Thursday, 28 July 2016

A Wartime Murder in Belsize Road

It was May 1942 and London was in the middle of the War, when Pauline Barker was murdered at 184 Belsize Road. The story did not receive much attention in the press. Here we use the Metropolitan Police files from the National Archives to look at the stories of the main participants in this sad crime. The house has since been demolished as part of the Council redevelopment in the area.

Pauline Barker was born in Islington in 1899, the daughter of Frederick Charles Barker and Lydia Care. He was a solo harpist and she was a leading contralto with the Carl Rosa Opera Company, they married in London in 1898. But the marriage did not go well and Frederick left Lydia in 1910 and she sued for divorce in 1911. Frederick said in the divorce papers the reason he left her was because of:

Her violent temper and ungovernable behaviour and constant and habitual use of filthy, disgusting and obscene language and constant disagreements for ten years which have rendered his married life most unhappy. He has continued to supply her with funds for the maintenance of her and the children, and is willing to continue to do so.

Lydia, who was then living in East Finchley, filed for the restitution of conjugal rights. In a letter through her solicitor, she asks for bygones to be bygones and that he return to her. If not, she will commence legal proceedings. When he got the letter, Frederick replied briefly: 

Dear Sirs, do not waste your eloquence. There is not the remote chance of my returning to my wife. My bitterest enemy could not wish me a worse wish!
Go on with your divorce. It is the only possible remedy.

After the hearing in the divorce court, the judge ordered him to pay Lydia the costs of £18 and 30s per week. He was allowed access to the children every other Saturday at his house, 18 The Parade, Twickenham. Frederick continued to perform and he died in 1924 in South Africa. Lydia bought up the three children in a house on Highgate Hill.

Pauline, the eldest, became an accomplished solo harpist like her father. She had engagements with the Russian Ballet and the BBC. She played on numerous radio broadcasts, especially from Belfast, from 1924 to 1930. Like her mother, she was also with the Carl Rosa Company. When she was eighteen she married 47 year old George Longfield Beasley. He was an electrical engineer who invented the Beasley-Gamewell system, an integrated fire and police alarm used in Windsor Castle and by several local councils. After three years of marriage George sued for divorce in 1921 on the grounds of Pauline’s adultery.

Two years later Pauline married Harry Lowe, who was a viola player and the conductor of the BBC Theatre Orchestra from about 1934 to 1945. But on a boat journey Pauline had an affair with a ship’s officer in 1931 and she and Harry separated. They were finally divorced in 1941.

Pauline first met Achilles Apergis who was a garage proprietor, when she was working in Belfast at the BBC studio.  His full name was Achilles George White Apergis, but he used the name Arthur Anderson. He was brought up in a middle-class family in south London and educated at Dulwich College. His father was a Captain in the Greek Army who married an English woman and he became a naturalised British Subject. Arthur had served in the Greek Cavalry for two or three years. His brother Hector Demetrius Apergis, was a GP at 55 Crouch Hall Road, with consulting rooms in Harley Street. Their parents lived at 47 Muswell Road, Muswell Hill.

In 1931 after his garage in Belfast had failed, Arthur came to London and contacted Pauline again. He worked as a motor engineer with various firms in Kilburn and Cricklewood and then briefly ran the St John’s Wood Garage at 9 Abbey Road. Arthur and Pauline began living together, firstly in 19 Alexandra Road where they stayed for six years. Then her mother Lydia, bought 184 Belsize Road and Pauline ran it as a guest house. But there were problems: the couple often quarrelled and Arthur liked to drink heavily in the local pubs. Lydia told the police she heard Arthur using foul language and struggling with Pauline in the bedroom at Belsize Road. He released her when he saw Lydia, saying sarcastically, ‘I didn’t know you had your ‘seconds’ around’. Pauline told her mother this was not unusual and that Apergis was frequently aggressive.

Katherine Maher, one of the lodgers, had lived there since December 1938 when Pauline Barker took over the boarding house. She said the relationship between Apergis and his wife was unhappy and she often heard them arguing. He used to hit her and on two occasions she heard him threaten to shoot her. Pauline had even asked Katherine to sleep in her room to prevent her husband coming in.

On 27 May 1942 after a particularly heated row, Arthur packed up his things and left. Pauline told Katherine it was because he was jealous of her talking with one of the lodgers, Philip Sedgwick. Pauline said she was glad Arthur had gone and hoped it would be for good, although she was surprised he left so peacefully and not threatened her. Then she showed Katherine bruises on her leg and thigh where Arthur had pushed her over in the kitchen the previous night.

At about 1pm on the afternoon of 31 May 1942, Katherine and Pauline were talking in the kitchen when they heard Arthur shout ‘Pauline’ from downstairs. Pauline called back, ‘I am just serving lunch, I will be down in a minute – what do you want?’ He said, ‘I want to speak to you a minute.’ She went downstairs and when she came back she told Katherine that Apergis had said he wanted to shoot her. Katherine looked out of the window and saw Arthur at the front of the house. He started to enter the gate but then changed his mind and walked in the direction of the Princess of Wales public house.

Princess of Wales, looking down Belsize Road

The Princess of Wales was on the corner of Belsize Road and Abbey Road, where the Lillie Langtry is today. At the time the landlord was Alfred Rice. He said in his police statement that he had known ‘Andy’ Apergis for the past five years and he thought he was a Greek. He also knew Pauline Barker, and that they lived as man and wife, but were not married. At about 7.05pm on 31 May he saw Apergis in the saloon bar and thought that he’d been drinking but was not drunk. Apergis said, ‘Rice, I may not see you anymore; I am going to commit a murder’. Rice said, ‘Don’t be a fool, pull yourself together’. Apergis said, ‘All right’ and left.

