norman to commit treason? Well on a visit to Germany a German named "Otto Waldemar Obst" offered to introduce him to a young lady. She was named Marie-Louise, she was described as five and half feet high with blue eyes and a good figure. He had never found out her surname, job or where she lived. He only ever had dates with her picking her up from a specified location and leaving her in the street after each date. The dates themselves would involve a trip to a lake near Berlin where "Marie-Louise" had a boat. Whilst at the lake the couple would become intimate.
After his return Norman received two payments of cash by post, one of £50 and one of £40, along with a note from Marie-Louise thanking him for the loan. She suggested he come to meet her in Holland, and Norman was discovered to have notes on travel plans at the time of his arrest. His trial was widely reported by the press as it had a lot of drama, including a large legal argument over the exact meaning of the law. The point of contention was the word "and", but should it be implied to mean "or". Further drama occurred when a religious type stood up in the public gallery and yelled about not sending Norman to the tower whilst brandishing a bible, before being removed from the court. The prosecution also pointed out that the last name of the German contact who introduced the couple, "Obst", sounds similar to Oberst, a German Rank. The German speakers will also have spotted that Obst also means "fruit" in German, but I'm not sure that fact would have helped Norman's defence, despite (to my surprise) it being an actual last name in Germany.

Luckily for Norman despite the ten charges of breaching the official secrets act, as Britain and Germany were not yet at war there was no death penalty. However, he could have been awarded 140 years in prison. He got away with just five when the Courts Martial came to a close at the end of March 1933 and he was sent to the Tower of London. As he was imprisoned he was also refused the campaign medal for his service in India.
Wolf Mittler
After Norman's release he moved to Austria, where he applied for citizenship. However, his application was rejected as he didn't qualify and was suspected of being a Nazi agent. Equally the British consulate rejected his pleas for help. Thus, he was forced to leave the country and ended up in Czechoslovakia. When Austria was taken over by Anschluss in 1938 Norman returned to the country. At a party after his return he heard a German English language broadcast, possibly by the original Lord Haw Haw, Wolf Mittler. He was described as being like Bertie Wooster (A cartoon buffoon and bit of a tit in popular culture). Norman made several remarks about it at the party, however one of the other guests who heard these remarks worked for the authorities.
William Joyce, upon his capture
Luckily for Norman the authorities in question were the Austrian radio service, these comments travelled up the chain of command and eventually Norman was given a radio test, and then ordered to report to Berlin where upon he began to broadcast in English. His first broadcast was a week before the war broke out. Norman was one of the contenders for the name Lord Haw Haw, which seems to have been used for several broadcasters before finally settling on William Joyce. Norman may also have gained the nickname "Sinister Sam". However, Norman was soon dismissed by the Germans, being fired in December. From then on he worked as a translator and taught at Berlin University, eventually becoming a German citizen in 1940. In 1942 under the name Lancer he returned briefly to the radio, before leaving again. In 1944 he was back in Austria for medical treatment and at the wars end he was arrested (reportedly wearing lederhosen). At his trial he once again faced a potential charge of treachery. This time it would carry the death sentence. Again, he got lucky with the prosecutor not believing they could get the charges to stick and so went for a lesser charge. MI5 suggested deporting him to the Soviet occupation zone where they were sure that legal issues wouldn't get in the way. However, this didn't happen, and Norman received another five years in prison after pleading guilty. After release he took up a new name, James Short, and moved to Dublin. He collapsed from a heart attack in 1966, and died aged 57.

Image credits:
dirkdeklein.files.wordpress.com, blog.twmuseums.org.uk and www.worldwarphotos.info

2 comments: