Threat of undercover German Spies
Catalogue reference: HO 45/10779/277334/12
Catalogue reference: HO 45/10779/277334/15

                                                                              (official crest)
       WHITEHALL, S.W.
277,334/12.                        10th June, 1916.
     I am directed by the Secretary of State to say that it is anticipated by the Admiralty that, as a result of the recent fighting in the North Sea, there will be attempts made by German agents to ascertain the extent of the damage to His Majesty's ships. It is not unlikely that persons seeking information of this kind will come in the guise of Commercial Travellers connected with some sort of business which would bring them into contact with ship-building firms. Two such suspected characters have already been observed and orders for their arrest have been given. Their ostensible business was the selling of "template board" cards which, it is understood, were offered as a substitute for template boards used in ship-yards for obtaining correct measurements.
     A sharp look out should be kept by the Police for any attempt to obtain such information, and special inquiry should be made into the bona fides of any Commercial Travellers who are ostensibly engaged on any business connected with ship-building or which does not appear to justify the engagement of Commercial Travellers and might be equally well conducted by post.
     All Commercial Travellers of alien origin arriving in your jurisdiction should be severely interrogated, with a view to ascertaining precise particulars as to:-
  How long they have been in the business ?
What remuneration they receive ?
How long they have been with the firm which they now represent ?
Whether they are paid commission on orders received ?
From whom they have received orders ?
When such orders are to be executed ?
Where the goods are coming from, and how they are to be delivered ?
and so forth.
     If necessary, reference should be made to the firms who have been visited by these men with a view to ascertaining whether any genuine business has been done. In nearly every case of enemy agents who have been arrested it has been ascertained that when they came in the guise of Commercial Travellers, as the bulk of them did, their business merely consisted in calling on firms as cover for their real business of spying, and in no case could it be ascertained that any business whatever was done.
     In any case in which there is reason to suspect an offence against Regulation 18 of the Defence of the realm Regulations, the person should be detained, and reference should be made to the War Office (Department M.I.5.) as t the names and addresses of the firms and Continental Houses which he represents, and also as to any addresses which may be found in his papers. If, in your opinion, the conduct of any alien in this connection, though suspicious, does not justify detention, you should, if possible, require him to leave the area, e.g. under Article 18B.(2) of the Aliens Restriction Order, and report the circumstances to the War Office (M.I.5.)
  I am, Sir
            Your obedient Servant,
The Chief Constable (signature) E. Blackwell

     Any communication on the subject of this letter should be addressed to-                                             
          LONDON, S.W.,
and the following number quoted:-
                                       HOME OFFICE,

6th July, 1916.


     I am directed by the Secretary of State to say there is reason to believe that the German Government is endeavouring to recruit circus-riders, music-hall performers, and persons on the regular stage for purposes of espionage in this country. Two such persons, circus-riders, who were of German origin, have recently been detected endeavouring to come to this country and have been refused permission to land, and a third, who had been touring as a music-hall performer with a Dutch passport, is believed to be a German and is now in custody. I am therefore to request that special attention may be paid to any persons belonging to these professions who may visit your area, more particularly if they appear to be in the habit of performing at important Naval centres, and that if there is any reason to suspect that they are endeavouring to obtain Naval or Military information the strictest inquiry may be made as to their nationality and antecedents under the powers conferred by Regulation 53 of the Defence of the Realm Regulations.
     If, as the result of such inquiry, there is such reasonable ground for suspicion as to bring the case within Regulation 55, the suspect should be detained, and all papers found in his possession forwarded to the War Office (Dept, M.I.5. (g) ) for examination.
     Where there is not sufficient ground to justify detention, full particulars should be reported to the War Office, and in the event of the suspected person removing to another Police area the Chief Constable concerned should be notified and requested to keep him under observation.
     It is very desirable that the War Office should see all papers in such cases in order to ascertain whether they contain any spy addresses within the meaning of Regulation 18A.
      I am,
Your obedient Servant,

(signature) Edward Troup
The Chief Constable.

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