Allan Philip Sedgwick said he had only been a boarder at the house since 7 May 1942. On 31 May he was in the lounge, the back room on the ground floor. Mrs Barker as he called Pauline, had left ten minutes previously to go up to the kitchen to get his supper, consisting of some sandwiches and a glass of milk. At about 7pm the man he knew as Mr Barker opened the lounge door and said, ‘Where is Mrs Barker?’ Sedgwick replied that she was upstairs in the kitchen. Mr Barker walked out and shut the door. About two minutes later Sedgwick heard a loud bang, followed by someone running down the stairs and the front door slamming. When he went up to the kitchen, Sedgwick found Pauline lying on the first floor landing. There was a strong smell of gunpowder. Finding no pulse he telephoned 999 and told the police what had happened. He waited at the front door until an ambulance and the police arrived.

Horse bus outside the Princess of Wales

Arthur didn’t go far, just back to the Princess of Wales which was only six houses away. He told Alfred Rice: ‘I have done it.’ Rice said, ‘You haven’t!’ Apergis said, ‘On my honour as a Greek she is lying stone dead. My honour as a Greek means more than anything. It was a clean shot, all she went was ‘ough’. I put a pillow under her head to make her comfortable.

Arthur took the loaded gun from a holster at his waist and handed it to Rice. He said it was a lovely gun and did Rice want it? ‘I don’t want to get you into trouble, so if you want it I will tell the police I threw it away.’ To get it off him Rice said, ‘Thanks old boy, I will have it.’ Arthur took the empty cartridge case out and then gave Rice the gun and the holster. He also gave him a book of National Savings Certificates; ‘this should cover the three or four pounds I owe you.’

Then he said, ‘Buy me a double scotch because I may not see you again, and I am waiting for the police to come.’ The barmaid handed Apergis a double scotch which he drank at the bar. When Rice went into the office to phone Apergis’s brother, Apergis followed him and put 16 bullets into Rice’s jacket pocket. Then Rice heard an ambulance outside and realised that something serious had really happened.

Detective Inspector Herbert Cripps said the landlord Alfred Rice, left the pub and met Detective Sergeant Pilgrim at 184 Belsize Road and told him Apergis was waiting in the pub bar. At 7.33 Dr Rees, the police divisional surgeon arrived at the house and found Pauline Barker had been shot through the heart.  At 7.45 Apergis was arrested in the pub and taken to West Hampstead Police station in West End Lane next to the Railway Hotel. Rice later gave the police the Colt 45 gun, the bullets, the holster, and the book of certificates.

At 11.10am on the 1 June DI Cripps charged Apergis under the name of Arthur Anderson. He made no statement. At 4pm on the same day Cripps was at the mortuary adjoining St Pancras Coroner’s Court when Sir Bernard Spilsbury performed a post mortem. This showed that the gun had been fired at close range, the single bullet passed through her heart and Pauline died instantly.

On 29 June 1942 at the Old Bailey, Arthur Anderson, 52, motor engineer of 184 Belsize Road, was charged with the wilful murder of Pauline Barker on 31 May at the same address. He pleaded ‘Not Guilty’ by reason of insanity.

In court his brother Dr Apergis said there was no insanity in the family. The defence called two eminent psychologists to demonstrate that Anderson was insane at the time he committed the offence, but the jury was not convinced. The medical officer at Brixton Prison rebutted the evidence saying he had the prisoner under his charge for 26 days and in his opinion there was no evidence of insanity. The jury, which included four women, found Anderson guilty of murder. But they added a strong recommendation for mercy.

In his report, DI Cripps says the jury was told by the Lord Chief Justice that what happened to Anderson if found guilty was not a matter for them. Their sole duty was to record a verdict in accordance with the evidence before them. Cripps felt the recommendation for mercy was an obvious response, as having found Anderson guilty of murder, the jury knew he would be sentenced to hang.

On 16 July 1942 the Home Secretary informed the Commissioner of Police at Scotland Yard;
That having carefully considered all the circumstances of the case of Arthur Anderson, now under sentence of death in Wandsworth Prison, and having caused a special Medical Inquiry to be made as to the mental state of the prisoner, the Secretary of State had been unable to find any sufficient ground to advise His Majesty to interfere with the due course of law.

Following the decision, Arthur Anderson was hanged at Wandsworth Prison by Albert Pierrepoint and Herbert Morris at 9am on 21 July 1942.

After reading all the evidence, we still don’t know why he killed Pauline.

Friday, 1 July 2016

The Battle of the Somme, 100 years ago

This was a battle on the Western Front between the British Army, which included soldiers from the Commonwealth, and the French against the German Army. The 15 mile front was alongside the Somme River in Northern France. The battle began on 1 July 1916 and lasted 141 days until the 18 November. More than a million men were wounded or killed. 

The first day was the worst in the history of the British Army when 57,470 men were injured, of whom 19,240 died.

The original British Expeditionary Force of regular soldiers had suffered heavy losses in 1914 and 1915. The Army at the Somme were made up of the remaining regular soldiers, the Territorial Army and Lord Kitchener's ‘Pals’ battalions, composed of men from local towns who had answered his call to volunteer. As well as the ground troops, the battle was noticeable for the use of air power and tanks.

There are various estimates of the casualties, but the general accepted figures for the numbers of wounded and dead for the whole battle from July to November are:
British: 419,654,   French: 204,253,   German: 434,500

Ninety percent of the British casualties were caused by German machine gun fire.

Many West Hampstead and Kilburn soldiers fought at the Battle of the Somme: here are just a few of them.

Lance Corporal Sydney Edward Patey, (b.1896) of the London Regiment and Lieutenant Anthony Sapte, (b. 1896) of the Middlesex Regiment, were both killed on the first day of the Battle, 1 July 1916. Anthony who lived at 44 Narcissus Road and 21 Crediton Hill, is buried in Gordon Dump Cemetery, Ovillers-La Boisselle, Somme. He is also named on the War Memorial outside Hampstead Parish Church in Church Row.

Sydney who lived at 4 Sherriff Road, is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, the largest memorial to missing or unidentified soldiers who have no known grave.

Donald Owen Howard Tripp DSO, (b.1891) lived at 12 Crediton Hill. He was a keen sportsman and often played rugby for Harlequins. He got his commission in December 1914 and left for France in September 1915, attached to the 1st Battlion, The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. He was wounded four times and killed in action on 18 August 1916 at High Wood after capturing a German trench. He had been awarded the DSO that March for conspicuous gallantry and determination when he was wounded during an enemy bomb attack. He had his wounds hurriedly dressed, returning to his post and with only a Sergeant and two men kept the enemy at bay. When his men were wounded, he sent the Sergeant back for reinforcements, and single-handed held up the enemy for twenty minutes till relieved. Donald is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial and on the War Memorial outside the Hampstead Parish Church. His brother Cyril (b.1896) is also named: he was killed in action on 13 November 1916.

In September 1916 Caroline Rimell of No.14 Ravenshaw Street, put an advert in the papers asking if anyone had any news of her husband, Sergeant Alfred Rimell of the Royal Fusiliers, reported killed in action. It’s not known if anyone responded but we know his body was never indentified, as he too is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

Sergeant Alfred Rimell

Artist and illustrator Alexander Stuart Boyd lived at 17 Boundary Road. His son Lieutenant Stuart Boyd (1887-1916), also an artist, was attached to the 1st Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in France in August 1916. He was wounded in late September 1916 in the phase of the Battle of the Somme known as the Battle of Morval. He died of his wounds on 7 October and is buried at Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension; his gravestone has the inscription, ‘He has outsoared the shadow of our night’.

Lieutenant Stuart Boyd

Roy Launceton M.C, born as Roy de Lohnstein (1884-1918) joined the 16th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment from the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps (OTC), which indicates his profession was the law. He was commissioned as a temporary 2nd Lieutenant in 1916 and was awarded a Military Cross the following year, for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. Promoted to Lieutenant and then Captain, he died on 24 March 1918, after the battle of St Quentin and was buried at Assevillers New British Cemetery. Roy had survived almost three and a half years of fighting at the front and is commemorated on the War Memorial in Church Row. He lived at 5 Dennington Park Mansions, West End Lane.  

In 1917, the parents of 21 year old Captain William George Sellar “Growler” Curphey M.C. and Bar, were living at No.87 Canfield Gardens. William attended University College School and then King’s College, joining up in 1914 and transferring to the Royal Flying Corps in July 1916. He was one of the original pilots of 32 Squadron posted to the Battle of the Somme in May 1916. He received his M.C. that November for a series of attacks on enemy planes. In February 1917 the Bar was awarded for conspicuous gallantry in action. Curphey was shot down on 14 May after his squadron had successfully attacked enemy balloons and died the following day in a German field hospital. He is buried at Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, Pas de Calais.

Captain William George Sellar Curphey

Carl Adolf Max Bingen, (b.1895) was at 21 Inglewood Road in 1901. His father Max was living at 6 Gascony Avenue in 1894 when he got married and the couple were at 95 Canfield Gardens in 1921. Carl served in the 5th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment that went to France in 1915. It was re-formed as a Pioneer battalion and took part in several of the Battles of the Somme in 1916 – at Albert, Bazentin Ridge, Pozieres Ridge, Ancre Heights and Ancre. Near the front lines and sometimes beyond the trenches, the Pioneer Battalions built and maintained much of the infrastructure need to fight the war, including roads, railways, camps, stores, telephone and telegraph networks.

Carl was promoted to Lieutenant and was killed in action on 10 Feb 1916 after 13 months in France. He is buried at Hebuterne Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais and commemorated on the war memorial in Church Row. 

His commanding officer wrote to Carl’s parents:
None of my officers was cooler under fire than your boy and none more ready to undertake cheerfully any duty, however disagreeable and irksome. He was liked and respected by all ranks and was most popular with the men of his Company, his Captain and Adjutant. We all admired his pluck and good spirits.

Lieutenant Carl Adolf Max Bingen

Major Edward Whinney lived in Burgess Hill off the Hendon Way. He was killed in action near Thiepval on 26 September 1916, and is buried at Connaught Cemetery, Thiepval. He was a keen cricketer and his name is on a commemorative plaque at Hampstead Cricket Club as is that of Donald Tripp, who also played there.

The men from West Hampstead and Kilburn we have mentioned are just some of those who suffered in this bloody battle. To get some idea of the scale of the horror, over the 141 days of the Battle of the Somme, one man died every five seconds.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The Tottenham Outrage: the West Hampstead Connection

In 1909 two Latvian anarchists stole the wages from the Downham Mills Rubber Factory, at 3-5 Chesnut Road, Tottenham. Jacob Lepidus and Paul Hefeld lived with other immigrants in Tottenham, which at the time was nicknamed, ‘Little Russia’. The heavily armed anarchists were pursued by hundreds of police and local people. During the chase which lasted two hours and covered six miles, Lepidus and Hefeld fired over 400 rounds. They killed two people, PC William Tyler and a young boy called Ralph Joscelyne. Twenty other people were injured, several critically. This was an extraordinary event and made headlines around the world.

PC William Tyler

We were very surprised when our research showed that there were strong connections between the outrage in Tottenham and West Hampstead.

The West Hampstead Connection
PC Tyler who was killed, had been born and brought up in Child’s Hill and a memorial service was held there, at All Saints Church. At the time of the shooting Tyler lived with his wife Emily at 32 Arnold Road, Tottenham. The huge funeral procession was one and a half miles long. The coffins of PC Tyler and Ralph Joscelyne were carried in separate hearses, leaving from their homes, pulled by white plumed horses for the boy and black plumed horses for the policeman. 3,000 police were in attendance and 500,000 people lined the streets to Abney Park Cemetery. Businesses all along the route closed. Tyler was awarded the first King’s Police Medal from Edward VII. Three other officers involved were also given the new medal. 

Emily Tyler

The owner of the Rubber Factory was Julius Schnurmann who lived at 3 Crediton Road (later re-named Crediton Hill), having moved there from 67 Hillfield Road.The manager of the factory, Siegfried Paul Casewitz, was boarding at 145 Fordwych Road. Joseph Wilson, Schnurmann’s chauffeur, lived in 22 West Hampstead Mews. He drove the two men to Tottenham every morning in the company limousine.

The Attack, 23 January 1909
On a very cold day, Joseph Wilson and Albert Keyworth, the 17 year old office boy, had driven in the limousine to a bank in Hackney where they collected the £80 wages for the 150 factory workers. This happened every Saturday morning. They returned about 10.30 and as Albert carried the canvas bag with the gold, silver and bronze coins through the factory gates, Lepidus suddenly grabbed him from behind. Albert shouted and Joseph Wilson ran over and pulled the man off. At close range Hefeld fired at Wilson but amazingly did not hit him. The thieves knew about the timing of the wages collection because Hefeld had been employed for about two weeks at the factory. Like the other immigrant piece workers, he did not give his real name, and on the work sheet he was called by the unusual name of ‘Elephant’.

The Keystone Cops Chase
The two attackers ran off and began firing at their pursuers who used horses and carts, bicycles, and even a tram in an effort to catch them. Joseph Wilson and Paul Casewitz chased them in the limousine, ignoring the bullets which whistled round them. Wilson’s ankle-length leather motor-coat was pierced by nine bullets but amazingly, he escaped serious injury and was just grazed on his neck.  

Unfortunately for the thieves, the rubber factory was just across the street from Tottenham Police Station in the High Road. Like a scene from a Keystone Cops film, policemen poured out of the door or jumped through an open window to chase after the anarchists. The limousine was closing in, when 10 year old Ralph Joscelyne, who was running alongside the car, was shot and killed. He was a local lad, from Colsterworth Road who had been doing his Saturday job of helping a milkman. A second shot smashed the windscreen and another bullet burst the car’s radiator bringing it to halt. Joseph Wilson, Paul Casewitz, several policemen and a crowd of men continued the pursuit on foot. When PC Tyler was only 20 yards away from Lepidus and Hefeld, he shouted at the men; ‘Come on. Give in. The game’s over.’ Hefeld fired hitting Tyler in the head and he sadly died soon after arriving at hospital. Reinforcements had been called up and while some of the policemen were armed by their station and others had borrowed guns, most only had truncheons. These were no match for the modern Browning and Bergmann automatic pistols which the anarchists carried.

Albert Keyworth and the
limousine showing the bullet hole in the windscreen

Lepidus and Hefeld crossed a railway footbridge and reached the Tottenham marsh. At Banbury reservoir a policeman saw a party of sportsmen shooting at ducks, and instructed them to shoot at the two men but they were out of range of the shotguns. As a tram approached along the Chingford Road, Lepidus and Hefeld broke cover and jumped on. The driver saw what was happening and fled to the upstairs deck. So Lepidus forced the conductor to drive by holding a gun to his head, while Hefeld fired from the back of the tram until the pursuers were left behind. 

The police stopped another tram and chased after the attackers. As the hijacked tram approached a bend, the conductor told Lepidus there was a police station just round the corner. The trick worked, and Lepidus and Hefeld leapt off and ran towards a milk cart. After shooting and wounding the milkman, they jumped on the cart and started lashing the horse down Kenilworth Avenue towards Epping Forest Road, but they took the corner too fast and overturned. The chasing posse of local men and the police on bicycles, one brandishing a cutlass, were closing in on them. 

Attackers on the tram
The Finale: ‘My Mother is in Riga
Jacob Lepidus was finally trapped in a small cottage where he shot and killed himself as the police, armed with pistols and shotguns, tried to break in. Only £5 in coins was found on him. The remaining £75 of the wages was never recovered. Paul Hefeld, who also shot himself, was captured and kept for two weeks under armed guard in hospital. He died three days after an operation on his brain and his last words were, “My mother is in Riga.”

Vladimir or Leiser Lepidus known as ‘Stryga’ who had been killed in Paris while carrying a bomb on 1 May 1907 was Jacob’s brother. On 12 January 1912, the more famous ‘Siege of Sidney Street’ took place in the East End. This also involved the ‘Flame’ group of Latvian anarchists that Hefeld and Lepidus had belonged to.

Abbey Park Cemetery
PC Tyler and Ralph were buried close to each other. The constable’s memorial, now Grade II listed, shows his helmet complete with badge and his police number 403, on top of a folded uniform. It and the grave space were paid for by fellow policemen. Pupils at Earlsmead School which Ralph attended helped raise funds for his more modest cross. On the same day as their funeral, Jacob Lepidus was buried quietly at Walthamstow Cemetery.

PC Tyler's grave in Abney Park

Schnurmann and The Rubber Factory
The Downham Mills Rubber Factory had been founded in 1896 by Julius Schnurmann. With a branch in Manchester, it was the largest buyer of scrap India rubber in the world. As the motor car became more popular, so the demand for rubber tyres increased rapidly and Schnurmann’s company prospered. In 1917 due to strong anti-German feeling, he changed his name to James Julius Sherman. He stayed in Credition Hill until 1933, and then moved to 22 New Abercorn Flats, in Abercorn Place. He died in his flat at 99 Haverstock Hill in 1948. 

In the early 1950s the factory buildings were occupied by Sherman Chemicals but have since been demolished, the site currently used as a car park.

In 1909, a commemorative plaque to PC Tyler was put up in All Saints Church, Child’s Hill. On the centenary of the murders, a plaque was unveiled to Ralph Joscelyne outside the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd, in Mitchley Road Tottenham and another for PC Tyler at Tottenham Police Station.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Kilburn, the Ku Klux Klan and the Most Haunted House in Britain

This very unusual story connects the KKK, a famous haunted house and Kilburn.

On 2 May 1957 the MP Fenner Brockway spoke in the House of Commons and said:

I think it will be as much of a shock to you as it was to me, to learn that the HQ of the British KKK was in Kilburn!

He said there were 253 agents in Kilburn, Shepherds Bush, Birmingham and Liverpool. MPs and other people had been sent a KKK pamphlet and membership form from an address in Kilburn.

A Times reporter sent to the address, 80 Kingsgate Road, found it was Green’s Chemist Shop. The chemist said the man the reporter wanted was Ian Shaw, who lived upstairs. After giving the specified three knocks a woman answered the door and said Ian was out. Shaw later phoned the Times and said he would talk with the reporter as long as they did not reveal his name and address. 

On the 5 May, the Reynolds News, a paper published by the Cooperative Movement, carried an interview with Ian Shaw. He said he was the leader of the KKK in Britain and had joined because he hated Communists. He said that the Klan was not anti-Jewish or against coloured people. The next evening Ian Shaw appeared on TV in a Panorama interview with Christopher Chataway. He agreed to being named and his face being shown, because the press had already revealed his identity. Ian told Chataway that he had written to America for the KKK material which he distributed to journalists and other influential people in order to ‘worry the Communists’. But he admitted there was no British branch of the KKK which he had simply made up to get publicity for his anti-Communist views.

With further research we found that in 1948 Shaw had called himself the ‘General Secretary of the Arab Friendship Committee’, which was accepting registrations from people eager to fight for the Arab side in Palestine. Although the leaflet he sent out at the time did not use the word Jewish, it was clearly anti-Semitic.

Ian and his wife Margaret lived at 80 Kingsgate Road from 1949 to 1964. In 1955 Shaw was working as an electrical engineer at the EMI factory in Wembley. Short of money, he refused to take a second week’s holiday which caused the Amalgamated Engineering Union to call a sit down strike. Eventually he was persuaded to take time off and the strike ended.

Marianne Foyster and the Ghosts of Borley Rectory
It seemed that was the end of the story, Ian Shaw was a man with rather extreme right-wing views, but then we found out his mother was Marianne Foyster who was at the heart of a famous story about The Most Haunted House in England. This was the best-selling book by Harry Price published in 1940, and he followed it up with The End of Borley Rectory (1946).

Marianne Shaw was born in 1899 in Romiley near Stockport and the family moved to Northern Ireland in 1907. When she was 15 she and her first boyfriend Harold Greenwood, went on holiday to Scotland where she stayed with his relations. Harold was 21 and worked as a clerk in the same company as her father William Shaw. When Marianne returned home she shocked her parents by announcing that she had married Harold and she was pregnant.  Her son, Ian Geoffrey William Shaw, was born in Larne on 19 April 1915. Just six weeks after the birth Greenwood disappeared and Marianne never saw him again: later he went to New Zealand. Ian was brought up by his grandparents. Marianne had a series of affairs in England before returning to Larne where she continued to be ‘the talk of the town’. It’s likely her family were relieved when she decided to go to Canada in 1922, to marry the Rev. Lionel Algernon Foyster. 

Marianne Foyster, c1922

They met when she was only two and he was 23. As the local curate in Oughtrington in Cheshire, he had baptised the seven year old Marianne, and after moving to Canada in 1910 he kept in touch with the Shaw family. In 1922 he wrote to Marianne and proposed marriage and she accepted. Ian joined them in 1925 but was introduced to Foyster as Marianne’s younger brother rather than her son. They returned to England in October 1930 when ‘Lion’ as Marianne called him, took over Borley Rectory near Sudbury in Essex. The family of the previous vicar had reported various paranormal incidents at the house. 

Borley Rectory

At Borley, Rev. Lionel Foyster and Marianne also experienced many strange events: seeing apparitions, writing appearing on the wall, the house bells ringing on their own, and various objects suddenly flying around.

Harry Price, a well known ghost hunter, had been asked by the Daily Mirror to carry out an investigation of the events at Borley. Although he thought that Marianne and other people at the house were responsible, Price wanted publicity and said that Borley was, The most haunted house in England and the best documented case of haunting in the annals of psychical research. Harry Price became famous and his books made Borley Rectory a target for thousands of sightseers and psychic researchers alike. In December 2015 a drama called Harry Price: Ghost Hunter, based on the novel by Neil Spring, was shown on ITV.

Harry Price

George Bernard Shaw, T.E. Lawrence, Sir Montagu Norman, the Governor of the Bank of England, and Sir Bernard Spilsbury, the Home Office pathologist, were all believers in the hauntings and even attended séances at Borley. 

In 2000 Louis Mayerling who lived with the Foysters in the 1930s, published a book called, We Faked the Ghosts of Borley Rectory, where he explained how they created each of mysterious events. But despite this, belief in the haunting has remained so powerful that the case is still seen by many as incontrovertible proof of the supernatural.

Harry Price with the Foysters at Borley

Rev. Foyster and Marianne left the Rectory in 1935, and Lionel died ten years later. Marianne, who had a ‘live in’ lover at Borley, had more affairs, then married a GI and moved to America. She died in there in December 1992.

In 1956 Ian, who never forgave his mother for abandoning him with his grandparents, spoke to an investigator called Trevor Hall about the events at Borley and Marianne’s sexual appetite.

Ian had stayed with his mother at various addresses in Suffolk and Wimbledon before returning to his grandparents in Larne. He married Sarah Ross there in 1939 and had a daughter, but they were soon divorced. After the War Ian came to London as a builder and worked on the bomb sites. On 11 December 1946 he married Margaret Kearney in the Hendon Register Office. They had two sons and lived off the Finchley Road at 30 Hermitage Lane Childs Hill from 1946 to 1948, then after a short stay in 80 Kylemore Road Kilburn, they moved to Kingsgate Road in 1949. Ian was at 21 Kingswood Court in West End Lane in 1972 and 1973. They later moved to Oakfield Road Aylesbury where he died in August 1986.

Ian kept his secret to the grave. He never told Margaret anything about Borley or his mother Marianne. She only found out the truth in 2007 when another book about Borley was being prepared and she was contacted by the writers.

This strange story shows that Ian and his mother Marianne clearly loved being the centre of publicity and they both attempted hoaxes: Marianne at Borley and Ian with the KKK.

Monday, 30 May 2016

The Battle of Jutland

To commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the Battle of Jutland, we tell the story of Arthur Townsend Johnstone, a naval officer who was killed that day on HMS Defence. He is remembered on a family memorial in Hampstead Cemetery, Fortune Green Road.

The Battle of Jutland took place on 31 May 1916, off the west coast of Denmark. It was the only major fleet action of World War I and was the largest naval battle of all time. It only lasted 12 hours, but more than 6,000 British sailors were killed and 14 ships were sunk. The German loses were 11 ships and over 2,500 men.

HMS Defence

The battle cruiser Invincible had disabled two German light cruisers and Defence and Warrior from the First Cruiser Squadron were attempting to sink them when they were hammered by fire from the German battleships. The Defence was hit by two salvos and the rear magazine exploded, sinking the ship killing 900 men. The Warrior was set on fire, but managed to escape. Recent studies show that most of the Royal Navy ships which were lost had left the safety doors open, to speed up the rate of fire which the Admirals demanded. Fires in the gun turrets had spread down to the cordite magazines below, causing the catastrophic explosions.

HMS Defence under fire at Jutland

Arthur Townsend Johnstone was the son of David Yuile Johnstone, a stock broker, and his wife Margaret. He was born in 1882 when the family were living at 63 Alexandra Road, Swiss Cottage (the house is now demolished). Arthur entered the navy as a cadet in 1896 and joined the fleet as a midshipman in 1898. He specialised in gunnery and had served on HMS Defence as its gunnery officer since April 1915. That December he was promoted Commander. At the time of his death Arthur was unmarried and his address was given as 14 Prince Edward Mansions, Bayswater, where his parents were living. A memorial service was held for Arthur at St Stephen’s Church in Gloucester Road. The hymns sung included ‘Abide with me.’

The Johnstone family grave at Hampstead Cemetery

The grave in Hampstead Cemetery also reveals that Arthur’s older brother, Second Lieutenant David Harry Johnstone, died in 1915. He was an accomplished musician, composing and playing the violin and piano. He worked in partnership with his father at the Stock Exchange. David enlisted in the Anti-Aircraft Corps at the outbreak of war and was later given a commission to the Hertfordshire Regiment, but died suddenly on 2 August, having contracted influenza.

At first newspapers reported that there were no survivors from HMS Defence. Then in December 1916 several papers carried the story of stoker George Winterbourne, who was charged with being absent without leave. He claimed he was onboard when the Defence was hit, then he drifted in the water for hours until picked up by a collier. After being landed near Newcastle, he had wandered round the country, living off £20 he found in his belt. George seemed dazed and was certified as suffering from shock. When his story was investigated, some of the information he gave was accurate enough for him to be sent under detention to the naval authorities at Portsmouth.

Recent scans of the sea bed have produced three-dimensional images of some of the wrecks of the 25 Royal Navy and German ships that were sunk. Nick Hewitt, a historian with the National Museum of the Royal Navy, says;

HMS Defence in particular was ‘reduced to atoms’ according to one contemporary account, but the wreck was complete, upright and immediately recognisable by the distinctive profile of her secondary armament, still trained outboard towards her foes a century after the battle.

At the time, the battle was seen as a humiliating defeat for Britain which had held sea supremacy since Nelson’s time. More recent evaluations indicate the Royal Navy blockade of the North Sea was sustained and the German High Fleet never came out again to engage the British Fleet. The blockade had an effect on civilians and the German troops and so helped win the War.

For more information on the battle see:

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Hitler’s Vengeance Weapons

This is the first full account of the V2 and V1 weapons that fell in Kilburn and West Hampstead during the Second World War.

Londoners had survived the Blitz which lasted from 7 September 1940 to 21 May 1941. The RAF had defeated the Luftwaffe and had won the battle for air supremacy over London. Then after several years of relative quiet, on 13 June 1944 the first of Hitler’s new weapons arrived. This was the V1 or flying bomb, which was soon nicknamed the ‘Doodlebug’ although Eastenders gave it the more colourful name of the Farting Fury.

People had no idea such a weapon existed, let alone what it looked like. Crowds stood and looked up at the sky in wonder as they watched the flying bombs spitting red flames from their tail. One father even called to his wife;
Quick, get the children up and come and see this lot. The bloody Huns are sending over planes on fire!  

Residents in Croydon even cheered when they saw a V1, thinking it was a German aircraft on fire. This one exploded in Bethnal Green killing six people and injuring another 28.

Londoners quickly realised that they were only safe as long as they could hear the spluttering noise, like an old Ford Model T car going up hill; once the engine cut out they had just seconds to dive for cover. 

Humorously, a newspaper cartoon showed a man scolding his cat; Purr if you must, but please don’t cut out so suddenly!

People were shocked that the attacks happened so soon after the Allies had landed in Normandy on D-Day the 6 June, and they thought the War would soon be over. The flying bombs arrived day after day and night after night. Soon about 50 a day were landing and it became the ‘Second Battle of Britain’.

The V1s were launched from catapult ramps in the Pas de Calais and took about 25 minutes to reach London. They had an 850 kg warhead and flew at 400 mph, powered by a pulse jet. They were not guided missiles like today’s weapons but simply controlled by a compass and an autopilot. The ‘windmill’ device on the nose of the bomb was connected to the autopilot and after a number of preset revolutions the gyroscope tipped them towards earth where they exploded on impact.

The radar stations picked up the missiles as they flew over the coast and directed fighters and AA batteries to attack them. On 23 June 1944 an Australian Spitfire pilot called Ken Collier, fired at a V1 with no effect until he had run out of ammunition. With amazing skill, he flew alongside the bomb at 330 mph and managed to tip it over with his wing, sending it down over the countryside.

There are several film clips on British Pathe, including this one:

In one of the worst attacks, on the 30 June, a V1 landed on the Aldwych near the Air Ministry and the BBC’s Bush House. In the Air Ministry building some WAAFs were watching when the explosion sucked them out of the open window. Their astonishment was shown on the faces of their bodies lying on the pavement. A total of 198 people were killed.

During July The Times and Telegraph printed obituaries that gave the addresses of the dead. British Intelligence soon realised this gave the Germans important information about the accuracy of the weapons and stopped it. They used double agents to feed back false information indicating the V1s were landing short of London and the Germans increased the range which send some bombs north of the capital.

On the 15 June Mrs Gwladys Cox who lived in 59 Cholmley Gardens with her husband Ralph, wrote in her diary that they were in the middle of an air raid which started with a lot of gunfire behind their flat just before midnight. 

We waited a long time for the All Clear. The raid went on all night and into the pre-dawn hours. We realised this was not a normal bombing raid. I watched the Doodlebugs sailing along from our bedroom window, like will o’ the wisps in the night. That night she counted 18 between midnight and 2am.

Later she heard a German propaganda message saying ‘England is trembling’. She wrote, England is chiefly sleepy and tired from the broken nights and alarms’.
Mrs Cox’s wartime diary is now in the Imperial War Museum.

By the end of June 1944 800 flying bombs had hit London. In a radio broadcast, the Nazi propaganda minister, Josef Goebbels called it the V1 (Vergeltungswaffe 1), the first vengeance or reprisal weapon, signalling there were more to come.

The Attacks
There were nine V1s and one V2 which exploded in Kilburn and West Hampstead. Here we give the details of where and when each one landed.

The first V1 landed behind No.42 West End Lane in the early hours of the 20 June 1944. The huge explosion destroyed three houses and caused tremendous damage to the other four houses between Acol and Woodchurch Roads. 18 people were killed and more than 100 were wounded. The deaths of five of the young people who were living in the hostel for refugees at No.40 are commemorated on a single stone at the East London Jewish Cemetery which says, their dreams of going to Israel were unfulfilled. The bomb site was left until Sidney Boyd Court was built here in 1953.

View across West End Lane to Gascony Avenue, showing the damage in June 1944

The second bomb dropped on 85 Broadhurst Gardens (not No.98 as stated in Hampstead At War), on the morning of 28 June 1944. Amazingly, only one person was killed.

Three hours later a third V1 hit No.13 Ardwick Road, killing two people and sending 12 injured to hospital. Four houses were destroyed and six were damaged.

The fourth bomb landed in the back garden of a large house in Mortimer Crescent. It arrived at 7.50am on the 29 June 1944

A flying bomb came in from the east and when over the Kilburn area made a left turn, completed a circle, then proceeded south to drop in the garden at the back of North Hall, Mortimer Crescent. North Hall, used by the Council for storing furniture belonging to people whose homes had been destroyed, was badly damaged.

The 14 injured were taken to hospital and another 20 were treated in first aid posts.  

George Orwell (Eric Blair), was living opposite, in a flat at 10a Mortimer Crescent and the house was damaged by the blast. He struggled with a wheelbarrow and a shovel through the rubble to find the only copy of his manuscript for ‘Animal Farm’. He wrote to T.S. Eliot to say the MS had been damaged. The book was eventually published in August 1945. In September 2012 a Kilburn History Green Plaque was unveiled there by his adopted son Richard Blair.

Sixteen people were killed in South Kilburn when the fifth V1 exploded between Canterbury Terrace and Denmark Road on 24 July 1944. In the overcrowded streets whole families were affected: four members of the Morris family and three members of Boulting family died, as well as several husbands and their wives. 

At the end of July the sixth flying bomb landed between Cholmley Gardens and the flats in Fortune Green Road. Luckily there were no deaths, but 10 people went to hospital, 12 to first aid posts and 81 to rest centres. A couple, who had just got married the previous day, were trapped between the floor and the collapsed ceiling. Men of the Heavy and Light Rescue Party worked tirelessly through the night to rescue them.

A serious explosion occurred on Shoot-Up Hill close to Kilburn Underground Station when the seventh V1 exploded on 15 August. Thirteen people were killed including five members of the Brooks family and three of the Melachrino family.

Ben Sachs who was aged 14 at the time said;
The most horrendous incident that I can remember was on the night of 15 August 1944. There were many casualties and dead and injured people had to be dug out of the wreckage. I was given the job of being a runner to Mick Rogers, the Head of Willesden’s Civil Defence Rescue Service, who was in charge of directing rescue operations (he later received a George Medal for his work). Thirteen people died that night and it was my first ever sight of dead bodies - something I shall never forget.

The eighth bomb fell on 23 August in back gardens off Finchley Road, 25 yards from previous one in Ardwick Road. Fortunately, there were no deaths.

The last V1 attack in our area occurred on 24 August 1944, landing between Compayne Gardens and Broadhurst Gardens, and killing one person. 

Damage between Compayne Gardens and Broadhurst Gardens, August 1944

Gwladys Cox said that she and her husband heard an Alert and looked out at the sky to be startled by a V1 heading straight for them. 

Suddenly, it stopped, dipped, and slowly and steadily dived nose down. We were so spellbound that we actually watched it for a few seconds before we dashed back into our hall for shelter. Some twenty houses have been blasted to mere shells; front door, furniture, personal belongings blown out into the gardens.

The British government decided it must destroy the St-leu-d’Essenet Caves in Northern France where hundreds of V1s were stored. The Dambusters Squadron 617, using six-ton ‘Tallboy’ bombs, attacked them on the nights of 4 and 7 July. The damage slowed down the number of V1s being launched. As the Allies advanced through France, the German launch crews left the Pas de Calais and moved the V1 catapults first to Antwerp and then into Holland.

V2 Rocket
Hitler’s second and much more powerful vengeance weapon was the V2 rocket. This flew at 3,600 mph, or more than four times the speed of sound, so people never heard it until the 1,000 kg warhead exploded. 

The V2s were made in Peenemunde on the Baltic Sea. There were over 6,000 people working in the factory, including 200 prisoners from Buchenwald who arrived on 17 June 1943 to begin production. There were several technical problems perfecting the rocket, but it was ready by the beginning of September 1944.

On 8 September 1944 the first V2 was launched from Wassenaar, just north of The Hague. Five minutes later it landed in Staveley Road Chiswick killing three people and injuring another six. The explosion made a crater 30 feet wide and 8 feet deep, and destroyed 11 houses and damaged another 516. 

People heard a double crack like thunder as the V2 broke the sound barrier when it re-entered the lower atmosphere. The government codenamed the rocket ‘Big Ben’ and gagged the press for several weeks.

George Orwell in an essay in Tribune on 1 December 1944 talked about the V2 rocket which exploded without any warning:  

There is even a tendency to talk nostalgically of the days of the V1. The good old doodlebug did at least give you time to get under the table.

British Pathe has two films about the V2 rocket:

Iverson Road
The only V2 which hit our area landed on the railway embankment near 114 Iverson Road on 8 January 1945. There were three deaths and 64 injured people. The blast destroyed 14 houses, badly damaged 152 and caused minor damage to about 1,600. Rescuers worked through the night and found one woman alive after being trapped for eight hours in the rubble.

Gwladys Cox wrote about the effects of the rocket explosion:

After lunch, it stopped snowing, and as the air was invigorating we walked, or slithered in the slush, down to Iverson Road. Here, rows and rows of small houses had been blasted from back to front; doors, windows, ceilings all one. Whole families were out in the street standing beside the remains of their possessions, piled on the pavements waiting for the removal vans; heaps of rubble everywhere, pathetically showing bits of holly and Christmas decorations.

Seventy years later journalist Paul Wright wrote an article in the Ham and High to mark the anniversary. He said the paper printed on 12 January 1945 told of a member of the Light Rescue Service’s frantic search for his 21-year-old daughter and another man known to be with her at the time in the debris of his own home. Sadly, they were later found dead.

Liz Davies, who was a baby in 1945, had a lucky escape. In 2015 she told the story given to her by her late mother: 

I was being looked after by my blind grandmother at my home in Gladys Road in West Hampstead. A few minutes before the rocket hit, I apparently started crying in my cot, which was in a first floor room in the bay window at the front of the house. So my grandmother picked me up to cradle me. As she did, the rocket hit and my cot was covered in shards of glass from the broken windows. It was a lucky escape. My mother, who was working at the food office in Finchley Road at the time, had heard the rocket land and ran home. I remember her saying the nearer she got to our house, the worse the damage was. She found me sitting on my grandmother’s knee with us both completely covered in soot and the room covered in smashed glass.

The Ham and High article is available here:

The Numbers
From 13 June 1944 until 29 March 1945, 2,368 V1s fell on London and killed 5,126 people and injured another 17,981; this exceeded casualty numbers in the Blitz.
From a total of 9,251 V1s that were launched; 4,261 were destroyed by AA guns, the RAF and balloons.

The last V2 landed in Stepney on 27 March and the last V1 arrived in Chislehurst on the following day. On 26 April 1945 Churchill told the House of Commons that the attacks had ceased. Between 1944 and March 1945, 517 V2 rockets killed a total of 2,511 Londoners and injured another 6,523.

Walter Dornberger who was in charge of the V weapons programme and his assistant Werner Von Braun, surrendered to the Americans on 2 May 1945. They were seen as valuable assets and went to live in America after the War. Von Braun played a major role in the US development of the space rocket and in 1958 he published his biography called, I Aim at Stars. 

The American comedian Mort Sahl quipped that, I Aim at the Stars but sometimes I hit London, was a much better title. 

When Von Braun died in 1977 NASA said, He was without doubt, the greatest rocket scientist in history.